The number 12 jersey carries a significant meaning to the Coast Guard men's soccer program. Lieutenant Junior Grade Thomas Cameron ('09) wore the number while playing at the Academy. Cameron, co-captain of the 2008 ECAC championship team, was a excellent player who was a leader and mentor for his teammates. Cameron's contributions to the program also included an assistant coaching stint while waiting for his next phase of flight school in the fall of 2009.
Tragically Cameron died on February 28, 2012 as Coast Guard helicopter, designation 6535, went down in Mobile Bay, Alabama during a training flight. The accident claimed the lives of all four crew members on board. His loss was felt by many including everyone he had played with or had been coached by at the Academy. Sporting tradition would have it given such a tragedy Cameron's number would be retired, but Parsons saw an opportunity to honor Thomas' legacy. Every year Parsons picks a senior whose leadership, hard work, and desire to win mirrors what Thomas brought to the program over the course of the five years.
"The number 12 has become an extremely important part of our program, said Parsons. "The legacy Thomas left behind is embodied in every player who puts on the shirt. The players know the significance of the jersey and educate the new players on its history. I am very proud to have coached Thomas. Honoring him is critical to what he sacrificed.'
"Wearing number 12 for my last season was one of the most humbling experiences I've ever had," said Kennerley. "It meant representing something greater than yourself and recognizing the true sacrifice that goes into every military member's commitment. Every time I stepped on the field for a game or practice I played with more emotion and wanted to win more than anything. Knowing the type of person Thomas was on and off the pitch I knew that giving anything less than 100% effort was a failure. I knew everybody on the team was looking up to me to set the tone and bring the energy each day just like Thomas would. As a mentor and coach to me, Thomas inspired me to keep pushing through all of the daily struggles and keep getting better as a person and player. Getting to wear his number in his honor is something that I'll always carry with me and remember. I hope each cadet that has the honor of playing for the Coast Guard Academy understands the true significance of what the number 12 means to the program. It was an incredible honor to wear number 12 and makes me proud to be an alumni of the Coast Guard Academy soccer team."
Lieutenant Junior Grade Jake Rendon shared Kennerley's sentiments about number 12, without ever meeting Cameron, and embodied Parson's idea of educating future players on the importance of the number 12.
"It was an incredible honor to wear number 12 on the back of my jersey," said Rendon. "I felt the immense responsibility of representing a man who completely embodied everything that the Coast Guard Academy soccer program stands for. I never had the chance to meet Thomas, but I heard the stories. The stories of how he played with the sort of passion, grit, and complete determination that for years has created the identity of this program. Wearing number 12 was an honor, but at the same time a challenge. It was a challenge for me to push myself and my teammates every single day in practice and every second of every game, no matter the outcome. It was a challenge to continue the legacy that Thomas, and so many players before him left; that no team could expect an easy day against the Bears. I know that everything Thomas stood for went so much further than just the pitch, and I wish I had the honor of meeting him. It was a truly humbling experience the day I was presented the number 12 jersey; a feeling that has stuck with me ever since."
This season, senior co-captain Alex Lane was picked by Parsons to continue to tradition and wear the number 12 jersey. Lane is coming off a missed year due to injury and does not take the
"Since my freshman year Thomas Cameron has been the source of our team's passion and desire to win. He led with a fire and passion that all past and future number 12's can only hope to achieve. Being chosen to wear the number 12 means I strive to lead the team on and off the field in a way that honors Thomas and the teammate that wore number 12 before me, Greg Kennerly, Jake Rendon, John Tarzian, and Lukas Benedetto. For someone not on the team, there are truly no words to explain what an honor it is to continue the number 12 tradition and Thomas Cameron's legacy. We, as a team, will honor him every game by playing with the same grit and determination he embodied."
The Bears will take the field tomorrow against arch rival Merchant Marine, playing with the same passion and desire that Cameron played with every game.