Early Friday morning, I stood alone in a breeze at Cherry Field, the home of Tucson High’s baseball program. I thought not about the school’s 29 state championships, but of those who played for the Badgers.
All-State catcher Frank Kempf, killed by German snipers on the way to Berlin, 1945.
State championship shortstop Ted Bland, killed by German infantry in France, a year before World War II ended.
Standout first baseman Corky Moore, killed by a Japanese mortar attack at Iwo Jima.
I’ve been fortunate to know friends and family of all three former Badgers. They would be proud to stand at the base of the impressive Chris Moon Memorial, a statue unveiled last week to honor Badgers who died for their country.
Early last December, the Legacies Alive foundation invited Tucson High School athletic trainer Mike Boese and Tucson golf pro Landyn Lewis to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.
After more than six years, Boese, Lewis and Legacies Alive, the nonprofit organization that honors Americans killed in military action, had raised about $80,000 to erect a memorial for former Tucson High baseball player Chris Moon, the Star’s 2006 Southern Arizona Player of the Year.
Boese and Lewis worked without pay to raise the money and gain approval to build the memorial, a process that began almost as soon as Moon was fatally injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in July 2010.
“Chris was like a second older brother to me. He and my brother Tyrrell were best friends and we lived in the same neighborhood,” said Landyn Lewis, who is now the program and life skills director of The First Tee of Tucson. “Tyrrell and I even got tattoos of Chris after he passed away and the Moons gave us the honor of escorting them on his funeral.
“Chris had purchased a Mustang from one of our friends the last time he was in town. Tyrrell drove and I rode shotgun while the Moons sat in the back on the way to the church and cemetery. It was a very surreal experience.”
As arranged by the Legacies Alive foundation at the Army-Navy game, Lewis spoke to about 20 families of Gold Star soldiers, those who had been killed in action.
Moon, who hit .462 as compiled an 8-2 pitching record as a THS senior, accepted a scholarship to Arizona but chose to enlist in the Army after his first semester. He became a scout sniper in the 82nd Airborne Division.
Last week’s ceremony isn’t the end of project. Lewis will continue to stage an annual golf tournament at Omni Tucson National for the “Moondog Scholarship.” He plans to award at least three $2,500 scholarships to THS student-athletes each year.