Let’s not forget why you’re off from work and the kids are off from school today. Memorial Day is a chance for you to celebrate what you have with who you love. Maybe that’s at the beach, on the golf course, or at home because others aren’t so lucky. But whatever you do on Memorial Day, it should be to honor the fallen heroes of our nation. If you’re having trouble connecting to the true purpose of the day, here are some Syracuse basketball players who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh (1935-1939)
Just as Memorial Day shines a light on the unsung heroes of the country, Sidat Singh is one of the unsung heroes of Syracuse history, not just athletics. He broke the color barrier in Syracuse sports, starring on the basketball court. He led the team in scoring in his senior year, and the Orangemen notched a 40-13 record with Sidat-Singh. In his sophomore year, Roy Simmons Sr., as an assistant football coach, noticed his talent. Simmons Sr. saw Sidat-Singh throw a 55-yard pass flat-footed in an intramural game. Soon after that, the star athlete was playing quarterback too. SU Athletics retired his number 19 for basketball in 2005.
After Syracuse, in 1943, Sidat-Singh enlisted as a fighter pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen. Just a few days after earning his wings, his P-40 engine failed on a training mission. Sidat-Singh was forced to parachute into Lake Huron, and his body was found a week later. He is born in Arlington National Cemetery.
Gene Berger (1939-1942)
Like Sidat-Singh, Berger shined in multiple sports in his time on the Hill. He lettered in football, basketball and track, but the Syracuse native is best known for his three seasons as a starter on the hardwood.
Berger became a pilot in the Navy after graduation, and elected to remain in the service after World War II ended. In 1961, his plane crashed shortly after takeoff while leading aerial maneuvers off the Pacific Ocean. Berger was 41 years old.
Charles Taggert (1930-1934)
Taggert spent three years on the varsity basketball team, and also played football for Syracuse. In 1945, shortly after joining the Navy, Taggert was one of 115 crewmen killed on the USS Frederick C. Davis by a German U-boat.
Joe Minsavage (1934-1936)
Minsavage spent three years as a standout end for SU football, and appeared in 12 varsity games over two seasons for the basketball team. He joined the Navy at the start of World War II and died on the Henry Knox when it was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean by a Japanese ship in 1943.