OPINION: Damane's event, and so many more like him
When Damane Tenner's name began appearing in the sports section, we could only laugh.
It's not every day someone pronounces their first name like my uncommon last name.
Then I heard his story.
Moving from place to place is common for military families. He, like so many Wheatland High students, are Beale Air Force Base transplants. And he, like so many others, have seen their mothers and fathers deployed overseas in recent years.
In Tenner's case, his father, Willie, has been deployed overseas 11 times, including a trip to Afghanistan this May.
Despite 18 years of service and his work as a tech sergeant with Beale's security forces, Willie has always been the backbone to his 17-year-old son.
He mentored, coached and helped train his son so that Damane could fulfill his athletic potential — it's what his son wanted.
"He's always been there for me," Damane said. "He would spend the time that I needed outside of regular practice. We would go to the gym together, run, just everything."
Willie hasn't always been around for his son's track and field, wrestling or football seasons, so Damane has grown accustomed to his father not always seeing his son's accomplishments on the field or mat.
But when his senior season of football rolled around this fall, it hit Damane a little harder.
So it's no wonder why he is seen getting a little emotional before games.
Or why he changed his number this year to 6 — the number his father wore in high school.
Or why his father's name, "Peace in the Middle East" and a prayer are written on his wrist bands during games in tribute to his hero — his father.
"It's just really hard with him not being here," Damane said.
He likes to think he brings his father's style of play to the field at free safety as an aggressive playmaker — he nearly leads the team in tackles with 88.
"I always try to get after it, that's one thing my dad has always taught me," he said. "I play sports to stay out of trouble, have that camaraderie and build memories with friends, that's important.
"Hopefully, I can be a role model to younger kids."
Come Friday, Wheatland will play at Orland in the Division II Northern Section playoffs — and it may very well be the last time Damane takes the field.
And While Orland and Wheatland fans may line up on opposite sides of the field, rooting for different teams this week, along with Damane's little sister and his mother, Lisa, everyone should be rooting for the same thing here — a safe return.
Damane is just one of many, but he can speak for all.
"I just want to tell him that I love him and miss him, and I can't wait until he gets home."