The NEWS with Tim O'Callaghan

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Young athletes 'go for broke'

This first published December 4, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

It’s been four years since my dad passed away and three years since I first penned this column about the Go For Broke trophy. This is a good time to dust it off and tweak it up, not only because we’re celebrating outstanding athletes, but also because next Sunday is Pearl Harbor Day. It is the perfect opportunity to think about the event that was the catalyst for the Go For Broke trophy.

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It is that time of year when the Home News presents a Go For Broke trophy to one football player from 12 of our local high schools.

Not a season has passed that I’m not reminded that something is missing in local high school football. Indeed, this is often pointed out by regular fans of prep football. This year was no different when I attended a Bishop Gorman football game and an old timer came up and said, “Sure miss seeing your dad at the games.”

Isn’t it funny how the words never change?

My dad loved watching the kids develop into men by hard work and discipline. Yes, and over the years he watched a few girls develop into fine young ladies by playing special teams.

Not only was Mike O’Callaghan a decorated war hero and former governor of Nevada, but he was also a coach and teacher. His passion for people was evident in everything he did. He loved the underdogs and championed their efforts. His love for teaching and his enthusiasm for high school football led to the development of the Go For Broke trophy.

In the spirit of teaching and the understanding of the importance of this award, I must tell you the story of its foundation.

At the young age of 11, my dad’s family lost their farm in Wisconsin for the expansion of military operations. By the time he was 13, trainloads of Japanese Americans were arriving in Wisconsin for interment, held as prisoners of war in their own country.

The threat from the Empire of Japan escalated after the surprise attack and bombing of Pearl Harbor. The fear of Japan grew into prejudice and mistrust of Americans of Japanese decent.

Ironically, nearly 40 percent of the population of Hawaii was of Japanese decent. The military didn’t know what do, because half of the defense team looked like the enemy. The Nisei, soldiers born from Japanese immigrants, were rounded up, had their weapons confiscated and held at gunpoint.

Eventually, they were given back their weapons with much suspicion. The Nisei were secretly and swiftly shipped out of Hawaii in the middle of the night without being given a chance to say goodbye to their families.

After a long voyage on a cramped troop transport ship to Oakland, Calif., they were loaded on troop trains headed for the farmlands of Wisconsin to await orders at Camp McCoy.

My dad often told us stories from his childhood and wrote several columns about the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team. One of his favorites went like this:

“This Wisconsin farm boy and hundreds of others living in and around Camp McCoy soon learned to respect the soldiers from those faraway islands. So did a division of soldiers from Texas who didn’t want to give them room on the sidewalks of nearby towns. Almost three dozen went to the hospital one night when the smaller men had enough. My father, only 5 feet 8 inches tall himself and a World War I veteran, became a cheerleader for the new troops. He followed their heroic exploits with great interest as they fought their way across Europe.”

The men from the 100th/442nd loved the game of craps that was so popular in the Hawaiian Islands. Every good game of dice must come to end. It is that point when one lays it all on the line for one last roll. This is when you “Go For Broke.”

It was my dad’s admiration of a group of underdogs who were willing to “Go For Broke” against all odds that is the cornerstone of the Go For Broke trophy. Casualties were high and decoration plenty for the 100th/442nd.

My dad described it best:

“Heavy combat in Italy resulted in more than 900 casualties before the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were joined together. Now the ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ battalion and the ‘Go For Broke’ regimental combat team were together.

“The combat record of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was unequaled. The cost was heavy and resulted in 9,486 Purple Hearts. Heroism was an accepted fact of life and death that the men faced during seven major campaigns in Europe.

“The accomplishments of the young Japanese Americans during World War II, both in Europe and as military intelligence people in the Pacific, have placed them high on the list of American patriots.”

In the spirit of those brave Americans of Japanese descent, we look for the athlete who lays it all down.

He may not be the star but oftentimes is the inspiration of a team.

He may not be the leader, but he is a warrior in practice and game.

Although dad first dedicated this award 24 years ago, its foundation began in the heart of a farm boy from Wisconsin more than 60 years ago. The award will live on in its name and the hearts of those who receive it.

This year we are presenting 12 trophies to area athletes, including these fine Go For Broke recipients who have already received theirs thus far. Others will receive their awards in the next couple of weeks.

Michael Wadsworth, Silverado High School; Tanner VanOverbeke, Coronado High School; Chris Waitkus, Foothill High School; Trey McGhin, Centennial High School; and Croix Nikodemus, Faith Lutheran High School.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular column One Man's View.