Ready for battle

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Athletes are known to fight for what they believe in

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

“Going to war” is an expression that is often used in the sports world to describe two opponents engaging in competition. However, for these athletes, going to war was more than just a metaphor.

Pat Tillman

After enjoying a standout university campaign as a linebacker with the Arizona State Sun Devils, Tillman was selected 226th overall in the 1998 NFL entry draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The talented athlete was able to call football his profession from 1998-2001. He racked up 238 tackles, forced and recovered three fumbles, and had three interceptions in 60 games.    

Although his professional sports career could have easily kept going, Tillman opted to turn down an extended three year contract with the Cardinals and decided to enlist in the United States Army. Tillman’s enrollement in the army came in May 2002, just eight months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Tillman went on to serve in Iraq two different times, the second proving to be the last time that he was alive. On April 22, 2004, Tillman was killed in action during what was deemed to be friendly fire. The football player who would once have died for his teammates died for his country.

Jackie Robinson

When people hear the name Jackie Robinson, they often think of the baseball player who broke the colour barrier back in 1947 when he played his first MLB game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, most people don’t think about his military service.

Robinson was drafted by the military in 1942 and was assigned to the army’s calvary unit. Robinson became one of only a small group of black applicants to be accepted into the Officer Candidate School. Although his military career seemed to be on the right path, an incident on July 6, 1944, put a stop to the young athlete’s military aspirations.

On this day, Robinson boarded what was said to be an unsegregated army bus, yet the driver of the bus ordered Robinson to move to the back. After refusing, the driver appeared to let go of the situation, only to later report the incident to the military police.

The unit which Robinson was formerly part of, the 761st Tank Battalion, became the first black unit to participate in WWII. Robinson should have been part of this groundbreaking feet, but instead he was held up in court for allegations that arose because of the bus situation.

Robinson went on to have a long career as a professional baseball player, and although he saw a lot of game action, he never saw combat action.

Bob Feller

When Feller was passionate about something, he went for it. After becoming a professional baseball player at the tender age of 17 – something that would be unheard of today – Feller played with the Cleveland Indians for over 15 years. However, Feller voluntarily took a break five years into his professional baseball career to serve in the military.

On Dec. 8, 1941, just days after Pearl Harbour was attacked, Feller enlisted in the navy, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to volunteer for active duty. Feller eventually missed four seasons during his military service, but would return to the mound in 1946 and went on to become one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

Feller remains the winningest pitcher in Cleveland Indians history with 266 wins, and became the only chief petty officer in the United States Army to be elected into a major sports hall of fame.

In August of 2010, Feller began his battle with leukemia. He died on Dec. 15 after four months of fighting the disease. He was 92.

Ted Williams

Born Aug. 18, 1918. Williams became interested in baseball from an early age. His passion for the great game only grew until he made the transition to professional baseball at age 21. Williams spent all of his professional career with the Boston Red Sox from 1939-42 and then again from 1946-60. Williams only took a break from the diamond to serve for his country, though he always found some way to play the game that he loved.

Williams was drafted to the military in 1942, where he began training as a pilot. Even during his preparation for war, Williams still made time to play baseball in the army league, playing alongside Joe DiMaggio.

Williams went on to serve two tours as a marine pilot during both WWII and the Korean War, returning to action with the Boston Red Sox whenever possible. Though the time spent away from the game hurt his career totals, Williams remains the last player in major league history to bat over .400 in a single season and ranks third all-time in home runs.

In honour of being a great player, a great person, and a respected war veteran, the Red Sox retired Williams jersey No. 9. Williams died at the age of 83 on July 5, 2002, but he will forever be remembered for the service that he put in on and off of the diamond.

Bryan Stann

Before going to war inside the octagon, Stann spent his time preparing for war.

When he was just 19 years old, Stann enrolled in the United States Naval Academy. In 2003, almost instantly after graduation, Stann was appointed as infantry officer for the United States Marine Corps, where he eventually became captain.

Stann was given the Silver Star award in 2005 for his brave work when his unit was ambushed during Operation Matador. Stann was responsible for co-ordinating air and tank support while 42 people were under heavy attack. All 42 members survived the attacks largely because of Stann’s heroic efforts.

Though Stann began his professional mixed martial arts career while he was still involved with the Marine Corps, he eventually left active duty with the Marines in 2008; that same year he stepped onto the UFC’s active roster. Although Stann was originally scheduled to make his octagon deput in the special “Fight for the Troops” event, he would have to wait a little longer after he was forced to pull out of the fight due to a foot injury.

The former WEC champion currently boasts an 5-2 record in the UFC and 11-4 record in overall professional MMA competition. Stann is currently ranked in the top 10 among middleweights in the world and plans to continue his climb up the middleweight ladder. If it weren’t for Stann’s effort in 2005, he most certainly would not be where he is today.

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