Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Four sports heroes for Armed Forces day

May 21, 2012 by Michael Simzak


On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day as a day to thank the members of the United States military and their families for their service to our nation.

The decision to celebrate our Armed Forces on one day instead of four separate occasions, as was tradition, resulted from the unification of the branches in the Department of Defense.

So May 21, 2012 is the 63d Armed Forces Day, and the Constitution Daily Sports Desk would like to take this opportunity to celebrate those men and women who have served, are serving, and will serve in the future and their families members by recognizing some of our heroes who have excelled not only on the fields of play but on the battlefield as well.

In the spirit of teamwork President Harry Truman believed Armed Forces Day would symbolize for the services, we have decided to select one athlete from each branch of service and from four different sports.

Bobby Jones

A lawyer by profession, Jones is widely considered to be among the greatest golfers ever despite the fact that he only ever competed as an amateur and retired at the age of 28.

In 1930, Jones won golf’s four major tournaments (the U.S. Open, the British Open, the U.S. Amateur Open, and the British Amateur Open) in the same calendar year.

He remains the only golfer to accomplish the feat.

Throughout World War II, Jones toured the U.S.  playing exhibition matches to raise money for war relief. He also served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps (Air Force) and refused offers to spend his time in the service playing exhibition golf matches.

Insisting on serving overseas, Jones landed in Normandy and spent two months on the front lines as an interrogator.

During the war, Jones allowed the Army to use his famed Augusta National Golf Course grounds to graze livestock.

Pat Tillman

There have been athletes who have given up years in the prime of their career to serve their nation during a time of war but few have gone as far as Pat Tillman. In May 2002, Pat Tillman was a 25-year-old safety for the Arizona Cardinals and one of the best players at his position in the NFL. He turned down a $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals to enlist in the Army with his brother Kevin.

Tillman opted to join the Army’ elite 75th Infantry Regiment, the Rangers. Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2004.

Jerry Coleman

Jerry Coleman may be best remembered as the colorful Hall of Fame announcer for the San Diego Padres with a unique grasp of English grammar.

Coleman was also a second baseman for the New York Yankees, the 1949 Rookie of the Year and a 1950 All-Star who won four World Series. Coleman and Ted Williams are the only Major League Baseball stars to serve in two wars.

Unlike his fellow Marine Corps Aviator, Williams, Coleman flew combat missions in both World War II and Korea, amassing 120 combat missions with two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 13 Air Medals.

David Robinson

“The Admiral” followed in his fathers footsteps and attended the U.S. Naval Academy.  The 6’8” Robinson had to receive a waiver because I exceeded the Academy’s height allowance by 2 inches.

The Naismith and Wooden award wined grew to 7’0” while at the academy and led the Midshipmen to the Elite Eight of the 1986 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

He was the first pick of the 1987 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, who had to wait two years to see their prized player.

After serving two years as a civil engineering officer, Robinson played his first game for the Spurs and went on to become the 1990 Rookie of the Year.

Robinson helped lead the Spurs to two NBA Championships and won a gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games before retiring in 2003.

Mike Simzak is the Youth Programs Coordinator at the National Constitution Center and the official sports writer for Constitution Daily.

Sign up for our email newsletter