“I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
Amidst your time away from work on this national holiday, take some time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our country in whatever personal way you need. One of the things about writing about sports is that it often is just a window into life, seen through one specific lens. Issues of racism, sexism, triumphs, and heartaches arise or intersect with the sporting world. Real-life issues that face society often come into our distraction.
This was certainly true of our nation’s veterans who sacrificed their lives as well. War knows no bounds when it comes to claiming the poet or athlete, carpenter or doctor. My buddy Chase Stuart has a great summary of the players whose lives intersected with the NFL and also gave their lives for their country. Pat Tillman is the most famous and well-known to those of us who are too young to remember past conflicts in Vietnam, Korea, or World War II. In total, 26 men with ties to the NFL died in Afghanistan, Vietnam, or various locations in World War II. Those sacrifices represent but a small percentage of the sacrifices from all parts of the country and all backgrounds.
Here’s the description of one of those former players, Jack Lummus, and the sacrifice he made during World War II, on Iwo Jima. I think it’s important to visualize just what these soldiers went through. War is Hell. They faced that Hell and often times went forward knowing how dangerous it was.
"First Lieutenant Lummus slowly advanced his platoon against an enemy deeply entrenched in a network of mutually supporting positions. Suddenly halted by a terrific concentration of hostile fire, he unhesitatingly moved forward of his front line in an effort to neutralize the Japanese position. Although knocked to the ground when an enemy grenade exploded close by, he immediately recovered himself and, again moving forward despite the intensified barrage, quickly located attacked and destroyed the occupied emplacement. Instantly taken under fire by the garrison of a supporting pillbox and further assailed by the slashing fury of hostile rifle fire, he fell under the impact of a second enemy grenade, but courageously disregarding painful shoulder wounds, staunchly continued his heroic one-man assault and charged the second pillbox annihilating all the occupants. Subsequently returning to his platoon, position, he fearlessly traversed his lines under fire, encouraging his men to advance and directing the fire of supporting tanks against other stubbornly holding Japanese emplacements. Held up again by a devastating barrage, he again moved into the open, rushed a third heavily fortified installation and killed the defending enemy. Determined to crush all resistance, he led his men indomitably, personally, attacking foxholes and spider-traps with his carbine and systematically reducing the fanatic opposition until, stepping on a land mine, he sustained fatal wounds. By his outstanding valor, skilled tactics and tenacious perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds, First Lieutenant Lummus had inspired his stouthearted Marines to continue the relentless drive northward, thereby contributing materially to the success of his company’s mission. His dauntless leadership and unwavering devotion to duty throughout enhanced and sustained the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country."
For those who have suffered personal losses of family or friends, our condolences on this Memorial Day. It is important that we never forget the price paid.