Four Wolverine football players from the University of Michigan placed their right hands over their hearts as a U.S. Army bugler sounded Taps. They had just laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just one of the highlights of the team’s visit to Arlington National Cemetery on May 2, 2023.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh brought the team here to appreciate their country and pay tribute to the nation’s fallen. “We’ve got it pretty darn good here in America,” said Harbaugh. “I don’t know how that could not resonate with you when you’re here at Arlington National Cemetery.” It was Harbaugh’s second visit as a coach, having brought the San Francisco 49ers to the cemetery in 2011.
Many of the players felt Harbaugh’s intention. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy considered laying the wreath a tremendous honor. “That was bone chilling,” he said, “to be a part of something that paid respects to all the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Linebacker Mike Barrett and safety Rod Moore, both of whom helped lay the wreath, appreciated representing the team. “A lot of people don’t get this experience, to be able to show the respect,” said Barret. Moore, whose mother and grandparents served in the military, added, “getting picked by Coach Harbaugh meant a lot to me.”
The team’s staff also welcomed a chance to reflect on the country’s fallen. “It means a lot to me personally,” said tight end coach Grant Newsome, “to honor those who have served our country.”
Once the four Wolverines laid the wreath, the whole team boarded a tram bus for a tour of the cemetery and a stop at the grave of President John F. Kennedy and his family. Col. Thomas Austin, ANC’s director of engineering and a 1994 University of Michigan alumni, accompanied the team and helped one member locate his great grandfather’s grave in Section 14.
The visit filled Coach Harbaugh with pride. “This is what it means to be free,” he said. “It brings one thing to mind, which keeps ringing in the ears: It’s great to be an American.”