News: MRF-D, Aussies honor 9/11 fallen in unique way
Story by Sgt. Sarah Fiocco
MARRARA, Northern Territory, Australia – Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin played the Stray Cats in the first official 9/11-tribute rugby game, here, Sept. 21.
Both teams walked away victors, as it was pre-determined the game would end in a draw.
The idea for this memorial game came to fruition this rotation, and those responsible for organizing the match have their reasons for choosing a contact sport as a way of paying tribute to the victims of 9/11.
“We were playing a game against the 15th Marine Expeditionary unit on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Bruce Kennon, event organizer. “We’ve never really had the opportunity to play with the Marines since then, but now that MRF-D is here, we thought it would be a great honor to help pay tribute to the fallen.”
Ask any American where they were on that tragic day, and they would easily recall. For the MRF-D Marines, it made sense to remember that day by playing rugby against the Stray Cats just like their 15th MEU counterparts did 12 years ago.
“I think it’s something good for the Marines to do while they’re deployed here,” said 1st Lt. Mike Kopa, platoon commander, Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, MRF-D, and captain of the Marine rugby team.
The events of that day did not just bring Americans together. It also strengthened the ties between the US and its allies.
“I was serving in the US on 9/11. It was a terrible and traumatic time for the US,” said Australian Army Brig. Gen. John Frewen, commander, 1st Brigade, and Stray Cats player. “Our prime minister was in D.C. at the time and could see smoke coming from the Pentagon.”
Although the game acted as a memorial to commemorate those lost in the tragedy, MRF-D Marines and members of the Stray Cats still enjoyed the friendly tussle.
“It was a pretty intense game,” said Lance Cpl. Brian Walsh, assaultman, Weapons Plt., Lima Co., 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, MRF-D, and member of the Marine rugby team. “It’s been an awesome time. We had fun training back at Robertson Barracks with some of the guys from 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. It was great to play in an actual stadium, too. Not many Marines will get the chance to play a rugby game like this again.”
The Marines will depart later this week, ending the second iteration of MRF-D.
“Different platoons from Lima Company came together to play this game,” said Walsh. “It was a great finale to our time here in Australia.”