VALDOSTA -- Bragging rights for the Marines vs. Air Force Trophy were settled Saturday when recruiters and their recruits from both branches met on the Lowndes High School softball field.

There were also bragging rights involved with the presentation of the trophy. The losing noncommissioned officer in charge of his recruiting station had to get down on one knee and present it to his opposite number on the winning team. Prior to the game, there was plenty of talking "smack" from both recruiters. However, anyone familiar with the rivalries between the military branches knows that all the talk was in the spirit of competition.

Last Wednesday, the Marines were wondering if the Air Force would even show. Unfortunately for the Marines, the Air Force did show and won the game by defeating the Marines 15 to 10 in seven innings. The Air Force then took charge of the trophy that had been in the possession of the Marine Recruiting Station for about three years. The Air Force and Marine recruiters last met in 1999, with the Marines taking home the trophy.

Neither of the recruiters -- Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Strickland and Marine Staff Sgt. J.M. LyBrand -- knew why there had been a three-year delay in playing for the trophy.

Strickland said he was visiting LyBrand one day when he saw the trophy in his office. He asked LyBrand if the Marines were ready to lose it. Somewhere along the line pride and esprit de corps took over and the game was scheduled for July 6.

It came as no surprise on game day when the Marine recruiters and their recruits met at the Armed Forces Recruiting Offices on Baytree Road and double-timed to Lowndes High School, proudly carrying the Marine Corps colors. Even after suffering defeat at the hands of the Air Force, they double-timed back to Baytree Road with their heads held high.

"We got our butts beat," said a smiling LyBrand after the game. As is common after such competition, the trash talk belonged to the Air Force. In fact, the Air Force's new motto, "America's Air Force, no one comes close." was used in conjunction with the victory over the Marines.

"In this case no one came close," said Staff Sgt. Corey Meldahl, Air Force recruiter.

To contact reporter Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.

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