At war then the Olympics...

February 2, 2010

Tags: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pete Sears, Stu Irving, U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, Murray Williamson, 1972, Iraq

Think for a minute...about the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver and the young men and women who will be participating.

I have no idea what stories will develop in the course of the Games, nor do I know too many stories of the athletes that will be competing. That is one of the glorious asides of the competition - the storytelling of these amazing athletes.

Now, let's ponder this. Imagine it's 1968 and the Vietnam War has been raging. You have been tagged as an Olympic hopeful in 1968 after failing to make the Olympic Hockey Team. You are disappointed but encouraged because the coach, Murray Williamson, will be behind the bench four years later and he's interested to keep an eye on you as you develop. He's even presented an opportunity to you to gain experience and exposure in order to develop as a potential team member in 1972. Life is good. Your dream is taking shape. Then Uncle Sam calls. Welcome to Vietnam Pete Sears.

Now, let's go even further. You are embedded in the MeKong Delta on a tour of duty that has served witness to things you never thought you would ever see in a lifetime. You nearly made the 1971 US National Team but didn't quite make it. But there is hope. So, you write your Dad and ask him to send a dozen sticks and pucks to Vietnam where, between dodging bullets, you keep your Olympic dream alive by taking shot after shot after shot, with stick and puck, into bunkers of the front line of action. Nice to meet you Stu Irving.

Both Pete and Stu served tours in Vietnam before suiting up for Team USA in 1972. In fact, Irving was plucked from the jungle before his tour had ended in order to try-out and play in the Olympic Games.

I wonder if there are any American stories of athletes from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan out there this year that will rival the two silver medal-winning hockey players from 1972?

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