While many national holidays have been moved to a Monday, I think Independence Day needs to stay on July 4th – not just because it will always help me remember my wedding anniversary.
As a sports editor, covering athletes and their accomplishments are always a part of my job.
Sports writers often use military terms in describing what they saw during a game, but courage is not facing a 90- mph fast ball or taking a hit from a 290-pound lineman.
The real heroes are not the guys who hit .370, belt 50 home runs, throw for 3,000 yards, or run for 1,500 yards, score 30 points a game or even speed around a race track.
Anyone who has ever served our country and defended our freedom, those are the real heroes.
According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, more than 500 major leaguers served during WW II, including 29 who would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame. Five Hall of Famers served during the war in Korea.
With 107 wins already to his record, Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller became the first major leaguer to volunteer for active duty, enlisting in the Navy two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor engulfed America in the Second World War. He became an anti-aircraft gunner on the battleship Alabama, which fought at Tarawa, Iwo Jima, and in the Marshall Islands.
For his service, he earned five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. Despite losing four years to the war, Bullet Bob won 266 games and struck out 2,581 batters during an exemplary 18-year career highlighted by a trio of no-hitters and a dozen one-hitters.
Warren Spahn, with 363 victories the winningest southpaw in baseball history, spent three years as a combat engineer where he earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge.
Ted Williams, known as the Splendid Splinter, spent five years as a pilot and flight instructor during both WWII and Korea, many of those years were during the prime of his baseball career with the Red Sox. Williams went down in history as perhaps the greatest hitter in the game.
If he had not spent those years serving his country, no telling what he could have done on the baseball field. But the world is a better place and we appreciate what he and thousands of others did to defend our freedom.
Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier when he was a rookie for the Dodgers, but we also need to remember him as a lieutenant during WWII, having trained with the first black tank battalion to serve in combat.
I grew up around the Navy, Air Force and Army personnel in NW Florida and always admired them.
As a kid, I went to see Roger Staubach play for the Pensacola Goshawks NAS football team and he became one of my childhood heroes with the Dallas Cowboys.
There were many from the NFL who served in the two World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
We all remember the ulitimate sacrifice that Pat Tillman paid after leaving the NFL Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger and was killed in Afghanistan.
To all those who served so we can celebrate our independence, I say a heart-felt thank you.