On Veterans Day, Americans will honor the members of the military who have served their country. As part of our Sports Issue, South Source has listed a few sports figures who have served in the U.S. armed forces. This is not a comprehensive list or a ranking, but a salute to athlete-veterans throughout sports history.
Berra’s career as a major league baseball player did not start until a few years after he had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The former New York Yankee served in North Africa and Europe while in the Navy, participating in the D-Day Invasion in Normandy, France.
A year after Bleier was drafted to the National Football League (NFL) in 1968, he was shot in the leg while on patrol near Hiep Duc, Vietnam. He recovered and returned to the playing field in 1971, running for more than 3,500 yards in his career and winning four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not just honored with those rings, he was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his military service.
Feller enlisted in the U.S. Navy immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. By that time, he had reached the height of his baseball career with 107 wins under his belt, leading the American League in both strikeouts and wins the past three consecutive seasons for the Cleveland Indians.
Staubach won the 1963 Heisman trophy while quarterbacking Navy, but had to fulfill his four-year commitment to the armed forces before playing in the NFL. At age 27, the pro football hall of famer made his debut with the Dallas Cowboys.
As a U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant, Stockwell lost her leg after getting struck by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004. Four years later, she qualified for the U.S. Paralympic swim team and was elected by her teammates as the flag bearer at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.
Tunney won the heavyweight boxing championship by defeating Jack Dempsey in 1926, seven years after serving as a Marine in World War I. He also served with the U.S. Navy in World War II, directing a program to keep naval personnel physically fit.
Williams is considered one of baseball’s greatest hitters of all time, playing 19 seasons in the big leagues. The former Boston Red Sox slugger’s baseball career was interrupted twice when he served as a pilot for the Marine Corps in World War II and the Korean War.
South Source thanks these veterans as well as the many who have served or continue to serve in the U.S. military.
Author: Darice Britt