Saturday was Veteran’s Day, a day when we celebrated not just the brave soldiers who have died in the defense of or the furthering of our country’s principles, but to honor those that have served and are still serving in the military so that we here at home can enjoy the blessings of the liberties for which they have sacrificed so much.

I have friends and family serving our country’s interests all over the world so that I have the ability to write a weekly column about the perils and joys of recreational sports in Carroll County. Those people sacrifice time with their families so that the rest of us can take our own family time for granted.


Society currently worships the ground that our professional athletes walk on. We put their amazing physical abilities on display and hold them up on a pedestal expecting so much more from them than many are able to give.

Turning professional athletes into role models and heroes to many gives hope of moving out of their current conditions into the glamorous life of a professional athlete. Fast cars, beautiful women, and fan worship are all waiting for the select few that can make it all the way to be in the spotlight.

But our athletes haven’t always had the comfortable life the current professionals get to enjoy.

For many, they left behind the camaraderie of their gridiron teammates to replace it with fellow soldiers on a more serious battlefield, the one where the losing team often doesn’t come home.

They left their field of dreams for a life of uncertainty.

Our history is filled with famous athletes who have forgone part of or all of their athletic careers to serve our county in the armed services. Major League Baseball estimates that nearly 95 percent of its members served during World War II, 29 of which went on to the Hall of Fame. Another five were inducted in the HOF that also served in the Korean War.

There’s Ted Williams, the best hitter in baseball history, who was a decorated Marine fighter pilot in WWII and Korea. Hoyt Wilhelm, who pitched a no-hitter for the Orioles against the Yankees in 1958, won the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in the Battle of the Bulge before beginning his 20-year career. Warren Spahn, who has the record for the most wins among left-handers with thirteen 20-win seasons, won both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

Baseball hasn’t cornered the market of veteran athletes.

I had the opportunity at a sales conference to meet one of my boyhood idols, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh Steelers football star Rocky Bleier, who was as charismatic a speaker as he was a player. Bleier was awarded both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star during the Vietnam war before playing 12 years and winning four Super Bowls with the Steelers.

At about the same time that Bleier was serving, there was “Bob” Kalsu who was the starting guard for the Buffalo Bills in their rookie season and left after the 1968 season to fulfill his obligation and was then later killed on the battlefield by mortar fire. He was the only active professional football player to be killed in Vietnam.

What would his life and those of his family members had been like had he shirked his responsibility and stayed in the NFL?

You only have to look to the tragedy of Pat Tillman for an example of bravery and sacrifice. He was at the height of his professional football career for the Arizona Cardinals when his own call for duty came knocking on his door. How many of our current athletes would follow Tillman’s path to serve his country with the most precious gift he had to offer — his life?

There are so many veterans that don’t carry the name of a Williams, Bleier, Kalsu, or Tillman that we need to be equally thankful for.

These are men and women who came home from wars not to a glorious sports career, but to the daily lives that so many of us take for granted. Soldiers that assimilate back into society, pack their lunch everyday to go to work and come home to their families like the rest of us.


Citizens like my father Don Brown, with a 26-year career and tours in Korea and Vietnam, who become coaches, referees, and volunteers with hopes to provide a better life to their children and those for who they are responsible.

And like his friend Charles Butler, killed in Vietnam, who never got the chance to do the same.

The great American General George S. Patton once said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”

Have you thanked a veteran today?