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Memorial Day memories of Bob Kalsu

In 1968, Bob Kalsu was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, earned a spot as a starting guard, and was chosen as the team’s rookie of the year. In 1969, Kalsu was sent to Vietnam, where in 1970 he died at age 25.

The Bills’ web site has a story on this Memorial Day remembering Kalsu, the only active NFL player to be killed in Vietnam.

“If you’re serious about Memorial Day and what it stands for, you think about those family members and friends and people in your community that made a life sacrifice and Bob is part of that thought process this time of year,” said fellow Bills guard Billy Shaw. “Bob is the only person that I played with during that period of time that made that kind of sacrifice, so his name comes through my memory at this time.”

Ten years ago Kalsu was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and profiled by William Nack in a great portrait of a promising life cut short. Reading Nack’s story is a great way to spend some time this Memorial Day.

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15 Responses to “Memorial Day memories of Bob Kalsu”
  1. harpoo51 says: May 30, 2011 9:53 AM

    RIP Mr. Kalsu. Thank you for your service to our country and for your sacrifice.

  2. MossMoon2Packers says: May 30, 2011 10:11 AM

    Kalsu is deserving of our respect and gratitude for his heroism and fulfillment of duty to country. However, he died in vain in an utterly useless war that should never have been waged. So, all of us (but especially Kalsu’s family and friends) should feel outrage at the leaders of that time (political and military, as well as the chiefs of industry who called for and profited from war) for cynically manipulating the patriotism of and sacrificing the lives of brave young American men and women, while causing the death of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.

  3. vetdana says: May 30, 2011 10:13 AM

    Some things are bigger than football. Bob and the thousands of other Veterans who gave their lives for our country is one of them. I lost many very good friends to the VN war and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.We should thank all of our veterans for their sacrifice. They are the real heroes !!! They put their lives on the line for a very tiny fraction of the salaries of our NFL players !

  4. andrewfbrowne says: May 30, 2011 10:15 AM

    How is this guy not mentioned more prominiently in the NFL? Is it because he is an offensive lineman? Because he played in Buffalo? This is an amazing story of sacrifice and duty to the nation. If we praise Pat Tillman for his duty to the nation, we should mention Mr. Kalsu immediately thereafter.

    Thanks for your ultimate sacrifice Mr. Kalsu.

  5. krow101 says: May 30, 2011 10:15 AM

    MossMoon2Packers …

    You are 100% correct. And it continues today. Same excrement; different times and places.

  6. Sandra Lee's Cans says: May 30, 2011 10:25 AM

    I served in the military during the Vietnam era for the same naive reasons a lot of men and women serve – duty and country. While I am proud to be an American and would not hesitate to serve in support and defense of our great nation again, Vietnam and every other military engagement since Korea has been carried out for reasons of big business and world posturing. That makes the deaths of tens of thousands of young American men and women senseless. I keep those who gave their lives close to my heart and remember them every day, not just one day a year.

  7. skoobyfl says: May 30, 2011 10:27 AM

    Anyone that can live in Buffalo is a hero to me, Bob was an exceptional hero.

  8. DonRSD says: May 30, 2011 10:57 AM

    Nice story!

  9. richm2256 says: May 30, 2011 11:10 AM


    Today isn’t about politics or debating the merits of any particular war; leave that stuff for another time please.

    Today is simply for those who didn’t question whether serving thier countrymen – including you – was just or not. They simply served us without question, and 50,000 died in Viet Nam regardless of your political views.

    God bless everyone of them, as well as the countless others over the years, who gave their lives serving their fellow Americans, “just” war or not.

    Those are our TRUE “heroes”.

  10. txchief says: May 30, 2011 11:40 AM

    I doubt anyone in the NFL today (players and management included) would be able to muster the amount of self-sacrifice that was exemplified by Bob Kalsu. Thanks Mr. Kalsu and all of our veterans.

  11. richm2256 says: May 30, 2011 11:57 AM

    Just finished reading the 10 page SI article….. to all of you who read this post, PLEASE, read this article.

    It will make you feel proud to be a human being.

    Bob Kalsu was the rarest of human beings, read this quote:

    “Most other draftable pro athletes elected to serve in the reserves. Kalsu’s family and friends urged him to go that route. “I’m no better than anybody else,” he told them all. Frantz pleaded with Kalsu to seek the Bills’ help in finding a slot in the reserves. “John, I gave ’em my word,” Kalsu said, referring to his promise, on joining ROTC, to serve on active duty. “I’m gonna do it.”

    Everyone involved in today’s labor mess should read this article and ask themselves: “what the hell are we doing here???”

    Players, Owners, Coaches, Agents, Lawyers, and Judges: Read this story. See what’s REALLY important here.

  12. MossMoon2Packers says: May 30, 2011 1:52 PM

    @richm2256: I agree that the service and sacrifice of the common soldier must be remembered, respected and honored. And I do so, wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

    But, I’m sorry to tell you, richm2256, that your don’t-question-the-leader’s-motives approach that you advocate will only result in some future corrupt or immoral politician sending your children or grandchildren to die in the next unjust war or conflict.

    We cannot just ignore the fact that Mr. Kalsu and the other 58,192 American military personnel, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, who died in the Vietnam war perished for an unjust cause, only to benefit and enrich the political, military and industrial warmongers of the day.

    The tragic and unjust waste of human lives must never be forgotten. By remembering that, we will demand of our future politicians that they not sacrifice a single life without the best of reasons. And by doing so, we truly honor Mr. Kalsu and the other dead.

    Someone said that a war is worth fighting only if you yourself are ready to join, and/or urge your sons and daughters to join, the fight. That’s called putting your money where your mouth is. Bush, Cheney and the other neocons, avoided service in Vietnam and, decades later, urged you to sacrifice yourself or your child (but not their children) to fight in Iraq. That is hypocrisy, immorality and cynical manipulation of Americans’ patriotism at its worst, and has led to the death of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

  13. TheWizard says: May 30, 2011 3:00 PM

    richm – great post

  14. nypd1056 says: May 30, 2011 3:57 PM

    In addition to Bob Kalsu and Pat Tillman there is another NFL player Jack Lummus. He was a Tight End for the New York Football Giants who received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Iwo Jima in WW II

  15. richm2256 says: May 30, 2011 4:24 PM


    Not saying you aren’t right, just saying this isn’t the day for this debate.

    Honor the men who died for us, regardless of politics, please.

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