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Baseball Veterans in the War 

November 11, 2009

by William Szczepanek

On this Veterans Day I think back to a different time.  A time when playing baseball came second to serving in the military. During the Korean War and before that time it was expected that a man would serve in the military, if it was necessary.

Not many want to go to war and many of the baseball players from the major leagues did not appear in combat, but they were not playing in the majors.  They were in the service and ready to go into combat if called. Others actually did make it into combat and a few were killed. A few websites do a very good job of detailing the baseball players and the branches of service that they served within.

Baseball in the Military

Baseball's Dead4,500 players participated in WWII. Who can you name who has participated in any War since Korea in the 1950s? The following site can help answer the question.

Top Ten Players in the Military

We honor all of those men who have served for their country and I will not go into further detail on those with a baseball connection. The above websites do a good job.  But rather I ask the question, "What has changed in this country that only a certain few need to handle this job?"  Yes, there are those who volunteer because a military career is appealing to them, and many others who do it because they need the money. Looking at fairness issues is a waste of time, and very many are happy that others are willing to bear the load. 

1959 Fleer #22 Ted SolosThe problem as I see it is that there is not enough direct involvement of the people and the government in the overall issue itself. I don't endorse a draft, but I also feel that if people in congress do not have a proportionate number of their kids in the military, then they are not in a position to make the proper decisions regarding military questions that affect the country.  In fact, if the draft were reinstated it would probably lead to a swift end to the war because most would not support it.

I Want You PosterIt was in the 1950s when it was observed that in a growing US population only a small percentage of available men were required to fill the needs of the military and a draft was beginning to be thought of as unfair.   It seemed more appropriate that the military have a fighting force that volunteered for this job.  In the 1970s this came to pass with the formation of the All Voluntary Army. (VOLAR as it was known then).  The country has been protected by this select group of individuals who now look upon this activity as a job, rather than as a duty.   In the past men performed their military duty.  Whether they enlisted or whether they were drafted, they acted on their duty.   When the cause became questionable, then so did the duty.

We are now in a situation where men have volunteered to work in the field of war.  For some it was because of a sense of duty, for some it was because of the need for a job.  For some it was a path to a better education, for others it was a new start, but for most it has become an ongoing task that ignores the human ability to cope with war for long periods of time. It is now a job for those who are less fortunate, if only because it is not clear how long someone should be willing to fight and put their life in danger.  The freedom of our country is now dependent upon a few who have very little choice in the matter.  Even if they made this decision to have a military career in peacetime, and unfortunately a war broke out, not one of them understood the long term implications of fighting for years with little hope for victory.

Ted Williams Sworn InThe current decisions in Afghanistan are difficult, not because of the terrain, not because of the persistence of the enemy, but because we do not have the political or cultural will to do what is necessary to win the war.

I support all who fight for our country.  Before I served in the military I didn't think anyone should have to do it. While I was in the military during the Viet Nam Era I thought that everyone should have to do it.  After serving my time I realized that there are no right answers to any of these questions.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."

April 16, 1953 - Dwight D. Eisenhower



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