Yesterday was a scorching hot day for a baseball game but it was the second game of a best two out of three Super Regional Round of the NCAA baseball tournament play between my family’s beloved Vanderbilt Commodores, Nashville’s team, and the Stanford Cardinals, two of the nations best teams so I had to go even if I had already sweated through my clothes and the game hadn’t even started. As the teams warmed up and the stadium filled, I took my seat and began surveying the fine specimens that made up both starting lineups.

I love college sports. Always have. I remember when this love began. 1989, my parents had tickets to the first round of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, 16th seed East Tennessee State taking on the #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. We were sitting near the spot where the Sooners were waiting to take the floor so Moma let me sneak down to get some autographs. These college boys were giants towering above my barely 5 foot junior high frame. They signed my program and patted me on the head as I wished them luck in my squeaky preteen Southern twang. I was in love with college sports……….and, college boys.

From that day on, my love of both continued. In high school, me and a few girlfriends would skip class and patrol Vanderbilt’s campus looking for Drew Maddux, the good-looking dark-haired boy from Goodpasture who ended up playing point for the ‘Dores. We just knew one of us was destined to be his soul mate. In college, we’d caravan down to Tuscaloosa and show up to the game hours early to watch the Crimson Tide roll in on Greyhound buses and take the Walk of Champions to the stadium, muscles bulging underneath their sport coats and ties. Didn’t they know one of us needed to be the girlfriend of a National Champion?

Yesterday, with the two college teams lined up as our National Anthem was being sung, I saw not the clean, fresh faces of young heart throbs about to take the field and battle it out to see who gets to go to Omaha for the College World Series but the dirty faces of men their age who lined boats waiting to storm the battlefield beaches of Omaha invading Normandy fighting like hell to see who made it through, living to get back to American soil. Young men who should have been back home playing baseball and taking out sweethearts on Saturday nights but instead were doing what had to be done, the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the unspeakable.

Before their mission, Dwight Eisenhower gave the soldiers this warning, “Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.”

He went on to say, “I have full confidence in your devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”

As I looked around the crowd at Vandy’s Hawkins field, I realized had it not been for those brave soldiers seventy years ago who were victorious fighting against insurmountable odds, I wouldn’t have be sitting there on a hot, muggy Saturday afternoon with my husband and parents along with this eclectic crowd of college baseball fans. Frat boys in their Vineyard Vines shirts, boat shoes and Vandy visors. Soccer moms in their khaki shorts and t-shirts with purses stocked with sunscreen, bug spray, eater snacks, bottled water, wet wipes, band aids and anything else anyone would ever need. Doctors and nurses in scrubs on break from the University’s medical center catching a few innings before scrubbing up for the next surgery. Die hard fans who know the players by first name decked out in head to toe black and gold team colors. Bellemeade ladies dressed to the nines dripping with pearls. Little kids wearing baseball gloves intent on catching a foul ball. Old men who ask the kids with gloves each time a foul is hit “You gonna catch that one for me, buddy?” Every ethnicity, lovers of baseball, melting together in the sweltering summer sun.

Americans.

Thank you to the brave men and women who have fought and continue to fight so bravely to preserve our great nation. The land that I love.

Deuteronomy 20:4 For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.
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