High School Sports

Coaches first, but service members forever

A high school coach’s duty is to serve with pride, but three Fort Worth area coaches have gone beyond that to serve their country as well.

Honor is a value drilled into to all U.S. armed forces recruits during basic training.

Duty, honor, country are second nature for Brooke Brittain, Kurt Clawson and Rachel Riley.

Brittain, Arlington Martin High School’s girls head basketball coach, is a sergeant first class with the 366th Military Police Co. She is on her third Middle East deployment and will miss the 2017-18 season.

“I knew what I wanted to be,” said Brittain, a 16-year Army veteran. “I wanted to serve my community being a teacher, coach, police officer or soldier.”

It’s been more like a family than a job since I’ve been at Martin. I deeply appreciate my community for being that military family that’s willing to stand by my side until I come home. I hate leaving them, but I am truly thankful for the heart that our leadership has.

Brooke Brittain

Brittain’s grandfather drove a landing craft in World War II, and a cousin was in the Air Force. The 2000 Martin graduate enlisted in 2001 to fulfill a childhood dream.

“I wanted to do something bigger than myself and make sure I was true to myself in how I wanted to serve,” said Brittain, whose numerous awards include a Bronze Star.

Relief effort

At Euless Trinity High School, girls soccer coach Kurt Clawson has served 12 years in the Texas Army National Guard. He’s a senior military intelligence officer.

Clawson returned last week after two weeks in Katy, assisting Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. He deployed to Iraq in 2008-09 for 18 months.

“We have great principals and teachers that step in, and no one gives me grief. Everyone is super supportive. My soccer girls are too. When I came back, they gave me a card,” said Clawson, who expects another deployment in the 2018-19 school year. “I love serving my country, and I love doing this job.”

New recruit

Martin softball coach Rachel Riley left Sept. 19 for boot camp at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio — an 8  1/2 -week process. From there, Riley, a civil engineer, will attend technical school at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls for three months.

“It’s always something I wanted to do, but with softball, it was never the right time,” she said. “I feel like if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I like the opportunity it has and especially at a time like this, it was as good a time as any. It could be another career field.”

Airman 1st Class Riley, who graduated from Martin in 2009, expects to miss the first month of the softball season. Martin won the District 4-6A title last season.

“Any time you can serve, it’s a good thing. This is a challenge for me, to see what I’m capable of and I constantly push myself, so I thought it was a great opportunity and a great way to serve,” Riley said. “We talk in softball about being a selfless team. It’s a good way to live out what I preach to my softball girls.”

Substitute coaches

Meanwhile, Amber Miller (softball) and Bethany Gonzalez (basketball) will serve as interim head coaches while Riley and Brittain are away.

“They make a commitment to honor our country, to make sacrifices and stop their personal and professional lives,” said Martin principal Marlene Roddy. “They go out and serve our country and we’re all appreciative that they do it for us and to make our lives safer while going out and protecting the freedoms that we have.”

Coach Brittain was supposed to be deployed during my junior year and back my senior year. So when she told us it was this season, I was sad because she has coached me my first three years, but I understood that she had a commitment to the military.

Martin senior guard Tatum Henderson

Brittain, whose platoon will travel to Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait, still makes time for Martin. She has helped coach Bob Wager and the football team properly honor the flag during the national anthem over the years.

“She always does it in uniform, and this year she sent us a video while doing it from the Middle East — you could hear tanks and aircraft in the background,” Wager said. “To say she’s been impactful to our program would be an understatement.

“What a blessing it is to have two examples of two true acts of patriotism on our coaching staff.”