Memorial Day is a day for honoring veterans and those who currently serve our country. The sacrifices they and their families make allow all of us to enjoy the freedom and safety which at times can be taken for granted. So first off, on behalf of Windy City Gridiron, we would like to thank all those who serve or have served our country. We are indebted to you for your service. We have many members here who are serving and so I hope everyone will take time to thank those individuals. If you're an active member or veteran, let us know in the comments section.
Now, with the important business taken care, we turn to football. The Chicago Bears have a long and storied history in the NFL stretching back over 90 years. In that time, the team has carved out a special relationship with our nation's armed forces and what better day to recognize that relationship than today?
Of course, the first thing to point out is that the Bears play at Soldier Field. It has been their home since 1971. Soldier Field was originally named as a tribute to those who lost their life in World War I but now encompasses those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in all wars.
Along with this tradition of Soldier Field, it is fitting then that at every Bears home game the team honors a member of the military during the third quarter (It's called the Bears/Boeing Military Salute and according to the team's Website, it is provided by Brian Urlacher, no word yet on who will pick up that mantle this year). The Bears will also send a team flag to a military member stationed overseas.
Now, every NFL team that existed at the time lost players during World War II. Literally a thousand NFL players traded pads and jerseys for cameo green and combat boots.
The Bears had one of their own future Hall of Famers, George McAfee, leave his career and give up some of his prime playing years, to serve overseas. Another Bears Hall of Famer who served was Joe Stydahar. Quarterback Sid Luckman served in the Merchant Marine and received permission to play in games during the seasons. Other Bears who served include Joe Maniaci, Joe Osmanski, Ken Kavanaugh and Clyde Turner.
The most famous Bears veteran is of course, founder, coach and Mr. Everything, George S. Halas. Not only did Halas leave the team's sideline during WWII, but he also served in WWI. During WWI he played on a football team at the Great Lakes Naval Base and during WWII, when he was around 46 years old, he served under Admiral Nimitz and organized recreation for his fleet. For his service, Halas was eventually awarded with the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a civilian by the Navy.
So when you go out to your local Memorial Day parade or service, you can proudly sport a Bears hat or jersey, knowing that the team has a deep and rich military history. Salute our troops, the real heroes, and know that your favorite football team has made many contributions on the battlefield as well.
Thank a veteran today and remember those who have laid down their lives for our freedom. Have a good Memorial Day.