From Sports Hero to War Hero
By Steven Morgan aka steven_morgan
Out of the millions of sports athletes that have come and gone over the many years, there are a few that really stand out. In my eyes, the ones that stand out are the ones that not only served as a Hero in their respective sport, but served as a Hero in the US Military. It takes a lot to step away form the charmed life of a professional athlete to join the hard life of a soldier. Below is a list of 9 athletes that did just that.
Just 2 days after the Pearl Harbor attacks in 1941, Bob Feller honorably volunteered his service to the United States Military. This was a noble act to say the least, considering he was at the height of his carer. Feller had 107 Strikeouts under his belt already, and led the American League in both wins and strikeouts the past three seasons. Bob Feller walked away from being one of the best Indians to ever play the game to answer the call of his country. After 3.5 seasons of serving his country, Feller was fortunate enough to return to the game he loved to finish an amazing career.
Who knows more about the stress of winning a one run game in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded other than the Yankee great Yogi Berra? Something tells me he didn’t have too hard of a time dealing with stressful situations after serving as a gunner on a boat that pulled onto the beach of Normandy only two days after D-Day. His Yankee career started only a few years after he was involved in one of the greatest military battles known to this day. His baseball career ended up ending with 3 MVPs and no doubt one of the Yankee greats!
Roger Staubach joined the Dallas Cowboys just after graduating from the elite Naval academy. At the prime age of 27, Roger turned down a good job at home to become a supply officer in Vietnam. We hardly need to go into the accomplishments Staubach made on the field, and needless to say, he was as tough off the field as he was on the field.
During the prime years of his career with the Red Sox, The Splendid Splinter spent five years as a pilot and flight instructor in both WWII and The Korean Wars. Ted Williams is thought to be one of the greatest hitters of all time, and that leaves this question: What could he have done had he not been away bravely serving his country in two wars for five years? This man is another example of an athlete that is as amazing on the field as he is off it.
It is said that Spahn’s accomplishments were on the diamond for the Braves, but there is little doubt that his accomplishments on the battlefield dwarf his baseball accolades. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge late in World War II. Though the large number of his wins came after 1946, it’s probably safe to say that his biggest win came in 1945.
Robinson may have never seen combat in his Navy career, but spending 2 years on a submarine is quite a battle for a man that is 7 feet tall! Though his NBA start was held back, he had no problem making up for vanished time as he was often mentioned with Olajuwon and Ewing as one of the greatest centers of his time during his noteworthy career with the San Antonio Spurs.
Greenberg was drafted in 1940, but exempted due to a medical condition. He was still determined to accept his call of duty however. Greenberg nonetheless volunteered and served in the Air Force, scouting base locations in the Far East. While he didn’t see any combat, those years were dangerous times to be doing ANYTHING in the military and his determination in serving his country set the tone for an entire generation of athletes, mostly baseball players, who walked away from their calling to find another one. The Detroit Tigers lost a player but gained a hero.
No one can say Jackie was not one of the most dynamic players in the game. Robinson demonstrated the bravery required to stand up to and break baseball’s color barrier when he was a rookie for the Dodgers, a feat that may or may not have been rivalled by serving as a Lieutenant during WWII, having trained with the first black tank battalion to serve in combat. Its a wonder this brave man did not climb mount Everest while researching a cure for cancer too!
When sports fans, or Americans in general hear the name Pat Tillman, they easily recognize it. After an amazing season with the Arizona Cardinals in 2000, Tillman went back to work as a safety in 2001. The season started merely days before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centers. Tillman Finished out the 2001 season as a Cardinal, before saying goodbye to the glamourous life of a football star to become an Army Ranger serving in Afghanistan. in 2004, Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. From that moment, Tillman’s death became a lingering reminder of the bravery and sacrifice that all soldiers today embody. Pat Tillman will forever be the hero that left his life as a football player to protect our freedom in Afghanistan, making the ultimate sacrifice.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of veteran athletes, and America truly thanks every member of the Armed Forces, athlete or not, for the sacrifice they give.
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