Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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Thinking of others

Q: If you've ever hit a baseball or watched a game, you've probably heard of Stephen Strasburg, 21, a phenom pitching prospect who'll soon be called up by the Washington Nationals. Can success come too fast? Would you rather burst onto "center stage," with all the expectations that entails, or quietly hone your skills before your breakout moment?

I struggle to find the words to express my general indifference to most major figures in athletics. If I were lucky enough to be a sports figure, I would go for the glory ASAP and hone my skills while enjoying a million-dollar-plus annual pay and endorsements. Earning more money than most people get after decades of work is its own reward.

Athletes are a small number of large-boned, muscular people who truly excel at catching, throwing or hitting baseballs, basketballs, hockey pucks or footballs. Don't get me wrong -- some of my friends are or have been top athletes with all the benefits that this market offers. Nice work if you can get it.

As Memorial Day approaches, I think of others.

The people we might want to thank about this weekend are people like Cliff Cushman, who won a silver medal in the Olympics. He had quite a career ahead of him, but he also had a sense of honor and duty. These qualities led to his death in Vietnam.

Willy James grew up in a poor African-American family in the era of segregation. In April 1945, he was pinned down by Nazi marksmen and machine gunners. He crawled away, noting their locations, and led a squad of Army riflemen who eliminated the enemy. He was killed by enemy machine gunfire while going to the aid of his fatally wounded platoon leader.

Who remembers Ed Gomez? His unit was outnumbered in Korea. He continued to get ammunition and weapons for his fellow Marines. When a hostile grenade landed, he shouted a warning as he grasped the activated charge in his hand. He absorbed the explosion in his body. Ed Gomez and Willy James were awarded the Medal of Honor.

From Concord Green to Afghanistan, some of our best citizens illustrated the values of courage, honor and sacrifice. Because of them, people like Steve Strasberg can really enjoy a wonderful life in a nation that has freedom and democracy.

I hope you will learn more about a facility that will teach these values in a most unique way on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. See http://www.buildthecenter.org/cushman.html and thank you!

By Jan Scruggs  |  May 30, 2010; 5:42 PM ET  | Category:  Rush to success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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