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First, Serve: Athletes in Uniform (Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project)
Particularly during wartime, joining the military often means putting on hold important aspects of one’s life, such as college or marriage. The unexpected draft notice can also signal the end of a college athlete’s hopes for a career in the pros. For Thomas Chapman, a promising young pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies, his military service would end his baseball career. Other veterans, such as Robert “Rocky” Bleier and Gregory Gadson, continued their participation in sports after military service. The two men were both severely wounded during their wartime service, but Bleier went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers during perhaps the teams’ best decade, while Gadson channeled his love for football into supporting the New York Giants as an Honorary Team Captain. For other service members, such as Rose W. Spence and Agnes G. Patterson, Donald Huston and Daniel Callaway, civilian sports and military career merged, and they merely put on a different uniform and played and fought for their country on other fields of competition around the world.

No matter their chosen sport, or whether they were professional athletes or amateurs, the men and women featured here found that service to their country, on the battlefield and in athletic competition, would employ all of the natural abilities and skills that they had forged on the playing fields of America’s sand lots, schoolyards, and stadiums.
Image: John William BaberJohn William Baber
ARMY AIR CORPS
World War II

Audio Interview, Photos
Image: Robert Patrick BleierRobert Patrick Bleier
ARMY
Vietnam War

Video Interview
Image: Benjamin D. CooperDaniel W. Callaway
ARMY
Cold War


Video Interview
Image: Thomas Frederick ChapmanThomas F. Chapman
ARMY
Vietnam War

Video Interview
Image: Donald Huston EricsonDonald H. Ericson
MARINE CORPS
Korean War

Audio Interview, Photos
Image: Gregory Dmitri GadsonGregory D. Gadson
ARMY
Iraq, Persian Gulf, Afghan Wars

Video Interview
Image: Agnes Helen Gomez PattersonAgnes G. Patterson
AIR FORCE
Cold War

Video Interview, Photos, Memoirs
Image: Melvin T. Pender, Jr.Melvin T. Pender, Jr.
ARMY
Vietnam War

Video Interview
Image: Dennis PennengaDennis Pennenga
AIR FORCE
Cold War

Video Interview, Photos
Image: Rose Witherspoon SpenceRose W. Spence
WOMEN'S ARMY CORPS
World War II

Audio Interview
Image: Gordon G. TalbotGordon G. Talbot
ARMY
Cold War

Video Interview
Image: Joe T. ThorntonJoe T. Thornton
ARMY
World War II

Audio Interview
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  July 23, 2020
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