Commodore fans are still buzzing after Saturday’s win over MTSU, but a story you might have missed while watching is one of a hero on the sidelines.  

The head referee at Saturday’s game in Nashville is a true American hero for whom just standing on the field is a major accomplishment.  

Rodney Brunette survived the deadly bombing on the U.S. Marines barracks in Beiruit, Lebanon in 1983.  

Burnette had just gotten off guard duty on the morning of Oct. 23 when he and his fellow Marines heard an alarm. 

“I ran to the top of the stairs with the guys right behind me and got to the top of the stairs and saw a big dust ball. I could make out the wheel well of a truck but I don’t remember any explosion or sound or anything,” recalled Burnette. 

Incredibly, he was found inside a body bag, barely conscious four days later. At the age of 35, he was told he would never walk again, but Burnette didn’t let that stop him. 

“My fulltime goal, at that time, was to get better, and I wanted to walk.  I did everything I could to walk again.  Rehab was three times a day and it was all kind of workouts,” said Burnette. 

Back at home at Camp Lejeune, he answered an ad to be a clock operator at football games and had to step in when an official got injured—and never looked back. 

“I don’t get over it, because it was very traumatic, the pain level and losing all of my friends, just the scheme of things but with perseverance, I just weathered the storm and got better,” said Burnette. 

He is currently a head referee with Conference USA, the league MTSU belongs to, so if you hear his name called while at a Blue Raider game this year, take a minute to appreciate his service and determination.  

Next month marks 35 years since the deadly truck bombing at the Marine barracks in Lebaon where 241 American service members died.