As the clock moves past noon on the east coast and everyone’s Memorial Day afternoon festivities are well under way, I can’t help but think how today is one of the day’s that everyone takes for granted, including myself. It’s the end of May, the weather is beautiful, grills are smoking, families are together, and good times are had by all, especially when nobody has to go to work on a Monday! I think it is very important that everyone enjoys their day off and spends some quality time with their families, but I think it’s more important that we take at least a moment to realize why we have the day off to begin with.
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. (1).
As a current active military member myself, I think it is extremely important that Memorial Day is not confused with Veteran’s Day. I think 99% of all active military and veterans would agree with me when I say please don’t try to shake a veterans hand or honor someone who you currently know in the military today, save that for veteran’s day, because we all will just say thank you, but also let you know that today is about remembering and honoring those who gave their lives for this country.
Because this is a sports centered (mainly NFL) blog, I’d like to remind the readers of two American heroes who went from the NFL to the armed forces and laid down their life for this country. I wish I could write something about every single man and woman who has died for this country and I’m I beyond grateful of the sacrifices that they made for this country that give me the freedom to write this blog.
Donald Thomas Steinbrunner and James Robert “Bob” Kalsu were the only professional football players to lose their lives in the Vietnam War.
Bob Kalsu played tackle at the University of Oklahoma where he was an All-American and also a member of their ROTC program. Kalsu was drafted in the 8th round of the 1968 NFL Draft with the 199th overall selection by the Buffalo Bills. Kalsu started at guard for the Bills for in the 1968 season where he won the Bills rookie of the year award. After the 1968 season to fulfill his ROTC obligation, Kalsu joined the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. In November of 1969 Kalsu arrived in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. On July 21st, 1970 Kalsu was killed in action after his unit came under enemy mortar fire. Two days after his death Jan Kalsu gave birth to their son James Robert Kalsu Jr. James Robert “Bob” Kalsu is a true American hero and I encourage you to share his story with your friends and family.
Don Steinbrunner was the first NFL player to killed in Vietnam. Steinbrunner was the captain of his football and basketball team in college at Washington State College. Don was also a member of their ROTC program. Steinbrunner was drafted in the 6th round with the 71st overall pick of the 1953 draft by the Cleveland Browns as a tackle. In 1954 Don opted to leave his professional football career to fulfill his military obligation and join the U.S. Air Force. Don was a part of the Air Police, spent some time coaching football at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and was later a navigator. Steinbrunner was sent to Vietnam in 1966 where he was injured and offered a safer assignment to recover, but Don refused the safer assignment. On July 20th, 1967 Major Steinbrunner’s C-123 Provider plane was shot down. Major Steinbrunner’s plane was flying a defoliation mission spraying Agent Orange on the jungle forest canopy, killing all five crewmen aboard. Don was awarded a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross, posthumously. Don Steinbrunner is another true American hero that I encourage you to tell people about.
There are more American heroes who went from living every childhood kids dream of playing professional sports to turning in their sports uniform and donning the greatest uniform of the U.S. Armed Forces where they eventually paid the ultimate price in defending our great nation, including the well-documented American hero Pat Tillman. I encourage you to take a minute and read about some of the great men and women who were killed defending our country.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this article on this beautiful Memorial Day. I hope that by reading this you were able to take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of today. Please share this article so more people can know of the real meaning of Memorial Day and know of some of our nation’s greatest heroes. Don’t share it for me but share it so that your friends and family can know what Memorial Day is all about.
Enjoy this beautiful day and remember those who have fallen. Thank you to all of the American heroes who paid the ultimate price and may their families be comforted as today has to be a very hard day for their families. God Bless America.
All gave some. Some gave all.