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Anime and Manga
- An unusually young example, but... in Zeta Gundam, Amuro Ray - the Ace Pilot from the original Mobile Suit Gundam - is retired, and living in virtual house-arrest, since the Terran Government suspects that he might have spacer sympathies. As it turns out, they're right - after an encounter with the new hero, Kamille Bidan, he decides to join up with the AEUG, and jump back into the pilot-seat of a Humongous Mecha. (Though, sadly, he didn't retrieve the original Gundam from the nearby museum as many probably had hoped.)
- In the final few episodes of Macross 7 both Max and Miria retake their positions as Valkyrie pilots and it is glorious.
Films — Live-Action
- Hot Shots! Part Deux. After Topper Harley's I Will Fight No More Forever retirement from the military, he's called back to duty when his old boss is captured while on a rescue mission.
- Independence Day: President Whitmore, getting back in the cockpit to rally the surviving military forces after they have been on the wrong side of a Curb-Stomp Battle in order to Save the World. Foreshadowed earlier in the film with discussion that he was elected as the youthful war hero, only to be seen as being too young to be an effective politician.
- Quite a few of the other pilots were long-since retired, including Russell, who hadn't flown a military jet since the Vietnam War.
- Predator. Dillon, who at one time been one of Dutch's comrades but ended up a pencil pusher at the CIA. He went along on the mission to save his CIA friends.
- Space Cowboys. A team of retired test pilots are called into action to repair a faulty satellite.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
CaptainAdmiral Kirk, who's been working a desk as Chief of Naval Operations for several years, uses the V'Ger crisis to get himself returned to the Enterprise. This is a subverted example in that Admiral Kirk is not in fact in command of the Enterprise, but rather is in command of the mission the Enterprise is on. Captain Decker has the responsibility (and arguably, the fun) of commanding the ship itself. Furthermore, it gets Deconstructed because Kirk has been behind a desk for several years, and thus his instincts are rusty, on top of the ship having been so heavily redesigned and refitted that she is no longer the ship he spent five years commanding anyways.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Doctor McCoy implores Admiral Kirk to get out from behind the desk and get in another starship, "before you really do grow old."
- And of course, in Star Trek: Generations, Kirk gives Picard a piece of cautionary advice to never let himself be put behind a desk. It's also averted at the beginning of the film when Captain Harriman offers to let Kirk take command of the Enterprise-B during a crisis, but Kirk says that Harriman's place is in the center seat.
- Starship Troopers. Rico's teacher Mr. Rasczak retired from the Mobile Infantry and became a school teacher, probably because he lost part of his left arm. After the start of the Bug War he rejoins the Mobile Infantry with the rank of Lieutenant, with a cybernetic replacement on the stump of his arm. There's also Drill Sergeant Zim, who is so eager to get back on the front lines that he deliberately gets himself demoted to Private to do so.
- Happens to Rico himself in Starship Troopers: Invasion. Long since promoted in the now years long war he returns to duty when the mission needs more help.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, two characters do this:
- Commissioner Gordon hasn't had much to do since Gotham City became (mostly) peaceful. He gets back into the swing of things when Bane comes to town.
- Batman has been retired for years at the beginning of the film, but he gets so antsy that he's back in the Batpod's saddle within thirty minutes.
- In Harry Potter, Mad Eye Moody is retired but is called back to active service by Dumbledore when Voldemort comes Back from the Dead.
- In the Deathstalker series as part of Owen's plan to overthrow Empress Lionstone they plan to recruit Jack Random, the "professional rebel". To their surprise, Random is now an old, world-weary retiree who, after one defeat too many, has taken up janitorial duties. They manage to bring him back in and he proves to still have a good bit of fight in him.
- The Dresden Files: in Skin Game
- Michael Carpenter (with Uriel's help) finds the strength to once more pick Amorachius and leave his home to help his friends from evil.
- Harry invokes this to warn the Fomor that Chicago is under his protection once more.
- Artemis Fowl: Commander Root reactivates himself as a field agent when a hostage situation goes bad. Normally this requires extensive paperwork and an interview with the commanding officer, fortunately Root happens to have quite a lot of influence with him...
- Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Return of the Fighting 69th". A long retired bomber pilot and the rest of the crew from his squadron are called back to duty because they're the only ones who can navigate a treacherous asteroid belt.
- Stargate SG-1 has had General Hammond coming to The Squad's rescue on a number of occasions. The most noteworthy case probably being when he showed up with his Big Damn Gunship in the Season 7 finale.
- In Upstairs Downstairs, James Bellamy is given a staff job when his views on the battle of Mons in World War I are made public by Tory sympathisers. Later on, due to the frustrations of being away from the real fighting, and with the help of Hazel, who pulls a few strings for him, he returns to the front as a Major.
- M*A*S*H had a subversion when an old friend of Colonel Potter's shows up wounded at the 4077th. Potter initially thinks he transferred from the rear because he wanted to be useful again, but his friend tells him he only accepted a front-line command to earn his Combat Infantry badge (which would mean a promotion and a better retirement). The men under his command tell Potter he was utterly hopeless in the field and nearly got them all killed.
- In Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, Dietrich Kellerman, the legendary Belkan Ace Pilot-turned-Veteran Instructor (and you have to be really good to become a legend of the Belkan Air Force), is sent back to the frontlines during the Belkan War to boost the troops' morale.
- In Metal Gear Solid, Solid Snake
gets back to businessis kidnapped and forcibly recruited after retiring to raise sled dogs in Alaska.
- From METAL WOLF CHAOS we have MICHAEL Wilson, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, who fights for BURNING AMERICAN JUSTICE after being betrayed by his Vice President RICHAAAAAAARD Hawk.
- This gets Lt. General Raul of Radiant Historia killed in one of many false bad endings.
- An odd example in Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm — Kerrigan has spent several years not being human, so she's understandably been sidelined during her recovery process (and while the heroes find out how much they can trust her). When the Dominion shows up at the remote facility where she's hiding, though, she is forced to defend herself and then fight her way out of the base in a mission that is actually called "Back in the Saddle".
- In Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne has long-since retired from being Batman due to old age and a crippling heart condition. He now mentors and acts as the Voice with an Internet Connection to the new Batman. However, on two occasions he's taken up the fight again. On the first, he did it with the aid of Powered Armor. On the second, he was returned to a younger age through the use of a Lazarus Pit. Both times, his heroic theme from Batman: The Animated Series plays for him. Both can be conveniently watched here.
- In The Powerpuff Girls, the decrepitly old Captain Righteous and Lefty are brought out of retirement because of their reputation in the past of being the only ones able to stop the Ministry of Pain. The Ministry themselves are also decrepitly old and have gone senile. They could have easily been stopped by the Powerpuffs, though Blossom insists that Righteous and Lefty be allowed to do it because the girls needed to respect their elders.
- Wing Commander Academy: In one episode, the Tiger's Claw is attacked while most of her fighter wing is away. Because his remaining pilots are badly outnumbered, Commodore Tolwyn decides to climb into a fighter to personally take part in the fighting.
- Jackie Chan Adventures: In "The Dog and Piggy Show", Jackie tells Jade that the crotchety old Uncle was a kickass martial artist when he was his age. Meanwhile, Uncle discovers that the Dog Talisman possesses the powers of immortality and rejuvenation, which he secretly uses to help Jackie fight the Dark Hand's newest enforcer, the freelancer Hak Foo.
- Star Wars Rebels: The first arc of season 2 revolve around finding a surviving clone commander, CT-7567 "Captain Rex". While at first he is reluctant to gets back into a war after so many years, the Jedi sent to recruit him accidentally brought the Empire with them. The ensuing fight between the clones and the Empire resparks Rex's Blood Knight heritage and he officially joins the rebellion.
- In November of 1915, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill resigned from the government to take a commission as an Army officer on the Western Front. Churchill had previously served in the British Army from 1895-1900.