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Monday, May 30, 2011
A worthy story for Memorial Day

By Tim Graham

If you don't have any family members or friends to honor for Memorial Day, please stop for a few seconds and consider the price Bob Kalsu paid for his country.

Kalsu, a Buffalo Bills offensive lineman, was the only pro football player killed in Vietnam. His story is one of thousands, but he's a universal symbol of the price men and women have paid for the United States.

The Bills drafted Kalsu, an All-American tackle at Oklahoma, in the eighth round of the 1968 draft. He started most of his rookie season at right guard and was named the club's top rookie before starting his ROTC obligation.

Kalsu's death was a Sports Illustrated cover story in July 2001. William Nack told the tale of Firebase Ripcord in remarkable detail.

Lieut. Kalsu was killed by mortar fire while trying to defend Ripcord, an isolated mountaintop, on July 21, 1970.

That was Jan Kalsu's due date for their second child. Robert Todd Kalsu was born two days later. That afternoon, a lieutenant arrived at the hospital to inform Jan Kalsu her husband was dead. She had the birth certificate changed before she left the hospital to James Robert Kalsu Jr.