HYANNIS, MA – It seems only fitting.
On August 6, 2011 flying above the mountainous terrain in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan, Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Kevin A. Houston and 29 other sailors, soldiers and airmen were killed when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter they were passengers in was destroyed by a rocket-launched grenade.
It was a lightning-fast, tragic moment that has hung heavy on the hearts and minds of the greater Barnstable community for over three years.
But thanks to the efforts of the Barnstable Quarterback Club and one of Houston’s former Barnstable Youth Football teammates – State Rep. Brian Mannal (D-Barnstable) – the men taken that day will never be forgotten. At 9:30 am on Thanksgiving Day at W. Leo Shields Memorial Field in Hyannis, Houston’s memory will be honored in perpetuity when the club and the BHS football program will retire jersey # 46, the uniform number Houston wore his senior year (1993-94).
U.S. Navy SOC Kevin Houston (1975-2011)
It is the first time in school history that any athlete’s uniform number will be retired. The jersey retirement ceremony will take place 30 minutes before the opening kickoff of the 88th Thanksgiving Day meeting between Barnstable and Falmouth, the state’s fifth oldest Thanksgiving Day high school football rivalry.
On hand for the ceremony will be Houston’s mother Janette Anderson and wife Meiling and his three children who will be presented the late SEAL’s game-worn jersey from the 1993 Red Raider season. The jersey will be presented by one of Houston’s former fellow football captains, Joe Kennedy. Kennedy, who was linebacker in the defensive backfield with Houston, playing for former Head Coach Paul “Spanky” Demanche, donated a frame that will hold his former fellow linebacker’s jersey.
A duplicate #46 Red Raider football jersey will be hung in the hallway at BHS and will be presented to Barnstable High School principal Patrick Clark and current BHS Head Football Coach Chris Whidden. Also on hand for the reception will be the last three Thanksgiving Day Game Most Valuable Player Award recipients – Kristian Lucashensky (2013), Manny Perry (2012) and Tedaro France (2011). Following Houston’s death in August 2011, the Quarterback Club changed the name of the annual Turkey Day MVP trophy to the Kevin A. Houston Thanksgiving Day Game Most Valuable Player Award. Class of 2014’s Dereck Pacheco – an All-OCL defensive end for last year’s Red Raiders – will be on hand as well: he was the last Red Raider to wear # 46.
In January 2013, then a freshman in the legislature, Mannal filed a bill to dedicate the Route 6 bridges spanning Route 132 as the U.S. Navy SEAL Kevin A. Houston Veterans Memorial. That memorial was finalized in a ceremony in April. The two played youth football for the Barnstable Silver Bullets and Houston was a member of the inaugural Silver Bullets team in 1987.
The Quarterback Club also announced this week it will be donating the proceeds of the Thanksgiving Day Game’s 50-50 raffle to the Kevin Houston Legacy Fund, a non-profit venture that has provided aid to the Girl Scouts, Stuff-A-Bus Program, Angel Tree Program and other charities.
On Saturday, November 29, two days after the ceremony, the Barnstable High School Athletic Hall of Fame will be presenting its W. Leo Shields Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award to Houston’s family in his honor. The award will be presented at the 8th BHS Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at The Ridge Club in Sandwich.
It is no small coincidence that the Quarterback Club selected the vaunted Barnstable-Falmouth Thanksgiving Day Game to retire Houston’s jersey. The culmination of Houston’s high school football career came on the shaggy turf of Elmer “Guv” Fuller Field in Falmouth on Thanksgiving Day 1993, when it was Houston’s defensive play at the end of the game that preserved a 7-6 victory for the Red & White.
And now, # 46 is coming home.
Other US Servicemen Killed in Action alongside SOC Houston on Aug. 6, 2011 (information provided by the Department of Defense). All of the men killed were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom:
Lt. Cmdr. (SEAL) Jonas B. Kelsall, 32, of Shreveport, La.,
Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis J. Langlais, 44, of Santa Barbara, Calif.,
Special Warfare Operator Senior Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Thomas A. Ratzlaff, 34, of Green Forest, Ark.,
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii,
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Brian R. Bill, 31, of Stamford, Conn.,
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) John W. Faas, 31, of Minneapolis, Minn.,
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Matthew D. Mason, 37, of Kansas City, Mo.,
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Stephen M. Mills, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas,
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist/Diver) Nicholas H. Null, 30, of Washington, W.Va.,
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Robert J. Reeves, 32, of Shreveport, La.,
Special Warfare Operator Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Heath M. Robinson, 34, of Detroit, Mich.,
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Darrik C. Benson, 28, of Angwin, Calif.
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Parachutist) Christopher G. Campbell, 36, of Jacksonville, N.C.,
Information Systems Technician Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Jared W. Day, 28, of Taylorsville, Utah,
Master-at-Arms Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) John Douangdara, 26, of South Sioux City, Neb.,
Cryptologist Technician (Collection) Petty Officer 1st Class (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist) Michael J. Strange, 25, of Philadelphia, Pa.,
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL/Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Jon T. Tumilson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa,
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Aaron C. Vaughn, 30, of Stuart, Fla., and
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jason R. Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah.
The following sailors assigned to a West Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit were killed:
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 1st Class (SEAL) Jesse D. Pittman, 27, of Ukiah, Calif., and
Special Warfare Operator Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Nicholas P. Spehar, 24, of Saint Paul, Minn.
The soldiers killed were:
Chief Warrant Officer David R. Carter, 47, of Centennial, Colo. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Aurora, Colo.;
Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Nichols, 31, of Hays, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.;
Staff Sgt. Patrick D. Hamburger, 30, of Lincoln, Neb. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), Grand Island, Neb.;
Sgt. Alexander J. Bennett, 24, of Tacoma, Wash. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.; and
Spc. Spencer C. Duncan, 21, of Olathe, Kan. He was assigned to the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), New Century, Kan.
The airmen killed were:
Tech. Sgt. John W. Brown, 33, of Tallahassee, Fla.;
Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Harvell, 26, of Long Beach, Calif.; and
Tech. Sgt. Daniel L. Zerbe, 28, of York, Pa.
All three airmen were assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Field, N.C.
By Sean Walsh/CCB Sports Editor