#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.

#OKlegacies: Melting pot of gold

Today for lunch I had what has become a bit of a usual for me: beans, cornbread and fried taters from Josie’s hole-in-the-wall diner.

I skipped the pick-up window and went inside to grab my grub. The place was packed like always in the noon hour. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I noticed people a little deeper on this trip.

A farmer, a carpenter, a doctor, a foster mom and a minister sitting along one wall. An American Indian, a black man and a white woman laughing over their meal in the corner. They also were *listening* to one another.

So simple but so important.

Americans of different backgrounds and education levels, religions and colors – all precious in his sight. All with their own opinions, convictions and hearts that make up a collective heartbeat.

And they were at a small-town Oklahoma diner owned by a native Filipino family. The marquee out front advertises the Monday special: Chinese Lo Mein or beans and cornbread. They have pretty great burritos, too. The whole lot is made by a sweet immigrant and served in mismatched dishes.

In her best moments, America shines.

But it takes the consideration of the whole eclectic menu to make it work.

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.

🛎 🛎 🛎

 

 

Yes, there’s something different about me now.

When I lost all of my hair six years ago, I was in the middle of jumping my life’s tallest hurdle. I gained so much since that journey began. I gained back confidence, security and love for myself.

And recently, over the last year or more, things happened to make me forget all that progress.

I want them again. I miss that proud girl.

When my hair began growing, I hid it behind a wig because it made me cry to see it coming in much darker than before. The sunshine on my head had decided to reappear a little overcast. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize the person I saw. It made me sad. It represented a lot of things I had lost in life.

That muddy brown shade stood for struggle.

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That time I found the greatest Stevie Nicks video ever

Today was a pretty good Monday. I mean, the only legitimate problem I had is that when I woke up, I wasn’t Stevie Nicks.

Really, though, sometimes I pretend I am her when I wear my long black kimono, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

She’s mysterious. She’s hot. She’s a legend.

She’s everything I’m not, but a girl has to have goals, right?

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Some days I might even get it in my head that I’m channeling the perfect balance of the cool edginess of Stevie and the Southern charm of Dolly Parton.

And then something usually happens to remind me I’m not even close to channeling either one, and that I’m pretty much an awkward cross between the pop singer who dresses up like a flamingo and Deb from Napoleon Dynamite.

Oh, and someone who dribbles salsa on her shirt and trips a lot.

Stevie’s voice is unmistakeable. It has rasp and sheer power, yet it is vulnerable. Raw but flawless.

I came across this video a couple of years ago and I might have watched it eleventy billion times since. The fact that this is a random backstage practice session while she’s getting her makeup done blows me away.

In my dreams, Stevie Nicks calls me up on stage to harmonize with her on Wild Heart (or anything) just like this video.

And then Lindsey Buckingham, naturally, writes a timeless song about me and how I am the perfect woman. (The salsa stains are verifiable proof.)

And usually that’s when I wake up and realize I’m still just a weirdo wannabe gypsy soul and a procratinating journalist who should be reading a 32-page earthquake study and writing five other stories before tomorrow’s deadline. 

Goals, though.

Stevie, man. Stevie.

I bet you can’t stop watching at eleventy billion.

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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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