In 1967, the war in Vietnam was gaining momentum. Arthur Ashe had joined the United States Army in 1966 after doing ROTC during college and was stationed at West Point. During his time at the base, he was simultaneously involved in the amateur tennis league, participating in international tournaments such as the Australian Championships. When it seemed like the older Ashe might have to suspend his blossoming career to begin a tour in Vietnam, the younger Ashe stepped in and asked for a second. His older brother, who had just graduated from UCLA and was a lieutenant in the Army, was on the cusp of a promising tennis career and Johnnie did not want that taken away from him.
At a time when American men were trying to avoid being drafted, let alone volunteering to go, Johnnie Ashe’s request was striking. But if you ask Johnnie about this time in his life, he says he could not think of doing anything different.
Speaking about that decision, he said, “In those days, people were sacrificing for each other. I try to get people to understand that sacrifice, doing the right thing for the right reason, is in the family’s DNA…I never even thought any more about it.”
The Ashe brothers—and specifically Johnnie Ashe—are just one excellent example of millions of the sacrifices and risks taken by individuals in our armed forces day in and day out. While today is a dedicated national holiday to recognize these courageous men and women, we should always appreciate the sacrifices they make and the honor and bravery they display on behalf of the country.