Follow TV Tropes


Old Soldier

Go To
Think he's too old for war?
You'll be dead long before he will.

"Old soldiers never die; they just fade away."

The old soldier is the grizzled veteran who has been through and seen everything in war. He would more than qualify for being a Shell-Shocked Veteran, both in age and experience, but he's still going into battle and odds are that he's the backbone of whatever unit he or (more rarely) she is in. This character type is almost never an officer or a commander, and is instead usually a Sergeant Rock. If he is an officer, expect a Four-Star Badass. Generally you can expect them to be tough, to have a few badass scars, and to be eternally pissed off at (or at least exasperated by) the younger troops around him. Despite that, he may still turn out to be one of the best sources of mentoring or seasoning a young soldier can get. Some might be too much used to military life to effectively function in the civilian life.


Expect the Officer and a Gentleman to rely on him quite a bit in running the unit, a la Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough. Ensign Newbie, on the other hand, will rarely know to do this or will actively tick off the old soldier in attempting to control a unit, a mistake he usually pays for. Despite the first page quote, old soldiers have about a 50-50 chance of dying in a work of fiction, but usually not until rather late in the story, generally in a Heroic Sacrifice of some kind or in a suitably impressive way. If this character dies early in a story, odds are you're dealing with a story on the cynical end of the scale, and that it's going to have a high mortality rate.

If the soldier is too old to fight, or too battered (or both), but denies that fact, he may be a Perilous Old Fool.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach
    • The Captain Commander Genryusai Yamamoto is the leader of the Shinigami and by far the oldest, and he's been around so long and been part of so many battles that he's nearly impossible to beat in a one-on-one fight. He's more heavily scarred than any of the other shinigami, and tends to refer to other characters as "brats", and won't hesitate to belittle them if he thinks they aren't living up to their role as protectors of the spirit world.
    • Second Espada Baraggan Louisenbairn is the physically oldest-looking and one of the most powerful members of Aizen's Arrancar army. When Aizen and his cohorts are trapped by Yamamoto's fire during the assault on the fake Karakura Town, Baraggan takes command without any objects from his fellows (including the First Espada). It also helps that before Aizen came along and usurped him, he was the legendary God-King of Hueco Mundo and Hollowkind, and the light novels would reveal he's actually one of the oldest living Hollows in existence.
    • Sternritter N Robert Accutrone is one of the visibly oldest of the Quincy serving Yhwach and tough enough to give Shunsui a hard fight while leaving lasting injuries. It's even implied he was part of Yhwach's original Quincy army, given he knows better than most how absolutely little Yhwach cares for his own.
  • Lehm from Jormungand. He is a former Delta Force captain who served in the Gulf War and has years of combat experience (with scars to show for it). He is one of the senior members of Koko Hekmatyar's cadre of bodyguards and often serves as a leader and mentor to the team. Lehm is skilled with many firearms and even acts as a sniper when needed.
  • Signum in Lyrical Nanoha becomes this after being transported to the modern Mid-Childan society, where her old Belkan sensibilities undergo a transformation to adapt to a society based on (non-)humanism rather than wartime duty and knightly honor. Unlike Vita, who finds herself in training the new generation of mages in this new world, Signum continues doing what she did her entire, very long life—fighting—and declining opportunities to do anything else. While not as grumpy as the typical examples of this trope, she does call out the rookies (e.g. Teana) on their mistakes.
  • Naruto offers Hiruzen Sarutobi and Onoki, the Third Hokage and Tsuchikage respectively. Both were students of the founding leader of their respective villages and have lived through three Shinobi World Wars. Despite their power and skill both are also notably past their prime, Hiruzen's chakra pool having dwindled due to age and Onoki suffering literally debilitating back pains. Danzo also qualifies to an extent, but has notably taken to avoiding direct battle in his old age due to his fear of death.
  • Rebuild World: There are several of these who each clash with The Rival Katsuya and his Boisterous Weakling young hunter friends and teammates.
  • Thorkell "The Tall" from Vinland Saga is fifty during his first appearance in the manga, and has recently been forcibly retired from the Jomsvikings due to advancing age. Despite this he keeps showing up to battles because he likes fighting, and is still a complete terror who is Famed in Story for his long life as a career warrior.

    Comic Books  
  • Astro City has a superhero called the Old Soldier, who seems to turn up whenever America needs him most. He was seen in combat in 1812, 1862, 1915, and 1942. However he stood against American soldiers in Vietnam, which was a massive propaganda loss for Richard Nixon and was seen as a general sign that times were getting worse.
  • Atomic Robo: While it's not clear exactly how old he is, Jenkins is at an absolute minimum 50 years old, probably more, plus whatever awkwardness was caused by spending periods in the Vampire Dimension, which has Year Inside, Hour Outside properties. By The Vengeful Dead, set in 2019, his hair is pretty white and he seems to be mentoring ALAN 2.0 to take over from him as Robo's rock, implying that mortality might be preying on his mind.
  • Cable: While we first see him, Cable is a baby, and ends up taken to the future to be cured of the Techno-Organic Virus. When he reappears as the founder of X-Force, he's a grizzled veteran of the wars in the far future against Apocalypse and Stryfe, being somewhere in his mid to late 40s (as both younger versions of Cable and his half brother, Nate Grey, have demonstrated, his hair goes white early, starting with a white streak in childhood), so it takes a while for the connection to become apparent. His age is rendered more ambiguous by his time travelling, and at least one deaging/reaging incident, but considering that he spent 16 years raising Hope Summers, by the time of his death in Extermination he's at least 70. It should also be noted that despite his age and having his powers crippled by the virus that's killing him, he still takes down one of the most powerful Avengers rosters of all time prior to Avengers vs. X-Men.
  • The Punisher was often portrayed as this during the mid-late aughts, back when it was still feasible for him to be a Vietnam veteran who manages to carry out his lifestyle. MAX in particular seems to depict him as at least in his mid-50s. Later comics tend to quietly ignore or retcon the Vietnam thing to justify drawing him as a man of forty at most.
  • Wallace from Sin City utilizes this trope, although he's a bit more laid back than most versions. Most people don't realize that he is a retired Navy Seal until he has to prove it to them.
  • In one of the Star Wars Legends "Empire" comic lines, The Rebellion finds Able, an old clone trooper who has been living in the wilderness since the Clone Wars. He eventually gets incorporated in Luke's unit and proves to be the best, if most cynical, soldier there and looks out for Luke until the whole unit gets wiped out by The Virus.
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers (Marvel) and The Transformers (IDW) necessarily have quite a few of these, given that the Autobot-Decepticon War lasts, at a rough estimate, three million years.
    • Kup takes this Up to Eleven. Thanks to some unwanted time travel shenanigans, he's actually older than the universe itself.
    • Ratchet is more of a grumpy old battlefield medic than a soldier, but still slots into the archetype, drawing heavily from the Transformers: Prime version of the character.
    • Optimus Prime is a rare version that does have a command role, albeit one that leads from the front a lot of the time. He spends the entire three million year span of the War going from battle to battle...hating pretty much every minute of it.
  • The Ultimates: Nick Fury has served in Vietnam, South America, Kosovo, Gulf War One and any modern war to care to number.
  • Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? has Batman coming face to face with a vision of his mother (whether it's a Dying Dream, regular dream, Fear Gas trip, genuine psychic vision, etc., is never revealed) that basically pegs him as this. She says that none of the various Batman versions in the multiverse ever give up. They keep fighting until they drop, whether it's saving the world or a single person, whether on his first time out or his thousandth. Also, she states that he never goes to Heaven or Hell, instead his afterlife reward is to be Batman. The same soul is continually reincarnated into every universe to keep up the fight, making Batman older than every single superhero in DC and Marvel combined seeing as at one point there were infinite universes. Whether or not this is true is up for debate, though the ending seems to show him being reborn as a baby.
  • Wolverine is sometimes written this way. You could especially see it in the late '80s, when he was Storm's second-in-command in the X-Men.
  • The Wonder Woman (New 52) version of Ares is an old grizzled and cynical soldier.

    Fan Works 
  • Played with in Shell Shock. Sergeant Armor isn't very old, but he's got all the bad temper, PTSD, and sadism that comes from a long time at war.
  • The titular uncle of Songs Uncle Sings is a much lighter and softer version of this trope, as his days of war are long past him, he's found his own personal peace, and he's taken up being a musician. He even tells his nephew an amusing anecdote about his days in training.
  • In Worldwar: War of Equals, The Vietnamese Defense Ministry re-recruits many Vietnam War vets to train their current generation of soldiers in guerrilla warfare against the alien menace.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell:
    • Blazen Sun, who's over 130 years old and is one, if not the very last, of his generation still in the Guard. Still sharp as a tack — he killed a dragon once and could do it again if needed.
    • Mist Flight, lieutenant of the Royal Guard who's held the post longer than his captain Gentle Step.
  • The Bridge: Commander Hurricane is shown as this in the prequel story, Eclipse Times. He's still as skilled as ever and can even keep up with a far physically stronger and magic using Queen Chrysalis for a time, but Surprisingly Realistic Outcome when it's shown earlier he was far past his prime and the best he can do is hold her off.

  • The Big Red One: Lee Marvin, a WWII veteran himself, plays the part of "The Sergeant," who is a WWI veteran in this film about WWII filmed in the 1980s.
  • Das Boot: The Captain of the U-96 is often referred by the rest of the crew as the "Old Man".
  • The Dirty Dozen: Lee Marvin as an old major, then reprises his role 18 years later in The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, which takes place in the same timeframe as the first movie.
  • Heartbreak Ridge: Gunnery Sergeant Highway. Being played by Clint Eastwood helps.
  • Prime Cut: Lee Marvin as an ageing enforcer for the Irish Mob. His driver is an actual World War II veteran.
  • Rio Lobo: McNally, at least while he's in the service. John Wayne was 63 at the time of the movie, and McNally is said to have been in the army before since before the war.
  • Stripes: Warren Oates as Sergeant Hulka.
  • The Thin Red Line: Nick Nolte as Lieutenant Colonel Tall. They don't come much more grizzled.
  • We Were Soldiers: Sergeant Major Basil Plumley. Both the real one and the character played by Sam Elliott.

  • Kat from All Quiet on the Western Front.
  • The Arts of Dark and Light:
    • Corvus is the Four-Star Badass version, an old general who feels he is getting too old for generalship. However, he is then forced into politics instead, a field which is far less straightforward and even more dangerous.
    • Lodi the Dwarf is a veteran of the famous Siege of Iron Mountain. In Summa Elvetica, he tells the story of it to Marcus and the rest of the fellowship.
  • Bob Shaftoe eventually becomes one of these in The Baroque Cycle.
  • John Carter of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series has, by his own admission, been soldiering for literally longer than he can remember, but for some never-explained reason still has the appearance, strength, and stamina of a man in his prime. The combination of peak physical form and decades of sword=fighting experience makes him rather formidable even on Earth, and when translated to Barsoom where the lower gravity allows him to leap moderately-sized buildings with a single bound, he's essentially a one-man army.
  • Belisarius Series: Maurice is the best example. There are others who have seen quite a bit of war, but these are often Proud Warrior Race Guy s whereas Valentinian is closer to the classic model of this trope, having a cynical, practical and plebian outlook on war. Flavius Belisarius himself, both in the series and in the real life. He was a Syrian Greek of peasant stock, a bunch that was noted for their practical outlook, and it was repeatedly said that he viewed the war not as an honor or a joy, but as a work that has to be done, which is why he was so good at it.
  • The Dansker in Billy Budd, an old sailor "of few words, many wrinkles, and some honorable scars," who always addresses Billy as "Baby."
  • In The Black Company series, this trope was written for Croaker and all of the rest of the Company kept in a decades-long magical stasis in the later books, where he also becomes a Four-Star Badass: especially after the Old Guard is resurrected from the magical imprisonment in Water Sleeps.
  • Bolo: Bolos can spend years or decades on the front lines. Of course, they're self-aware tanks armed with a Wave-Motion Gun and whatever else the designers could bolt on, so they tend to fight on a larger scale than most examples here. Seeing as they don't age and can eat a near miss from a nuke, so some of them end up as really old soldiers.
    • One of the books is even called Old Soldiers.
  • Camp 30: The guards at the camp are all older soldiers, veterans of World War I and members of the Veteran Guards of Canada who wer too old to serve on the frontlines in World War II. Jack and George were skeptical of their ability to keep the prisoners in because of their age.
  • Les Dillon is a Marine sergeant in the Harry Turtledove Days of Infamy novels who was a World War I veteran who is called back into action in World War II and soon proves himself as the toughest Marine sergeant in the Pacific War.
  • The Dresden Files has Ebenezar McCoy, Brave Scot, Old Master, and former captain of the Wardens. He doesn't too much fighting anymore, but when he does, he does fun party tricks like killing 200 people with a couple usages of the Blackstaff and dropping satellites with pinpoint precision onto an enemy's stronghold.
  • The narrator in Elfstruck found here.
  • In the Harry Potter books, Aurors are somewhere between cops, spies, and soldiers, but Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody and Rufus Scrimgeour unquestionably fit this trope. Mad-Eye specifically is covered with war wounds, he's an old friend and confidant of Dumbledore's and considered by Dumbledore to be the most trustworthy and reliable wizard in England. Sure enough, when the Order of the Phoenix gets back together (with many roster changes) Moody is part of its backbone. His death early in the last book is a big sign of just how harrowing things are going to be.
  • Common in the Honor Harrington, where the prolong anti-aging therapy allows for very long careers. The title character is in her 60s and many admirals, such as Hamish Alexander, are centenarians. Horace Harkness is a particular example, being in his 70s with a tendency to take less experienced officers and enlisted under his wing for seasoning.
  • Nestor from The Iliad. He's described as having at least a generation on the next oldest soldier present in the battle.
  • The Kingdom and the Crown has an old Roman Centurion named Sextus Rubrius.
  • Druss "The Captain of the Axe" in Legend by David Gemmell. Right down to being brought out of a 'leave me alone' retirement to become the heart of a heroic defense against an overwhelming foe. There is a strong implication that without Druss there the defenders would have routed within a few days of the Nadir army arriving at the gates of the fortress. Druss's presence not only provides a massive morale boost but he also provides invaluable tactical advice since in his life he has participated in dozens of similar sieges as both the attacker and defender. He also has an almost supernatural instinct for the ebb and flow of battle and what to do when it looks like your side might be about to break.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gamling. He expresses concern that the army mostly consists of men his age and their grandsons, because of the high casualty rates Rohan has suffered recently.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • Whiskeyjack has been fighting Imperial wars for decades. He is quite disillusioned with most of it, and tells the young Ganoes Paran to find himself a more worthy dream than becoming a soldier in the prologue of Gardens of the Moon, but he himself keeps going nonetheless. He is grizzled, greying, gruff and down-to-earth, despite having been a commander once, and is now the Sergent of the 9th squad of the Bridgeburners. He immediately develops a Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough dynamic with the (now) Captain Paran when the latter is assigned to the Bridgeburners, and turns out to be a Four-Star Badass and a Master Swordsman in Memories of Ice.
    • Fiddler becomes this as the series goes on. He starts out as a member of Whiskeyjack's squad and is said to have joined the army together with the latter. After technically deserting at the end of Gardens of the Moon, he rejoins the army under a different name because he can't think of of doing anything else than fighting for the Malazan Empire, and though everyone can tell he's a deserter who came back, they value his experience more. He is assigned a squad and inadvertently takes on the role Whiskeyjack used to have in his old squad, constantly grumping about how he is too old for this and how the recruits are still all green, but he keeps the squad together and is the leading Demolitions Expert of the Bonehunters.
  • Several of the characters in George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan series, particularly the Colonel, and Wee Wullie, the battalion disciplinary problem, both of whom joined up in 1914 and are still there in 1947.
  • Sergeant Jackrum from Monstrous Regiment has been on the Borigovian Army's payroll for six decadesnote . His most recent term of service was supposed to be twelve years, and he managed to keep ahead of the discharge papers for another four years after that.
    • And though not technically soldiers, the Silver Horde consists of barbarian adventurers who are all at least eighty. The fact that they are all still alive after more than half a century each — in a line of work that kills most people that go into it in a year or two — means that they are very, very good at not getting killed.
  • Ajax the Archer in Robert Asprin's Myth Conceptions.
  • Fighting in secret war, but Griffin from President's Vampire qualifies. He has been Cade's partner for over three decades and there's little that would surprise him anymore. Even before this assignment, he was FBI agent, so he has a lot of experience to draw from.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Grymbart, a mercenary with a wife in every major city, plays this straight. He's the first man onboard the Quicksilver to befriend Reynard.
  • Sergeant Jean in Seven Men of Gascony by R. F. Delderfield. Nicholette is this in a sense and is an interesting enough character to deserve mention. She is a camp-follower selling wine to Napolean's army, not a soldier per se (that is she doesn't carry a musket). However she grew up in her circumstances and was an Old Lady of War at age sixteen. She knew the tricks of surviving including those specific to her circumstances such as avoiding giving away more of the other kind of refreshments than she was willing to give by the adroit use of a Death Glare, and by a non-canonical(presided over by the sergeant not a priest that is) but faithfully kept marriage to each of the members of The Squad until they were killed. I know Squick y but It Makes Sense in Context. She is one of the most interesting characters of the book.
  • Ser Rodrik Cassel from A Song of Ice and Fire. A tough, loyal, dependable, and sensible knight, who, unfortunately, is very much given the short end of the stick in the series. Barristan the Bold A.K.A Barristan the Old from the also qualifies.
  • Starship Troopers: Sergeant Zim (no relation), and a few other veterans like Jelal probably qualify. It's also not uncommon for older men (such as Juan Rico's father) to enlist in the Mobile Infantry, those who make it through training are often fast-tracked.
  • Colonel Kraft in Victoria, the chessmaster rebel tactician who is already aging when first introduced and quickly steps down from active duty once the Confederation is established.
  • Broxigar "The Red Axe" of Warcraft definitely qualifies. As an orc who lived through the wars of all three games, he was greatly respected by Thrall and revered by the soldiers. Despite his age and maturity, he gets a good amount of Character Development through his Survivor Guilt.
  • The Warlord Chronicles: Most of the characters who survive until the third book are Old Soldiers. Sagramor, who has been a soldier nearly his entire life and main character Derfel are major examples, but one of the coolest examples is Culhwch. There's a bit very close to the end of the series where he walks out in the space between two opposing armies and dares someone from the other side to try to become famous by killing him in single combat. When no one comes out, Culhwch taunts the entire army about their cowardice and reluctance to take on a bald old man. When Culhwch turns his back to return to his own side, one of the enemy Mooks does in fact try to backstab him, but Culhwch effortlessly guts the poor bastard. He then waits for a minute to see if anyone else is going to come forward before really returning to his place in the shield wall.
  • Will in Scarlet: Sir Osbert is about sixty, has served the Shackleys since he was Will's age, and is still eager for a fight against people like Guy of Gisbourne. The family members like to joke about just how long Osbert's been a soldier.

    Live Action TV  
  • Babylon 5 had a few examples, the two most prominent human examples probably being General Franklin and General Lefcourt. Franklin is a Ground Pounder who proudly boasts that old soldiers can "still kick butt with the best of them," while Lefcourt describes himself as a member of the "Old Guard" who feel it's not their place as soldiers to take up arms against President Clark when he begins ruling the Earth Alliance as a tyrant.
  • Band of Brothers. During the final episode, "Points", Germany has surrendered and some of the now-disarmed German troops are being used in some minor roles in the Allied occupation. One such soldier, an old veteran, is assigned to man a checkpoint with Easy Company's Private Janovec. He happily talks about how he was in every country of Europe during the conflict. He then mentions that this is the end of his second war, meaning he had fought in World War I as well. Janovec is stunned and congratulates him on being able to survive both world wars.
  • The War Doctor's subcultural gimmick in Doctor Who, being that he was a body selected by the Eighth Doctor to be 'a warrior'. He has a young appearance upon first regenerating, but by the time he gets involved in the main series' plot he appears very old, being sick of the Time War.
    • Big Finish invokes the trope as one of their audios' titles — Old Soldiers, featuring the Brig, who mentions a saying from his father: "In life, as on the fields of battle, there are old soldiers and there are bold soldiers, but there are very few old, bold soldiers."
  • The Expanse features Captain Klaus Ashford of the OPA Navy. Played by 70-year-old David Straithan, he has no problems keeping up with much younger characters. When an old enemy (and much younger man) throws a punch, Ashford easily dodges it and lays his opponent on the floor. Made especially awesome given that he is a Belter, who generally don't live past 65.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Qhorin Halfhand is a member of the Night's Watch, a senior and experienced ranger who is regarded as an elite scout and soldier.
    • Jeor Mormont has been a soldier almost his entire life.
    • Rodrik Cassel is clearly rather old and is Master-at-Arms at Winterfell and a loyal servant to House Stark. Even in his old age he is still a skilled warrior.
    • Rickard Karstark is a capable general in Robb's army, having fought against the Mad King. In the books, he also killed Ser Stafford Lannister at the Battle of Oxcross (the battle in Episode 4).
    • Tywin has fought in at least two country-wide wars and the annihilation of rebel bannermen before that:
    Tywin: 'The War of Five Kings' they're calling it. This will be my last war. The one I'll be remembered for.
    • Barristan Selmy is one of the oldest active soldiers, as he's a veteran of three previous wars.
    • Malakho is one of the oldest members of Dany's khalasar.
  • JAG: Captain Reed in "Desert Son" served in the enlisted ranks before bucking for officer. As a result, he's unusually old and salty for a Marine Captain. And of course there is General Williams.
  • Colonel Sherman Potter in M*A*S*H. He was a cavalry soldier in WWI.
  • The Pacific: Sergeant Elmo "Gunny" Haney of the USMC. One of the leads, Eugene Sledge, wrote a book entitled, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. Gunny *was* the old breed, having been in the service since the Great War. Victor Davis Hanson noted that he even had a name that sounded like a Marine's name.
  • Kang, Kor and Koloth, all Klingon captains from Star Trek who had confrontations with Captain Kirk. They're still fighting, killing and generally being badasses over a century later in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. All three had earned the rank of Dahar Master, which made them legendary even among Klingon warriors.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech has numerous old soldiers: mechwarriors who fought in the 4th Succession War in 3028 showed up to fight in the Fedcom Civil War in 3062. But the character who did the best job embodying this trope would probably be Natasha Kerensky The Black Widow. At the time of her death in 3057, she was 84-years-old and not only was still considered one of the best mechwarriors who ever lived but was also still widely regarded as a sex symbol as well.

    Video Games  
  • Deconstructed in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. Mihaly is in his seventies, yet he’s still flying fighter craft for Erusea. However, as noted by Dr. Schroeder, flying fighter craft takes a toll on his body, as he comes back from each sortie exhausted from the fatigue. Late in the game, Mihaly was given a flight suit that wasn’t tested, and it did nothing to improve his flying abilities. After that, Schroeder had a flight suit made based on his specifications, and it allowed Mihaly to fly the way he wanted. However, after Mihaly’s third and final dogfight against Trigger, the ending reveals that he survived getting shot down, but his body was unable to handle the stress anymore, and it left Mihaly bedridden for the remainder of his life, which Mihaly considered a Fate Worse than Death.
  • The appropriately named Sensei from Advance Wars, his outfit is an old paratrooper uniform from WW2. It's implied that he used to be a fearsome and practically unbeatable general back in the day. His name in the original Japanese is shared with Mr. Yamamoto, a Purposely Overpowered C.O. from Super Famicom Wars, suggesting that they may have been one and the same.
    Adder: You... You're an old man! For you to have defeated me... Who... Who are you?
    Sonja: Sensei! You did it! You are victorious!
    Sensei: Hm? I am? Oh, that's nice.
    Adder: Wait! Now I remember... It was in the reports... This country once boasted a CO who was said to be unbeatable... A man whom everyone feared... Impossible... It couldn't be!
    Sensei: Who, me?
    Adder: Uh... Today was... unlucky. A bad day. We'll meet again, old... This is not finished!
    Sensei: Seemed to have pulled through in one piece. Sonja? Are you all right?
    Sonja: Sensei? You were unbeatable? Everyone... feared you?
    Sensei: Who, me? Oh, that's so long ago, I'd almost forgotten. There might have been a rumor of that nature at some point, but... Come now, there are battles yet to be fought. Let's go.
    Sonja: Yes... Yes, sir!
  • Battletech, in addition to several existing examples from tabletop canon like Natasha Kerensky or Morgan Kellnote , has Sir Raju "Mastiff" Montgomery. He doesn't get much chance to shine in-game, only appearing during the tutorial mission, but he's a top-notch mechwarrior who personally trained Lady Kamea and her cousin Victoria and has over forty years of experience.
  • Carter in Deus Ex.
  • In Diablo III the male barbarian was meant to be the same Barbarian Hero from the second game in the series, albeit 20 years older and sporting a gray beard.
  • Sten from Dragon Age: Origins acts like this although you never get a grasp of how old he actually is (digging in character files with the official developer's toolkit lists him as merely 30, making him actually an aversion of this trope — not that you'd ever guess that from looking at him).
  • Dynasty Warriors: Huang Zhong. Most of his lines invoke his experience and age; the source material Romance of the Three Kingdoms suggests that he was 63 when he first appeared in the story to fight Guan Yu. Although he is actually a year younger than Jia Xu. However, Jia Xu appears much earlier in the story and as such is depicted as being much younger looking.
    • Huang Gai (no relation) of the kingdom of Wu also merits a mention, being cast as a muscular old marine (that is, a shipborne warrior, as befitting his kingdom's naval tradition) in particular, and ever since Dynasty Warriors 6 he's portrayed with gray or white hair. Also true to most of his Three Kingdoms characterization.
  • Echoes: Operation Stranglehold: Colonel Strickman, 65, is both a capable fighter and the leader of one of the largest guerrilla cells fighting against the Hybrid Pantheon.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The ancient Chimeri/Dunmeri Founder of the Kingdom Lord Nerevar was (at least) in his 300s at the time of his death and still serving as a Frontline General. Granted, the races of Mer are Long-Lived compared to the races of Men, but that is still quite old for a Mer. (Not counting those who've enhanced their lifespans with magic or divine powers.)
    • Frandar Hunding, the legendary Redguard/Yokudan hero Master Swordsman, was around 60 when he led the Ansei to victory against Emperor Hira and then traveled to Tamriel. He would have pushing 90 when he fell in battle against the giant goblins of Hammerfell.
  • The Regretful Soldier from Fallen London fits quite well. He's always drunk and frequently weeping, but he's still one of the best brawlers there are.
  • In Far Cry 2, Josip is 48-years-old and a heavy drinker, but still described as a man "who will break you in two."
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Despite otherwise being an irreverent old coot, Galuf of Final Fantasy V gets very serious whenever it comes to Big Bad Exdeath. Turns out he was one of the four Dawn Warriors who fought Exdeath thirty years ago and has been ruling Bal in a thoroughly warrior-king way ever since. When Galuf dies in battle against Exdeath — a battle he fought with zero HP — his last words to the party aren't sentiment, but telling them in no uncertain terms to finish the job while they beg him not to die. He does have more caring words for his granddaughter, though.
    • Auron from Final Fantasy X is an unusually young example, being only around 35, but considering his role in the group, that the rest of the party is in their teens to early 20s, and that Auron was a longtime warrior monk before he became a guardian, (and then the only guardian to ever survive a successful Pilgrimage, which is enough to make him a Living Legend by itself) and his general Seen It All attitude, Auron being considered the old soldier is more than justified.
  • Fire Emblem has many older soldiers fighting alongside their younger peers in the battlefield. Unsurprisingly, they are usually the Crutch Character who starts off with more experience in a fight (with base stats higher than their younger soldiers) but their low growths make them very difficult to catch up once the younger soldiers gain more stats. This include Jagen, Lorenz, Mycen, Xavier, Marcus, Douglas, Duessel, Tauroneo, and Gunter.
  • Fur Fighters: Roofus Hound fits the bill. He has since retired along with the rest of his squad but this WWII veteran is still out kicking ass with the best of them when Viggo pops up.
  • Halo:
    • Sgt. Avery Johnson is at least almost 70-years-old in the main trilogy, and has survived about half-a-century's worth of constant frontline combat fighting Insurrectionists, Covenant, and Flood. The fact that he's a Spartan-I probably explains at least part of it.
    • On that note, all of the Spartan-II Super Soldiers are about 41 by the time Halo: Reach occurs, and they've all been fighting since they were 14. Nevertheless, their augmentations, along with plenty of cryo-sleep, help keep them physically younger than their ages suggest.
    • Edward Buck fills this role in both Halo 3: ODST, where he's 42, and Halo 5: Guardians, where he's 48.
  • Jolee in Knights of the Old Republic acts like this sometimes.
  • William "Bill" Overbeck from Left 4 Dead, a former Green Beret and two-tour Vietnam vet who is the oldest of the original Survivors. While he may not be in peak fighting condition, he still fights just as well as his other teammates, and (from in-game dialogue) is considered to be the mentor of the group. He is also one who canonically commits a Heroic Sacrifice, though for different reasons.
  • Zaeed Massani from Mass Effect 2, who is arguably the toughest member of the team aside from Garrus, and of course, Shepard.
    • Urdnot Wrex in the first Mass Effect game, who's ancient even for a krogan and has been a soldier and mercenary since Earth had Vikings.
    • Admirals Anderson and Hackett embody this trope for the Alliance, having fought in every major engagement of the last three decades. Anderson is said to have enough medals to melt into a lifesize gold statue of himself, while Hackett's service record is apparent from the sheer amount of scars he has across his face.
    • Kaidan expresses feeling like one of these at the end of the third game. He's thirty-six at most by that point, but War Is Hell. Shepard him/herself expresses similar feelings despite being even younger than Kaidan, especially by the end of the game thanks to an extreme case of Heroic Fatigue.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda has Nakmor Drack, who is even older than Wrex. He's not quite old enough to have been around when the krogan first got uplifted, but he can remember the immediate aftermath. He's spent his entire life, all fifteen hundred years and counting of it, fighting and killing. As a result, he's down one limb and several organs. He's also a good chef and a doting grandfather, and a good source of emotional support if you haven't upset him.
    • There's also Alec Ryder, who's probably about the same age as Anderson, also a vet of the First Contact War, and an N7, meaning he serves as a One Many Army.
  • "Old" Snake by the time of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, although he had everything but the physical age by the time of the first Metal Gear Solid. Old Snake is 42. Aside from Old Snake, there are also Revolver Ocelot, who's 70 by the time of MGS4, and Big Boss, who's 79.
  • The Metro 2033 series of games features Colonel Sviatoslav Melnikov (also known as "Melnik", "Miller" in the English translation), a Four-Star Badass and leader of the Spartan Order. Despite his age, and the prosthetic replacement of his lower legs in Metro Exodus after the Battle of D6, he still kicks as much, if not more, ass as the player character. Highlights include bludgeoning a cannibal to death with a helmet and ripping a path through mutants with a homemade railgun.
  • Overwatch has a few:
    • Soldier:76, AKA Jack Morrison was a super soldier during the omnic crisis and one of the founding members of Overwatch. After the group was disbanded, he became a vigilante, waging a personal war to expose the truth behind Overwatch's collapse.
    • Reinhardt Wilhelm, also a founding member of the team, even at 61-years-old, still proves to be a stalwart, hammy and even jovial ally on the battlefield. He's got a giant rocket hammer, an even bigger barrier field and a suit of Powered Armor, and can soak up as much damage as he dishes out.
    • To a shorter extent, there's Torbjorn Lindholm, 57, who was Overwatch's chief engineer while the group was active. After the group was disbanded, many of his weapons and creations were stolen and stashed away around the world, and now he tries to make sure those weapons don't fall into the wrong hands.
    • Ana Amari, Jack Morrison's second in command, was the world's best sniper, until a Critical Hesitation Blunder incapacitated her and her cybernetic dominant eye was shot out by Widowmaker. After faking her own death for years, she decided to put retirement on hold to aid the people she loves, in particular her daughter, Pharah. In game, she is a support sniper whose rifle shoots darts filled with biotic chemicals that heal allies as well as damage enemies.
  • Peppy Hare from the Star Fox series is a veteran of the Cornerian army, having served alongside James McCloud, before the two of them broke off to form the eponymous mercenary commando unit. However, after Pigma's betrayal and James' declared death, Peppy joined up with James' son Fox as a wing pilot and mentor figure in the new Star Fox team.
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed: General Rahm Kota.
  • Largo from Valkyria Chronicles had served in the First Europan War some twenty years before the game's events, and is one of the older members of Squad 7. It came as no surprise when he initially saw Welkin as little more than a young upstart cashing in on fame.
    • Most squad members in the game are barely teenagers. Some, however, are much older. Catherine and Musaad are also First Europan War veterans and 35- and 43-years-old respectively, and Wavy is a 37-year-old Badass Teacher. All of these pale in comparison to storm-trooper Coby, who is 65 and still kicking ass.
  • In Zelda II: The Adventure of Link there are a pair of Hylian soldiers from the last great war who, despite not being at the peak of their physical ability as they once were, can still teach Link sword techniques.

  • Girl Genius: Mitko is a grandfather who has been in the Mechanicsburg Militia since the days of the Old Heterodynes and despite needing a cane these days has no intent of retiring from a job he seems near gleeful to return to when the town is under attack.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Trond has been in the military all his life and hates so much the idea of retiring that he'd rather be a Hypercompetent Sidekick in the Mission Control for an expedition in a Forbidden Zone that is doomed to failure as far as most authorities are concerned.

    Western Animation 
  • Gargoyles: Hudson, definitely; in fact, he was addressed as such until he received his name. (Demona still tends to call him this, perhaps out of habit.)
  • Captain Rex was a badass soldier in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. When he comes out of "retirement" in Star Wars Rebels to help the rebellion, he's still a crack shot and clever tactician. Same applies to Wolffe and Gregor, who were respectively a Commander and Captain in the Grand Army of the Republic. Played with, in that while they are indeed old veterans, being clone troopers means they’re only around thirty years old, but also experience Rapid Aging that makes them look twice that age.
  • Parodied in the Season 3 finale of Star vs. the Forces of Evil. Star tries to get get military advice from her old mentor Sir Scarsguard, the oldest of Mewni's knights who's said to have led their army in battle for three generations. The problem is, Scarsguard is now so old that he's gone completely deaf and can't hear any of her questions, and is probably also senile.
  • General Immortus from Teen Titans takes this Up to Eleven. He's a brilliant military tactician since, in the words of a fellow villain, he's experienced every war in history.
  • Transformers:

    Real Life 
  • The entire Heer (Army) leadership of the Wehrmacht in World War II. The average Heer NCO (one per ten-to-twenty men) was forty-something or older. The average Heer general (one per 2k-4k men) was in his fifties. For contrast, while the average Soviet NCO was also in his forties or late 30s, Soviet Generals were all in their forties as well. This was thanks partly to the purges and prewar expansion of the Red Army, but largely to wartime promotions.
  • The French Army senior officer corps before and during the disastrous 1940 campaign was populated by old veterans. The commander in chief General Maurice Gamelin had been born in 1872, his successor General Maxime Weygand had been born in 1867 and lived to nearly 100, and Field Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain had been born in 1856, making him the oldest man to ever become head of state in French history. When Prime Minister Paul Reynaud asked their opinion of Charles de Gaulle (who was 50 back then), they called him "an unruly kid".
  • Jean Thurel served in the French Army from 1716 until his death in 1807. He was 107 when he died, and was consequently known as "the Oldest Soldier in Europe".
  • Similarly, William Hiseland was the last survivor of the English Civil War, living to the ripe old age of 112. He fought in his last battle (during the War of Spanish Succession) at the age of 89.
  • Samuel Whittlemore, the oldest man known to have participated in the American Revolutionary War. At the ripe old age of 78 he single-handedly ambushed a British brigade, shot and killed three redcoats, was shot in the face, bayoneted 13 times and Left for Dead in a pool of his own blood. He was found a short time later, still alive and trying to reload his musket. The doctors said he had zero chance of survival. Even so, he recovered and lived another 18 years.
  • Due to the nature of the job, some soldiers are affectionately known as "Old Man" or something similar despite being several years away from middle-aged.
  • The Old Guard of Napoleon's Imperial Guard. There were also a Young and a Middle Guard, but the Old one was the creme de la creme of the greater French empire. Composed entirely of veterans of Napoleon's earliest campaigns, with at least ten years of service, they were highly valued by Napoleon. Since they were the only soldiers who could dare complain about their conditions in front of the emperor, they were known as "Grognards" (grumblers). Militarily, they served as a reserve thrown into battle at a critical moment to tip the scales, though more usually were kept in the back to avoid taking losses. When the Old Guard broke and routed at the final stage of Waterloo, the rest of the French army followed soon upon hearing of it, such was their Memetic Badass status.
  • The silver shield pikemen, Argyraspides, from the war of the successors. These men had followed Alexander the Great in his campaigns and continued fighting in the wars of his successors. Most were over sixty by the time of their last battle. They formed a unit that was undefeated in battle, the only reason they surrendered was when the rest of the army had been routed and their camp, which had their wives, children, and loot, were taken by an enemy army. Afterwards they were disbanded and sent two at a time on suicide missions that they never returned from.
  • War of the Triple Alliance featured Duke Of Caxias, supreme commander of the Triple Alliance in the later part of the war, who was nearly 70 and still leading his troops in the vanguard.
  • Gerd von Rundstedt joined Germany's elite military academy in 1892, before Hitler had even gone to pre-school. One of the oldest field marshals and a dedicated Prussian officer, he lead forces in France and ukraine well into his late sixties — making him the oldest soldier in a senior command position in World War II, and quite definitely the most competent man in his age bracket.
  • Field Marshal Count Radetzky, already veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, won his most renowned victories, at Novara and Venice, aged 82. He still lived for 9 more years and actively ruled Northern Italy as a Viceroy of the Austrian Emperor. His death had been due to injuries in an accident.
  • Field Marshall C.G.E. Mannerheim. He joined the Imperial Russian Cavalry in 1882note , fighting in the Russo-Japanese War, First World War and Russian Revolution. After the collapse of Imperial Russia, he retired 1917 in the age of 50 as General, returning to his native Finland. Little did he know his great years were only ahead. He was immediately assigned as the commander-in-chief of the Finnish White Army, leading them in victory in the Finnish Independence War. He was again nominated as Supreme Commander as Field Marshall, leading the country through the entire Second World War. He was 78 when he retired 1945, taking the office of President of Finland. Sadly, his health broke down and he passed away 1951.
  • The last serving soldier to have seen active service in WW2 left the British Army in 1983, with general officer's rank.
    • General Lauri Sutela, Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Armed Forces, retired likewise 1983. He had served as First Lieutenant in Engineer Corps in the Winter War 1939.
    • Dr. Earl Fox of St. Petersburg, Florida was confirmed as the last WWII veteran in the U.S. military, having served in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard from 1941 until 1999.
    • Wolfgang Altenberg, who retired in 1989, served as Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr from 1983 to 1986 and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee from 1986 to 1989. He started his military career as a Wehrmacht soldier during the Second World War.
    • All Marshals of the Soviet Union, including the ones promoted in the last years of the USSR, were veterans of the Second World War with the Marshals promoted in the final years of the Soviet Union having served as junior officers during the Great Patriotic War.
  • Major General Alfred K. Flowers holds the distinction as the longest-serving Airman in US Air Force history, and longest-serving African American in the US Department of Defense. He enlisted as a supply warehouseman in 1965, rose to the rank of Master Sergeant, received a commission as a Second Lieutenant, and continued to serve as a commissioned officer until he retired in 2012 after 46 years on active-duty (for comparison: most military personnel can opt for retirement after 20 years of service).
  • Admiral Hyman G. Rickover holds the distinction of being the longest serving U.S. sailor, along with the longest serving U.S. service member in history. A career submarine officer and veteran of World War I and World War II, immediately after that war he was chosen to find a military use for the embryonic nuclear power technology for something other than making things explode. He thus led the effort to design and build the first-ever nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus and many others to follow, literally inventing new technologies and uses as he went. For decades he trained generations of a new breed of nuclear sailors and set enormously high standards for safety and craftsmanship in the new military nuclear power industry. As nuclear technology grew in importance, so did Rickover's position, and he eventually became the first sailor to be promoted to four-star Admiral in a non-command position. He finally retired in 1982 after 64 years of active duty service, just after his 82nd birthday.
  • At the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the Knights of St. John were led by Grand Master La Valette, who was 71 at the time, while the Ottomans were led by Dragut Reis, who was 80, and their ground forces were led by Mustapha Pasha, who was 70. All led from the front, and La Valette and Dragut were both wounded in action.
  • There are a lot of (admittedly anecdotal) stories from people who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where patrols would encounter jihadis of mixed ages. Most of them would be younger guys with AKs who fought like fanatics but employed Hollywood Tactics and fell in droves, but occasionally there would be an older man among them with an old Enfield or Martini-Henry or even an older traditional, home-made Afghan jezail. These guys were the really dangerous ones.
  • The Argyraspides or Silver Shields of Alexander the Great continued existing as a unit for decades after his death, serving in both Wars of the Diadochi and remaining formidable soldiers well into their 60s.

Alternative Title(s): Grizzled Veteran