Meeuwsen family has deep Naval roots
By Greg Bates
SUAMICO – When Ben Meeuwsen’s two boys were growing up, he exposed them to his college alma mater, the Naval Academy.
He wore the Midshipmen uniform with pride and played on the football team in 1987 and ’88 before graduating in 1991.
When it came time for Ben’s oldest son, Quinn, to decide what he wanted to do after graduating from Bay Port High School in 2014, he enlisted in the Navy.
Six years later, Bay Port star football player/wrestler Max followed in his dad’s footsteps and played football at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“Growing up, I knew I wanted to go into the military,” Max said. “I wasn’t sure, but we took a couple of reunion trips and saw (the Naval Academy). Ever since I was a kid, this was the place I wanted to go.”
Max, a two-time state wrestling champion in high school, said he never felt pressure from his dad or family members to attend the Naval Academy, but they were a big influence in his decision.
“When I was deciding – I also had an offer from Air Force – my dad advocated for either,” he said. “He did a good job. I knew deep down he was hoping I’d pick Navy.”
Ben said he’s proud of the route Max chose.
“When I exposed Max to it, it fit in with him,” he said. “When he got recruited and offered an appointment, he said it was his dream school. I’m grateful I didn’t push him toward it. It was all his decision and what he wanted to do. He had some exposure to it from me because of my experience.”
Max’s grandfather, Paul, was in the Marines and served two tours in Vietnam.
With Max now experiencing what his dad went through nearly three decades ago, the two can relate to one another.
Following his freshman season, Max returned home to Suamico and said he exchanged stories with his dad.
“The same stuff he was dealing with, I was dealing with,” he said. “Even with my brother, we’ve experienced some of the same stuff. We’re able to bond over that, and it makes it a cool experience.”
It’s a bond Quinn said he feels, too.
“It’s cool to know what he’s going through and know my dad and I have also been through it,” he said.
Quinn, who was in the Navy from 2015-19, said it was important for him to serve in one of the United States’ five service branches.
“Some of the best men I know went through the military,” he said. “That was the best route for me.”
More than just football
Now a sophomore, Max said he’s having the time of his life as a naval cadet and football player at the FBS level.
At Bay Port, he played defensive end but was moved to defensive tackle by the Navy coaches this season.
Max appeared in the first three Navy games of the season and tallied his first two career tackles, both coming against Marshall.
The Midshipmen wrapped up their season with a 4-8 record.
Max was No. 3 on the depth chart at defensive tackle, with the two guys in front of him both being seniors.
“Going from high school to college, you’re around bigger and faster players,” Max said. “Being able to gain confidence and learning the playbook and the defense is a big part of it, too. Also, small things like footwork and fundamentals.”
Ben attended three of his son’s games this season: two Navy home games in Annapolis and the Midshipmen’s annual contest at Notre Dame.
Ben said sitting in the stands watching his son suit up for the Midshipmen brings back fond memories.
“It’s an overwhelming sense of pride,” he said. “I attended the Notre Dame game, got down near the field and saw him out there. I waved at him, and he waved back. It was a proud moment.”
Max said he also receives plenty of support from his brother.
Quinn, who currently attends the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, traveled to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Dec. 11 to watch the Army-Navy game.
A few months earlier, Max called Quinn because, for the Army-Navy game, a patch of Quinn’s squadron when he served in the Navy could be sewn onto his jersey.
VQ-1, nicknamed the “World Watchers,” was Quinn’s squadron for three years when he was on an EP-3 aircraft and stationed at Whidbey Island in Washington.
He was an aviation electronics technician.
“It made us closer as a family,” Max said. “We have a closer bond now.”
Quinn said he was honored to be a small part of the Army-Navy game.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It felt cool to see that – it was special. I posted a picture on Facebook with him, and my Navy buddies were excited.”
This year’s Army-Navy game took on a new perspective for Max, as the Midshipmen upset their biggest rival, 17-13.
“Being in a big stadium and having all those people there was awesome,” Max said. “The coolest thing coming out of the game was the relationship between my teammates and me. This is a game we build our entire season around. Coming into the game, it was surreal knowing the work you put in with your brothers was going to be shown in the next couple of hours. It’s a hard thing to describe, but pulling out the win enhanced the love we have for each other and shows we’re going to be brothers for life. Seeing the fans and other military members put into perspective what we’re going to do in the future. Seeing people who’ve made sacrifices made a big impact on me.”
With two of his kids serving time in the military, Ben said he has immense pride.
“The choices Max and Quinn made to serve their country, I’m glad they did it,” he said.
Max said he wants to leave a lasting legacy for his family’s name.
“I hope to impact people back home and raise awareness about what the academy is — not many people know about it,” he said. “I want to help people in their own lives and make a small impact in the world.”