Top 18 Professional Athletes Who Served in the Military

Heroes come in many forms, with athletes being a huge source of the spotlight when it comes to many children.

And many adults look upon our military members as heroes.

When the 2 come together into 1, what then do we call them?


I believe that would be a proper name and find something different for the likes of Superman, Spiderman, Wonderwoman and others.

In today’s post, I am going to take you through an extensive list of heroes.

These are the top 18 professional athletes who served in the military.

#18: Arnold Palmer – 1929-2016 – Professional Golfer

Arnold loved golf since a very early age.

He attended Wake Forest on a golf scholarship.

A good friend of Arnold died in 1950, and Arnold left college and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard.

He served for 3 years and developed his golf skills even further.

In 1955, Arnold turned pro and he became one of the best golfers in history.

#17: Shauna Rohbock – 1977-Date – Professional Soccer and Olympic Bobsledder

Shauna is a soldier with the United States Army National Guard.

She is also a tremendous athlete.

In 2003, she played professional soccer for the San Diego Spirit.

In 2006, Shauna competed in the Winter Olympics in bobsled where she and her teammate won the silver medal.

#16: Patty Berg – 1918-2006 – Professional Golfer

One of the greatest women golfers ever, Patty turned pro in 1940.

When the U.S. entered World War II, Patty was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Marines and served from 1942 to 1945.

Patty returned to golf to break and hold many records that still stand.

#15: Rocky Marciano – 1923-1969 – Professional Boxer

One of the best heavyweight boxers of all time, he had one of the fiercest punches ever.

In 1943, Rocky was drafted into the Army and was stationed in Wales ferrying supplies across the English Channel.

After the war ended, Rocky completed his service in Fort Lewis, Washington until 1946.

It was in the Army that Rocky showed his raw power in the 1946 Armed Forces Boxing Tournament.

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#14: Mike Anderson – 1973-Date – Professional Football

After High School, Mike enlisted in the U.S. Marines as a way to pay for his college education.

Playing football in the Marines, he was spotted by a coach of Mt. San Jacinto Junior College where he went after his Marine service.

He then entered Utah State and the Denver Broncos drafted this running back in 2000 and played until 2005.

He then played with the Baltimore Ravens and his career ended in 2008.

#13: Alejandro Villanueva – 1988-Date – Professional Football

He is a current offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Alejandro played football with the Army Black Knights.

He is still a Captain in the U.S. Army and served in Afghanistan and was awarded a Bronze Star with a V device for valor.

Alejandro is the definition of a hero.

#12: Don Larsen – 1929-Date – Professional Baseball

Don is well known for pitching a perfect game in the 1956 World Series when he played with the New York Yankees.

Don played baseball with several minor league teams and in 1951, he was drafted into the U.S. Army for war in Korea.

Don was in non-combat jobs during his 2 years in Asia and upon returning, he made the St. Louis Browns pro team and it was the start of a great career.

I had a Larsen rookie card that I sold on eBay for $80.

#11: Hank Bauer – 1922-2007 – Professional Baseball

Hank grew up in East St Louis in a very poor family.

He managed to get on a minor league club but when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hank enlisted in the U.S. Marines.

Fighting in the Pacific Theater, Hank earned 2 Bronze Stars and 2 Purple Hearts.

After the Marines, he played minor league ball until he was taken by the New York Yankees as a right fielder.

Hank Bauer ended managing the Oakland Athletics.

#10: Hammerin Hank Greenberg – 1911-1986 – Professional Baseball

In 1929, Hank was recruited by the New York Yankees, but he said no.

He went to New York University for 1 year and then signed with the Detroit Tigers.

Hank was drafted for World War II while playing baseball.

Hank even reenlisted to serve making much less than he did in baseball.

After leaving the service, in his first game with the Tigers, Hank hit a homerun.

#9: Rocky Bleir – 1946-Date – Professional Football

Rocky was a football fanatic as a youngster and when he aged, he went to Notre Dame where he excelled in the sport.

In 1968, Rocky was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a running back.

Just after his rookie season finished, rocky was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam.

In ‘Nam, Rocky was wounded and lost part of his right foot; he was told he wouldn’t play football again.

He received a Bronze Star and a Purple Hear for his service and Rocky also received a handwritten card from Pittsburgh Steeler owner Art Rooney saying they needed him.

Rocky did play again, and played well.

#8: Joe Louis – 1914-1981 – Professional Boxer

Joe was a master heavyweight boxer and rocked the world with his skills.

When World War II started, Joe enlisted and was primarily used as a motivational means for other soldiers.

After he left the service, he reentered boxing to get out of deep debt.

He managed to do so, but the boxing blows surely damaged him as does so many lifetime boxers.

#7: Jackie Robinson – 1919-1972 – Professional Baseball

He was the first African American to play in the major leagues.

Jackie was drafted into the Army in 1942 and he managed to get into Officer Candidate School and graduated.

Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, Jackie ran into many discrimination issues in the Army which he battled.

After military service, in 1945, Jackie began playing minor league baseball.

In 1947, Jackie was called up to the Dodgers making history.

#6: Yogi Berra – 1925-2015 – Professional Baseball

In 1942, The St Louis Cardinals could have signed Yogi, but didn’t (Bad Move).

World War II fired up and Yogi was a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy.

He fired upon Germans during D-Day.

After his service, Yogi joined the minor league Newark Bears and was called up to the Yankees as a catcher in 1946.

Playing baseball in the major leagues for years and managing after playing, Yogi is a popular site in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

#5: Jesse Ventura – 1951-Date – Professional Wrestler

Jesse “The Body” Ventura first served in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy and in underwater demolitions.

He served from 1969 to 1975.

Towards the end of his Navy service, Jesse became a member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club.

After Navy service, Jesse pursued wrestling and became a hit quite quickly.

Jesse wrestled for years and then started acting and finally entering politics and became Governor of Minnesota.

He has also been known as a huge conspiracy theorist.

#4: Joe DiMaggio – 1914-1999 – Professional Baseball

He was known as the Yankee Clipper since he played all 14 years with the New York Yankees in center field.

He made his debut in 1936 with the Yankees.

In 1943, Joe enlisted in the Army Air Forces and was treated like a king because of his fame.

He demanded combat duty, but was denied.

And many know that Joe married the famous Marilyn Monroe.

#3: Roger Staubach – 1942-Date – Professional Football

In 1961, Roger entered the U.S. Naval Academy and played Quarterback for the Navy Midshipmen.

In 1963, Roger won the Heisman Trophy.

The Dallas Cowboys drafted Roger in 1964 knowing he had a service duty he had to fulfill.

Roger was a supply officer in Vietnam.

He did not play his first game with the Cowboys until 1969,

Roger took the Cowboys to several Superbowls and his name is associated with the best of the best in the NFL.

#2: Ted Williams – 1918-2002 – Professional Baseball

Ted played his entire baseball career with the Boston Red Sox starting in 1939.

In 1942, Ted was drafted into the military and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marines as a Naval Aviator.

In 1946, Ted was discharged and resumed playing with the Red Sox.

Still playing in 1952, the Marines recalled Ted to service for Korea.

After Korea in 1953, Ted resumed play and was still a master with the bat.

Ted’s last game was in 1960.

#1: Pat Tillman – 1976-2004 – Professional Football

Pat played football at Arizona State on a scholarship.

He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998 and played Safety.

After the 9/11 attacks, Pat felt a calling to join the U.S. Army and he soon became a Ranger.

In a case of friendly fire, Pat was killed on April 22nd, 2004.

His death caused a major uproar because the Army first reported it was from enemy fire.

Pat is, and always will be a hero.

Honorable Mentions

Those were the top 18, and here are several more professional athletes who also served:

  • David Robinson – Professional Basketball – United States Navy
  • Bob Kalsu – Professional Football – United States Army
  • Bob Feller – Professional Baseball – United States Navy
  • Warren Spahn – Professional Baseball – United States Army

With Super Heroes Like These

Super Villains don’t have a chance.

It is admirable what these heroes accomplished.

So what are your thoughts?

You can leave your opinions below.

Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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