As Memorial Day approaches, the older I get the more I appreciate what this holiday stands for. The thousands of men and women who have given their life in the service of our country deserve this day, and frankly, every day to honor their memories.
Trying to think of a story I wanted to write, many ideas came to mind. Fate may have it that while flipping channels this morning, I passed by the series "Band of Brothers", and it made my decision for me.
Sports normally takes a front seat before most things for me and a lot of people I know, but on this day, it's a distant second.
Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg and Bob Feller were all great baseball players who lost a large amount of time from their playing years to fight in World War II.
Possibly the most respected, revered and celebrated person in Tennessee football history is General Robert R. Neyland. General Neyland served his country in World War I before making his way to Tennessee and becoming Professor of Military Science, and later head football coach before returning to serve again in World War II.
General Neyland is a coaching legend at Tennessee, and is well known for his military service. There are others, many others, that served their country after playing at Tennessee who didn't make it home, who paid the ultimate price.
Bill Nowling, a fullback from 1940-42, was a three year starter under General Neyland and died in the service of his country on August 9th, 1944.
Rudy Klarer, a guard from 1941-42, started one season for Neyland and died in combat on January 6, 1945.
Willis Tucker, a fullback in 1940, not only played football but was a sprint star at UT. Tucker died in service on November 28, 1944.
Clyde Fuson, a fullback in 1942, was a teammate and shared playing time with Bill Nowling. Known as "Ig", Clyde had a younger brother named Herschel, known as "Ug", who transferred from UT and later graduated from West Point.
All four men's numbers (32, 49, 61, 62) are retired at Neyland Stadium in honor of their service and ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The greatest generation of all time had so many countless more pay this ultimate price, so many more whose names will never be put on a stadium, a wall or known by anyone except beloved family members and friends.
This Memorial Day, I want to say thank you to all the men and women who serve our country today, in every way. I want to say thank you to all the families who give their family members so unselfishly so we can all live the life we choose to live.
Most importantly, I want to say thank you to all the soldiers who gave their life, limbs, and time so we all remained free. To your families, I hope my message gives you a sense of pride that there are still many people out there who appreciate the price your loved one paid.
For Vol fans everywhere, Nowling, Fuson, Klarer and Tucker hold a special place on this day. Remember them and all the other Vols who served our nation's military, for they were Vols who gave it all for you and me.