Brotherhood: When West Point Rugby Went to War by Martin Pengelly
Martin Pengelly shares the parallel lives of the West Point Rugby class of 2002, who developed bonds through rugby and whose stories throughout life embody the rugby and military ethos.
Martin, who is a journalist, and history buff, played rugby for Rosslyn Park in England in 2002 against a touring side, Army West Point Men’s Rugby Club. The touring side captured his attention, and years later he carried out his project to interview the rugby class, their families, and other persons who could help to share their stories on this first graduating class after 9/11 to go to war.
The rugby cadets had come from diverse backgrounds yet bonded through the sport of rugby and through the military culture that they shared. For these ‘brothers,’ their ethos is “grounded in honor, courage, and loyalty that binds warriors to one another.”
Whether on the rugby pitch or the battlefield, can honor be maintained under extreme duress, despite the danger at hand? How does a sense of solidarity allow men to choose courage over fear and to be leaders in trying times, knowing that the loyalty established through bonds of shared experiences will have significant consequences?
For me, the book’s stories not only provided a glimpse of members of this team and what it’s like to be in the military for them and their families but also provided a chance to reflect on my own life experiences and memories of shared times.
Some of my rugby memories are from playing with Monmouth Rugby Football Club, a team that I founded 50 years ago. They involve playing against Army West Point at the U.S.M.A. and then at home and these stories are part of club rugby lore along with ones from the many matches and club tours.
The Fort Monmouth connection for Monmouth RFC included a few members who were part of West Point Preparatory Academy and some who were stationed at Fort Monmouth. While other Fort Monmouth connections included teaching and counseling at the Fort in my role as a Community College Professor, the impact of 9/11 which touched the lives of so many from Monmouth County, New Jersey, and included losses of rugby club members and my wife’s colleagues who worked at Fort Monmouth. Later, my wife and I would relocate as a result of Fort Monmouth’s BRAC closure.
It was easy to identify with one of the class of 2002, James Gurbisz, who was from Eatontown, New Jersey, one of the three towns surrounding Fort Monmouth. He came from a community with which I am familiar and who shared common experiences.
For other readers, they will be able to identify with the classes’ members from other communities, their experiences, and their shared stories.
Martin Pengelly’s book Brotherhood inspires the rugby men, who have made sacrifices to make the lives of others better. The stories should be read and savored.
Godine will publish the book which will be available on October 17, 2021, and may be pre-ordered at tinyurl.com/yc57tka7