Opinion Corner: The true heroesOn Monday, we as a nation took a day to honor and remember those who have fallen in the line of duty and those who continue to serve our country. Often times we look to sports as a way to forget about some of life’s harshest realities. But a number of athletes, from this modern era and ones before, put military service ahead of fame and fortune as a professional athlete.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
On Monday, we as a nation took a day to honor and remember those who have fallen in the line of duty and those who continue to serve our country.
Often times we look to sports as a way to forget about some of life’s harshest realities. But a number of athletes, from this modern era and ones before, put military service ahead of fame and fortune as a professional athlete.
Most everybody remembers Pat Tillman, the hard-hitting Arizona Cardinals safety. After two years in the NFL Tillman gave up the life of a civilian and opted instead for the challenge of serving as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was a year after 9/11.
His death in 2004 still serves to this day as a reminder to the dedication of our troops around the world.
Tim James is not a household name, but the former NBA forward knew his time in basketball was nearly over, so in 2008 he made a 5-year commitment to the U.S. Army.
James gave up the pick and roll for the assault rifle and Iraqi-foot patrols. He also wanted a fresh start and didn’t tell his unit of his basketball past.
These are two modern examples but athletes from the Greatest Generation and those before also felt the need to serve.
One day after the Pearl Harbor attacks, hard-throwing Bob Feller became the first professional baseball player to enlist in the U.S. Navy.
Many remember Feller for his 98-mph fastball or his three no hitters. Many may not remember him for his five campaign ribbons and eight battle stars in four years’ time.
One of the greatest hitters to ever play the game called Feller “the fastest and best pitcher I ever saw during my career.”
That quote came from Ted Williams.
The “Splendid Splinter” and two-time Triple Crown winner gave up a chance to play baseball for the Marines or Navy — he chose fighter planes instead.
Serving in World War II as a flight instructor, he missed active duty by a week. Williams however still stayed a Marine reservist.
Eight years later he was called into the Korean War where he shot down 39 planes and narrowly escaped with his life after having the electronics and hydraulics knocked out of his plane.
Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb, both enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I, in the newly formed Chemical Service.
While in France, Mathewson was accidently gassed and developed tuberculosis as a result. He died seven years later at the age of 45.
The list goes on and on with such names as Tom Landry, John Wooden, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Hoyt Wilhelm, Warren Spahn and many more.
Many of these athletes are considered heroes or even legends on the field for their play. It’s the price they paid off the field and in duty along with every other veteran that makes them all truly remarkable.
Rodgers is a news writer at the Jamestown Sun