#OKlegacies: The time Aggie-American heroes won it all

Some think it silly that Oklahoma A&M and other schools were awarded retroactive football national championships for the years preceding the modern awards system.

It may seem that way, but for Oklahoma State, there is depth to the story that led to a trophy 70 years later.

It’s about brave warriors finally getting their due.

Sure, they were figurative warriors on the football field and went undefeated that season. But, like many other young men, they were literal warriors on battlefields first.

The A&M Aggies started the 1945 football season about three weeks after World War II ended. While it wasn’t a situation unique only to A&M, multiple players were WWII veterans. They came home to Stillwater as soon as Uncle Sam’s mission was finished and traded their service helmets for leather ones. They were sent to fight and returned battered, physically and mentally. Yet immediately, they were tasked with entertaining Americans in sport.

They carried our fears and our future on their backs across bloody trenches, in fighter planes and on stormy seas. Weeks later, they carried our hopes and our morale through football stadiums while the effects of the depression and war loomed.

The Greatest Generation, no doubt.

In 1945 and 1946, some of the greatest OSU athletes of all time suited up for their country and then for their school. That resulted in a purely magical time in history for the university — an undefeated football season and back-to-back basketball national championships. Several A&M players in both sports were wounded in war, and the ones who stayed home said they wished they had been sent overseas, too, Heisman finalist Bob Fenimore among them. Basketball starter Sam Aubrey returned with one leg shorter than the other. His teammates said he’d play in immense pain, but a game is nothing when you’ve been shot by Nazis, right?

They were a real-life band of brothers. Being a part of something — a team — when they were safe again on America’s shores likely preserved a little of their hearts after the terrors they witnessed at the hands of enemies.

Yes, it was a retroactive decision for the football title, awarded just two years ago since the Coaches Poll wasn’t around in 1945. The champion the Associated Press chose that year was none other than the undefeated mighty Army Cadets.

But retroactive. The time passed doesn’t dim the light. In fact, it is a shining moment on what was dark times for Oklahoma and America.

Seven Aggies pitched in to save the world from evil domination, and they dominated every opponent during the most meaningful football season in OSU lore. Seven inspiring veterans, and a team of men upholding them, were victorious.

The perseverance of that generation is unmatched. I’m sure they knew they were the best team in 1945, sans Army, but it would have been pretty grand to have seen the Aggie-American heroes being awarded a trophy before they died.

Instead, Oklahoma State alumni carry that pride forward on their backs.

American heroes. 1945 National Champions.

No asterisk.

Just American glory. 

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Gene Fitter: Pilot in Europe
Bob Hargrove: Lieutenant overseas
Jim Reynolds: Piloted 52 missions over Germany
Terry Monroe: Naval Air Corps
Bert Cole: Was shot down over Yugoslavia
Otis Schellstede: Paratrooper who dropped on D-Day
J.D. Cheek: Served with famed 45th Division

Photos: Oklahoma State University

 

P.S. Annual reminder — Veterans Day is Nov. 11. Please tell a *living* veteran how thankful you are for their service. That’s what Veterans Day is about. Don’t wait for taps and a funeral. Salute now. Tell them now. Let them see your love.

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My “Oklahoma Legacies” series is dedicated to chronicling life in my great home state, because ol’ No. 46 makes my heart beat pretty steady and strong. Every person and every place has a story — past and present. These are Oklahoma’s. Click here to see past posts in the #OKlegacies series.

Imagine all that.

My imagination runs wild 99 percent of the time.

Wild like the horses busting free on the plains.

Wild like the flowers scattered on the landscape.

I see everything in color, no matter what decade. It is the only way my mind works.

My great great grandpa Charlie was a horse trader. A few weeks ago, we discovered this original tintype (and another) of him stashed away in a box of family photos. They are in wonderful condition on the plate, not at all indicative of being more than a century old.

I have stared at this particular photo a thousand times since the first. Likely there will be 1,000 more. I have written what seems like an entire book in my head of the events I dreamed up to surround this scene.

I often have been told I romanticize most everything in life, as if it were a bad thing. Truth is, it is the loveliest of things. It’s what keeps blood pumping and the soul hoping.

Imagination.

When I look at this, I see a young horse trader and his side-saddled love, out for a ride across the prairie on a Sunday afternoon. I see them basking in nature, laughing and dreaming up their lives together — not in sepia, but in full color.

I’ve written chapters in my head with every glance. The hardships and the struggles, the triumphs and the joys. I see the love between them that begat generations of hard-working, honest, generous and happy people. I see a legacy.

A simple tintype photo of two people in a field.
A priceless treasure, found in a box of keepsakes long forgotten.

One photo.

A thousand romanticized thoughts.

An imagination that won’t quit, because then I would cease to feel alive.

How sweet the sound

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I watched as medicine dripped for hours to kill the poisonous cancer.

Last month, I took mama’s only sibling to her ninth chemotherapy treatment. Her prognosis is good, unlike some of the others who were visiting the cancer center.

There were rooms full of people. Hundreds of them. Some were waiting to see a doctor. Some were waiting for scans. Some were receiving treatment. Hundreds of them, and it was just Wednesday. The next day and the day after saw hundreds more. She thinks I was brave while I was sitting alongside her, but I was sad and so scared for all those people and their families. When she’d fall asleep, I’d look around and people watch. My tears would sneak out and drip, drip, drip.

Today, instead of sitting in the cancer center watching medicine enter her body, I was sitting at work, waiting to hear the news that it all was over.

My aunt Dawn rang the bell at 12:30 p.m., signifying that she is done with chemo treatment No. 12 and ready to enjoy life without being sick, without mobile chemo ports or hours in a chair while medicine falls through an IV.

Today, it was tears of joy going drip, drip, drip.

She grabbed ahold of that bell and its noise drowned out the pain and worry in so many hearts.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

Break free.

🛎 🛎 🛎

 

 

Silly girl, tears don’t put out wildfires

My family always has been my refuge.

I was blessed with good examples. As a child, I was blessed with food on my plate and parents who insisted we eat a home-cooked supper together, at the kitchen table, every night.

I was blessed with a roof over my head.

I was blessed with a grandpa and daddy who built that home with their blood, sweat and tears.

Five years ago this week, however, the tears falling were mine.

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#OKLegacies: The standard of grace and hope

It’s time for another anniversary of a dark day.

“The Oklahoma Standard” has guided me in many things throughout my life. Most of all, it has taught me that if you look really hard — grace floats to the top of the depths of pain.

Below is an editorial I wrote for the Cleveland American three years ago, a day after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

The Oklahoma Standard sort of took over my mind that day, so I started writing.

Watching the news come out of Boston served as a reminder of OKC. It was a reminder of hopelessness and of pain.

But even though grace is tough to come by during times of confusion and anger — the 168 souls that perished on April 19, 1995 still teach us grace every single day with their brave Oklahoma spirit still very much alive in the loved ones they left behind.

And the countless compassionate people who led our state through the tunnel and toward the light — then and now — keep our eyes focused on carrying that grace forth.

Here’s that column on Boston from three years ago, which I think is fitting for us on this anniversary of when Oklahoma City was terrorized by cowards.

God bless the 168.


Rescue hope by choking out the hate
By Brandi Ball

Published: 4/17/2013, The Cleveland American

What happened in Boston on Monday rocks my soul.
Bombs placed in a crowd of people, only to incite death and destruction?
I heard someone say afterward: “Bad has always existed. It’s not hard to believe this happened. It’s actually pretty easy to believe it. People are just evil.”
While evil is a concept that dates back almost to the inception of good, I still gasp with disbelief when things like this happen. Because no matter how much tragedy is in our world, I still believe in the good.
I believe that kindness and love reign on this Earth, no matter how much evil tries to encroach.
McViegh blew up OKC, bin Laden blew up NYC, and people all over this world are killed by hate every minute. There are unfeeling people and racists and bullies and people who live to see others suffer.
And, yes, even knowing all of that, it still jolts my soul when an intentional act does harm to others.
Perhaps that’s just my hopefulness taking root, but I always want to be stopped in my tracks with a “this is unbelievable,” look on my face when it comes to seemingly malicious matters. Because the minute I become accustomed to an idea that evil acts inherently occur in my world, that is the moment goodness begins to lose the battle.
I don’t ignore the bad. I’m very aware of its existence. But when we find it easy to believe people can callously take another’s life, that is the moment we feed oxygen to the fire. When evil becomes routine instead of anomaly, that’s when evil begins to take bigger breaths and grow and reproduce. And that’s happening right now, this week, while folks’ hearts are hardening, because constantly being on the outside looking in on tragedy is getting too painful.
My heart is hurting. I overwhelmingly trust in good and believe, on all levels, that it outweighs evil. But some days, in some places like Boston, it wasn’t strong enough. My heart is shattered because I’m disappointed brotherly love can’t always be the victor.
Instead of choosing hatred for those who do evil acts, let our hearts be softened by the heroism performed by clergy, first-responders, police, doctors, nurses, volunteers and even innocent children who are dropped to their knees in prayer.
Why? Because the alternative is too risky.
The only other option will ensure we become caught in raging flames of those evil fires. We can’t be trapped in the backdraft.
Through all the noise, never forget that things of beauty and acts of understanding and kindness are happening in all corners of this Earth. In every country. In every city. In every village. And no matter how many times evil happens this world over — no matter if it’s women being persecuted in the Middle East or genocide in Africa or murderous drug lords in Central America or dictators stealing the dignity of their countrymen or guns being shot at innocent schoolchildren or theater-goers or bombs being set off in a cheerful Boston crowd or an Oklahoma City daycare — I will still be in disbelief, time and time again.
It’s OK to be sad. I am, and deeply so. But take solace in knowing that for every one hateful coward, there are a million-plus good shepherds of society… male, female, young, old, black and white and every other shade of complexion.
We outnumber them.
When bad happens, my heart still will waver in its beating upon the announcement. My soul still will search for a way to write it off as a dream, even though it isn’t possible or logical. And my eyes always will search for those who, instead of flippantly saying, “people are just evil,” are already at work trying to choke out the hate and water the garden of kindness.
Good will win. Honor will prevail over grace.
We can’t succumb to a belief that hate cannot be overcome.
Love is alive.
But we must keep nourishing it or else we also are guilty — not of murder or of evil, but of apathy.
We will be guilty of allowing people to die in vain, all because we forgot the strength of goodness and hopefulness when they stand together as one.
Never forget to look for the grace.

 

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My “Oklahoma Legacies” series is dedicated to chronicling life in my great home state, because ol’ No. 46 makes my heart beat pretty steady and strong. Every person and every place has a story — past and present. These are Oklahoma’s. Click here to see all the posts in my #OKlegacies series.

Deep-Dish Pie: The time my little sister ate something and liked it

It is 3/14. You know, Pi Day.

A day about math.

Pi is numbers. A whole string of numbers that tell us the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its
diameter.

Snooze.

And math also is letters, as if life isn’t enough of a struggle. Letters and infinite numbers coexisting in an alternate universe where I always have a headache and everything is chaos. That’s math.

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Today, I want to live here: Granny’s kitchen

Even if you grew up in the city, there’s probably something familiar about a farmhouse kitchen.

I grew up in rural Oklahoma, and still, every time I see a farmhouse-style kitchen, I am reminded of my Granny’s haven. I was only 5 years old when she died, but I still remember her kitchen.

It wasn’t fancy. In fact, it was the opposite of fancy. It had an old ’50s-style table, and in my memory, there is a pie in the center of it, covered with a muslin tea-towel.
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Birthday Presence: 37 things I tell myself about life


This week marks the passing of 37 years that I have been blessed with breath in my lungs.

I am not one for wanting a big to-do on my birthday. Kind words and thoughtful best wishes are gifts enough. That’s not because I am scared of growing older, nor am I someone who declares to be forever 29.

To me, the value in marking one more year is powerful in a quiet way. I have seen lives end much too young. Becoming wiser, maturing through mistakes and celebrating milestones is not a destiny afforded to all.

So we have to take it. Run with it. Love it. Live it.
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