ESCANABA - The Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame banquet is in Escanaba Saturday and three people I've known since they were young athletes are among the inductees.
Scott Hebert was my neighbor and riding his big wheel, well before he even thought of becoming a golfer and eventually the best ever produced in the Upper Peninsula. With my induction in 2002, what are the odds of having two Hall of Famers living just a chip shot apart in their formative years?
Actually, two other inductees lived only two blocks away, former Escanaba coaches Jerry Cvengros and Jim Hirn. How about those odds?
Jeff Nault of Escanaba and Sara Boyer of Rapid River are also joining the Hall. I coached against Nault, and his dad Tom, in Babe Ruth Baseball and could see he had talent above and beyond his compatriots.
I still recall Boyer taking charge in overtime against Big Bay de Noc in one of her first games as a freshman, a signal of what was to come in another excellent career.
I also remember covering her parents, Steve and Sharon (Kaukola) when they were standouts at Rapid River in the early 1970s.
Unfortunately I will not be on hand for their inductions, a most difficult decision made easier when the trio learned of a major conflict.
I will be in Virginia Beach to attend a Vietnam reunion of my USMC Foxtrot 2/1 company. It is the first time we have been together since 1967 and starts on a day when we lost 32 Marines and had another 81 wounded in a battle with an embedded North Vietnam regiment.
One of those Marines, Gary Martini, was in my original four-man fire team and earned the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions on the battlefield April 21, 1967 in the Que Son Valley about 30 miles south of Da Nang.
I've only seen eight members of that group since we left Vietnam, including one who was wounded with me May 9, 1967. Another Marine wounded with me who I have not seen since that day will be on hand for the reunion.
Capt. Gene Deegan was our company commander and retired as a two-star general. I was his radio man at Nui Loc Son during that period and have seen him several times, including once when he visited Escanaba on a consulting trip. I thought he was killed April 21 but learned in 1985 that he survived.
Thanks to Laurie Bink of Escanaba, who was working for Cong. Bob Davis at the time, I found Deegan in 1985 when he was commanding the Quantico Marine Base.
The battle that ignited Operation Union, a five-month long series of contacts throughout the region that resulted in a book (Road of 10,000 Pains) will be the prime topic of discussion at the reunion.
While it is difficult to miss such a momentous event in Escanaba, it would have been impossible to miss this reunion. And thanks to Nault, Boyer and Hebert for their understanding and their direction in sending me to Virginia.
Meanwhile, congratulations to that trio for their superlative careers, as well as the remaining seven inductees. The Hall of Fame banquet is always a special event.