Pro Athletes Who Served In The U.S. Armed Forces

Pro Athletes Who Served In The U.S. Armed Forces

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces, whether or not they are still with us today.

Here are some of the most well-known pro athletes who served in the United States military.

AthleteU.S. Armed Forces# Of Years Served
Ted WilliamsMarines4 years
Alejandro VillanuevaArmy4 years
David RobinsonNavy2 years
Pat TillmanArmy2 years

Ted Williams (Marines)

Not only is Ted Williams the last player to hit .400 in a season, he's also the only player in the National Baseball Hall of Fame to have also served in the military for multiple wars. After winning the Triple Crown in 1942, Williams put his baseball career on pause in 1943, when he was drafted by the United States Marine Corps to serve as a Naval Aviator in World War 2. 

Williams was discharged in 1946 and returned to baseball until 1952, when he was called from a list of inactive Navy reserves to serve in the Korean War. He was deployed to Korea later that year, and ultimately flew in 39 combat missions there. Williams' service in Korea included numerous flights as the wingman to John Glenn, who later became an astronaut and U.S. Senator.

A bout of pneumonia coupled with an ear infection ultimately ended Williams' military career in 1953, but only after he earned the Air Medal and two Gold Stars for his efforts. He returned to the Red Sox and finished out his MLB career uninterrupted from 1953-60.

Alejandro Villanueva (Army)

Few athletes are as versatile as Alejandro Villanueva. He served three tours of duty in Afghanistan after a college football career at Army in which he played defensive end, left tackle, and wide receiver.

After graduating in 2010, Villanueva fulfilled his service commitment with the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of Captain. He then served with the Army Rangers, earning a Bronze Star for rescuing wounded soldiers while under enemy fire.

Villanueva finally made it to the NFL in 2014, as he made the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad. He then made his NFL debut in 2015 and went on to play six seasons at a left tackle with Pittsburgh, along with one for the Baltimore Ravens, making the Pro Bowl in 2017 and 2018.

David Robinson (Navy)

David Robinson's nickname is "The Admiral," which stemmed from his two years of Navy service, though his actual rank while serving from 1987-89 was a junior grade Lieutenant. He was voted the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year as a senior at the Naval Academy in 1986, and led the Midshipmen to the Elite 8.

Even knowing that Robinson would be required to fulfill a two-year active duty obligation in the Navy, the Spurs drafted him first overall in 1987. The wait was well worth it, as Robinson went on to be a 10-time NBA All-Star, won MVP in 1995, and took home NBA titles in 1999 and 2003. And you can bet on the current NBA Playoffs on the best sports betting sites this Memorial Day weekend in honor of The Admiral.

While his Navy service concluded in 1989, Robinson also represented the United States on the basketball court, winning Olympic Gold Medals in 1992 and 1996.

Pat Tillman (Army)

Pat Tillman spent four seasons in the NFL before the Sept. 11 attacks inspired him to enlist in the United States Army. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004 before being tragically killed by friendly fire on April 22, 2004, in Afghanistan. Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star medal for valor in combat, and the Purple Heart medal for sacrifice. His memory lives on through the Pat Tillman Foundation, which has provided more than $24 million in academic scholarships for active service members, veterans, and military spouses.

Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.