Brawley High honors Captain Scott Pace on 9-11

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The Pace Family with the Army Color Guard
The Pace Family with the Army Color Guard

BRAWLEY – Wednesday night, before varsity volleyball squared off against the Palm Desert Aztecs in the Old Gym, the school honored the memory of 9-11, and the memory of those who gave their all through defending our country. The school especially honored the life of one of their own, one who had played on that very court, Army Captain Scott Pace.

Captain Pace lost his life in battle as he flew his Kiowa Warrior OH-58 into harm’s way to protect his men on the ground against an attack by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In 1997, Pace had been captain for the Brawley varsity basketball team wearing #21 on his jersey. The number 21 jersey has since been retired, now hanging high in the gym. The Brawley varsity volleyball team all donned black shirts with #21 blazoned on the back in respect for the man.

This past year, the Committee to Name the Old Gym Floor in Honor of Scott Pace, petitioned the board for permission, raised the funds, and designed the graphics through Frank’s Graffik Graffiti who installed it free of charge. Coach Phil Grant, Scott’s high school coach and friend, led the group, along with his wife, Judy.

Part of the ceremony included the BUHS band playing the national anthem, the Army theme song, and a lone trumpeter playing the heart-rending sounds of Taps.

Scott’s father, Pat Pace, thanked the girls’ volleyball for sharing the night with his son, and for all responsible for the honor.

He shared with the crowded gym that Scott’s class at West Point Academy were freshmen when America was attacked by terrorists. Knowing America was now at war, the commanding officer addressed the cadets reminding his men that any cadet can get out during the first two years without any military obligation.

The class was then known as the class of 9-11. Uncannily, four years later, exactly 911 soldiers graduated in that class from West Point and went to fight the enemy, and protect and preserve the American way.

 

Pat Pace’s Speech 9/11/2013

DEDICATION OF BUHS GYM FLOOR FOR CAPTAIN SCOTT PACE

9/11/13

                Our family is truly honored and grateful tonight for all that has been done in honor of Scott.  We especially thank President Noriega and  the BUHS School Board, Superintendent Daniellian, the administration, faculty and staff.  We also wish to thank so many others including Scott’s classmates of the Class of 1997 led by Brenda Lopez, his teammates, the student body, the volley ball program for sharing their night with us, Mrs. Dailey and the Wildcat Band – thanks for the Army Song, the alumni, our friends and neighbors, Frank Perez  for the graphics, Athletic Director Billy Brewer, Coach Phil Grant, the Army-Scott’s fellow soldiers who are here tonight, and so many more.  Please know that we are grateful for each of you.  Also know that Scott likewise would be grateful, but more than that he would be honored and humbled.  It was high praise for him to be a Wildcat from Brawley.

                It is fitting that we gather tonight for this occasion for a number of reasons.  Today we remember the tragedy and brutality of the attack on September 11, 2001.  That was a day that forever changed our country and our family.  On that day Scott had just begun classes as a freshmen or plebe at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.  Those two planes aiming to topple the World Trade Center buildings flew down the Hudson River directly over the West Point campus where Scott was studying.  A brother of one of Scott’s basketball buddies at that moment was working for Cantor-Fitzgerald at his desk on one of the upper floors as that Tower plummeted to the ground.  Scott’s West Point Class became known as the Class of 9/11.   They were the Class of over a 1000 cadets who began their studies as the nation went to war.  He and his classmates were at that point in a position in which they could choose to stay in the military or get out without any repercussion.  Four years later Scott graduated with exactly Nine Hundred and Eleven members of the Class of 9/11, who took up arms leading troops for our country.

                It is also fitting that we gather here in this gym.  This had to be Scott’s favorite building on campus.  He loved playing basketball in this gym.  He and his teammates carried on the Wildcat tradition of winning and going on to CIF.  I can still see Scott and his teammates- Bobby, Will, Jason, Desi, Rodney, Kurt, Stephen, Jermaine, Andy, Rashon and the others in their league clashes played right here.  I can see them in their rivalry games with Central, the gym packed with loyal Wildcat fans cheering them on.  I can recall CIF matches, like the one with Fontana High School, a flashy team from the big city, who flashed their way right out of here with a big loss as Brawley advanced.  I think the last time Scott played in here was when he was playing basketball at West Point and was home on Christmas break; Billy let Scott and me in here so he could practice and be sharp when he went back to playing his collegiate basketball schedule.

                It is also fitting that we are here because it says something about our school and our community.   We have been the beneficiaries of so many acts of kindness and respect.  We know that those are just not because of us, but because people here understand and appreciate what Scott and the military are doing.  Let me give just one illustration.  During Scott’s second Iraq deployment, he was stationed on a large airbase.  Getting from place to place could be difficult.  Sometimes there was a vehicle available, sometimes not.  If not, there was a bus service, but that often was on the wrong schedule for Scott.  So Scott acquired a bicycle to get around base when there was no vehicle available.  Unfortunately the bike broke and Scott wrote us asking for a particular part.  We went to the Finish Line Bike Shop in El Centro and explained the situation.  They did not have the part in stock, so they removed the part from a bicycle on the floor and handed it to us.  We asked them for the cost and the replied “What is the cost of freedom?  If he is over there defending our freedom, the least we can contribute is a bicycle part.”  We are moved by their generosity and honored for the respect they showed to Scott and really all of the soldiers.  That is very representative of so many in our community.

                It is fitting for another reason that we are here tonight.   Last April, my family and I went back to West Point as the Academy honored Scott.  It seemed strange at first, but West Point honors its fallen graduates by their academic majors.   Strange until you consider that after those cadets graduate, the only ones left who remember them are their professors.  So we went to what is affectionately known as the “House of PANE”, otherwise known as the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering, which was Scott’s academic department.  There he was duly honored.  His letterman’s jacket is on display plus a plaque, photos and other memorabilia and remembrances of Scott.  After the ceremony, Scott’s brother Rick, also a West Point graduate, was visiting with a Captain who had graduated with Scott who was then on the faculty of that department.  The Classmate told Rick that the week before, he had been at another Army Post on business.  There he was meeting with another Army Captain.  The Classmate mentioned in passing that he had to get back to West Point because they were honoring a fallen Kiowa helicopter pilot.  The Captain asked: “You mean for Scott Pace?”  The Classmate was a bit puzzled and asked the Captain how he knew Scott.  The Captain replied that Scott had saved their lives.  He explained that he had been leading the troops on the ground that Scott and his helicopter had saved before they were shot down.

                So it is fitting that we remember Scott, a Brawley Wildcat, for his service and his sacrifice.  It is fitting this floor bears his name.  But it is even more fitting that we recognize that Scott is merely representative of so many other Wildcats.  BUHS has a strong tradition that many of its graduates devote themselves to military service.  Each of them sacrifices for our nation and for our freedom.  Thankfully the vast majority of them are not asked to make that ultimate sacrifice as Scott was.  But each of them who enter such service is willing to do so.  So while this floor bears Scott’s name, hopefully as we enter this gymnasium, we think of and honor all who serve us in the military.

                So this evening we thank you for honoring Scott.  And thank you, Wildcats, most of all for not forgetting the blessings we each have received from the service and sacrifice of others.

 

[Patrick M. Pace at Brawley Union High School; Brawley, CA 9-11-13]