The bright white lights shined down on the honored No. 4 as the Keystone Heights High School Indians faced off against the West Nassau High School Warriors on Aug. 30′s Friday night football game.
This is the first season Army Sgt. Dick Alson Lee’s jersey number can be seen on the field since it was retired after his death last year. He graduated from the school in 2000.
His mother, Brenda Carroll, attended the Aug. 30 game to present the jersey to Brighton Gibbs, a KHHS junior, who she said embodies characteristics of Lee.
“He’s a very well spoken young man, very well mannered. I don’t think they could have picked a better person,” said Carroll, 51.
Joseph Sayers said Lee, his best friend, lived and breathed KHHS football. He said high school football is everything to a small town, and it was everything to Lee. He watched hours of game film on other teams.
“He could tell you the size of the players, their numbers, their names, what play they were in, when they lined up,” Sayers said. “He was extremely dedicated.”
When his Humvee ran over an improvised explosive device in the Ghazni providence of Afghanistan in April of 2012, the community considered naming the high school’s football field after him. It resolved to present his jersey number to a player on the team who possessed similar qualities as Lee.
An elementary school field was named after a local Vietnam veteran who was also killed in combat. It’s a big deal when something like this happens in such a small town, Sayers said.
“It’s kind of a legacy for the town,” said Dakota Wiley, a senior at KHHS. “It’s a big effect because everyone knew him, he died in combat serving our country, and he gave everything he had to protect his town, his country.”
Wiley has wanted to join the U.S. Army since he was 8 years old. He wore dog tags to Friday’s game and plans to enlist after high school.
Lee was also interested in serving since he was young. One night, his mother remembers, her husband woke up and didn’t find Lee in his bed. He and his friend went out and dug a foxhole in the backyard. They were “playing army.”
Carroll said he was extremely dedicated, responsible, kind-hearted and would do anything to brighten someone’s day.
One of the men Lee served with wrote her a letter, in which, he told her he realized Lee played a huge role in making him into the man he became. He went on to thank her for making Lee into the man he was.
“Apparently, one of his friends passed over there, and it was Alson who helped him through it,” Carroll said.
The jersey will be worn by Gibbs for the remainder of the season in Lee’s honor.