On Sacrifice and Honour: This Is Why We Remember
Often—too often, perhaps—is the sports field compared to the battlefield.
To a certain extent, the analogy is accurate. Soldiers and football players alike operate largely on adrenaline; blood, sweat, and tears have their places on each field; immense pressure is placed on both sets of men to win—the thought of losing dare not enter their minds; and intense physical training is undertaken to become fit for either.
However, that is where the similarities end, for the two differ greatly in their general purpose: that is to say, murder has no place in sport.
Today—the 91st anniversary of the end of World War I—this article does not intend to debate the right or wrong of war, nor even the morality of such; rather, simply to remember, honour, and respect the sacrifices of athletes past and present who have given their lives, limbs, and careers for their countries.
The list that follows is by no means complete; indeed, it barely scratches the surface. Any who have been missed may be added in the comment section.
Jack Lummus: Awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions on Iwo Jima in 1945.
Joe Pinder: Minor League pitcher. Killed on D-Day; awarded Medal of Honor.
Eddie LeBaron: Earned the Silver Star for heroism during the Korean War.
Nestor Chylak: An injury sustained in the Battle of the Bulge nearly cost him his sight, and for his service he was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
James Hoyt Wilhelm : Awarded a Purple Heart for injuries he received in the Battle of the Bulge.
Rocky Bleier: Sustained severe leg wounds in Vietnam, but persevered, recovered, and went on to successful NFL career. Awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his actions in battle.
Bob Feller: Enlisted two days after the Pearl Harbor attack; served for four years. Earned five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars, and went on to an impressive MLB career.
Warren Spahn: Combat engineer in WWII. Received battlefield commission in 1943, along with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Elmer Gedeon: Awarded Soldiers' Medal for heroic rescue of a fellow crew member from the burning wreckage of a plane crash. Later killed in action.
Danielle Green: Women's basketball player; lost her left arm to rocket fire in Iraq in 2004.
Billy Southworth Jr.: Recognized as the first professional baseball player to voluntarily enlist in the armed forces in WWII. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. Died when the plane he was piloting crashed.
Al Bumbry: Led an infantry platoon in Vietnam; all his men made it home alive.
Fred Price: One of the longest-serving professional baseball players during WWII, staying in the forces for over five years. Earned three battle stars and a Purple Heart after receiving wounds to his knee at Bougainville.
Roy Gleason: The only major league baseball player to be wounded in Vietnam, he never returned to baseball. He earned a Purple Heart.
Tony Lema: Fought in the Korean War. Later died in a civilian plane crash.
Gene Tunney: Served WWI as a marine officer, WWII as a Navy Officer.
Yogi Berra: Stationed on a rocket boat operating a machine gun on D-Day.
Ken Norton: Served in the US Marine Corps for four years (1963-1967) before his successful boxing career.
Art Donovan: Enlisted in Marines and fought WWII in the Pacific.
Alastair Heathcote: Commanded 30 infantry soldiers in Iraq in 2004. Served for five years.
Robin Bourne-Taylor: Second Lieutenant in the British Army. Began tour of duty in Afghanistan shortly after the 2008 Olympics.
Tom Landry: Flew 30 missions in Europe in WWII; survived a crash in Belgium when his bomber ran out of fuel.
Tom Harmon: Fighter pilot; survived plane crash and being shot down over China.
Chad Hennings: Flew 45 missions over Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort.
Ted Williams: Flew 37 combat missions in Korea between 1952 and 1953.
Pat Tillman: Killed by 'friendly fire' in Afghanistan. Posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.
Hobey Baker: Died on what should have been his last flight in the Air Forces, testing a repaired aircraft in WWI. The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is each year presented to the outstanding U.S. collegiate hockey player.
Christy Mathewson: Killed by tuberculosis contracted from an accidental inhalation of poison mustard gas in WWI.
Alfred Blozis: Killed on his first patrol during an encounter related to the Battle of the Bulge.
Tommy Hitchcock: Killed on test flight in WWII.
Bob Kalsu: Killed in Vietnam in July 1970.
Forrest 'Lefty' Brewer: Paratroopers. Killed in action under intense fire from German troops in WWII.
Harry O'Neill: First Lieutenant. Killed in action on Iwo Jima in WWII.
Billy Fiske: First American pilot killed in WWII. Shot down in 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
Honourable mentions: Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, David Robinson.
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