A Veteran’s Day Salute to Athletes Who Served in the Military

By Michael LeCompte

In our modern, sports obsessed culture it’s almost blasphemous to say, but sports are pretty inconsequential in the grand scope of things. It just doesn’t matter who is ranked number one right now, or really who wins the super bowl, but sports do offer us fans a valuable escape from the weighty, often disheartening news of the day.

For three and a half hours every Sunday when our favorite NFL team is on nothing else matters. We suddenly aren’t worried about the spread of ebola, the latest Russian aggression, or ISIS. Sports serve as a welcome diversion to the real world and as such are valuable, to an extent.

However, the real world is always lurking out there. Here’s a look at some athletes who walked away from the games we love to serve their country, to preserve our way of life, who gave us the right to sit on our couch with an oversized bowl of chips and watch meaningless games.

ARMY

Rocky Bleier. Was drafted in 1968 after his rookie season with the Steelers. Served in Vietnam where he ended up with shrapnel in his left leg. Awarded a purple heart and bronze star. Returned home to play for the Steelers from 1971-1980, and win four Super Bowls.

Pat Tillman. Only 25 years old when he walked away from a promising NFL career and paycheck to join the Army Rangers. A true American hero the likes of which are seldom seen anymore.

NAVY

Bob Feller. Pitcher for the Cleveland Indians who enlisted two days after Pearl Harbor. Was the first pro athlete to enlist in World War II. Served from 1941-1945, missing four years of a  dominant career and certainly missed out on the chance of being a 300 game winner, finished his career with a record of 266-162.

Roger Staubach. After graduation from the Naval academy served in Vietnam where he commanded 41 men. Later won two Super Bowls as quarterback of the Cowboys.

AIR FORCE

Chuck Bednarik. Served in the Army Air Force during World War II and flew 30 missions in a B-24 over Germany. Was a two-way player at center and linebacker for the Eagles from 1949-1962.

Hank Greenberg. A 1st Lieutenant in the Army Air Force in World War II. Served on a B-29 crew in the China-Burma-India theater. Was a career .313 hitter for the Detroit Tigers.

COAST GUARD

Arnold Palmer. Served from 1951-53. Later became the first millionaire in professional golf.

MARINES

Ted Williams. A 2nd Lieutenant in the Marines, Williams served in both World War II and Korea. Was a flight instructor in World War II and a pilot in Korea where he flew 39 combat missions. Although he lost almost  five years of his career to military service he still compiled a .344 lifetime average and was the last player to hit over .400, hitting .406 in 1941.

This is just a small sample of those who have left professional sports over the years to serve our country. Today we salute them, not as former athletes, but as VETERANS. THANK YOU. And THANK YOU to all the men and women who have served and who continue to serve in the only game that truly matters.

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