A game that was about more than rugby
Before the start of the Norwich-Army rugby match, both teams stood on the sidelines facing each other. Their heads bowed, the Norwich players draped their arms around each other's shoulders, and paused for a moment of silence. At midfield, a USMA student dressed in camouflaged fatigues played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.
Although on the surface what was about to transpire was a simple rugby match between these two historic military schools, everyone present understood that the contest at hand was more than a mere game - today was about honoring a fallen comrade.
Dr. Charles R. "Rob" Soltes '90, the Army reservist killed in Iraq on October 13, 2004, had ties to Norwich, West Point, and the rugby community. A biology major while at Norwich, Rob played rugby at a time when the game was still very much a social outlet. Known more for his off-the-field prowess than on, Rob was a nonetheless a valued member of the team. Later, during his military service, he served on active duty at the USMA as Director of the Optometry Residency Program.
Even though none of the current members on the Norwich team had ever met Rob, the fact that he was part of the Norwich rugby family meant he was their brother, as well. They dedicated their week of practice to him and on game day, as a symbol of respect and mourning, they donned black socks instead of their usual maroon. In addition, the players signed a Norwich rugby ball to give to his parents.
"The rugby community in this country is very small and close-knit," said Bob Weggler, Head Coach of the Norwich rugby team. "We wanted to do something to pay tribute to Rob's memory, and this seemed an appropriate way to do it."
firstname.lastname@example.org, October 2004
A scholarship in Rob's memory has been established at Norwich. Memorial Gifts may be sent to: Norwich University - Rob Soltes '90 Scholarship, c/o Advancement Office, Norwich University, 158 Harmon Drive, Northfield, VT 05663 or call 802.485.2300 or Email email@example.com.
Anyone wishing to send condolences to Rob's family may use the following email address (messages will be forwarded): firstname.lastname@example.org.