Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Nick LoRusso was deciding what college he would attend. The Long Island, N.Y., native knew he wanted to play Division I lacrosse and with the memory of the Twin Towers fresh in his mind, Army seemed a logical choice.
He was one of the first classes to attend the Academy after the attacks and he committed knowing there was the distinct possibility of going to war—a fact that took some getting used to for his parents.
Like many mothers Elizabeth LoRusso was scared by the idea of her son being in harm’s way, but her oldest son Nick started a family tradition that has forced his mother to come to terms with the reality of military service.
Nick and his three brothers – Kevin, Brian and Larry – all decided to play lacrosse at Army. Three of them played on the same team and two of them were team captains. All of them enrolled knowing they could face combat.
“That’s just your life—that’s the way it’s going to be,” she said last month, standing outside of the lacrosse parents’ tailgate before her two youngest sons, Brian and Larry, played rival Navy as seniors for the last time.
“I’m sure [9/11] had something to do with their decision,” said LoRusso. “We’re kind of a patriotic family and just to be able to serve our country in a time of war was big for them.”
“Everyone likes to argue their perspective on the war, but I still remember being attacked and I guess my whole thing does root back to that,” Brian said last year for an NCAA.org story on the anniversary of the attacks. “Seeing 9/11, remembering what that felt like and using that as my drive.”
Added brother Larry: “I remember when it happened. I was in 7th grade math class. TVs came rolling in on those old school carts and you’re watching on the news. People were getting pulled out of school. So, it hits harder, I guess in New York… because around other places in the United States you’re not really there. I would say it’s definitely a factor of why we were more influenced to come here…it definitely played a role in us going to West Point.”
Nick’s father, Larry Sr., recalls his eldest son’s official visit to the campus, situated on the banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York. As the two men strolled around The Plain—the official parade grounds of the academy—Mr. LoRusso asked Nick what he thought of the campus and the team.
Elizabeth LoRusso shares her thoughts on having four sons serving.
Without hesitation Nick looked at his father and said, “I’m coming here.”
“And that was pretty much it with him,” said Mr. LoRusso.
Kevin was the next brother to commit to Army, but his decision process was less definitive than Nick’s. Kevin was also being recruited to play for rival Navy.
“He was kind of leaning towards Navy,” Mrs. LoRusso recalls. “Nicholas took him upstairs for a conversation and when they came downstairs Kevin said he was going to go to Army.”
What did Nick, Army’s backup goalie from 2004 to 2007, say to dissuade his brother from becoming a midshipman? Mrs. LoRusso laughed, “I wasn’t privy to that conversation.”
With his two older brothers attending Army, Brian never considered another college. Unfortunately, his grades and SAT scores kept him out of the academy and forced him to take a year of civilian prep and a year of West Point prep school before he was admitted.
The extra year in prep school meant that he and his younger (by 14 months) brother Larry, attended West Point prep together. Larry and Brian joined the Army lacrosse team at the same time and have been inseparable through their four years.
“Being with my younger brother, it’s been amazing,” said Brian, who is the team’s captain. “I mean, we do a lot together, if not everything together. So, being able to graduate with him from the academy, I don’t even have words for it right now—how excited I am for that … we’ve been talking about this day since prep school.”
“Me and Brian, we’ve always relied on each other to get through,” said Larry. “You know, when we’re doing badly in school, or we’re having a tough time here or there. We’d always just sit down and talk to each other… find something funny to talk about. Have a good time. Relax for a little bit. Get away from the school and the mental state.”
The LoRusso family has become a fixture for Army Lacrosse. Mr. and Mrs. LoRusso rarely miss a game—traveling with the team to Texas, Minnesota or anywhere the schedule demands. The older boys call and text Brian and Larry regularly to see how the team is doing and offer their advice for upcoming games.
“Anywhere the games are, that’s where we are,” said Mrs. LoRusso, wearing Army lacrosse buttons of all four boys dressed in their West Point Military Academy uniforms.
That family atmosphere and the bond of brotherhood is something that Head Coach Joe Alberici has made a central theme for his team. The players’ practice jerseys have “family” written on the back.
“When I came to the lacrosse locker room and met all the guys the first thing that stood out to me was how I was treated compared to when I went to visit anywhere else, or even just go and talk to other people from different schools,” Brian said. “The way I was accepted amongst the guys right off the bat made a difference.”
When Alberici took over the program Kevin was a freshman mid-fielder and Nick was a junior goalie. Nick graduated in 2007 and in 2008 both Brian and Larry joined the program.
Kevin, also a team captain, and his younger brothers played together for one year. Having three sons play on the same team “was amazing,” said Mrs. LoRusso. “Not too many people can have that honor to have three of your kids on the field at once. So, it was awesome.”
“There’s a tremendous sense of family amongst the four of them,” said Alberici, “but they all have their own idiosyncrasies. They’re all great guys. They’re all great young men to coach.”
He said all four LoRussos are great leaders. “I think that’s where the appeal of the Army comes from…more than the appeal of tanks and things of that nature. It was more about the leadership opportunities that being an officer in the Army represents.”
Brian and Larry display their unique personalities and relationship while interviewing each other.
Both Brian and Larry agree that leadership was an important factor in their decision to come to Army, but they both said the friendly competition they have as brothers was also an important factor.
“I guess I have tried to outdo my brothers,” Larry said. “I can’t really beat them out in what they’re doing because you can’t really compete with someone that goes to West Point. So, I guess that’s part of the reason I came here,” he said laughing.
Brain said coming in as a freshman and having his older brother, Kevin, as the team captain and a two-time, first-team all-Patriot League midfielder was helpful, but also stressful. “It was a daily challenge to try to prove myself as being able to live up to that,” he said.
That competitive spirit was nurtured from a young age said Mr. LoRusso. “They were constantly playing together and being that the four of them were pretty close in age they were like a little pack of dogs that were just together all the time,” he said.
Four brothers playing lacrosse in a backyard wasn’t without its consequences though, said Mr. LoRusso. They broke the family’s fence and Mr. LoRusso decreed that their practice session would take place with tennis balls, rather than the hard rubber lacrosse ball.
When things got too rough in the backyard Mr. LoRusso made the boys move to the street in front of their house. That meant several broken taillights and side mirrors, but, “Thank God, no windshields,” he said.
The practice paid off and the close and competitive relationships have been very good for the Army team. “It made me a better player having my brothers here because I’m always trying to be better than them,” said Larry. “We just strive to be better than one another, so it excels our game.”
Brian and Larry have been major contributors to the Army team and are part of the first class in Army lacrosse history to beat Navy five times in a row. Brain was hampered by injury in his junior year, but has since played significant time in all the games this season.
Larry, like his brother Kevin, earned Patriot League honors and has started every game over the last three seasons.
Next season will mark the first time coach Alberici has a team without a LoRusso. “They will be missed and the family will be missed,” he said. “One thing I know is that we’re going to welcome them back anytime that they’re in the area.”
After graduation both Brian and Larry will join the Field Artillery branch of the Army and will be stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington. Nick is currently serving a second tour in Afghanistan with the 10thMountain Division and will finish out his career at Fort Drum, New York. Kevin, who is with the Field Artillery, is stationed in Germany after a recent stint in Afghanistan.Leaving the Army family will be difficult, Mrs. LoRusso said. She and Mr. LoRusso plan to travel to spend time with all four boys, who are stationed at different posts around the world.
Mrs. LoRusso is still a bit uncomfortable with the idea of her sons going to war, “but I have to say that they feel very confident that they’ve been trained well, so that helps me and they are able to be in communication with us pretty frequently. That’s also very helpful. So, I have some confidence that they’re OK,” she said.
Both LoRusso parents beam with pride when they talk about their sons. “We’re really proud of them. I mean, it’s scary on one side,” Mrs. LoRusso said, “but not too many people have their children going into the service and we need more good people to be in the services so that everybody is safe.”
“I’m just in awe of them,” said Mr. LoRusso. “You always want better for your children and they totally just blew that out of the water as far as the expectations that any parent would ever have for a child.”