A Rugby Match To Remember An Army Medic
Most Memorial Day events pay tribute to all those who have died in military service to the nation, but there are some events that honor individuals.
One such event takes place each year in Manchester in honor of Army Staff Sergeant Kyle Warren, a medic who was killed in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in 2010.
Warren was a rugby enthusiast, and so each year his former team, the Amoskeag Rugby Club, plays a rugby team from Fort Drum, New York in Warren's honor.
Amoskeag's Alexander Gatzoulis says Warren was "a very large individual - he stood about 6'4, 6'5 and about 240, 250 pounds and just all muscle." And, he says, Warren's heart was even bigger than his frame - "and we took advantage of that - we got to rib him a lot because of it."
After learning of Sgt. Warren's death in Afghanistan, members of the rugby club took part in a memorial service in Manchester and started talking about holding a match in his honor each year. "We wanted to work with a military side, preferably one that he actually had ties with," Gatzoulis says. "And lo and behold, we actually found one in Fort Drum. And they've been on board ever since."
The two teams have become close in the four years that they've played each other. "One of the bigger tournaments that takes place over the summer in Saranac Lake, New York, we've actually combined with some of the Fort Drum players to have a team up there," Gatzoulis says. "A great friendship and tradition has grown out of it."
Finding new friendships is not a surprise, Gatzoulis says, given who Kyle Warren was. He recalls a photo of Warren in Afghanistan - "he's this big guy with a bushy red beard, and he's smiling and laughing, holding two children in his arms.
"It brought a tear to my eye because that really shows who he was as a human being - not the big, tough rugby guy, but the man who had a compassionate heart and really cared for other people."
The 4th Annual Kyle Warren Memorial Match takes place Saturday, May 31st, raising money for the Wounded Warriors Project.