Athletes who were military heroes represent some of the bravest men and women to ever play professional sports. These Americans gave up the fame and fortune that would have come with being a professional athlete to serve their country. Many sacrificed more than that, giving up their lives on the front lines of World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq.
The military hero athletes on this list undoubtably include many names you know as sports stars first and soldiers second or vice versa but each has a story behind their service in the United States Armed Forces.
For some, that story includes leaving professional sports at the peak of their career to serve their country during wartime, such as legendary baseball player Bob Feller, boxer Joe Louis and baseball great Joe DiMaggio. These athletes can be considered military heroes.
Others, such as basketball star David Robinson and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Art Donovan, their military service came before their professional sports careers as they were fortunate enough to return from battle healthy enough to continue.
Sadly, many were not so lucky. In one of the more recent cases, up and coming Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman left the NFL shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to become a U.S. Army Ranger. Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in action in April 2004.These notable athletes who served in the military may not have all been the best of their respective sports and may not have all been decorated soldiers but each of these fine men and women should be thanked for their service nonetheless.
- James Robert Kalsu (April 13, 1945 – July 21, 1970) was an All-American tackle at the University of Oklahoma and an eighth-round selection in the 1968 NFL/AFL draft by the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League. He later joined the U.S. Army as an officer and was killed in the Vietnam War. He was the last NFL player to be killed serving as a soldier in a war until 2004, when Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. Earlier, Al Blozis formerly of the New York Football Giants was killed in action in World War II.... more on Wikipedia
- Profession: American football player
- Age: Dec. at 25 (1945-1970)
- Birthplace: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Schools: University of Oklahoma
- Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was an American professional baseball catcher, who later took on the roles of manager and coach. He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) (1946–63, 1965), all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and won 10 World Series championships as a player—more than any other player in MLB history. Berra had a career batting average of .285, while hitting 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, and was elected to the Baseball... more on Wikipedia
- Profession: Manager, Baseball player, Coach, Actor, Writer
- Age: 95
- Birthplace: The Hill, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America
- Theodore Samuel "Ted" Williams was an American Major League Baseball left fielder, and later manager. Williams played his entire 19-year major league career for the Boston Red Sox from 19391942 and 19461960. Nicknamed "The Kid", "The Splendid Splinter", "Teddy Ballgame", "The Thumper" and "The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived", Williams is regarded as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. ... more on Wikipedia
- Profession: Pilot, Baseball player
- Age: Dec. at 84 (1918-2002)
- Birthplace: San Diego, California, United States of America
- Schools: Hoover High School
- Cause Of Death: Cardiovascular disease
- Warren Edward Spahn (April 23, 1921 – November 24, 2003) was a Major League Baseball left-handed pitcher who played his entire 21-year baseball career in the National League. He won 20 games or more in 13 seasons, including a 23–7 record when he was age 42. Spahn was the 1957 Cy Young Award winner, and was the runner-up three times, all during the period when one award was given, covering both leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, with 83% of the total vote. (His eligibility was delayed, under the rules of the time, by two years of token minor league play.) Spahn won 363 games, more than any other left-handed pitcher in history, and more than any other pitcher who... more on Wikipedia
- Profession: Baseball player
- Age: Dec. at 82 (1921-2003)
- Birthplace: Buffalo, New York, United States of America
- Schools: South Park High School