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Remembering those who served

By Anthony Rhoads

Bob Kalsu was one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever play at the University of Oklahoma.

After a career that culminated in being named an All-American, he was an eighth-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1968.

In his first season in Buffalo, he started eight games at guard in 1968 and he was voted the team's top rookie.

He was primed to become one of the top offensive linemen in the league. It was possible that if he stayed in the NFL, he could have been a member of the legendary ?Electric Company' offensive line, which blocked for O.J. Simpson.

But that was never to be.

After the '68 season, Kalsu began fulfilling his ROTC obligation by joining the United States Army and started his tour of duty in Vietnam in November 1969 with the 11th Artillery of the 101st Airborne Division.

On July 21, 1970, 1st Lt. Bob Kalsu was killed by mortar fire while at the Ripcord firebase near the Ashau Valley. For those who aren't familiar with Vietnam history, the Ashau was one of the most dangerous areas in Vietnam and was the area where the infamous ?Hamburger Hill' battle took place from May 11-20, 1969.

Don Steinbrunner played as an offensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns from 1954-57 and from 1959-64, he was an assistant football coach at the Air Force Academy.

He later joined the Air Force and served in Vietnam. On July 10, 1967, while piloting a C-123 Provider, he was shot down and killed.

In an era of multi-million dollar contracts and self-indulgent, spoiled athletes who think the world owes them everything because they can throw a baseball, score a touchdown or make a 3-point shot, Kalsu and Steinbrunner stand as grim reminders of the sacrifices that some athletes have made in the past.

Some other athletes who served in Vietnam were Roger Staubach, Pete Dawkins, Ken Singleton, Rocky Bleier and Joe Bellino.

In World War I, many athletes served in the military and one of the most prominent was Hall-of-Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson. During his service, his lungs were permanently damaged when he accidentally inhaled poisoned gas. He suffered from lung problems the rest of his life and those problems led to his death in 1925.

In World War II, athletes came out in droves to serve their country, including Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra and Hank Greenberg, just to name a few.

Ted Williams also served in World War II as a pilot from 1943-45 and when the Korean War broke out, he served again from 1952-53.

Today's world is not without athletes who are now serving in the military. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Phoenix Cardinals safety Pat Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract for about $18,000 a year as he began a quest to become an Army Ranger.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com or sports@news-daily.com.