There are hundreds of professional athletes who have served with distinction & valor and as we celebrate our independence we take a look at 5 notable athletes who served their country with great honor & helped keep us free.
5. Ted Williams
Ted Williams was an All-star for seventeen out of his 19 seasons played in the MLB, all with the Boston Red Sox. In addition to being a two-time Triple Crown winner, multiple MVPs & Batting Champ titles. He also served in 2 wars. Williams left baseball to serve (as hundreds of players did) in World War Two in 1943 to serve in the Navy & Marines for 3 years. In 1952 & 1953 he returned to serve as a Marine combat aviator in the Korean War for parts of 1952 & 1953.
4. Roger Staubach
Not only was Roger Staubach a Heisman trophy winning Quarterback for Navy in 1963, but he also honored his commitment & served in the US Navy for 4 years and served a tour in Vietnam before joining the Dallas Cowboys as a 27-year-old rookie. That gap didn’t slow him down as he went on to win 2 Super Bowls & a Super Bowl MVP for Dallas beofre going into the NFL Hall of fame in 1985.
3. Rocky Bleier
The gritty Pittsburgh running back was drafted after finishing his college career at Notre dame in 1967. He played his rookie season with the Steelers in 1968 but was drafted by the U.S Army in December of that year. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam & while serving on patrol in 1969 he was shot in his thigh & lost part of his foot to a grenade earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. A year after being wounded he reported back to Steelers training camp not fully recovery & spent the next 2 years fighting pain, regaining his health & fighting for his spot on the roster. Despite being waived twice by the team he caught on in 1974 & never relinquished his starting spot again as a monster blocker for Franco Harris & an offensive weapon in his own right winning four super Bowls with the team before retiring after the 1980 season.
Bleier eventually wrote a book about his journey called ‘Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story’ thatt was turned into a TV Movie in 1980.
2. Warren Spahn
Warren Spahn was a storied MLB pitcher who played 21 years in the National League. He won 20 games or more in 13 season & won the Cy Young winner in 1957 & won 363 games in his career before being elected to the MLB Hall of Fame in 1973.
Like many player of his era he enlisted in the Army during World War Two and served with distinction earning a Purple Heart & was awarded a Battlefield Commission for actions during the Battle of the Bulge as a combat engineer.
1. Pat Tillman
Pat Tillman left a promising NFL career & the paycheck modern athletes earn behind in order to join the elite US Army Rangers in 2002 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Serving in Iraq & Afghanistan Tillman eventually lost his life to “Friendly Fire”. His service & sacrifice is a testament to the dangers all US Troops face in wartime and his dedication to his country over the personal gain to be had as a pro athlete stands as the ultimate sacrifice to many Americans.