13th SC(E) Soldier Inducted into Army Sports Hall of Fame
by 1st Lt. Leanne Masserini
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) PAO
Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said “Upon the fields of friendly strife, Are sown the seeds That, upon other fields, on other days, Will bear the fruits of victory.” A quote a 2006 Army Sports Hall of Fame Inductee has put to memory and to daily life.
Maj. Colleen Lightfoot, chief of operations for the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and ten other United States Military Academy athletes were recognized recently, during the 2006 Army Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet at West Point, New York.
Returning home one night Lightfoot found a Fed-Ex package at her door with the surprising news she was selected into the Army sports hall of fame.
“I still do not know from this day who nominated me,” Lightfoot said.
It was only last year Lightfoot found out the USMA started inducting athletes into the Army Sports Hall of Fame.
2006 was the third year the USMA had inducted athletes into their Army Sports Hall of Fame, inducting eleven athletes from graduating classes as far back as 1905.
“There was a lot of diversity in the group that were being inducted,” Lightfoot said.
Inductees were selected for all different type of sports, such as fencing, hockey, lacrosse, squash, football, and many others. Unfortunately not all inductees could attend, some inductees had passed away, been killed in Vietnam, and one recently killed in Afghanistan.
Lightfoot was unlike any other of the ten inductees.
She was the only female hall of fame inductee for 2006, the only inductee currently on active duty and the first USMA softball player to be inducted into the hall of fame.
Lightfoot college career began when she attended the USMA from 1987 to 1991.
“The (USMA) were the only ones that recruited me to play softball,” said Lightfoot, when asked why she attended the USMA.
After a Cinderella season her senior year, Lightfoot’s mailbox was not full of softball scholarships, something she had envisioned after her senior year of high school.
Lightfoot and her high school softball coach began looking for prospective colleges where Lightfoot would have the opportunity to play softball and get a first rate education. Lightfoot’s coach challenged her and threw down a card that read, United States Military Academy and said, ‘ha, I bet you can’t get into here.’
Lightfoot was up for the challenge and soon began looking into what she would need for acceptance into the softball program at the USMA. Lightfoot put together a sports resume that wowed many and although she was late submitting her resume, the USMA knew they could not let Lightfoot slip their hands, so they began helping her with the enrollment process.
Lightfoot was the starting pitcher her freshmen year. She pitched a perfect game as a freshman in 1988 and she was the number one pitcher across the nation in Division II as a freshman.
Before entering her final tournament during her senior year she injured her right shoulder.
“I pitched the entire tournament except for one game, because of the injury I couldn’t pitch every single game,” Lightfoot said.
USMA was able to move up through the losing bracket but would have to play Buchnell back to back in order to win the championship. They won the first game after extra innings and after a half and hour break they went back out to play another 7 innings.
The tournament was in 1991 during the Gulf war. One of the supporters of USMA brought camouflage and some of the softball players camouflaged up. ‘Its war now’ was the saying.
“We ended up winning and taking the championship from them. It was a very painful experience but at the end it was a good way to end my career,” she said.
She received the top female athlete of the year for her year group that year.
It has been fifteen years since she has attended USMA but she is still the all-time leader in appearances (121), strikeouts (705), innings pitched (750.1), wins (83) and earned run average (0.80).
Playing softball has brought her more than awards and a college education, it gave her a career.
“No doubt in my mind if I never played softball, I would have never gone to West Point,” Lightfoot said. “Which means I would never be an army officer,” said Lightfoot. “The only thing that got me through it was playing softball.”
All West Pointers have to play some type of athletics, varsity or intramural, said Lightfoot.
“The goal is to work together as a team and understand team values, it’s not different in the Army,” she said. “I really believe in athletics and teamwork. How you work with individuals is no different in what we do in the Army. We are one big team trying to achieve one big goal or goals.”
As a company commander, her company played sports every Tuesday.
She understood the risk of injuries, “but you got to try to foster that team work because it doesn’t come automatically, you have to build it,” said Lightfoot.
“You can take a bunch of number one recruits and you can put them together and sometimes that’s not a winning combination. Sometimes it’s easier to take a bunch of people who have a lot of heart and a lot of desire and will work together as individuals to win as a team.”
The selection into the hall of fame was a bitter-sweet feeling for Lightfoot.
“Bitter because they usually don’t induct people into a hall of fame into they have completed their playing and coaching time... an official closer of an athletic career. Sweet because everybody does recognize the contributions you have made,” Lightfoot said.
Even though it was a bitter-sweet event, she was inducted into the hall of fame at an ideal time in her life. Her father and daughter were able to experience this great accomplishment.
“My Father was very instrumental in my life growing up, teaching me how to play softball,” said Lightfoot.
The induction took place during her ailing father’s lifetime, something Lightfoot is grateful for.
“He was unable to attend the ceremony but it gave him even more joy than it did for me.”