Many dreams died during World War II.


American from all walks of life flocked — some voluntarily, others by draft — to the military to fight the twin evil of the German-Italian country-gobbling alliance and the bloody thrust of Japanese imperialism.


Numbered among the waves of soldiers representing the United States were many athletes — some leaving pro teams while in their primes, others knocking on the door of big league careers.


Injuries, death and just the decay of the years deprived many of these individuals, costing them their chance of leaving lasting marks on sports.


It was part of the terrible price that war — and the defense of freedom against tyrannical aggression — exacts.


But, there were some of these valiant fighting athletes who steadfastly refused to abandon their sports careers.


One such brave soul was Lou Brissie — a man I had the privilege of interviewing several years ago by phone.


In November 1944 — at the age of 20 — part of Lou’s left leg was shattered by an exploding shell.


Doctors initially told him he would have to have it amputated.


But, he begged for them to leave his leg in tact because he needed to play baseball.


During the next few years, Lou endured 23 major operations. But, he never stopped believing.


Finally, the Philadelphia A’s — managed by the legendary Connie Mack, a job he would hold for a half-century — signed him in the winter of 1946.


Brissie told me that Mack had written him after he been wounded and told Brissie “your job is to get well,” and promised to hold a spot open for him.


“I doubt there would have any other ballclub that would have given me a chance,” Brissie said during our 2012 interview.


Despite having to wear a metal brace on his leg, Brissie succeeded in the minor leagues the next summer.


That brought him to the major leagues at the end of the 1947 season. He then made the roster for 1948.


In his first game that season, he started against the Boston Red Sox, who were led by immortal hitter Ted Williams.


Williams smashed a line drive bullet up the middle that smashed into Brissie’s metal brace and injured leg.


The pain ripped through his mind and heart, while the ball bounced all the way to deep rightfield. A flood of fears washed through Brissie’s mind — fears his comeback was all done, and after all that he had gone through to stand on that mound.


Meanwhile, he told me, Williams stopped at first base and called timeout and walked over to check on Brissie.


Brissie struggled to his feet and pitched to the next batter. And the next. And the next.


In agony feel of us might ever know, he pitched the distance in that game. Brissie pitched pro ball another five years, retiring in 1953, at age 29, and then carving out a successful life until his passing 2013.


He told me he didn’t consider himself a hero.


“There were guys who paid a huge price,” he said, labeling them as the true heroes of World War II


He never forgot them.


On this weekend of the Marine Corps birthday and Veteran’s Day, I hope we all will remember both those who lost their lives, who sacrificed the dreams of their youth, those like Brissie that — with a combination of pluck and luck saw their dreams through — and everyone else who returned.


They didn’t want to kill and wound — or be killed and wounded. But, even with trepidation, they answered the call. They fought for freedom; they fought to topple murderous dictators that had enslaved or exterminated millions and who would destroy liberty wherever they could.


Among many of these were athletes, like Lou, who understood the difference between a game and what really counts.


As a former Marine, I salute them all — Semper Fi.