Massachusetts is rich in American history. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621. Harvard became the first American university when it was founded in Cambridge in 1636. The first battle of the American Revolutionary War was fought in 1775 on the village green in Lexington.
When the American colonists learned of the British plans to occupy Dorchester Heights, a crude army of local volunteers were quickly assembled to defend the high ground. The British planned to control the Charlestown peninsula between the Charles and Mystic Rivers. Bunker and Breed’s Hills, the high points on the peninsula, overlooked both Boston and its harbor, making it a point of strategic significance.
Colonial General Prescott and his band of 1,200 commoners built a 160-by-30-foot earthen structure along the top of Breed’s Hill under the cover of darkness on June 16th, 1775. On June 17th, General Gates led over 2,300 against the motley American forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Red Coats eventually overtook both hills, but not before suffering tremendous casualties.
More than 211 years after that battle, the BYU Cougars will tour Bunker Hill and other historical sites in Boston. The excursion will provide BYU teammates with an opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for their American heritage. Players will also have a few hours to focus on something other than football.
“It will be fun to learn more about our country especially during times like this with 9/11 just passing,” said BYU offensive lineman Jake Kuresa. “This will give us a chance to be patriotic this time of year and to take time to understand that, wow, we have people out there right now fighting this war for us against terrorism, but we also had people fighting wars for our future a long time ago. This will be a good chance for us to pay some respect to them and see what they did for our country. I think this will be an awesome experience.”
“It’s going to be awesome to be able to go to Bunker Hill,” said tailback Fui Vakapuna. “That’s going to be awesome, and it’s going to be an honor to be able to go over there and stand on hallowed ground. It will give us a chance to be grateful for what we’ve been blessed with.”
Commissioned in 1797, the USS Constitution was launched to protect American merchant ships from French privateers. The American naval ship is best known for never losing a battle against the British fleet, which was considered the most powerful navy in the world.
During the war of 1812 the USS Constitution faced British naval ships and survived numerous encounters. Her thick live oak hull repelled every single British cannonball that struck her sides. Her remarkable performance earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” and made her a symbol of American freedom, resilience, and naval power.
“We’re leaving on Thursday so it will be a little weird leaving a day early,” said linebacker Cameron Jensen. “We’re going to go see Bunker Hill and Old Ironsides. Everyone is excited, and it will be fun as a team to go see some of that old American history.”
“We’re going to go see the USS Constitution and then up to Bunker Hill,” said an enthusiastic Vakapuna. “Oh, I’m excited about that. That’s some history right there. Without those people fighting to establish America, we wouldn’t be here doing this today. It’s important to me especially being a Tongan American because without them paving the way, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be here to play football and to be free.”
Apparently, Coach Paul Tidwell is responsible for the tour. Coach Tidwell, who is known for his fondness of American history, wanted to give his players a chance to be inspired by the sacrifices of generations past.
“I don’t know too much about it,” said inside linebacker Aaron Wagner who is originally from Canada. “I mean I should. I should be able to represent Coach Tidwell a little better on this. He’s a big history buff and told us all about the ship and the war and all that. I’m not good in American history considering I’m not even American. It will be interesting, and I think we’ll have a good time out there.”
Cornerback Justin Robinson did not know that the early trip to Boston included a team tour of American historical sites. Upon learning that the team would visit the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy and the monument on Bunker Hill, Robinson’s eyes widened with excitement.
“I didn’t know anything about going out to see that,” said Robinson. “Of course I studied it in school, but I’ve never been out there. It will be a good learning experience for me. Maybe I’ll bring back some notes or something.”
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