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.
Patrick Daniel "Pat" Tillman was an American football player who left his professional career and enlisted in the United States Army in June 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. His service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and subsequent death, were the subject of much media attention. Tillman joined the Army Rangers and served several tours in combat before he died in the mountains of Afghanistan. At first, the Army reported that Tillman had been killed by enemy fire. Controversy ensued when a month later, on May 28, 2004, the Pentagon notified the Tillman family that he had died as a result of a friendly fire incident; the family and other critics allege that the Department of ...more on Wikipedia
Profession: Athlete, American football player
Age: Died at 28 (1976-2004)
Birthplace: Fremont, California, United States of America
Schools: Arizona State University, Leland High School
Cause Of Death: Friendly fire, Firearm, Gunshot
Place Of Death: Spera, Khost Province, Afghanistan
#12 on The Most Beloved US Veteranssee more on Pat Tillman
Roger Thomas Staubach is a former star National Football League quarterback who is executive chairman of Jones Lang LaSalle. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy where he won a Heisman Trophy, and after graduation he served in the U.S. Navy, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. Staubach joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969. He played with the club during five seasons in which they played in the Super Bowl, four as the primary starting quarterback. He led the Cowboys to victories in Super Bowl VI and Super Bowl XII. Staubach was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl VI, becoming the first of four players to win both the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP, along with Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen ...more on Wikipedia
Profession: American football player
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America
Schools: New Mexico Military Institute, Purcell Marian High School, United States Naval Academy
Also Rankedsee more on Roger Staubach
Robert William Andrew Feller, nicknamed "The Heater from Van Meter", "Bullet Bob", and "Rapid Robert", was an American baseball pitcher who played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball for the Cleveland Indians. Feller pitched from 1936 to 1941 and from 1945 to 1956, interrupted only by a four-year sojourn in the Navy. In a career spanning 570 games, Feller pitched 3,827 innings and posted a win–loss record of 266–162, with 279 complete games, 44 shutouts, and a 3.25 earned run average. A prodigy who bypassed the minor leagues, Feller first played for the Indians at the age of 17. His career was interrupted by four years of military service in World War II, during which time he served as Chief ...more on Wikipedia
Profession: Baseball player, Sailor
Age: Died at 92 (1918-2010)
Birthplace: Van Meter, Iowa, United States of America
Schools: Van Meter Elementary School
Cause Of Death: Leukemia
Place Of Death: Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America
Children: Bruce Feller, Martin Feller, Steven Feller
Also Rankedsee more on Bob Feller
Andrew Jackson Lummus, Jr. was a two-sport athlete at Baylor University, a professional football player with the New York Giants, and an officer in the United States Marine Corps. He fought, and died, at the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II and received the Medal of Honor for his service. ...more on Wikipedia
Profession: American football player
Age: Died at 30 (1915-1945)
Birthplace: Texas, United States of America
Schools: Baylor University, Texas Military College
Cause Of Death: Killed in action
Place Of Death: Iwo Jima, Japan