Athletes who were military heroes represent some of the bravest men and women to ever play professional sports. These Americans gave up the fame and fortune that would have come with being a professional athlete to serve their country. Many sacrificed more than that, giving up their lives on the front lines of World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq.
The military hero athletes on this list undoubtably include many names you know as sports stars first and soldiers second or vice versa but each has a story behind their service in the United States Armed Forces.
For some, that story includes leaving professional sports at the peak of their career to serve their country during wartime, such as legendary baseball player Bob Feller, boxer Joe Louis and baseball great Joe DiMaggio. These athletes can be considered military heroes.
Others, such as basketball star David Robinson and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Art Donovan, their military service came before their professional sports careers as they were fortunate enough to return from battle healthy enough to continue.
Sadly, many were not so lucky. In one of the more recent cases, up and coming Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman left the NFL shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to become a U.S. Army Ranger. Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in action in April 2004.
These notable athletes who served in the military may not have all been the best of their respective sports and may not have all been decorated soldiers but each of these fine men and women should be thanked for their service nonetheless.