- The hero's military background is an essential part of the character. He can't just merely be or have been a soldier. If you could substitute the character's background for, say, law enforcement or being a fireman, it's not this trope.
- The character must be a bonafide superhero. The Punisher, for example, doesn't count: he's more of a PTSD-addled psychopath than a hero.
- The work the character is featured in must not revolve around the military. Military fiction, no matter how fantastic, has soldiers as protagonists by default, so their military background is obviously not something that makes the character stand out. As such, the hero's deeds will not revolve around a military mission. He performs heroism for its own sake, not because of following orders.
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- Captain America is one of the best examples of this trope. Loyal to his teammates, a born leader, a paragon of virtue and a bonafide ass-kicker. He was an actual captain during his time of service with the airborne rangers during World War II.
- Same goes for Bucky, Cap's onetime sidekick, since the revelation that his background was a cover story to hide his status as a covert assassin, and his later acceptance of the Captain America mantle.
- The Falcon is a U.S. Air Force officer in the Heroes Reborn continuity, and a retired member of the U.S. Army in the Ultimate continuity. His Heroes Reborn background was used for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- Captain Nathaniel Adam of the United States Air Force, better known as Captain Atom. Interestingly, Captain Atom did not start this way: he was a full-time soldier who received his powers as the result of an experiment, and was ordered by the military into infiltrating the superhero community to spy on them a keep them in check. However, as can be expected, Captain Atom eventually did grow to appreciate his role as a superhero, but not without serious conflict between both aspects of him. This is explored heavily in Justice League Unlimited.
- John Stewart, aka Green Lantern, is a former member of the United States Marine Corps. Originally, John's backstory had him as merely an architect before becoming a Green Lantern. The DCAU re-imagined him as a Marine veteran, and this version proved popular enough that his DCU incarnation was retconned to have been a Marine as well (while leaving his existing backstory intact; he became an architect after returning to civilian life). In his modern incarnation, his training in the Corps has been a defining part of his character and has served him in his job as a superhero. His experience as a sniper helped him take down Sinestro Corps member Bedovian by sniping him three sectors away, and in the Justice League animated series, he battled alongside US Army soldiers (among them, Sgt. Rock himself) in WWII when he didn't have access to his ring's powers.
- While Hal Jordan has always been a former Air Force pilot, his The New Frontier incarnation is the one that most fits this trope. His experiences as a pilot during the Korean War heavily influenced his attitude towards his later job as a test pilot and his role as the newest Green Lantern of Earth's sector. Hal's character is a typical hotheaded ace flyboy, similar to Chuck Yeager.
- David Reid, a.k.a. Lance, of the Justice Society of America. He's a member of the Marines when he's recruited and served as a kind of liasion between the two groups. Then he gets killed and comes back as Magog (yep, the same character from Kingdom Come).
- Colonel Nick Fury. Former sergeant in charge of the Howling Commandos during World War II and concurrent leader of SHIELD.
- His son Marcus Johnson(Aka, Nick Fury Jr.) is a Ranger in the US Army.
- Captain Metropolis from Watchmen is a former Marine lieutenant.
- Kate Kane was discharged from West Point under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. She sees her vigilante activity as Batwoman as a form of military service that gives her life meaning.
- Wolverine has served countless times in the military, and has picked up a great many habits and skills with the years. Interestingly enough, he's always shown to be VERY serious and professional in that role, contrary to his usual authority-sticking personality.
- The ever-loving blue-eyed Thing had one of the most prestigious military careers in comic book history, having served as a pilot for both the Air Force and the Marine Corps. His exemplary service ultimately earned him the right to serve as an astronaut, which eventually led to that fateful cosmic radiation shower.
- Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers, formerly Ms. Marvel) was a Colonel in the United States Air Force and served with the Thing back when he was human.
- James Rhodes, aka War Machine, was a lieutenant in the USAF, and saw action in Southeast Asia. The Marvel Cinematic Universe retconned him into a Lieutenant-Colonel.
- DC's Commander Steel was Hank Haywood, a US Marine who, after being injured during WWII, volunteered for special bionic upgrades that turned him into a Captain America Expy.
- Hellboy originally was a member of the B.P.R.D., a private agency that functioned much like a government military agency..
- The World Army in Earth 2 has a few: The Atom, Wesley Dodds and his Sandmen, Red Arrow, and Captain Steel. Red Tornado is "in progress," and Hawkgirl has gone AWOL.
- Venom's fourth host, Flash Thompson was an US Army volunteer soldier who lost his legs in combat and volunteered to become the symbiote's host when the military asks him to. In this case, it's kinda literal: Flash wears the symbiote like a soldier/mercenary uniform, instead of the famous "overly muscular black Spider-Man with razor teeth and monster tongue" version (though he occasionally takes that form on from time to time, when his control over the symbiote slips).
- The DC Comics version of Archie Comics' The Shield was a U.S. Army soldier turned into a superhero through a Powered Armor grafted onto his body after terrorists nearly killed him in an ambush. He served as the Army's top superhuman operative.
- More of a military supervillain, but Deadshot's New 52 incarnation is a former Marine. And as rotten as he is, he DOES save the world as a member of the Suicide Squad.
- In the Iron Man films, Rhodey is a lieutenant colonel in the USAF and the military's chief liaison to Stark Industries. He later becomes the hero Iron Patriot and works directly as part of the U.S. military while in-costume.
- Wearing the Cape:
- Blackstone, a superhero/stage-magician, is a former US Marine (he mustered out and began his stage-magic career some time after a battlefield injury rendered him incapable of field operations). He appears to have worked in military intelligence, and is the security/intelligence specialist of the Sentinels.
- After the events of the first book, a former military operative who trained supersoldiers is brought in under the code-name Watchman as the newest big hitter.
- There are also a number of superpowered soldiers appearing in various books; one source is special military programs where volunteers are put in high stress situations, which may trigger "breakthroughs" (the advent of powers). The military also actively recruits civilians showing useful powers as well as using supercriminals for high-risk missions in exchange for reduced sentences.
- In Shadow Ops, the central protagonist Oscar Britton was formerly an officer in the Army National Guard before he turned up Latent with his portal magic and was forcibly recruited into the US military's Supernatural Operations Corps. Britton's military training gives him an edge over the other members of his "coven" (supernatural squad), and after witnessing the excesses and violence and hypocrisy of the SOC, he falls back to his military upbringing and sense of honor and duty and finally rebels.
- Taylor Earhardt in Power Rangers Wild Force was an Air Force pilot before encountering an Animal Mecha and crashing on a Floating Continent. She's one of the toughest Rangers on the team, and easily the most no-nonsense (at least until Merrick shows up), "drafting" Cole in the season premier by gut-punching him. Oddly, she basically goes AWOL as a result - the guys at her old base have no idea where she is, and she even hides her identity when a Ranger mission takes her there. She resumes duty at the end of the series, dismissing the idea of her landing on an island in the sky as people reading too many children's stories. The exact same backstory also applies to her male Japanese counterpart, Gaku Washio, who was similarly a JASDF pilot.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), one of the Special Children with Super Strength is Private Jake Talley of the US Army, who was fighting in Afghanistan.
- Bunker in Sentinels of the Multiverse is a serviceman working with the latest in a long line of armored suits built by the US military. According to his backstory, he's the first one to actually work as a superhero, all previous uses of the armor being in military combat actions.