Livingston, Illinois is typical of the thousands of small towns that dot the Midwest. When your neighbor says he’s going to the store he means just that – he’s going to the store because there probably isn’t more than one. My Dad grew up in this old coal mining town northeast of St. Louis, Missouri where the favorite pastimes were baseball and baseball. His uncle John (Jocko) Urban was a great ball player. He was known to be able to plant his foot up against the center field fence and throw the ball perfectly to the catcher without a bounce. His son Johnny was a prospect for the Minnesota Twins organization.
During World War II, Livingston gave up its share of young men to the war effort and some, like Jocko, made it back alive after multiple battles and firefights. Jocko liked his beer and on one occasion while frequenting the tavern a young deputy decided Jocko had had enough to drink and approached a well-juiced WWII Vet to tell him so. In a flash this battle hardened American warrior had disarmed the officer, placed the gun to his temple and said something like, “Son, I’ve already killed dozens of men in battle. One more is not going to mean that much to me.” One can only imagine what Jocko had been through and what led to his strong reaction in the bar that day. Needless to say, the deputy stood down and Jocko went on drinking and today he is one of the oldest living WWII Vets alive in that area.
Our cities and towns are filled with men like Jocko who went to the front lines to defend our freedom, our interests, our values, and our way of life. We can only imagine the hardships and atrocities they had to endure and even if they physically survived the war, they still returned with mental and emotional scars that haunt them until they join their brothers in arms in death. This Memorial Day, find a Vet and give him or her a hug, handshake, or “thank you” for what he or she has done for this nation. And Jocko, thanks for serving your country with honor and distinction.