Being a Veteran, I love reading or hearing stories from fellow Veterans who have served their country. There have been a few Chicago Bears’ football players who have served their country. Who are they and what did they do?
There are a few NFL players that we think of who have served in the military. Pat Tillman comes to mind of course as does Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineman Alejandro Villanueva. But in the distant past, the Bears had several players of their own who were in the military. Many of them served during the World War II era while others served sporadically over the course of our nation’s history.
In this article, we will look at four former Bears who served in the military at one point or another. They are legendary Chicago Bears’ owner George Halas, former start quarterback Sid Luckman, another quarterback/defensive back, Young Bussey and George McAfee a halfback and Hall of Famer.
Everyone who is a fan of the Bears, or of football for that matter, knows who George Halas is. Halas is the man who took the Bears from zero to 60 in no time. Halas is considered one of the founders of the league and one of its greatest contributors. He was a huge part of making the NFL into what it is today.
The NFL would be nowhere near where it is without Halas.
No role in the military is too small when someone is a part of it. From the cook who cooks the food to the infantryman who fires the gun, everyone who is in the military does their part to make sure that our country is safe.
Halas had an interesting part in the military when he was a part of it. In fact, Halas spent some time serving in two world wars and helped make a difference for the troops.
George Halas helped bring entertainment to the soldiers around the Great Lakes Naval Base near Chicago by playing on a football team following his enlistment in the Navy. In fact, Halas was asked by leadership to create a football and basketball teams to provide entertainment. This helped keep the morale of the troops up and gave them something to look forward to.
Halas was known as a recreation officer, and his job included coaching and playing football, basketball, and baseball at the Great Lakes Naval Station. His football team was one of the country’s best in 1918. Halas used this as a recruiting outlet for the future of football, as well.
Halas was also involved in World War Two. He did not end up on any battlefield but instead was in the Navy holding the rank of lieutenant commander and served in a very important capacity. He oversaw building the morale of the US Seventh Fleet which was under the command of the famed Admiral Chester Nimitz. Halas set up activities for the sailors and ensuring that they had plenty to do while they were at war.
For his efforts, Halas was given the bronze star.
Former Chicago Bears quarterback Sid Luckman played with the Bears from 1939 to 1950 but spent some time in the military during World War Two. Luckman, along with 19 of his of his fellow teammates who were part of the 1943 NFL Championship team, decided to join the military and serve their country. Luckman was part of the Merchant Marines which were a backup for the Navy in times of war.
Luckman didn’t serve overseas and could play in games during his service with the Merchant Marines.
Hall of Famer George McAfee was with the Bears from 1940-41 and then again from 1945-50. The break in between his two stints was because of World War II. McAfee joined the Navy in 1942 and served in it until 1945. Not much is known about his military service, but he left football to serve his country proving that his commitment to his country was a strong one.
Finally, there was one more player that I would like to profile, of the many Chicago Bears players that served their country. Young Bussey didn’t play for the Bears that long, playing only one year. He was on the 1941 NFL Championship team and played a part in the season. Bussey played defensive back that year and picked off two passes.
After United States entered World War II, Bussey decided to enter military service with the US Navy. Assigned to the US effort in the Pacific, Bussey would get to the rank of lieutenant and fight against the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean.
On January 7th, 1945, the 27-year-old Bussey was killed in the Battle of Lingayen Gulf. He was the only Bears’ player to be killed in World War II.
When the call came out to defend the country, many players, not just those from the Chicago Bears, heeded it. They proved that there was something more important than football. America’s safety and freedom were at stake, and they went on to do their part. That’s what a veteran does. They don’t ask questions; they just do it. They know the sacrifice but continue to do what they do anyway.
That’s not only bravery but human nature at its finest.