Calling him a true American hero, Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, said they were deeply gratified that University of Oklahoma gridiron star James Robert “Bob” Kalsu would be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame this fall. Kalsu’s widow, Jan Kalsu, is a constituent of the two legislators. Kalsu was killed in action in South Vietnam 50 years ago this month.
A recipient of both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, Bob Kalsu was one of only two professional football players to be killed in action in Vietnam. He left behind his wife, their daughter, Jill and son, James Robert Kalsu Jr., who was born just two days after his father’s death. Kalsu was 25 when he died on July 21, 1970.
He was a stand-out athlete at Del City High School and went on to be an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma and was named rookie-of-the-year for the Buffalo Bills. After the 1968 season, he entered the U.S. Army to satisfy his Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) obligation. While he could have received a deferment, he refused, saying he’d given his word to his country. Rosino, co-chair of the Legislative Veterans Caucus, said Kalsu’s reaction spoke volumes about his character.
“He said just because he played professional football, it didn’t make him any better or different than the men already serving our country and that he intended to live up to his commitment to serve,” Rosino said. “That alone tells you what an outstanding person and what a great American he was. He served with honor and distinction, and it is very fitting for 1st Lt. Bob Kalsu to be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. It’s a fitting tribute to Bob and to his family.”
Both the Del City High School football field and a Del City post office are named for Kalsu. A stretch of I-44 between SW 104th and SW 119th Streets in Oklahoma City is also named in his honor.
“1st Lt. Robert ‘Bob’ Kalsu is a legend in Oklahoma—first as a military hero, but also as an outstanding football player, but mostly as a man of impeccable character who willingly sacrificed his life for the sake of his country and so that other Americans might live in freedom,” Kannady said. “I’m glad to see his memory honored in this way. My thoughts go out to his family as I recognize their sacrifice as well.”
Jan Kalsu said their family was overjoyed when they learned Kalsu would be among the 2020 inductees into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.
“Words cannot express how much this means to me, to our children Bob and Jill, and to our nine grandchildren. They never got to know their father or grandpa, but they will know him through this honor, and they’ll know he was someone who was very special to the people of Oklahoma. It means the world to all of us,” Kalsu said.
The 2020 Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on October 17 in Norman.
For more information, contact Sen. Paul Rosino at 405-521-5618 or email Paul.Rosino@oksenate.gov
CUTLINE: 1st Lt. James Robert “Bob” Kalsu will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on October 17. Kalsu was a former OU and Buffalo Bills football star who was killed in action in South Vietnam in 1970.