Do you ever stop to think about the first time something or someone came into your life? For some things this can be easy. You may be able to easily recall the first time you met your significant other or when you finally graduated with that degree that you had been working on for what seemed like forever.
Other things have always been in your life. You don’t remember a time when they were not and when you stop to think about what life would be like if they were no longer in your life you realize how much of an impact they have on you.
Two things that I can always remember being a part of my life are a love for the game of baseball and a respect for the men and women who serve in our military. Now it may be dangerous to admit in a guest post on a website that covers primarily the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals that I am a Chicago Cubs fan, but I am. I grew up near Chicago and my dad grew up near Chicago so I come by it honestly.
I recently celebrated my 30th birthday and it was 30 years ago minus a few weeks that baseball came into my life for the first time. In the fall of 1984, the Cubs faced the San Diego Padres in the NLCS. At this time the series was only five games and the Cubs had jumped out to a quick 2 – 0 lead. Things were looking up for this Cubs team. They just had to win one more game and they were on to the World Series, which was pretty good for a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1945 and hadn’t won a championship since 1908.
The Cubs dropped the next two games, and they were left with the arduous task of traveling to San Diego for game five – the one that would decide it all. Earlier in the season the Cubs had picked up a right-handed pitcher from Independence, Missouri who would win 16 games that season for them while only losing one. Rick Sutcliffe was on the mound for game five after a solid outing in game one where he gave up two hits, no runs, and even hit a home run in a 13-0 victory. Unfortunately game five didn’t go as well and the Padres made a late comeback to win the pennant.
During that game, my parents had tucked me in my car seat and were driving home, listening to the game on the radio. Leon Durham hit a two run home run in the first inning to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. My dad cried out with excitement, which just made me start crying. My dad felt bad about making his son cry, but he felt even worse eight innings later when the Cubs had managed to lose the series that they had been in the perfect position to win. From this day forward, even though I didn’t know it yet, I was a Cubs fan. It wasn’t going to be the last time that I wanted to cry because of how they were playing.
While I’m not always thankful to be a Cubs fan, I am always thankful for the men and women in the military who sacrifice their time, energy, and sometimes even their lives to keep us safe. I didn’t have any immediate family in the military while I was growing up. This, however, didn’t stop my parents from teaching us how important it was to say thank you.
I can remember each Memorial Day quite vividly. We would wake up a little earlier than normal for a summer morning. The day would begin with us putting up the flag outside. Dad would teach us the importance of respecting the flag, not letting it touch the ground, and the sacrifices we remember when we see it. Then we would get in our van and drive downtown to watch the parade. The parade was always full of military vehicles – both old and new – as well as active duty and retired military members. It was fascinating to me as a young child to see older men that I knew from around the community dressed up in these fancy uniforms that I had never seen before.
My parents would continue to teach us throughout the parade about the wars that had been fought and the people who had fought them. We would continue to the cemetery where our community held a memorial service and read the names of each veteran who had died and what war they served in. As young children my brothers and I had a hard time sitting still sometimes, but every year our family was right back at that parade and at the cemetery hearing names called from the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and others. We didn’t know most of the people whose name was called, but we did know that we were thankful that they had served.
This is why I think today is a great day. Today we take a moment in the midst of the great game of baseball to remember and say thank you to the men and women who are serving our country in the military. In the last few years of my professional life, I’ve had the chance to work with ROTC students at the University of Missouri and Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster. Both of these experiences have served to deepen my respect, admiration, and thankfulness for those who serve as well as the families who sacrifice so that their loved ones can serve.
But let’s not just limit our thanks to one nine-inning baseball game. Let’s remember everyday to be thankful for all those who work so hard and sacrifice so much so that we can live in the “land of the free and home of the brave.” This one truly is for you!
Tom Schlund is a student of theology, people, and the world. You can read more at www.tomschlund.com or follow him on Twitter: @TallT84