Memorial Day. The dictionary defines it as the last Monday in May, on which those who died in active military service are remembered. America has long been entrenched in war, from the jungles of Vietnam and Korea to the trenches of France and Germany and the deserts of the Middle East. America was built from war, it is in our blood. The fighting spirit of our forefathers, who called their brethren to stand and fight against tyranny and injustice, forged a nation. That nation has known war ever since, and this is why we mourn and remember those who have given their lives to serve and protect our nation and preserve our freedoms. It is with this fighting spirit that was born a sport of controlled warfare, a game of gods and gladiators, bearing the colors of their respective homes and carrying the pride and spirit of its people within their hearts. This game would become more than just a game to those few who would so choose to take part in it.
War and football are more in common than most people realize. Forged during the Civil War era from a similar game brought to us by our cousins from across the sea, football quickly dug its roots deep into the heart of America, and in time, spread like a brush fire to all corners of the country from the white collar Ivy League cities, to the blue collar towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio, to the sun drenched wetlands in Florida, the oil derricks in Texas and the beaches of California, this game would become one of the most powerful enterprises in America.
From the early dominance of the Ivy League, on to the Military Academies of Army and Navy, and to Notre Dame and TSUN, football grew in popularity and stature, but not without the help of a state we all know and love and a team that would help define a nation during one of its darkest times.
Ohio has always been heralded as one of the “Football States”, and it is hard to argue that Ohio was where the sport was perfected. Born through the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, the sport quickly spread across to the Buckeye State where the sport would reach a whole new level, but not without the aid of arguably the most important coach in the game, Paul Brown. At Massillon, Brown captained and later coached his hometown Tigers to many state championships before taking on the difficult task of coaching at The Ohio State University.
Ohio State, referred to by many as the graveyard of coaches, did not offer much when Brown stepped foot in Columbus. The war had taken many of Ohio State’s best players, and Brown was left with the near impossible task of fielding a football team that could compete for a championship. But for Brown, the task would almost prove to be an easy one.
From a 6-1-1 season in 1941, Paul Brown led the 1942 squad, captained by All-American and future Army soldier Charles “Chuck” Csuri, to a 9-1 record with wins over a squad from the Fort Knox Army base and the U.S. Navy pre-flight school at the University of Iowa, and a share of Ohio State’s first national championship. The next season would see even more departures due to the war, and a less than favorable record of 3-6 which would see Paul Brown depart for Military service, being commissioned as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the U.S Navy where he would coach the Bluejacket football team to a 15-5-2 during the final two years of the war.
Ohio State has had more than its fair share of military servicemen from All-American Quarterback and pilot Don Scott, to Pro Football Hall of Famers Lou Groza and Dante Lavelli. Whenever the call was sounded, young Buckeyes have answered and met the challenges of fighting for the home that they love, trading in their Scarlet and Gray for the uniforms of our armed forces, and wore them proudly - wore them with honor.
Memorial Day for most can be defined as one day where we remember those who have fought and died for our country but we all must ask ourselves, have we ever really forgotten them?
In my opinion, Memorial Day is every day of the year. Memorial Day is looking outside your window and seeing homes decorated with Old Glory hanging proudly from a post. Memorial Day is playing catch with your friends in the front yard on a hot summer day. Memorial Day is smoky barbecues, tipsy tailgates, chilled swimming pools and friendly campfires. And for many of us in this great country, we can say that Memorial Day is wearing Scarlet and Gray as well. Not just to represent the school we so proudly and fiercely cheer for, but to represent those Buckeyes who have fought for our freedoms and to be able to enjoy the things that we take for granted every day.
So to all of you in Buckeye Nation, and all of my brothers and sisters serving today and to those who went before, I can proudly say thank you, friends, for your support.
God Bless America and Go Buckeyes!
Editor's Note: We want to thank BHC team member EB Cooper for his service and dedication as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman. He's currently making a pit stop back in Ohio after serving in Washington state and will be heading overseas this summer to continue his service. We simply can't thank him enough for all he has done and continues to do.
- Jim Tressel and the US Armed Forces (Buckeye House Call)