Commentary: Opening Day! Baseball, Building Military Heritage

  • Published
  • By Col. Scott Sauter
  • 315th Airlift Wing vice commander
"This field, this game: it's a part of our past.  It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."
- Field of Dreams (1989)

As Major League Baseball's opening day approaches, I can't help but reflect on the sights and sounds that trumpet the rich heritage and traditions associated with our national pastime. The images of a freshly cut infield, perfectly lined base paths and a yet-to-be obscured batter's box evoke excitement and anticipation as players prepare to take the field and fans await the game's first pitch.  Of course, the baseball experience is never complete without the associated cultural icons that adorn each ballpark: homages to home-town heroes and Hall-of-Famers; time-honored rituals that include inspiring renditions of our National Anthem; the crowd singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the Seventh-Inning Stretch; grazing on hot dogs, kettle corn and peanuts while trying to keep score in an official game program; and of course, the multiple attempts to scramble for foul balls hit into the seats. 

Growing up, this game made an impression on me and, indeed, marked the time with chapters comprised of 162-game seasons and their respective All-Star Games and World Series; each punctuated by statistical giants like Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski and Nolan Ryan. For me the game will always be something special because of its heritage and traditions, built not only by my childhood heroes, but also by all who played and developed the game from its inception in the late 19th Century to the present.  This reverence was captured perfectly by James Earl Jones' character in the 1989 film, "Field of Dreams," which seems to infer a sense of shared credit for the baseball legacy throughout the movie, centered on the construction of baseball field on a farm in Iowa.

Our military is another institution rich in its unique heritage and time-honored traditions.  They are comprised of the many customs, courtesies, and icons associated with our respective military services, present in our daily routines, and echoed in our Professional Military Education.  Often we take for granted these cornerstones of military heritage and tradition; yet they are so important and quite likely underpin the reasons we entered the military and continue to serve.  Built by our predecessors and heroes; and we continue to build upon them everyday.

Just as James Earl Jones' character observed with America's passion for baseball, I'll suggest that the presence or our services' heritage and traditions have also become constants throughout the years.  We continue to build upon this heritage, which should be celebrated and not taken for granted.  It is grounded in the same core values shared by our predecessors and heroes.  These include everything from induction ceremonies, open-ranks inspections, re-enlistments and retirements, oaths of office, and rendering salutes. 

As we observe and appreciate the elements of military heritage that we are most proud of, it is also important to acknowledge the entirety of the cast who built and continue to build it.  That cast includes all of us: all Services, all ranks, all components - the Joint Total Force.  Military heritage and tradition is all around us.  And as our national security environment evolves, so does our military; and time will continue to be marked by our experience.  What was once the Berlin Airlift or the Battle of Leyte Gulf are now Operations Enduring Freedom and United Assistance.  We are building heritage today and tomorrow; a seemingly more contemporary version that will ultimately be acknowledged and celebrated by those who have served and by those that will eventually follow in our footsteps. 

If we build it, they will come...

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