Holly Charette, Cranston (R.I.) East

One in an occasional series.

By Al Mattei


In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Holly Charette knew she had to do something.

She joined the Marines, a conscious decision made because she felt it would be a more challenging military force to join.

It may have sounded like an unorthodox decision. But you need to understand her and her surroundings.

Charette straddled a duality. In the fall, she played field hockey for Cranston (R.I.) East, while in the wintertime she laced up a pair of boots as a skating cheerleader for the varsity boys' ice hockey team. In Cranston, a hardscrabble town located just south of Providence, boys' ice hockey in the winter is often a bigger sport than football.

That duality followed her through her career in the Marine Corps. At time, she was the dependable, smiling figure who delivered mail to the troops every day. At the same time, however, she was obligated to help out certain security details, searching female travelers through checkpoints in hotspots like Baghdad and Fallujah.

It was in Fallujah, on June 23, 2005, when a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive device next to a convoy in which she and several other female soldiers were traveling.

Her death hit home in her home state, as the governor and elected representatives attended her funeral services and burial with honors.

But it is important to remember that Charette became the first known member of the American field hockey community to die in Iraq.

Why is it important? It is this kind of event, this kind of milestone, that keeps all field hockey players and coaches -- past and present -- connected to something greater than the next game or the next season. These kinds of events -- no matter your gender, political leanings, or status -- are the kind of things that make a community so.

To me, for example, it has been amazing to see the compilation of dozens of names of the American lacrosse community who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Perhaps it's time for field hockey to pull together in memory of Holly Charette.