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Chairman, Baseball Commissioner Honor Korean War Veterans

By Master Sgt. Anne Proctor, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., June 20, 2000 – For sports broadcaster, former MVP and New York Yankees second baseman Jerry Coleman, it wasn't the game that defined his life. It was his military service as a Marine aviator during World War II and Korea.

Coleman and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig teamed with Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 14 in a full-honors, wreath-laying ceremony to honor Korean War veterans at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

The ceremony highlights the June 25 opening ceremonies of the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War Commemoration. Additionally, the 30 major league baseball clubs will actively honor Korean War vets in pre-game ceremonies the same day, Selig said.

Shelton noted the baseball players served in Korea "not as privileged celebrities befitting their status as genuine American icons, but as common patriots befitting their status as genuine Americans.

"The Korean War was the first great battle in the long struggle of the Cold War -- a struggle that culminated in the victory of democracy over communism, of freedom over oppression, and of thoroughfares and gateways over walls and barriers," said Shelton.

Coleman, voice of the San Diego Padres for 28 seasons, flew 57 missions in World War II and 63 in Korea. He described his military service as the defining moment of his life.

"Looking back, I realize that was what turned me into the person I am today," said the former Marine aviator. "I'm proud to be a veteran. I've always felt that anybody, man or woman, who goes into the service, is better off when they get out."

The World War II veteran was called back to active duty to serve ino Korea. He said he didn't think much of it at all. "As I said, the most important thing in my life was not what I did in baseball, but what I did in the service of the Marines in five years and two wars. I still consider that … the most important part of my life."

Selig said people like Coleman are role models for the nation's youth. They are "heroes of the baseball diamond and battlefields of the skies. They are real life heroes," he said, adding more than 120 major, minor and college league baseball players served in Korea.

"Major league baseball, like all sectors of society, sacrificed much in its support of the Korean War effort. Players like Willie Mays, Whitey Ford, Don Newcomb, Don Larson, Dr. Bobby Brown, Bob Kennedy, Curt Simmons and Whitey Herzog, to name a few. They served with distinction, prepared and willing to go wherever their country asked in defense of freedom," Selig said.

The Korean War Commemoration will continue through Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2003. The baseball commissioner noted the great relationship between baseball and the military, a relationship he hopes to strengthen and improve in the years ahead.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Anne Proctor is assigned to the chairman's public affairs office.)

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