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November 11, 2010

Badgers remember Veterans

MADISON - In football, things often are described in militaristic terms, with the game frequently described as a war or battle. In reality, the sport and its players pale in comparison to those that dedicate their lives to service in our armed forces.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the major hostilities of World War I formally ended with the Germans signing the Armistice. Since 1919, Nov. 11 has set aside to remember the nation's veterans.

On this Veterans Day, several members of the University of Wisconsin football team will honor their family members that are serving or have served their country in the military.

"I'll be thinking of my grandpa for sure," running back Montee Ball said. "Last year, against Wofford, he passed away and that was really rough, so I'm most definitely going to think about him.

"I think he was in the Air Force, in the Korean War, but he didn't really talk about it much. It was rough for him. I miss him a lot, and I'm definitely going to be thinking of him."

Ball missed that game last year against Wofford as he dealt with the loss of a beloved family member. This week, he'll be playing with his grandfather in mind.

A common theme among the Badgers was grandfathers who served in various wars, but who did not talk much about it with their grandchildren. Among those are linebacker Mike Taylor whose grandfather served in the Air Force during World War II, but died before Taylor was born, and safety Aaron Henry whose grandfather dropped out of high school to serve his country.

Another is running back James White, who was not sure which branch of the military his grandfather, who passed in 2005, served in. White's cousin recently joined the Marine Corps, giving him another family member to honor on this day.

Like White, quarterback Scott Tolzien has a close relative currently serving in the military.

"My brother is currently at an Air Force base in Biloxi, Miss., right now," Tolzien said. "He flies the C-130, a big cargo plane."

Tolzien's grandfathers each served during World War II, his paternal grandfather in the Navy, and his maternal grandfather in the Army.

With three close family members having ties to the armed forces, Veterans Day is important one for Tolzien.

"It's close to my heart," Tolzien said. I think it's important and it should be that way for everyone really. We're pretty blessed to have it the way we have it because of the people that are serving and protecting our country.

"Hopefully everyone will take a second out of their day at least to think about it. I think it would be a shame if you didn't take some time to think about it on Thursday just because there's so many people that have served our country."

Safety Jay Valai has two cousins currently serving, one in the Coast Guard and another in the Marine Corps.

When asked which branch he would choose if he had the chance, Valai debated a few before going with the Air Force, though he would also consider the Army and Marine Corps.

"If I could swim, I'd do it all like a Marine, but I can't swim, little known fact about me," Valai said. "So, I guess I'd go with the Air Force. If I got to fly an airplane, I'd do Air Force."

Defensive end J.J. Watt was one of the few whose grandfather had told him stories of his time in the military, but Watt still was unsure which branch he served in. What he did know was that his grandfather served in the Korean War, and fought in the Battle of Porkchop Hill.

Beyond that, Watt said he has told him plenty of good war stories, despite never specifying which branch of the armed forces in which he served.

"I'm definitely going to give him a call and thank him. And I'm going to put on my Twitter a thank you to all the veterans," Watt said. "I'm thankful to have him around still obviously and thankful for everything he did. We wouldn't be doing what we do if it weren't for those people, so we need to thank them every chance we can."



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