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‘This is the next best thing’: Unable to attend Navy football games, families savor watching Brigade of Midshipmen march

The Brigade of Midshipmen marched from the Naval Academy to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Oct. 24, 2020 for the football game against Houston.

Margaret Engl and Liz Wiedemann kept going back to the same word to describe the feeling of watching their sons march to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium as members of the Brigade of Midshipmen: honored.

Engl, a transplant from Clearwater, Florida, who lives in Annapolis “to embarrass” her son, Alec, of the 4th Company on game days, knows these moments are fleeting. Only two home games remain after Navy hosted Houston on Saturday, and they won’t be able to attend the Army-Navy football rivalry in West Point, New York. The march-on, she said, is all she and many other parents of midshipmen have.

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“We love the tradition of watching our mids march down the road and into the stadium, and this year obviously because of COVID-19 we can’t see the entire process,” Engl said. “We’re very appreciative. We appreciate the leadership over at the academy that is allowing this to happen and we appreciate Gov. [Larry] Hogan for allowing this to happen. It was definitely a work in progress. Very appreciative and very grateful.”

Engl stood with Wiedemann, whose son, Joe, is also a senior and in the 7th Company, waiting for the march to commence on Taylor Avenue. She admitted she was concerned there would be no march this season with the coronavirus pandemic raging.

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Like Engl, Wiedemann recognizes the unique opportunity she has to see her son march as he has done the last three years.

“I’m so glad that they are allowing them to march on, allowing them to have that experience, and for us as senior parents, you know, we get to see it at least one more time,” said Wiedemann, who splits her time between Bethesda and Severna Park. “ … It’s just wonderful. It’s just a wonderful tradition, and since we can’t go into the game, this is the next best thing.”

This was the first marching experience for Brian Hall, who flew in from Seattle to watch his nephew, plebe Travis Berzins. Aside from attending the football game, Hall got a near full experience of the Naval Academy as he watched Berzins play in a scrimmage as a member of the water polo team earlier in the day.

Hall, who stood with his mother and his sister waiting to see Berzins march, called it a “once in a lifetime experience.”

“It’s really awesome to see these young kids take this all in and do it for their country,” he said. “It’s really cool to see that and experience that today. It gives me chills.”

Engl, Wiedemann and Hall and all those who accompanied them shared more than just the pride and joy of seeing their family members participate in one of Navy’s best traditions. They were all frustrated by the lack of mask wearing by observers up and down Taylor Avenue.

Many people congregated in tight spaces without masks on, just feet away from the brigade as they marched.

“It’s making me mad,” Wiedemann said bluntly. “It bothers me because I believe that the academy has done a very, very good job of trying to keep the mids safe as well as stay on mission, and when people stand at the grass without masks on there, they are risking the mids and the mission. I would like to see a little more respect for that.”

“I agree with her 100%,” Engl said.

Hall was a little more subdued in his criticism and said, “people can decide.”

“I think with respect for the marchers, maybe a little bit” frustrating, he said. “You know, I want to do my part, so each has their own duty to do what they think is right.”

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