George Hale May 23, 2014 

As we head into a holiday weekend, George Hale reflects on why we’re getting an extra day off.

Our three day Memorial Day weekend is underway with the usual things that signal the unofficial start of the summer season.

I always like to stop and remember what it really is all about.

No one minds a long weekend and getting off to camp, cottage or whatever.

However, we should all remember what it’s really all about.

It is, and always will be, a holiday set aside to honor the men and women who died in the United States armed services.

I grew up calling the holiday decoration day.

As school children know, or should know, it began as a celebration of the confederate and union soldiers who died in the civil war.

In this era of pampered, million dollar athletes, we should remember that some of the finest athletes in America have always answered the call of their country through the years.

Many paid the supreme price for their patriotism.

In world war two, after Pearl Harbor, more than 500 major league players put on uniforms including 29 who ended up in the hall of fame.

Professional football players were not far behind.

Over 600 NFL players were in uniform, 66 won war decorations and 21 never came home.

Eight months after 9-11 Pat Tillman left his pro career behind with the Cardinals, and a 3.6 million dollar contract, to join the army rangers.

After a tour in Iraq he was deployed to Afghanistan where he earned a silver star before being killed.

There are some names you may have forgotten.

The only professional football player to lose his life in Vietnam was Bob Kalsu of the Buffalo Bills.

The All American tackle was killed on the same day his second child was born.

We hear this name so often during the winter season.

The best college hockey player wins the Hobey Baker Award.

Hobart Baker was all American in both football and hockey at Princeton.

He served with distinction as an army pilot.

He was killed at the end of world war one.

General Douglas Mac Arthur said that no other endeavor prepares you for combat like sports.

There’s Nile Kinnik who won the 1939 Heisman at Iowa, he was killed in a plane crash in world war two.

Jack Lummus, a baseball and football star at Baylor and end with the New York Giants.

He enlisted and died in the fight for Iwo Jima.

Eddie Grant, a talented infielder in major league baseball, enlisted in world war one and was killed in France.

There are of course many others who made the supreme sacrifice for our country at the expense of their athletic careers.

War changes things in many ways.

Athletes who can run, jump or hit a ball are just like everyone else when duty calls.

Of course not all ended up like Pat Tillman and the others I mentioned.

Rocky Bleier of the Pittsburgh Steelers was wounded in Vietnam.

Yankee star Jerry Coleman was the first baseball star to serve in two wars.

Stars like Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson used their talents in many ways in the military.

Famous pitcher Bob Feller, two days after Pearl Harbor, volunteered for active duty and fought in eight battles.

Red Sox icon Ted Williams gave up five years of his career as a marine pilot including 39 combat missions.

So yes, it’s a wonderful break for all of us to get rid of winter and prepare for the coming summer season.

But let us never forget the sacrifice of those who came along, athlete and non-athlete, and paid the price for all of us.

Memorial Day is more than just an extra day off, a lot more.

This is George Hale with my perspective on sports.