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The Piedmont Highlanders were on the road last Friday playing the Justin-Siena Braves in Napa. This Friday they will be “on the road again”— this time playing the Moreau Mariners.

It’s always a little sad to be on the road; however, a miniscule cheering section has a way of building character. It’s the parents that usually constitute that small cheering section and since they are the first teachers of character, it’s only fitting that they be at every away game imbuing every last bit of encouragement to their sons. Why? Well, character becomes part of one’s inner resources when away from home. So, does football alone build character? No, but the lessons of football (and many other sports) have been carried from Witter Field to the far reaches of the world.

Hall of Famer, Bobby Kurkjian was one of the winners of the 1940 Football Optimo Award—yes, Latin for “the best.” During World War II Kurkjian went on the “away game” of his life—and to him we always remember.

According to the U.S. Military, Robert D. Kurkjian was awarded the Silver Star in 1945 for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity. Quick to act when he observed several of the enemy advancing upon a stricken Marine who had fallen wounded, Private First Class Kurkjian left his covered position and, firing upon the enemy as he ran up the slope to the emplacement, succeeded in diverting hostile fire from his fellow comrade to himself. By his daring and self-sacrificing action, Kurkjian had enabled his comrades to rescue a wounded man who otherwise might have perished. Coincidently, Bobby also received a Purple Heart.

We award the Kurkjian award to the football player that exemplifies high attributes in athletic ability, scholarship, and character. Kurkjian’s brand of character may be rare, but certainly achievable. Perhaps the framers of Piedmont High’s motto, Achieve the Honorable had this in mind. Maybe the words on the school shield are not just words, but meaning able to permeate the souls of young people—leadership, valor and courage. The classic torch is inspiration for intelligent leadership, the winged sandal characterizes athletic ambitions and the helmet of knighthood stands for valorous manhood. Wow, who knew?

So, does football build character? Yes, as do many other sports and endeavors, but for the moment this is about the Piedmont Football team and they are coming home on September 13. On Friday the 13th, the Highlanders play Albany—an auspicious date for its proximity to the 12th anniversary of 9/11. Please come to Witter field to cheer on the boys, and for a brief moment to remember. Remember the away games played by Robert D. Kurkjian, Jean C. Witter and Ambassador Christopher Stevens. They gave us a great gift. They remind us that courage, honor, valor are not just words, they are the essence of what it is to be a person of great character.

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