Looking for a true American hero this Memorial Day weekend? Look to Bert Bank

Looking for a true American hero this Memorial Day weekend? Look to Bert Bank

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is an editorial from WBRC FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:

I have to come clean, and perhaps you should too. At first glance, Memorial Day means one thing to us, and that's having an extra day off. Oh, maybe we head to the beach, have an extra burger and a beer. We glance at our TV or our tablet, see a quick clip of what this day is all about, and then turn away, only to make sure that we are wearing enough sunscreen so that our ginger skin won't be overdone. But if you step back from your busy life and ask yourself, "Who is my Hero?" you will find that you may have or have had plenty of them living among you.

While Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have lost their lives protecting our freedoms, it probably wouldn't take you long to find a hero that is in or has been in your life. That veteran may be your father, your uncle, your brother or sister, your neighbor. And while many of these heroes may not have lost their lives while serving, there is certainly no shame in remembering those who have.

I'm remembering one of my heroes today. Bert Bank led a Forrest Gump-like life that is quite frankly, incomprehensible. Bert passed away seven years ago at the age of 94, but if his life doesn't offer up a movie script, none will.

What man could say he was Paul Bryant's high school classmate, saw the first game at Denny Stadium, became a state senator and state representative, founded the Alabama Football Radio Network, owned numerous radio stations, was a founding member of Indian Hills Country Club, was responsible for drafting legislation that put Paul Bryant's name on a football stadium, authored a bill making it illegal to burn a draft card, and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart? And oh, there was one more thing for which Bert will always be known: Surviving the Bataan Death March.

Following their capture, as many as 60,000 Filipino and 15,000 American troops, all POW's, were forced by the Japanese Imperial Army to march some 80 miles to Camp O'Donnell in April of 1942. Given no food or water, those who fell or spoke were bayoneted and/or killed by the Japanese Army, many beheaded. Two out of seven soldiers were killed during the march (estimates have as many as 10,000 Filipinos and 650 Americans killed).

Finally, on January 30, 1945, Bank was one of the American soldiers liberated. He never complained. Not after spending two years in an American hospital recovering from what is thought to be one of the most harrowing times of any war.

Almost 60 years later, there he was sitting in the press box at Bryant-Denny Stadium saying of his nightmare, "I bear no bitterness or rancor."  That, my friend, is a hero. And while Bert Bank is no longer with us, I can say I am blessed for having the opportunity to befriend him.

So on this Memorial Day, how about taking some time to honor a true American, living or dead? Your hero may be closer to you than you think.

Copyright 2016 WBRC. All rights reserved.