“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy
Detroit Sports Nation would like to take a moment to honor each and every person who has served in the United States Armed Forces so that we can have the freedoms we have in America. We will forever be in debt to you.
Here is a list of the top 5 Detroit athletes who also served in the United States Military.
Ralph Alvin Heywood
Ralph Heywood served in the Marine Corps for 32 years and is the only NFL player to have served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 3rd round of the 1944 NFL Draft while he was still on active duty. Though Heywood only played in 14 total games for the Lions, it was important to include him on this list because of his service to our country.
Dick “Night Train” Lane
Dick Lane was a member of the United States Army and served for four years, including in the Korean War. Lane was a member of the Detroit Lions from 1960-1965 and is also a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. In his rookie season with the Rams, Lane had 14 interceptions.
Hank Greenberg, who is considered one of the greatest sluggers of all time, served over four years in the United States Army. He was originally denied entrance into the Army because of “flat feet,” but insisted on being reexamined and was allowed to join. Greenberg was honorably discharged two days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He re-enlisted in 1942 and volunteered for service in the United States Army Air Corps. In 1956, Greenberg was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and in 1983, his number 5 was retired by the Detroit Tigers.
Joe Louis was a member of the United States Army. He enlisted during World War II and was very outspoken about how he was in favor of the war. Louis was also awarded the Legion of Merit by the United States for his “incalculable contribution to the general morale.” As far as boxing goes, Louis was the heavyweight champion of the world from 1937-1949 and is considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time.
In October of 1918, Ty Cobb enlisted in the Chemical Corp branch of the U.S. Army. Though Cobb only served for about 70 days before being honorably discharged, he was given the rank of Captain by Branch Rickey, the president of the St. Louis Cardinals. Cobb, who played with the Detroit Tigers from 1905-1926, is known as one of the greatest hitters of all time. He was a 12-time batting champion and he won a triple crown in 1909.