Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering Veterans' Day

As some of you may remember, my Yankee fan brother is serving our country in Iraq right now, for his third tour over there. He followed the Yankees' championship run, of course, over there. During his first time in Iraq, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. Needless to say, this year's Yankee playoff games were a bit more exciting.

And my late father was a paratrooper in World War II. Here's a story about his life. You may remember that it was my dad who took me out of school for the 1978 tickertape parade.

Anyhow, I just thought our readers might be interested in this. Thanks.

What do you think? Tell us about it!

1 comment:

Uncle Mike said...

I was sick yesterday and I'm worse now, but I managed to put together a piece on Veterans' Day for my blog. I mentioned the Yankees who served, and I included the two Hall-of-Famers who were there on D-Day: Yogi Berra and Negro Leaguer Leon Day.

Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. One never left the States, the other stormed the beaches in North Africa.

My father figured he'd get drafted, so he enlisted, so he'd have more say in not going to combat. There he was, at the site of the last war, on the Korean DMZ, knowing at any time that the Reds could come pouring over the border and make Vietnam look like a bad party. They never came. Meanwhile, my mother rode the bus to work in Newark during the riots, and she didn't know if the gunfire was from the rioters, the police or the National Guard. She was in more of a war zone than he was.

The same leg issues that kept me from being drafted by a major league team also would have kept me from being drafted by Uncle Sam, had the draft ever been instituted. But there are other ways to serve, and let me tell you about one athlete in particular, and I'm sure none of you have ever heard of him.

In 1934, Italy won soccer's World Cup, and Mussolini used this as propaganda. But England did not participate, so a match was set up in London, at Highbury, home ground of Arsenal Football Club. Of the 11 England players, 7 were from League champion Arsenal. It was a mean game, full of attacks from the Italians on the English. But England won "the Battle of Highbury," 3-2.

When war came, the Battle of Crete was fought between the Britsh and Italians. Mussolini was told that one of the British killed was Cliff Bastin, one of the Arsenal/England players from the '34 match. He had it published, to depress the soccer-loving English.

But it wasn't true: Bad hearing had kept Bastin out of service. He was stationed at Highbury, manning an antiaircraft gun on the roof that kept the Germans from damaging the stadium as badly as they'd wrecked Old Trafford, home of Manchester United. For Britain, home WAS a front. And Bastin was doing at his second home what Bob Feller did on a U.S. ship, shooting down the enemy. This, while his Arsenal and England teammate Wilf Copping was firing away at the Nazis under Montgomery while my grandfather was doing the same under Patton and Eisenhower.

Soccer players were cheated by management every bit as much as were baseball players back then, and if you didn't agree to their price, it was the same as here: Back to the farm, or the mine, or the factory. These were hard men, already prepared for it.

This is why it's better to have an all-volunteer military today: Most of us have not chosen that kind of life, and would never last alongside those who have. I wonder if even those of today's players who grew up in poverty, like Pedro Martinez, could handle it. Mariano Rivera, maybe, but he's so thin I wonder if he could handle the strain of marching. Maybe A-Rod could be taught, if he had Jeter as a drill sergeant. But the current Mets? If they were fighting in 1942, I'd be typing this in German. If the Nazis would have allowed the Internet at all.

But thanks to American heroes like Berra and Bauer (Guadalcanal), Feller and Williams (Marine pilot), Spahn (Battle of the Bulge) and many more; English heroes like Bastin and Copping, and those from the resistance movements in the soon-to-be deconquered countries, freedom won. Thanks to people like Pat Tillman and millions of others, from free nations all over the world, whose names we will never hear, freedom still wins.

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