They Lead

Video: Meet The Football Coach Whose Mission Is To Make Sure Fallen Soldiers Are Never Forgotten

Mackenzie Meaney

After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Mike Viti observed unity and resilience like never before. That day changed Viti’s life forever.

Viti was only a sophomore in high school when it happened, but the response he saw from Americans coming together afterward inspired him to join the Military when he got older.

“For the first time in my life, I saw adults and people you trust, know questions and didn’t have good answers,” Viti said. “Football games were getting canceled, school was getting canceled, and I hated that feeling.”

Once Viti graduated from high school, he had two goals; enlist in the service, and play Division I football. Viti when on to accept an appointment to the United States Military Academy in West Point, and joined the football team as a fullback, eventually becoming captain his senior year.

“The greatest leadership training I had was being a member of Army West Point football,” Viti said “It puts you in an environment where you are challenged, you are critiqued and you are counted on.”

Upon graduating from West Point, Viti was stationed in Afghanistan for a year, where he and his unit were fighting in some of the most dangerous parts of the country.

“When you are really put into the same environment and manage that,” Viti said, “It’s just life and death, and there is no margin for losses, and you are under a high level of scrutiny and people are counting on you to make sound decisions in a very intense environment and keep your calm while you’re still technically and tactically proficient.”

Because of his hard work and leadership capabilities, Viti was awarded a Bronze Star for his courage and character, something, he notes, is his greatest accomplishment to date.

“The reasons you serve isn’t necessarily for a pat on the back or awareness or a ticker tape parade,” Viti said. “But it’s to protect things that you hold true to the values you have as an American citizen.”

While his time in the military was full of enriching experiences, Viti now has a new mission — to make sure that all of the men and women who lost their lives during the War on Terror since September 11, 2001, are not forgotten. In 2014, Viti walked across the United States to honor their legacies.

“The hike was a way to bring people to the table and have a conversation that is very sensitive but very real,” Viti said.

In 2015, Viti returned to West Point as a football coach with the fullbacks — the same position he played when he was there a decade earlier. As of the 2022 season, Viti is Army's offensive line coach. For tickets to the 2022 Army-Navy football game, presented by USAA, visit here.