4 Most Famous Professional Athletes Who Fought In The US Military

J4 Most Famous Professional Athletes Who Fought In The US MilitaryWhen people look at their sports icons, they see men and women of professionalism and strength; people who personify the best attributes of America, both as athletes and as human beings. But there was a time when these pillars of sportsmanship answered a different call: a call to arms.

Through the war and terror these men put aside lives of fame and comfort to risk life and limb to protect the freedom that Americans hold so dear. Through these stories, four athletes stand at the forefront for both their remarkable athletic careers as well as their impressive actions in the line of duty, the stories of some of the most famous men in our society, which is often overshadowed by their athletic achievements.

Stories that, if they had belonged to anyone else, would still be remarkable in their own right. These are their stories.

Sgt. Joe Louis

According to the story, after fighting in a charity bout for the Navy, boxer Joe Louis enlisted as a private in the US Army. Though serving in a segregated cavalry unit, Louis continued to fight charity matches as part of a recruitment drive for young African-Americans enlisting in World War II. By the end of the war, Joe Louis had obtained the rank of sergeant and had been awarded the Legion of Merit, while still participating in twenty-seven champion fights. Joe Louis remained the heavy-weight boxing champion from 1937 to 1952, even after his military service ended.

Col. Jerry Coleman

Called “the Colonel” by his fellow New York Yankees, four-time World Series second baseman, Jerry Coleman also served as a pilot in the Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean War. During his service, Col. Coleman was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and thirteen Air Medals. After his time with the New York Yankees during the 1950s, Coleman went on to become sports broadcaster for the Anaheim Angels and San Diego Padres. Jerry Coleman was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 and in 2007 he was inducted into Radio Hall of Fame.

2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson

In 1944, a young African-American was taken into custody for refusing to give up his set to a white man and move to the back of the bus. This story, however, took place on an army bus and the young African-American was none other than 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson. Though acquitted of all charges by an all white panel of officers, the court martial proceedings prevented Jackie Robinson from seeing combat in Europe with the first all black tank battalion. After being honorably discharged and having a brief stint in the Negro leagues, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play with a Major League Baseball team when he signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Jackie Robinson went on to become a league MVP and a World Series champion.

Spc. Pat Tillman

A linebacker for the Arizona State Sun Devils and a safety for the Arizona Cardinals, California native Pat Tillman left the NFL and a $3.6 million contract to enlist in the US army nine months after the attacks of September 11th. After his enlistment, Spc. Tillman joined the elite Army Ranger Corps and served a tour of duty in Iraq before being redeployed to Afghanistan. It was in Afghanistan that Spc. Tillman was killed by friendly fire while on a routine patrol. Pat Tillman was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star Posthumously and his jersey was retired by both Arizona State and the Arizona Cardinals.

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Doug Hillman is a military historian and guest author at Military Education, where he contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Military Friendly Colleges.

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