This Lesson Is Written By Coach Milt Travis:
Much is written about being a teammate and much more about being a great leader. The best in both are servant minded. Years ago I met a young man in my basketball program who became a great teammate, a leader, and a soldier.
Dewey didn’t have much, but he had energy. He was in the middle of everything. Full of effort and not as skilled, he competed every day. At times we would have to pull him out of a fight or just get him to slow down. He wanted to play more, yet when on the bench he pulled for the players on the floor. Tremendous but at times the rest of the team looked at him as over the top in his approach. I did not know at first that he went home often to an empty home. Grand parents were close by and helped raise him; giving him a foundation spiritually he later shared. Mom loved him but she was trying to survive . Dad also loved him but was not around. Dewey was a survivor himself. He had friends, but not the right clothes and lived in an older trailer park. Never in the cool kids group but always friends of the cool kids. He was liked by many.
He was not a starter in basketball and did start on the football team. He was never the star but was always present with his energy. This part of the story I had forgotten until he reminded me thirty years later. One day at school the principal came and got me. He informed me that Dewey had melted down. Not really being disruptive, but was at a point he wasn’t doing what was told and was emotional. When I got to him, he was in tears and said he wasn’t sure about anything. He said he was trying but life wasn’t good. I listened and had no answers. What took place next was a God thing. I asked him what he needed and he said he knew he needed a miracle of some kind. So we talked life and God. He committed that day to a belief in Jesus and to not trying to please others but to use God as his basis for living. I now think that understanding was from his grandma’s teachings.
Time passed and Dewey survived. He played and continued going to school. After graduating and doing some more education, he ended up in the military. Dewey always kept in touch. He still loved athletics and seemed headed in a good direction. He married Laurie and they had children. He loved her and the children a great deal. In the early 2000’s, Dewey was sent to war. I didn’t keep up well, but knew he was fighting in battle. After getting out, I began to hear from him again. He had seen some terrible things. Death and fighting had left an impression on his life. Dewey pursued more education and wanted to teach and coach. Laurie was doing so and they had three children with another to be born in a few years. He was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. He always loved basketball and officiated for a while, and even started a men’s league. However, he gave both up after a while. In February 2017, he called to inform me that he had liver cancer and it wasn’t good. Our conversations became more and more often about his relationship with the Lord being the center. He talked of not knowing how much longer he had to live, but that he wanted to grow in his faith. He knew that his growth would help him serve his wife and children well.
Dewey had always been tough, a survivor, but he was losing time. He told me of a war statement he had learned to use when he fought in war. “Still in the Fight”… It signified that he was alive in the midst of chaos and when teammates called out to each other in the unknowns of battle. “Still in the Fight” was echoed and communicated by all still alive. He would often text this phrase to me or leave it on my voicemail. It was a sign of strength and what he believed. In June, he invited us to church to his baptism. He had reminded me that he accepted the Lord in 1993 with me on that emotional and critical day in the teacher’s lounge. He wanted me there to see that commitment made years ago expressed in baptism. Furthermore, it was going to be done with his two daughters being baptized that same day. Also Dewey was to give his testimony publicly about his faith. It was an extremely moving day emotionally. I knew why doing what I had done years ago was so worth it. Dewey had blessed me so much and I cried a good deal. In the next couple of weeks, Dewey was put in a VA care unit as he digressed. I took a jersey from high school with his number on it. My son had given it to me as he was the coach there now. Dewey cried and was proud. He talked of competition and playing as he always talked about it. And he told me once again that he was “Still in the Fight”. I pulled him out of a fight when he was young. I wasn’t sure he was going to win that day, but I knew that he wasn’t going to lose because he would not quit. Dewey knew how to fight, to play, and to live with a big heart full of love. However, he also said he was losing time and Dewey died in the next days. I spoke at the funeral and could not contain my emotions. I have many Dewey stories but maybe the best is what I learned afterwards.
After getting home, I was in the high school basketball team room. As I looked at the pictures of the past, I realized that the teams before Dewey won and the teams afterwards won, but while competitive, he had not been on a winning team. Everyone else in my program had been. They had played as younger players on winners or played afterwards on winners. Then I realized Dewey had not won in football either. He had not ever talked to me about this fact. He talked of competing, loving the game, loving his teammates. He had held that jersey close to his heart that day. I cried once more. I had coached great leaders and teammates, but this soldier who gave his all, taught me again that the fight was the most important. Winning is great, but to be in the fight for the right reasons, that’s the greatest. Dewey knew that. And he served his teammates, his country, his family, and his Lord!
I remember his messages, he gave me a great blessing with his life, and I count on him knowing I am:
“Still in the Fight”
About the Author:
Milt Travis is a 38 year high school basketball coach and 13 year football coach. Coach Travis is retired from full time teaching and serves as a school interventionist in Rome, Georgia and basketball trainer in North Georgia. He and his wife have three married children (two coaches) and six grandchildren.