Coppola: D-Day Plus-One: God Bless America

On June 6, 1944, it took the invasion troops in Normandy one day to secure the beaches and begin the assault on Nazi Germany to end the war in Europe. The brave heroes who lost their lives, not only on that day but throughout WWII and all those who fought for our freedom, should be remembered more that just once a year. I am happy that we do that now at ballparks in America every game, usually in the seventh inning, when baseball honors a veteran or someone who is still serving our nation.

How can you not feel proud to be an American when in grand Yankee Stadium, we hear Kate Smith sing “God Bless America.” It gives me chills every time. There is something about being in a place named Yankee Stadium and watching a baseball game, that makes me feel very much an American. Less than four months prior to Normandy, American troops stormed the beaches of Anzio and Nettuno in Italy. When things were secured they found a patch of land and played baseball. To this day Nettuno is the center off baseball in Italy. Baseball is in our blood and will always be our National Pastime.

Whenever I go to a ball game, I get a rush of excitement. The sight of the enormous stadium in our massive city with thousands of people moving about always makes me feel how lucky I am. Sure there is a real world of hate, anger and injustice today all around us. But when we go to see a ball game for a few hours, we escape into an atmosphere of color, flashing lights and noise as we watch two teams of amazing athletes perform for us. We sit among other baseball fans who all seem to be thinking alike as the game unfolds.

We hear shouts of: “He was safe! No, he was out! Why did the coach send him? Wow did you see that? What a play. That guy stinks, my 10 year old can hit this guy. Hey beer, over here give me two. How much? Twelve fifty for one? Holy smokes!” A break from the madness of our daily lives is always the best medicine for us. The fun I see at a ball game among the crowd is always the same. I see dads with their sons or daughters explaining things to them. They will have that look that only the pure innocence of a child has as they gaze out at the enormous field. Mesmerized by the spectacle in front of them, dreaming of themselves being out there at short stop where Derek Jeter once stood.

Baseball is more than pitch counts, spin rotations, gun times and exit velocities. More than getting the call right every time with instant replay. More than who wins or loses. Well, maybe your team winning is important. All of these things are a part of the bigger picture. The grand scope of feeling the excitement of a game. The knowledge that you know you posses about this game. You understand it all and feel you have the freedom to say things about what you are now a part of. Feeling the freedom to express yourself in front of perfect strangers. The freedom to agree or disagree with people in a friendly, respectful way. Yes people, you are a not just spectators. They need you in the ballpark to make all of this work.

When you think about all the freedoms we have just remember this, when you do stand and sing “God Bless America” along with the rest of the crowd during the seventh inning stretch, be mindful of those men and women who are protecting us everyday. Allowing us to be free to do these simple enjoyable things in this great land of ours. Be mindful of those very young men who died on a beach in Normandy seventy three years ago and the many others who also served or gave their lives throughout the two hundred and forty one year history of our country, so we can be free.

“God Bless America.” Sing it proudly.

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