Over the past several years, my annual Memorial Day post has sought to remind us that Memorial Day is a holiday to honor and remember those who died while serving in the Armed Forces. While baseball fans have the day off, players don special uniforms, MLB tries to sell us those special uniforms, and Justin Verlander continues to educate us about Memorial Day poppies, its also important to take time to think about what Memorial Day really means. Last year we honored Elmer Gedeon, baseball player and Army Captain, who died during World War II. This year, we remember Dell Chambers, who died while serving in Vietnam.
Udell Chambers was born on February 2, 1948, in Clayton, Missouri, and attended Kirkwood High School in nearby Kirkwood, MO. According to the website, Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice, developed by Gary Bedingfield, “Dell was perfectly suited as a shortstop or centerfielder, and he was the prototype leadoff hitter. He possessed such remarkable baseball talent during his prep years that he was recruited by the Atlanta Braves during his senior year in 1966. He reported to Sarasota (Florida) of the Gulf Coast League and was playing professional baseball just weeks after receiving his cap and gown.”
At the age of 18, Chambers signed with the Atlanta Braves and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Braves. The next season he was promoted to the Class A Lexington Braves of the Western Carolinas League. In 1967, he batted .325 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI. He received his draft notice in September 1967, just after the end of the season. He was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division and did basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. His unit was sent to Vietnam in February 1968, two weeks after the beginning of the Tet Offensive. On the night of June 21, 1968, Chambers was stationed just outside the city of Da Nang in the Binh Duong Province when the North Vietnamese attacked. Chambers and two fellow soldiers from his unit, Sgt. William Law and PFC James Zyboyovski, died in the attack. Chambers was just 20 years old.
Chambers was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. As the Baseball Greatest Sacrifice website notes, “[Chambers] was very well liked by those who knew him; he had tremendous potential as a baseball athlete; and he served his country during a most unpopular war and paid for it with his life. We all owe him our indebted gratitude.” Thank you for your sacrifice, PFC Chambers.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day, everyone!