COLUMN: Memorial Day thanks to those who don’t always get it

-A A +A
By Bob Watkins

Memorial Day.
“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.” – Carol Lynn Pearson
Traditions. I love ‘em, don’t you? Thoughtful and solid Americanisms like flag waving on Memorial Day, parade down Main Street, music and fireworks to elevate patriotism in us all.
Most of us believe it a privilege to applaud our military men and women, honor with a moment of silence. We visit memorials, lay flowers, shed a tear or two.
This week a reminder: Consider please, the millions of boys and girls who raised their right hands to God and country, went off to serve and came home not wounded warriors, not combat veterans, nor glam jet pilots or helicopter crews flying into hot zones.
But we came home grown men and women who answered the call to serve. My space this week is dedicated to those of us who volunteered to serve, but were never publically declared heroes.
Thank you to ...
• Cooks and servers in chow halls, nurses in hospitals, guys and gals who survived KP.
• Those who labored at the motor pool. Those who kept the lights on and water running clean.
• Military policemen and women, flight line mechanics, supply clerks and computer jockeys (blush).
Millions of us were fortunate to come home not wounded, not traumatized, nor vilified. But our military service better prepared us to be good citizens and access GI Bill opportunity.
We expected no welcome home parade, marching band and mostly got no inquiries about our service from our children either.
Thanks for your part in sustaining the United States as best place in the world to live.
Only in America. Salute!

Appropriate and perfect, a former U.S. Army Captain volunteered last week to serve our country again. Back to active duty for Mike Krzyzewski. He will coach Team USA at the 2016 Olympics.
Memorial Day weekend was the right time for the announcement. Coach K. a veteran and extraordinary human being is the right man to step forward, for duty.
Two Olympics, 2008 and 2012 were enough, Krzyzewski said after the London Games. But last week he recanted because, it is “the ultimate honor,” he said.
That America’s winningest college coach will return, reminded me of the first time Krzyzewski came to Kentucky.
When December 20-21, 2013 rolls around, it will be 45 years since he was team captain on a gritty and unbeaten West Point club (6-0) heading into a UKIT championship game against Kentucky in Memorial Coliseum.
The Dan Issel, Mike Pratt & Mike Casey-led Wildcats had expected to play Bradley in the title game, but the night before Army upset the Braves 54-52 on a pair of free throws at the end by Krzyzewski.
In the championship game, Krzyzewski and Jim Oxley gave no quarter and expected none against the Wildcats. For 25-plus minutes Army played Kentucky to a stand-off before UK made its run to an 80-65 win. Afterwards, Army’s little known coach kicked in a locker in the Coliseum dressing room. Bob Knight.
Which brings me to ...

If tradition holds, when coach K and staff gather Team USA for the 2016 Olympics, the team usually plays a handful of exhibition games around the country.
A game in Kentucky would be wildly popular and add a good piece of money to a USA Olympics committee always soliciting financial support.
So, an exhibition game at Rupp Arena would be a SRO natural.
Too, it could be an opportunity for Dan Issel, Mike Pratt and Larry Steele from the 1968-69 Wildcats to visit Coach K. For old times’ sake.

In a column earlier this month I suggested the clamor of NBA player Jason Collins ‘coming out’ as first gay in a major sport, was unnecessary. A reader wrote to say I ‘missed the point!’
“... it is always a big thing when others come out as it makes our gay kids a little less lonely. ... (This) is a most difficult journey in the highly judgmental world we raise our kids in. ... Little boys and girls playing on sports teams today can feel a little better about who they are because of the courage of Jason Collins. It can turn out well if we allow it to.”
COMMENT. I did miss the point.

• Dominque Hawkins earned a double dip of fame last spring – a state championship for Madison and Mr. Basketball title.
John Calipari didn’t know of course, but praise he lavished on Dominque Hawkins is the essence of what Kentuckians believe a genuine high school basketball player in Kentucky is.
Paraphrased: “When I watched him lead his team, play with a will to win and fight at the Sweet 16, (how) he made sure he got his teammates involved and was always happy with their success, but when it was time to take over the game – when it was winning time – everyone in the building knew they were going to play through Dominique, which they did, and won.”
Last time a native son led his team to a state title, earned Mr. Basketball then signed with Kentucky was Darius Miller. We all know how that turned out. College degree, two Final Fours, an NCAA title and an NBA contract.

Andrew Wiggins limited his signing with Kansas announcement to family and friends. Kansas coach Bill Self was impressed. “You have schools that invest so much time, energy, and money sitting there watching it go down and not have a clue because (network executives) tell (recruits), ‘If you tell anybody, we won’t have you on TV.’
“This was just the high school beat writer, family, friends, teammates — perfect. I thought it was very refreshing,” Self told the Fort Leavenworth Times.
And so it goes.