Dan P’s on the road today with his wife and youngest son in Fredericksburg. A bit of irony being here at the start of the Memorial Day weekend as Fredericksburg is the home to the very fine Nimitz Museum of the War in the Pacific. Admiral Nimitz was from here and was Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet during WWII.
This museum and what it documents means a lot to me as my great uncle Leroy Klug died as the rear gunner/navigator in an Avenger torpedo bomber in the Pacific. A friend saw the plane go down and neither Leroy nor his pilot was ever found. Back in Milwaukee, my grandmother, Evelyn saw her brother’s picture fall off the wall the day he died. My middle name is Lee, named after Leroy and I carry it proudly.
It is hard to fathom a 20-year-old dying and sacrificing 50 or 60 years of life, marriage, children, grandchildren and career so that someone like me can have a quiet safe breakfast at the Sunset Grill on a late May morning in the Texas Hill Country.
A quick internet search says more than 500 major leaguers served in WWII, including superstars, stars, grunts and men who only had a cup of coffee in the majors. Two of the latter, Harry O’Neill and Elmer Gedeon died in that conflict. Whether they would ever have gotten a second cup of coffee or a full career the world will never know.
Gedeon had survived a training plane crash where he suffered terrible injuries saving a crew member’s life. He lost his life in a bomber raid on the V-1 rocket sites in France. O’Neill was killed by a bullet out of nowhere as he was standing in a crater on Iwo Jima.
The word hero is thrown around in sports, but these were true sports heroes.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend and take a few moments to honor those who gave the ultimate gift to their nation.