As we head out to BBQ or hang at the beach, we have to be sure to remember why we have a three day weekend. Memorial Day, unlike Veteran’s Day which salutes all veterans of the armed forces, is a special salute to those who gave their life defending our great nation.
(In Photo: Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Hugh Casey)
Most of us know many ball players served, especially during WWII. The likes of Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson all served but were lucky enough to make it out of the military in one piece.
Many other ball players served over seas, some before their playing careers, some during and again, especially during WWII, many served during their careers.
But what this weekend is about is honoring the fallen. Since the start of professional baseball as we know it in the 1870’s, 13 Major League veterans have been died while serving, six from war related wounds or crashes according to a very cool site Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice.
Of those killed in action, the most prominent was Eddie Grant who died on October 5, 1918 after a shell exploded near his position in Argonne, France. Grant played in the big leagues from 1905-1915 and appeared in 990 games. On top of the 13 Major Leaguer’s, there have been countless minor leaguers, college and amateur players who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The total list can be found at the link above.
One player who’s name you probably don’t recognize is Army Major Stephen C. Reich. What you probably do know is a little something about the circumstances of his death in Afghanistan.
Major Reich was a star pitcher at West Point and is generally considered one of the best to go through the school. He is the all-time leader in wins at West Point and pitched just briefly for the Baltimore Orioles in the minor leagues. According to the Wikipedia page set up for him, Major Reich chose the service to his country over baseball.
On June 28, 2005 Major Reich was part of a team of 16 personnel on a rescue mission in Kunar province in Afghanistan. The MH-47 Chinook Helicopter he was in was hit by a rocket propelled grenade causing the helicopter to crash resulting in the death of all 16 members of the rescue team. The Chinook was on its way to try and save a four-man Navy SEAL team under duress from enemy fire.
One of the four SEAL’s was Marcus Lutrell who penned the book The Lone Survivor, which many of us have read and seen the motion picture based on that fateful mission.
So today, while we are enjoying your day off with friends and family, make sure you at least take a moment to remember and appreciate those who decided to serve our country and make the greatest sacrifice. People from all walks of life serve, including some of the idols we grew up watching on the ball field.
Thanks to those who gave their life to our great nation. Have a fun and safe Memorial Day, from everyone here at BYB.