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 an 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.
"I am excited that Luke (Telang) is this year's #12," said head coach Chris Parsons. "He has many of the same characteristics on and off the field that Thomas possessed. Going all the way back to his game winning goal freshman year against King's Point, I knew Luke would be an impact player for us in the attacking third just as Thomas was. He brings an energy and passion to the game. Thomas brought that energy to the team. I love looking back at the 2008 season highlight film and watching Thomas celebrate after goals. Luke is the same way. It gets the guys pumped up and continues the legacy of great team spirit that the men's soccer program has cultivated over the years."
Lieutenant Junior Grade John Tarzian wore number 12 during the 2014 season when Coast Guard earned their first NCAA Tournament berth in 33 years.
"Wearing number 12 was the biggest honor I have ever received as a player period," commented Tarzian. "It means so much to the program and the embodiment of Thomas's legacy on and off the field. The number 12 on the team is a player who has an ability to change games. Personally speaking, I was not a player who could change a game with my soccer skills (not like Greg Kennerley, Lukas Benedetto, or Alex Lane) however I think that wearing number 12 motivated me and pushed me through the game, the practices and even the time I spent with a broken leg. When the team sees the number 12 working their ass off its contagious. The next thing you know everyone is getting stuck in to tackles, going after the 50/50s, and playing with the passion and grit Thomas played with, the passion and grit only the Coast Guard Academy men's soccer team can produce."
Ensign Lukas Benedetto not only embodied the number 12 mentality on the field but carries the same drive with him every day.
"Wearing the number 12 jersey is the greatest honor of my service career," said Benedetto. "Those who have worn number 12 will have different interpretations of what it meant to them but, it will inspire and emotionally move us all the same like nothing else I have seen. To me, it represents the never-ending search to achieve greatness both on the pitch and in life. It means to work harder, run faster and jump farther than your opponent. It means to keep going, even on the days you're tired, feel sick or want to give up. Success is never freely given, it is earned. This is who Thomas was and that is what it means to wear number 12. Wearing that jersey meant the world to me and I will take that with me wherever I go"
This season, senior co-captain Luke Telang was selected by Parsons to continue the tradition and wear the number 12 jersey.
"Wearing the number 12 this year is really an honor," added Telang "I think back to the guys I have played with in the last three seasons who have worn number 12, and they are all people whom I still look up to today. I just hope to emulate the same leadership qualities they did, through passion and dedication. The number 12 serves as a motivator for me to elevate my game, and work the hardest I can whenever I step on the field. I owe that to my teammates. Every game I look forward to competing alongside the greatest teammates I could ask for, and I could not be more thrilled to sport the 12 in my last season here at the Coast Guard Academy."
The Bears are on the road tomorrow September 23rd, against Emerson in their second NEWMAC game of the season.