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Memorial Day: A Tribute to Fallen Hero Athletes

At times, we can all be confused by two distinct American holidays: Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. To clarify, Memorial Day is a federal holiday intended to remember those who died while serving in the armed forces. Veteran’s Day is an official holiday that honors military veterans. Today, Memorial Day cookouts and gatherings will be commonplace. War movies will be predominantly aired on television. But, surpassing casual observances are real stories of true American heroes that should never be forgotten. From the Greatest Generation and beyond, a number of athletes have taken up arms when their nation called. Let’s take a look and pay tribute to three that paid the ultimate sacrifice:

Bob Kalsu

As an Oklahoma Sooner, Kalsu was an All American tackle. Along with being a gridiron star, the Oklahoma City native completed ROTC and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army. Following a stellar year for the Buffalo Bills in which he earned the team’s Rookie of the Year award, 2LT Kalsu entered active service and was later deployed to Vietnam. While serving in the 101st Airborne, 1LT Kalsu was killed in combat action on July 23rd, 1970 at Firebase Ripcord. He was survived by his wife Jan and daughter Jill. His son James Robert Kalsu Jr. was born just two days after his death. He was 25.

Sacrifice- to give up something that is valuable to you in order to help another person.

Jack Lummus

Lummus was football and baseball star at Baylor University. Upon graduation he went on to play for the New York Football Giants before eventually enlisting into the United States Marine Corps. After earning the rank of Corporal, Lummus attended and graduated from Officer Training School. In the first wave to land on Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945; his platoon engaged the enemy for two straight weeks. After being wounded by grenade shrapnel, 1st Lt. Lummus knocked out three enemy fighting positions before losing both legs after stepping on a land-mine. He succumbed to his wounds while on the operating table. The Ellis County, Texas native was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He was 29.

An excerpt from Jack Lummus’ Medal of Honor citation:

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 troops. 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.

Courage- strength in the face of pain or grief.

Pat Tillman

In the prime of his NFL career, Arizona Cardinal safety Pat Tillman left professional football to enlist into the United States Army. As a member of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, Tillman deployed in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. On April 22nd, 2004; Pat Tillman was killed in action by friendly fire. As the first professional athlete killed in action since Bob Kalsu, the Arizona State alumnus was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. He was 27.

Duty-moral or legal obligation; a responsibility.

So on Memorial Day, honor those that heroically gave all by enjoying the simple freedoms for which they courageously protected. May God Bless Our United States of America.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

13 Comments for Memorial Day: A Tribute to Fallen Hero Athletes

  1. SADmaninKy
    9:45 am May 30, 2016 Permalink

    Thank you for your service, Freddie, and thank you for sharing about these brave men who gave their lives in service of their countrymen. May God bless the families of all who made such sacrifices.

  2. roharmon
    9:45 am May 30, 2016 Permalink


  3. DelrayCat
    9:55 am May 30, 2016 Permalink

    U.S. casualties in Iraq — 4,491 dead, 32,000+ wounded
    Coalition Deaths — 4,800
    Contractors — 1500+
    Iraqi Insurgents killed — 27,000+
    Iraq Civilians killed — 100,000++ (some estimates have in well over 250,000)
    Afghan War — 2,300+ US soldiers dead and another 100,000+ civilians killed
    Thanks George Bush. Thanks Barack Obama.
    War is stupid. Sadly it is all about money, not our “freedom”.

    • InigoMontoya
      10:28 am May 30, 2016 Permalink

      Inappropriate place for this, DC.

      Here’s your sign.

    • RealCatsFan
      9:59 am May 29, 2017 Permalink

      DC, unfortunately our nation was born out of war. War should be avoided at all costs, but sometimes that is not possible. WWI and WWII are prime examples of this. I will agree to a certain extent that some wars, like Vietnam and Iraq, appear in retrospect to have been unnecessary. But you cannot dilute the sheer bravery and self sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price for their country, no matter whether they were drafted or willingly volunteered. We owe them the greatest respect and gratitude that we can possibly give, no matter your political leanings.

    • Eazy
      12:51 pm May 29, 2017 Permalink

      I agree 100%. We can still honor those who died fighting for our corrupt government, though. It’s not their fault.

    • “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”
      Delray and Eazy, this wasn’t the time or place.

      God bless the families of all our fallen heroes, from Lexington and Concord to today. Awesome post Freddie.

    • Eazy
      1:32 pm May 29, 2017 Permalink

      Like I said we need to honor those who lost their lives. I had two friends die in Iraq. It was through their loss that I became more aware of the situation.

    • catsarerunnin
      6:50 pm May 29, 2017 Permalink

      The lack of respect for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country is disgusting. God bless all who served and are serving and especially to those who gave all.

    • Luether
      7:20 pm May 29, 2017 Permalink

      You must be a Democrat…

  4. Jeremy D
    10:22 am May 30, 2016 Permalink

    War is Stupid…But the men and women who gave their life for this Great country were doing their Patriotic duty, which Is ANYTHING your country ask of you to do, and they should NEVER be forgotten.Thank you for your service, and this post Mr. Maggard.

  5. bedfordbigblue
    10:00 am May 29, 2017 Permalink

    delray cat can say whatever he wants even though myself and probably 99.9% of people reading these posts vehemently disagree with him.. the people who died in service of our country fought to give him the right to express his opinions but they also fought and died to allow me to express my outrage for the stupidity of his comments…. shame on you ….there is a place and time to express your thoughts on war… our presidents and our government…. today is NOT one of those days….