On Friday, when running on the treadmill for part of my workout, like most times, I let the mind wonder. Listening to the newest Coldplay Album, a question caught hold that I kept asking with each song.
What's the meaning of Memorial Day? Seemed like a logical question given the holiday weekend. With uncles, cousins, friends and a father who served our country, one would think that's an easy question to answer. At first thought, Memorial Day is the weekend our country celebrates and honors the lives of fallen American soldiers, our true Patriots. Then I started thinking about Memorial Day in the context of my daily job at Upper Hand and as a little league coach. Naturally, leading myself to start trying to remember athletes who might be part of this day. Immediately the name Pat Tillman came to mind. To me, growing up in the 9/11 era, Pat Tillman was an icon, legend, and most importantly, an American hero. I thought, maybe through bookacoach.com we could find a way to honor soldiers like Pat Tillman, and to use the opportunity to understand and share the meaning of Memorial Day. So before I got our creative designer on the phone to discuss ways to tastefully honor these American heroes, I started googling to educate myself about others who chose the same path as Tillman.
Surprisingly, few articles or websites outlined or explained all the stories of similar heroism. Thankfully, with the help of a recent Forbes article, Bleacher Report post, and Wikipedia, I gathered the names of great athletes turned amazing American soldiers. Names like, Al Blozic, Bob Neighbors, Harry O'Neill, Bob Kalsu, Foy Draper, Jack Lummus, Elmer Gedeon, Al Blozis, and Pat Tillman. From the NFL, MLB to professional sprinting, each were at the most elite level of their sport. With research and pictures in hand, Olei and I got to work. The idea would be to create a series of images, depicting each fallen soldier as a patriotic, iconic athlete from their time playing their respective sport. The campaign imagery would include: Pat Tillman, Bob Kalsu and Bob Neighbors. On Sunday, Our designer sent the first drafts.
Wow. Literally, wow is what came to mind. Sending chills through me, I was awestruck by the imagery and a deeper meaning they portrayed. Yet how could you describe in text the sheer bravery, sacrifice and honor of each one of these individual souls? This became the most important part of our Memorial Day campaign, what do you say? How do you tie the images to their true, righteous meaning? For a few days I kept asking those questions. Putting the answer in writing, in only a handful of words was far from an easy task. I wanted the images to speak for themselves and to be capitalized by a tag line that would resonate with any avid sports fan, coach, current or former athlete at all levels. This sparked some good conversation driving back Monday with my wife's family. Showing them the first draft image, I asked them, "What should this image say?" Immediately, adjectives and words such as, sacrifice, freedom, American soldiers, patriots, fallen heroes, all were shared as we drove. After lots of shared thoughts and ideas, we moved to rephrase the question, "What did these athletes give up, to give us?" We discussed how each one of them, left the pinnacle of their athletic career. Not to pursue personal matters or tend to family issues. What they did was simply remarkable and truly unthinkable in today's society. They gave up their game, the fame, and the money, to go to war. To bare arms with other brave soldiers, their comrades, knowingly putting their lives at risk to save the freedom we enjoy. Can you imagine? You get a large financial promotion? Or you have a newborn? Or you are famous, have money and a comfortable life in any place you dream? Or your startup just raised money and is starting to grow? Or your team makes the little league World Series with your son or daughter as the starting pitcher? Can you imagine, at the pinnacle of any one of those moments, selectively choosing to go to war and fight for your country? I absolutely cannot. That is exactly what each one of these American athletes did. They left their respective game, made the ultimate sacrifice, to give us the freedom to do what we are doing at this very moment. This became our Memorial Day meaning at Upper Hand. To share in memory of athletes who left their game to fight for our freedom to play. In the world of sports, to me, they are #ForeverChampions. To all those who serve, served and to the men and women fallen to the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Below please find the images that will be displayed on bookacoach.com for the next week. I hope they help keep the legacies of these athletes alive forever. And serve as examples of our love for them and our country. On behalf of the bookacoach team, we hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and wish you a Happy Memorial Week.
In memory of Angelina Volpe, a family member, who passed this Memorial Day Weekend at 6-months.