WILMINGTON, Mass. — For most people, putting a chance to pursue a career in professional hockey on hold for two years would appear a tremendous sacrifice.
Zach McKelvie has a different perspective. He understands the far greater sacrifices being made by those who continue to serve, and even more so by those who have paid the ultimate price for defending our country in the Armed Forces.
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the most horrific terrorist attack our nation has ever endured, McKelvie couldn’t help but marvel at the men and women who have stepped forward to serve their country in the series of ongoing wars that have ensued in the decade since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“My generation is a pretty amazing generation,” McKelvie said Saturday after the second day of the Bruins’ rookie camp at Ristuccia Arena. “We have young men and women who continue to join the Army and Air Force and Navy in a time of war. It’s the longest war in American history, but they continue to make the sacrifices that they do.
“A lot of my friends are currently serving in this war that started on Sept. 11,” McKelvie added, “so it’s certainly a day we need to remember and we need to be thankful for all of our men and women that are serving over there and have served in the past.”
McKelvie himself was on active duty in the Army for the past two years after graduating from West Point, putting his hockey dreams on ice while serving as an infantry officer at Fort Benning, Ga. McKelvie, now 26 and the oldest player attending the rookie camp, was just 16 when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. The St. Paul, Minn., native had already felt the call toward military service, but the events of that day certainly were a factor in his decision to attend the U.S. Military Academy.
“It definitely was,” McKelvie said. “I’m not going to say it was my inspiration for going into the military. When West Point came to recruit me for hockey it was an incredible opportunity I didn’t really want to pass on.
“I’ve always been really passionate about serving,” McKelvie added. “It was even a tough decision when I had this opportunity to decide whether to continue on active duty or pursue hockey. I talked with my family and with the support of my friends, they kind of encouraged me to go with this and the Army was very supportive. It’s a great opportunity and I just want to make the best of it.”
The men and women who continue to serve their country in the Armed Forces remain front and center in McKelvie’s thoughts. They include his wife, an Army officer who recently returned from deployment, and many of his closest friends.
“A lot of my best friends serve in the military and are currently in Afghanistan and Iraq, so I’ll always hold it close to my heart and I definitely wouldn’t rule out going back into the Army and serving some day,” McKelvie said.
McKelvie hasn’t forgotten his comrades in the military, and like every American, he’ll never forget what happened 10 years ago.
“I was in high school,” McKelvie said of the 9/11 attacks. “I think it’s etched in the memory of every American and a lot of our allies too. Obviously it’s a day we should never forget and it’s a day when all of us Americans should be vigilant and always watching. At the same time, we should truly appreciate what we have in this country and again be thankful for what our men and women are doing over there.”