By Richard Greene
Originally published Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Boyd Yellowjackets storm onto the field each fall Friday night to the sound of cheers and the band blaring out the fight song.
Waving at the front of the pack of players decked in green and gold are the red, white and blue of Old Glory and the Texas flag.
It’s a sight that Cisco Roberts hasn’t seen in seven years, but he still gets emotional thinking about it. The emotions from the first time he saw the flags lead the Yellowjackets on the field remain forever raw.
“I saw these flags come out, and it’s something I’ll never forget,” said the Army veteran, holding the flags Thursday at the old Yellowjacket Stadium. “I spent half the game under the bleachers. It was very emotional to see my flags coming out.”
Roberts donated the American and Texas flags to the football team. The two flew over Kuwait and Iraq during his tour of duty in 2002-03. The American flag has the date it flew in service written on the seam.
“It’s really neat to see them again,” he said. “It’s special the youth has taken such care of them.”
Two years before Roberts gave the special flags to the Boyd program, the tradition of carrying an American flag on to the field started. It was during his younger brother Dakota’s sophomore year in 2001.
The Yellowjackets, two years removed from playing in a state title game, were off to a 1-1 start to the season and preparing for a game against state-ranked Pilot Point.
Then on a Tuesday morning, Boyd, America and the world changed. With the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., football and many other daily activities took a back seat.
“It was life-changing,” said Dakota Roberts. “It is even to this day.”
As the tragedy unfolded, he started thinking about his brother Cisco, who began his life in the military just 14 days after graduating from Boyd in 2000.
“I can’t remember how soon he was deployed, but I knew he would be one of the first to go,” Dakota said. “We had no idea what we were getting into.”
Boyd coach J.G. Cartwright recalls bringing the team together in the wake of the attacks to talk about them. That’s when the idea of carrying the American flag onto the field as a tribute to the country and troops was conceived.
“That was the first time,” Cartwright said. “It was very special. I know it means a lot to them.”
Three days after the tragedy, right after Boyd and Pilot Point took the field, the two teams and fans circled together on the field with Josh Stevenson leading a prayer.
“We all held hands, circled up and prayed for our troops and that everything was going to be all right,” Dakota said. “It didn’t matter then if you were from Boyd or Pilot Point. All that mattered is that we’re all Americans.”
Boyd went on to win 20-6. But the result didn’t matter and was lost in the emotion of the night that included a touching tribute by the Boyd band at halftime with the playing of “Taps.”
“I don’t believe there was a dry eye in that stadium,” said Messenger reader Sandy Lambert in a letter to the editor the following week describing the scene.
Not long after September 11, Cisco was deployed to the Middle East.
“I couldn’t wait,” he recalled. “I was trained and was ready to go and do what I needed to do. The call came, and I was thankful to be able to serve.”
After a traumatic tour, Cisco came home in the fall of 2003. He knew of the Boyd team continuing the tradition of carrying the flags onto the field. A week after returning home, he came to a Thursday meeting at the stadium to talk to the players.
“We were at the 50-yard line for a team meeting, and I gave a speech about not being the weak link,” Cisco recalled. “I then presented the flags.”
Then a senior, Dakota was there.
“I’ll never forget that team meeting and the emotion,” he recalled.
Many years later to see the flags still holding a special place in the program is meaningful for the brothers. Each week the team picks someone to carry them out on the field.
“These are the most valuable flags in the world to me,” Dakota said. “It means so much 10 years later they are part of the tradition.”
Cisco added: “It’s something for the youth to keep this tradition up so long, 10 years after September 11.”
As the 10th anniversary arrives this weekend, the brothers will be thinking like most Americans of the sacrifices made over the past decade.
“There’s still a lot of families suffering,” Cisco said.
For Dakota, the flag and this tradition are the true symbols of freedom.
“This is what our soldiers fight for, so our kids can play football and carry our flag out,” he said.
Look for more of WCMessenger.com’s special 9/11 tribute at www.wcmessenger.com/911.