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Baseball takes a back seat to our military


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POSTED: Sunday, July 05, 2009

Standing in front of our home dugout at Rent One Park for the singing of our national anthem Friday night, my thoughts about baseball took a back seat for once.

After a standard two-city, six-game road trip to the outskirts of St. Louis and Chicago, we returned in the wee hours of the morning—about 5 a.m.—and returned to the stadium that afternoon to prepare for our game.

While general fatigue was a factor in my change of focus, it was not the reason for my drifting mind. With the Fourth of July a day away, our team, our stadium already looked primed to celebrate our nation's Independence Day.

For the entire three-game homestand this weekend, our team is wearing special red, white and blue uniforms, trimmed with stars and stripes to honor our country. We even have red and white caps with an American flag-themed version of our team logo on the front, a nice departure from the usual white, gold and black of our normal game uniforms.

When we stepped out of the dugout for the anthem Friday night, the team played a brief video message on our enormous video screen in right-center field, of a military member from the town of Marion, Ill., asking the fans to stand at attention and remove their hats for the singing of our national anthem.

At that moment, thoughts of the fine men and women serving our country at this point in our nation's history entered my thoughts. I have always had an appreciation for the sacrifices made by the members of our military in defense of our way of life. I grew up in a family with a lot of military ties.

My grand uncle Robert Sagara served in the 100th battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and I heard a lot of stories about his experiences in combat as a kid. My father and his brothers Calvin and Clifford served in the military. Uncle Clifford served in the Air Force in the Vietnam War, while uncle Calvin Sagara is actually scheduled to leave for Afghanistan soon to fulfill his obligation to the U.S. Army Reserve in coming weeks.

My uncle Stanley Nakasone is a veteran of the Korean War, and my mom's older brother, the late Isao Kiyan, fought in both the Korean and Vietnam wars as well. And like most anybody else in Hawaii, just about every uncle I have known served their time in the military. My fiancee's father is a decorated Vietnam vet as well.

Growing up in Wahiawa, I had a lot of friends from school and sports who were military dependents from Schofield Barracks, and developed an appreciation for their lifestyles.

But it wasn't until recently that I really got a firsthand view of the sacrifices that are truly made by military families. My big brother Gavan has served in the U.S. Navy now for 18 years, following his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

When he got married to Ronda around 2000, they were a typical young married military couple. He was often gone serving our country overseas for six months at a pop, and she stayed home and worried about his well-being everyday.

Over the years, their family has grown, with the addition of my two nephews, Davan and Keon, who are now 8 and 5. With the increase in family members has come an increase in stress levels whenever my brother gets deployed.

My brother has been stationed in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf for the past year. Because of the locale and brief length of stay there, he left his family back in California, where he was previously stationed for two years.

Luckily, Gavan was able to go back to California for a few days for Christmas to see his family. Ronda told us it was a lot of fun, but that when it came time to take my brother back to the airport at the end of his leave, there weren't any dry eyes in the car.

But today has a chance to be one of the best Fourth of Julys ever. Our nation celebrates another year of independence, our President is from Hawaii, and my brother is returning home to his family. After a year away from them, he will be flying home to Monterey, Calif., today. After that, he and his family will be returning to Hawaii for his next tour of duty, and we couldn't be happier.

I know that this is baseball season, but I can't help it if my mind is elsewhere right now. Today is bigger than the Southern Illinois Miners, bigger than baseball. It is a day to celebrate the history of our country, and the many, many heroes who have made sacrifices for our great nation.

And yes, it is a great day for baseball, too.

 

Brendan Sagara, who played baseball for Leilehua and UH-Hilo, is pitching coach for the Southern Illinois Miners.