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Memorial Day: We Remember Three Young Men Who Never Came Home

(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Near the end of Saving Private Ryan, the character played by Tom Hanks (Captain John Miller) tells Matt Damon’s character (James Ryan) to, “Earn this. Earn it.” As far as I know, no members of my family going back several generations have been lost to war but we have several veterans including may late father who served during the Korean War.

He later went on to serve as a Tucson City Councilman in the late 60’s when his concern for the poor made him subject to being called a “Commie” and “Pinko” by people who were too cowardly to serve. He went on to serve both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C. so go figure.

He had to watch Saving Private Ryan by himself due to the first half hour of the movie and he, along with my late father-in-law who served in WW II, never spoke of their experiences but often spoke of service to others and to be grateful.

I fully understand the words I type today are freely written, without concern of censorship or harm, due to the many sacrifices that I could never repay. I can only honor those sacrifices.

It’s a struggle we all have to deal with. We have to continually “Earn it.”

It took a few hours of research to find the names of three young men lost to war and lost to time. They were lost some 75 years ago but time doesn’t erase the pain suffered by their loved ones back home or their sacrifices. Though, that emotion is also lost to time, it was real and it is sadly shared by families suffering today.

I see local families send their children to service academies and to basic training and I am grateful. I know a few local Gold Star families and I feel unworthy. I was able to send my own three daughters to various cities across the country so that they might be able to realize their dreams and I wonder if that’s enough:

Staff Sgt. Don Nord was shot down on March 21, 1945 over Velen, Germany on a volunteer mission. He was one year away from attaining his degree from the University of Arizona and he was a sportswriter for the Tucson Daily Citizen and the Sports Editor for the University of Arizona Wildcat.

Pfc. Ramon Chaparro was killed in action on May 1, 1945 on Okinawa. He had just returned to duty after being wounded in action. He was a pressman apprentice with Tucson Newspapers, Inc. while attending Tucson High.

Cpl. William C. Cocio was fatally wounded on Saipan on June 17, 1944. The state golden gloves light heavyweight boxing champion from 1938 to 1940, Cocio won 22 bouts while competing for the Marine Corps. Five Cocio brothers served in war – William, James, Manuel, Arturo and Eddie.

Cocio as an All-Star baseball player for Tucson High and he was part of the Arizona Junior Cowboy Softball state championship team of 1938 and the Tucson High state baseball championship teams of 1939 and 1940. His Badger and Junior Cowboy teammates were University of Arizona baseball and basketball standout George Genung and legendary football standout Fred Enke, Jr.

William Contreras Cocio (newspapers.com)

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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