The match came down to the wire, but Army Reserve 1st. Lt. Amber English won a gold medal in the women’s skeet shooting event Monday at the Tokyo Olympic games.
English, who narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic shotgun teams, prevailed by one target over the reigning Olympic champion Diana Bacosi of Italy. She set an Olympic record by hitting 56 of 60 targets in the event.
A logistics officer, English joined the Army in February 2017 and attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
1st Lt. Amber English (right) won a gold medal and set an Olympic record in shotgun skeet shooting Monday, July 26, 2021 at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Army/Twitter)
English was an accomplished world-class shotgun shooter before she joined the Army, and she quickly earned membership in both the Army Marksmanship Unit and the Army World Class Athlete Program, allowing her to continue training for her Olympic dream while advancing her Army career.
Professional Athletes with Military Service are some of the jobs our nation’s veterans transition to, besides a multitude of different and exciting industries once they’ve completed their military service. Several have become some of the biggest names in sports. Here are some of your favorite athletes who also spent time in the military.
Dusty Baker – Professional Athletes with Military Service
Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Johnnie B. “Dusty” Baker Jr. has been a baseball phenom for his entire career. He played baseball from 1976 to 1986 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. Baker coached for the San Francisco Giants from 1988 to 1992; and has managed five major league teams since 1993, currently managing for the Houston Astros. Throughout his career, he has become a two-time All-Star, a World Series Champion and has been recognized three times as National League Manager of the Year. Dusty Baker is also a U.S. Marine. Baker served in the Marine Corps Reserve as a mechanic motor transport from 1968 to 1974 during the Vietnam War. “Out here on the baseball diamond, it’s like teammates are your brothers,” Baker said of the similarities between baseball and the service, “I learned more about teamwork in the Marines, more than anything else. If we get in a fight or whatever there is, you better not touch my teammate.”
Alejandro Villanueva – Professional Athletes with Military Service
Photo Credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Alejandro Villanueva played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens before his recent retirement from the NFL. He mainly played offensive tackle, becoming one of the Steelers’ starting players and ranking 24th out of all of the offensive tackles in the NFL. Before his football career, Villanueva served in the Army. The son of a Spanish Naval Officer, Villanueva enrolled and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was eventually assigned to the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., where he served his first deployment, which earned him a Bronze Star Medal for rescuing wounded soldiers while under enemy fire. Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan. During his five years of service, Villanueva received the National Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, among other recognitions.
David Robinson – Professional Athletes with Military Service
Photo Credit: Sporting News via Getty Images
David Robinson was one of the greatest basketball players of the 1990s. During his time in the NBA, playing for the San Antonio Spurs, Robinson became a two-time NBA champion, the 1995 MVP, a 10-time NBA All-Star and a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. But before he became one of the most admired ball players on the court, Robinson served in the U.S. Navy. Upon receiving his commission from the U.S. Naval Academy, Robinson was assigned to the Civil Engineering Corps at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, where he did engineer work and recruiting campaigns. Keeping his days of service close to his heart, Robinson supports military families in any way he can. He was also a military child whose father was deployed during his upbringing. “I know the price that people pay to serve our country,” Robinson stated to the Department of Defense, “and so it’s just a blessing to be able to come in and encourage the families here that are paying that price for us.”
Arnold Palmer – Professional Athletes with Military Service
Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/WireImage
Although his claim to fame happened decades ago, ardent golfers of any age know the name Arnold Palmer. He won 62 PGA tour titles from 1955 to 1973, making him one of the top five golfers of all time. But before he became a golf superstar, Palmer served with the U.S. Coast Guard for four years. After losing his college friend and roommate to a car accident, Palmer enlisted in the service as a way to give back to his community and save lives. He served from 1951 to 1954 as a lifeguard at Cape May, N.J., and as a photographer at Cleveland East Pierhead Lighthouse in Cleveland, Ohio. Palmer heavily credits his time with the Coast Guard as one of the main influences in his upbringing. In a conversation with Coast Guard historian Richard A. Stephenson, Palmer shared, “I’m very proud of the fact that I was in the Coast Guard… The knowledge that I gained, the maturity that I gained in the Coast Guard made me a better person. The military isn’t just about restrictions, it’s a learning experience, and it’s very important that young people have that opportunity to learn and to know themselves a little better. I think the military helps put that in the right perspective.”
Harris “Hurley” Haywood – Professional Athletes with Military Service
Photo Credit: Army/Terrance Bell-
Harris “Hurley” Haywood is a world-class race car driver with over 35 years of professional experience under his belt. Haywood has won multiple events, including five overall victories at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two at the 12 Hours of Sebring. He is credited with the 1988 Trans-Am title, two IMSA GT Championship titles and 23 wins, three Norelco Cup championships, a SuperCar title and 18 IndyCar starts. But before his racing career began, Haywood was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving as a specialist 4 with the 164th Aviation Group near Saigon, Vietnam. After serving his one tour, Haywood returned to the United States and began his racing career, where he used many of the lessons he learned in Vietnam to help him become a better driver. Haywood credits his service for giving him one of the most critical skills to have as a racecar driver: the ability to adapt.
Melissa Stockwell – Professional Athletes with Military Service
Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
Melissa Stockwell is no stranger to athletic successes. A paralympic triathlete swimmer, Stockwell has competed in the Paralympics twice, one of which earned her a bronze medal. She is a three-time gold medalist in the ICU Triathlon World Championships. Before her athletic successes, Stockwell served as an Army Officer in the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. She served from 2002 to 2005 and spent the latter part of her military career deployed in Iraq. While leading a convoy in Baghdad, Stockwell was struck by a roadside bomb, resulting in the loss of her left leg. She retired from the military after the accident, earning a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for her service. Along with taking an interest in swimming, Stockwell worked as a prosthetist and served on the board of directors of the Wounded Warrior Project. Besides her numerous achievements in triathlons, Stockwell holds the title of the first Iraq veteran to be chosen for the Paralympics.
Next summer, South Florida’s War Memorial Auditorium will be receiving a $65 million facelift, thanks to the Florida Panthers NHL team. When complete, the 144,000-square-foot venue will be transformed into a sports, entertainment and community recreation hub that will feature a practice facility with an NHL-regulation-sized indoor ice rink dedicated to the community for public skating.
“It’s an incredible project and hits on so many things we believe in,” said Matthew Caldwell, president and CEO of the Florida Panthers. “We wanted to find a way to continue to memorialize the site while also showing people a good time and have them keep coming out. We are in the live entertainment business, and the Panthers love giving back, but we wanted to keep the historic value of it.”
The privately financed revitalization will transform the 1950s-era entertainment venue into a new community recreation hub with a tribute to Broward County military heroes under the veteran-owned NHL team. “There will be youth hockey, figure skating and public skating available,” said Caldwell.
“We currently run three sheets of ice in Coral Springs – one for the team and two are open to the public. It’s a great connection to the fans and the brand and encourages people to play hockey. This will be a copycat of what we do in Coral Springs but with the added element of live entertainment.”
After serving five years as a military officer conducting combat operations in Iraq and peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Caldwell believes his military training helped prepare him with the skills necessary to become CEO and president of the Florida Panthers. “I think it goes back to West Point,” he said. “The military academy, the training I received and the school were all building blocks to helping me learn valuable leadership skills that can’t be taught overnight. If I didn’t have the military experience, don’t believe I would be as confident in my ability.”
During the course of his Army career, Caldwell was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, an Iraq Campaign Medal and a NATO Kosovo Military Medal.
As a veteran-owned team, honoring past and present military is at the forefront of the organization. From hosting a Military Appreciation Night each year to recognizing a military hero at each home game, Caldwell says he is most proud of their veteran-focused programs. “There are a lot of great things we have done, but I think the best thing is the heroes we recognize at our games with the “Heroes Among Us” Program,” he said. “When you are in the arena, there’s just something about the way we do it that is different. It’s within our DNA and everything we stand for. We interview the veteran and get to know them, bring their family out and show clips. It’s really well done. The veterans just feel it and it’s so touching and heartfelt.”
To see the latest project and construction updates, visit FTLWarMemorial.com or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @FTLWarMemorial
For the first time in nearly 30 years, a U.S. Marine will be wrestling at the Olympics. “It’s amazing … I never in a million years thought I’d wake up one day and say I’m an Olympian,” Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz said after three consecutive wins at Olympic Team Trials in Fort Worth, Texas over the weekend.
The 29-year-old member of the All-Marine Wrestling Team is now the best 87 kg (181-pound) class Greco-Roman wrestler in the country, according to The Jacksonville Daily News, which described Stefanowicz as feeling “unstoppable” and ready to bring home a gold medal. He’ll be one of 15 American athletes competing at the 2020 Tokyo games this summer, which were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every time I step out on the mat and I wear USA on the back, that means something greater than just myself and my last name,” Stefanowicz told Task & Purpose.
“What it means is to truly show the world what we’re about and what my brothers here do day in and day out,” Stefanowicz said of his Olympic dream. There has not been a U.S. Marine wrestler at the Olympics since 1992.
“I fight for everything that I believe in and what the Marine Corps stands for,” Stefanowicz said in 2019, describing his style in training and on the mat as “high intensity, high impact, no forgiveness.” He’s made a name for himself as a top athlete, despite his age and untraditional path into the sport.
Stefanowicz also has a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program — though it’s unclear if any of his Marine ninja skills have ever come into play during an official wrestling bout.