My Country Comes First, Athletes Who Served in the Military

Each person who serves in the military makes a sacrifice. Here is a list of some of the notable athletes who stepped away from the life of an athlete to serve their country. These people, along with countless others, deserve to be in our thoughts this month as our nation honors veterans.

Bob Feller. At the height of his career, Feller volunteered for service two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Feller walked away from being the best pitcher in the majors to answer his nation’s call. After the war, he returned home to finish his career with 266 wins, along with a boatload of military decorations.

Yogi Berra. Berra probably needed no help surviving the pressure of a bases load situation or managing the New York Yankees for George Steinbrenner. He had already served as a gunner on a landing craft at Normandy Beach on D-Day.

Roger Staubach. Staubach graduated from the Naval Academy where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1964. It would be natural to have gone on to a pro career with the team that drafted him, the Dallas Cowboys. Staubach was 22 when he graduated from college; he joined the Cowboys at the age of 27. In between “Roger the Dodger” served as an officer in the Navy for four years, including one year as a supply officer in Vietnam.

Pat Tillman. Like so many of us Tillman watched in outrage as the World Trade Center fell. Following the 9/11 attack, Tillman retired from football. Upon retirement in the prime of his career, he joined the Army Rangers. He was killed by friendly fire in 2004 in Afghanistan.

Ted Williams. I have the utmost respect for Williams. His record speaks for itself as a ballplayer and a combat veteran. Williams gave up six years of a career to serve as pilot for the Marine Corps in both World War II and in Korea. Williams lived the life John Wayne portrayed in the movies.

Warren Spahn. This Hall of Fame pitcher won 363 games, the most games won by a lefthander in Major League Baseball history. This pales in comparison to his service to the country. In World War II, Spahn was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge.

David Robinson. The “Admiral” graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He served as an officer on a submarine, before embarking on a career with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, where he was a two-time NBA champion and a member of the first Dream Team.

Hank Greenberg. Greenberg was a first baseman for the Detroit Tigers. Saying “my country comes first,” Greenberg was one of the first American citizens to volunteer for military service. Greenberg served 45 months in the military returning to the Tigers in 1945.

Rocky Blier.  Blier, a Notre Dame running back, was drafted by the Pittsburg Steelers upon graduation. Instead of going to football training camp, Blier went to Army boot camp. In Vietnam, he was wounded by rifle fire in his left leg and had a grenade shatter his thigh in his right leg. He recovered to rejoin the Pittsburg Steelers and was a starting running back for four Super Bowl Championships.

This certainly is not a complete list and not a ranking of the best ever. Anyone who has served our nation in the armed forces certainly deserves our thanks and admiration for the sacrifices they made for our freedom.

Please be sure and stop by the library on November 9. There are many exciting and fun events, displays and exhibits to honor our communities veterans and their families.