10+ Athletes Who Fought For Our Country — Then Went For The Gold!

Dedication, determination, and a desire to serve your country are traits that military veterans and Olympic athletes share. Some exceptional individuals have put those traits to the test by not only enlisting in military service, but also competing in the Olympic Games. Some names may be more recognizable than others, but all are noteworthy for their impressive accomplishments. Here are twelve remarkable athletes who represented the United States in both the military and at the Olympics.

12. Charley Paddock

Once known as “the fastest man alive,” Charley Paddock was a sprinter who raced for the United States at the Olympic Games in 1920, 1924, and 1928. He won several medals at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, including gold medals in the men’s 100-meter dash and the men’s 100-meter relay. Paddock served during World War I as a field artillery lieutenant and served with the U.S. Marines during World War II until 1943, when he was killed in a plane crash. His story was told in the classic 1981 film, “Chariots of Fire.”

11. John Woodruff

John Woodruff was still in college when he qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. This powerful runner was competing in the men’s 800-meter race when he became trapped by other runners and was unable to get to the front. Instead of running the risk of interfering with his competitors by trying to break free — which would result in automatic disqualification — he made the bold decision to simply stop running and let everyone pass him. He still managed to come from behind and win the gold medal in what has been called one of the most exciting races in history. He served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945, then re-enlisted to serve during the Korean War.

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