Alfie Leone, the former resident of Tonawanda, didn't show up for his first hearing after he applied for citizenship because he was serving his adopted country in Vietnam. The paratrooper missed his second hearing because he was recovering from head and wrist wounds. When he finally became a citizen in a makeshift courtroom in Valley Forge (Pa.) Hospital, he had trouble standing. His legs had been amputated four inches above the knee after they were shattered by a booby trap.
I wonder how Alfie's friends will feel when at some time during the Memorial Day weekend when they hear a sportscaster become emotional about the "raw courage" shown by a pro golfer who came from four strokes behind to sink a putt that would make him $100,000 richer.
When Pfc. William Grabiarz of Buffalo saw the commanding officer of his infantry company lying wounded in a street in Manila that day in 1945, he moved quickly. Throwing himself on top of the other man, he took all of the fire directed at the two soldiers. And he died.
I wonder how the people at the Adam Plewacki American Legion Post who tend the Medal of Honor winner's grave will feel when at some point during the Memorial Day weekend they hear a sportscaster marveling at the courage of the pitcher who dared throw a curve ball when the count on the batter was 3 and 2.
Al Jurek of Swormville was told that he could get a deferment from service in the Armed Forces because he was a farmer. He decided to join the Marine Corps and in 1945 was killed in action in a place far from Swormsville named Iwo Jima.
I wonder how John Seifert and the other members of the Jurek American Legion Post will feel when at some point during the Memorial Day weekend they hear a sportscaster talk about a player with a $1 million salary making an "unselfish sacrifice" for his team.
Bob Kalsu of the Buffalo Bills knew about the sophisticated draft evasion system that virtually guaranteed pro football players they would not be forced into service during the Vietnam war. And he knew that he might be ridiculed by some of those who had taken advantage of that system if he didn't.
But in 1969 his distant drummer was playing a tune that would lead him into the 101st Airborne Division and the battlefields of Vietnam. And death.
I wonder how Bob Kalsu's widow, Jan, and his children, Bob Jr., and Jan and the members of the Buffalo Bills Boosters Club will feel when at some point during the Memorial Day weekend they hear a sportscaster talk about the stark courage being displayed by a tennis star who is playing on a sore ankle.
One of Bud Day's arms was broken and the vision in one eye was gone when the North Vietnamese captured him in August of 1967. When an interrogator said he would be suspended by the broken arm until he gave the information requested, he said, "When I put on this uniform, I vowed I would not disgrace it. I am not about to start."
Later, despite his physical handicaps, he became the only American prisoner of war to effect a successful escape from a prison camp.
I wonder how the people who knew Col. Day during his service as an ROTC instructor at Niagara University will feel during the Memorial Day weekend when they hear about the "sheer guts" of a pro basketball star who is playing despite a sore shoulder.
So once again I will say what I have said when other memorial days rolled around. . .
"May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth the first time I use the word 'courage' when talking about men playing at games that little boys can play."