There's a story on the brim of the boonie Coach Steve Snyder sometimes wears to football practice.
It's patriotic story of sacrifice and service. It's told in the patches firmly sewn in place U.S. Army. Airborne. Snyder.
At the height of the U.S. war on terror, Snyder put his teaching and coaching career on hold and enlisted in the Army National Guard, eventually serving a year-long tour of duty in Iraq.
He finished college and was already working as a coach at Saenz Elementary School in Alice when he was deployed to Iraq in 2006. It was a huge sacrifice, but Snyder said serving his country in its time of need was a privilege, and most importantly, his responsibility.
"It was just something I felt I had to do," he said about enlisting later in life. "Pretty much everything that was going on in Iraq I felt the need to help out. I felt like my country needed me."
In Iraq, the 1992 Tuloso-Midway High School graduate was a gunner in an Airborne infantry unit. His role was to man 240 Bravo and 50-caliber machine guns in a turret on military vehicles. He didn't have to perform a combat jump, but he did assist in removing prisoners of war on helicopters.
Snyder said by enlisting at a later age, he was able to serve as a leader and mentor to younger troopers, a role he gladly embraced.
"I believe I helped," Snyder said. "I feel like my country needed a helping hand. It needed leaders to help our soldiers. I met up with guys just like me who had already been to college and had their degrees and still wanted to help. Their objective was just like mine to help our soldiers."
After high school, where he was a quarterback and free safety for the Warriors, Snyder went to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. After graduating, he began coaching at Coastal Bend Youth City, a charter school in Corpus Christi.
When the U.S. war in Iraq began to intensify, Snyder felt compelled to act. He enlisted in 2004 and after training, his first deployment was as part of Operation Jump Start, a mission in which national guardsmen assisted U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in guarding the U.S.-Mexican border.
Today, Snyder is in his first year of coaching William Adams seventh and eighth grade football. He also serves as a fifth-grade math and reading resource teacher at Memorial Intermediate School. In football, he coaches every aspect of the game, just like each of his fellow William Adams coaches.
"The one thing about being a junior high school coach is that you have to know everything," he said. "It's not like the high school where you have position coaches for the offensive line, quarterbacks, backs and secondary. At the junior high, you have to know it all in a nutshell."
Alice Athletic Director Chris Soza said Snyder is an energetic coach who adds plenty to the WAMS coaching staff.
He's done a really good job for us, Soza said. He's conscientious, and he wants to learn. He's a very exciting and enthusiastic coach, and a real disciplinarian.
Snyder was a blessing to the athletic department after budget cuts in the spring eliminated a handful of middle school teachers, some of which were coaches. Since Snyder was already employed by the district as a teacher at Memorial Intermediate School, he was able to step into a coaching position. Snyder's workday begins with seventh grade athletics at William Adams before he heads to Memorial. He ends the day with eighth grade athletics backs at WAMS.
Snyder, 39, is still listed in "active status" for the next two years, which means he can be called to duty at any time. It's a possibility he doesn't think about much, especially since he is completely consumed by coaching.
He said the young athletes he works with throughout the day are special because of their sacrifice and devotion to sports.
"I'd love to be a high school coach some day," Snyder said. "Right now, I'm just happy being around the program and getting the kids pumped up and psyched up. It really takes a different kind of kid to be up early in the morning for practice and again late after school to get ready for a sport. I really enjoy this group of kids."