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War Hero

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A character is specifically mentioned as having served in the military and been decorated for heroism on the battlefield. It can be an important plot point, or simply a mentioned-in-passing part of the character's backstory that has no relevance on the plot or story other than expanding on the person's background. They may still be serving or have been discharged/retired. They may be an Old Soldier, Shell-Shocked Veteran, Blood Knight, or an example of I Did What I Had to Do. They can be a heavily muscled, tattoo-covered biker who will cheerfully treat you to a Scar Survey if you'd like, or a quiet, unassuming type whom you'd dismiss as an accountant or secretary until the shit hits the fan and Let's Get Dangerous! comes out to play. Will often overlap with Dad the Veteran, and will make his Papa Wolf mode all the more serious due to his training and experience. Chest of Medals may also come into play. If the character moves on to costumed crimefighting, they're a Military Superhero.

There is absolutely no reason that they have to be a man. With women taking on more and more roles in the military, particularly roles involving direct combat, the opportunities for women being recognized for courage under fire have greatly increased.

The character can be a police officer but earned their awards while serving in the military. All law enforcement agencies have their own awards for recognizing valor, but these are not considered wartime decorations making one this trope. This does not detract in any way from the dangers police officers face on the job.

The Phony Veteran will often use illegally-obtained awards and falsified documents to pass as one of these.

One of our Military and Warfare Tropes.

No Real Life Examples, Please! - Suffice it to say there are countless people and animals who have been recognized for courage during wartime. However, listing real people who are portrayed by actors in films, biopics, etc. is acceptable as long as they are placed in the appropriate folder and not in a Real Life section.


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    Comic Book 
  • Captain America: Fought in WWII on every front at some point. Throughout his comic history, it is common occurrence to run into an aged veteran or descendant of such whose life he saved. He's heavily decorated, but since he rarely wears a military uniform and doesn't display his decorations it's difficult to determine exactly what his decorations are.

  • The Negotiations-verse: In a rare case of an unnamed character being one, the sniper who killed Shining Armor is highly decorated for it and viewed highly.
  • The Amalgam'Verse: In The Battle of Mount Erebus, Mugal is a Simian veteran who was propped up by the government and propaganda offices as such for his spectacular service and it earned him the rank of High Marshall. The concept is brutally deconstructed as the cushy command rank is meant to keep him out of the action he craves, he feels a mountain of guilt for all the youths who enlisted because of his image, and absolutely loathes the reputation it got him because of the blind hero-worship many give him.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Jungle Book (1967): Colonel Hathi mentions having received the Victoria Cross while serving in "the Maharajah's Fifth Pachyderm Brigade" (how it could be given to an elephant is anyone's guess).
  • The Princess and the Frog: Tiana's father died while fighting in World War I, and she keeps his Distinguished Service Cross (the U.S. Army's second-highest award after the Medal of Honor) next to his photograph.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve is set up as a Propaganda Hero by the US government, but he becomes an actual war hero after liberating 400 POWs from a Hydra facility, for which he receives the Medal of Valor.
  • Escape from New York. When Snake Plisskin arrives at the facility, he is taken to a meeting with Police Commissioner Bob Hauk. Plisskin was a U.S. soldier during a war with Russia. He received two Purple Hearts and was the youngest man ever to be decorated by the President. However, Plisskin robbed a Federal Reserve depository and was sentenced to the Manhattan prison. Hauk tells Plisskin "I'm ready to kick your ass out of the world, war hero."
  • The Godfather: In the original novel, Detective Phillips, trying to protect Michael Corleone, specifically says "He's a war hero." Indeed Michael is: his deeds earned him several medals, including the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, and LIFE magazine ran a photo layout story on him.
  • Heartbreak Ridge has Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway approaching retirement, and stationed at Cherry Point to whip some punk-ass privates into fighting shape. His charges think the sergeant is just a relic marking time, but he's no slouch at combat, being a decorated veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Among a great many other awards for valor, he also has the Medal of Honor. His men soon learn that the sergeant is a Jerkass with a Heart of Gold, giving them some Training from Hell, but also playing fair and honest in his comportment.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: During World War II, Harry becomes a naval fighter pilot, becoming an ace, and shooting down two kamikaze that were aiming for a transport full of troops, for which he is awarded the Medal of Honor. As Christmas approaches, he's coming back to Bedford Falls and the town is getting ready to throw him a hero's welcome.
  • Patton has the American general seek to push his forces through Western France and into the Rhineland, but terrible weather hampers their advance, and worse, makes it difficult for American aircraft to locate their targets. General Patton charges a chaplain with composing a prayer for better weather, which the man does. Patton is heard reciting the prayer as American soldiers slog forth and die. The next day is clear and sunny, with American aircraft raining bombs galore on German positions. "Get me that chaplain," Patton orders. "That man stands in good with the Lord, and I want to decorate him."
    • Specifically, Patton awarded him the Silver Star.
  • General Francis X Hummel, the Antagonist of The Rock is a high decorated marine officer trying to get justice and recongnition for men fall in blacks ops under his command.
    Sinclair:Three tours in Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm; three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and the Congressional Medal of - Jesus. This man is a hero.
  • To Hell and Back, the Biopic of Audie Murphy, ends with his Medal of Honor ceremony. The picture actually underplays the exploits that led to his decoration.
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Cliff Booth in is described in those words by Rick Dalton, and his considerable hand-to-hand skills back the claim up. Which war isn't specified, but the actor's age makes WWII the likeliest.

  • Cujo: Gary Pervier won a Distinguished Service Cross during World War II, and is now an angry and bitter alcoholic. His wartime injuries led to him being addicted to morphine, and once he came home from the war he substituted alcohol for morphine.
  • First Blood: Rambo is specifically mentioned as being a winner of the Medal of Honor as well as a highly trained and experienced Green Beret. It's relevant to the plot as he's an opponent whose capabilities are far beyond what the lawmen of a small-town Sheriff's department are able to handle. Interestingly, Sheriff Teasle is also a decorated veteran of the Korean War. While being booked, Rambo sees his citation for having been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. This saves Teasle's life later. When Rambo ambushes Teasle's men and kills several, Teasle panics and runs away. Colonel Trautman later tells Teasle that Rambo assumed that Teasle, being a trained combat veteran, was not running away but actually strategically retreating to draw Rambo into a trap. Therefore, Rambo didn't pursue him.
  • Dumbledore in Harry Potter received his Order of Merlin (First Class) for winning the wizarding war against Grindelwald
  • Honor Harrington: Sir Horace Harkness, holder of the Parliamentary Medal of Valor, which he earned (along with his knighthood) enabling the escape of Admiral Honor Harrington from the custody of the People's Republic of Haven's State Sec, killing one of the PRH's top three officials in the process.
  • Subverted in The Manchurian Candidate and adaptations of such. Sgt. Raymond Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honor for saving his unit during the Korean War and is catapulted into a political career, but everyone involved were brainwashed by the communists into thinking that, and Shaw is further brainwashed into acting as a sleeper agent.
  • George Pontmercy (father of Marius) of Les Misérables fought well enough in Waterloo to receive the title of Baron from Napoléon himself.
  • 'Salem's Lot: Weasel Craig, one of the town residents who befriends Ben Mears, is specifically mentioned as having won a Silver Star during World War II. He's a nice man, but also a desperate and broke alcoholic who relies on charity and handouts to get by.
  • Belamy from Skate the Thief had a distinguished military career decades before the book starts, picking up the moniker "The Iron Wind" on the battlefield. He doesn't like to talk about any of it, as he became disillusioned about the cause of the war, and this time carries a secret shame because of how he treated a young scared soldier.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: There are several characters who are commended for their prowess in battle:
    • Barristan the Bold became a Living Legend for defeating Maelys the Monstrous in single combat during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. He was rewarded with a position on the Kingsguard.
    • Jorah Mormont was knighted by King Robert on the battlefield for being one of the first men through the breach during the Siege of Pyke, a decisive battle in the Greyjoy Rebellion. He was later anointed by the High Septon during a formal ceremony.
    • After the Battle of the Blackwater, King Joffrey hosts a ceremony to honor the soldiers who fought on his side. More than six hundred men are knighted and some are even given land, castles, or valuable items. Tywin Lannister, the king's grandfather and leader of The Cavalry, is proclaimed the "Savior of the City".

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Both Commander Sinclair and Captain Sheridan are decorated veterans of the Earth-Minbari War, earning the Silver Star of Valor. Sheridan even scored Earth's only victory.
  • Charmed (1998): Leo served in WWII. When he attended a reunion (pretending to be his own grandson) all the other veterans, many of them war heroes themselves, and their families all gathered around Leo to talk about how he saved their lives.
  • Daredevil: Foggy used Frank Castle's military record as part of his defense. Technically, Foggy was arguing that Frank had PTSD, but he took every opportunity to let the jury know what a hero he was.
  • Magnum, P.I.: Magnum won the Navy Cross during his time in Vietnam, and when in scenes requiring that he wear his dress uniform the Navy Cross is at the top of his ribbon rack. Higgins is a former British soldier and is also a winner of the Victoria Cross, which is the equivalent to the U.S. Medal of Honor. Neither of them likes talking about their awards and don't display them.
  • The NCIS episode "Call Of Silence" is about a WWII veteran who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Iwo Jima trying to turn himself in for murdering a fellow Marine on the battlefield. In the end, it turned out that he had performed a Mercy Kill for his mortally wounded comrade because the screaming would have attracted the attention of Japanese forces.
    Gibbs: You don't win the Medal of Honor, Kate. You're awarded it, for conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.
  • The Pacific: John Basilone is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in the Battle of Guadalcanal. He becomes something of a Propaganda Hero as well, given his importance in selling U.S. war bonds. Much of his subsequent character arc is him trying to deal with the perception that people have developed of him. He ultimately returns to the front, and is killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
  • The Rockford Files: Jim Rockford served during the Korean War and was awarded the Silver Star. The combat experience shows, as he's very calm under pressure and isn't intimidated by guns.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Captain Kirk is openly stated to have been decorated many times for valor. Kirk doesn't talk about his awards or display them, preferring to keep them locked away in his quarters. His record is so impressive that in the episode "Court Martial" where Kirk was framed for the death of a crewman and put on trial, the prosecutor tried to have his decorations entered into the record without being read aloud to the court. Fortunately, Kirk's defense attorney saw right through this ploy and insisted that more of Kirk's list of medals be read into the record.
    Cogley: I wouldn't want to slow the wheels of progress. But then on the other hand, I wouldn't want those wheels to run over my client in their unbridled haste.
    Stone: Continue.
    Computer: Awards of Valor, Medal of Honor, Silver Palm with Cluster, Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry, Karagite Order of Heroism...
    Cogley: Stop. I think that's enough. I wouldn't want to slow things up too much.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • When he was called to testify at Worf's hearing it was revealed that Chief O'Brien had been in over two hundred combat engagements and received fifteen decorations from Starfleet for those actions, qualifying him as a expert in starship combat.
    • After the battle to retake Deep Space Nine from the Dominion, Captain Sisko is awarded the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor. This is referenced a few episodes later when his old Academy nemesis Captain Solok shows up and needles Sisko by saying he had received that award twice.
  • Most of the command crew of the U.S.S. Discovery are awarded the Starfleet Medal of Honor at the end of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery for their actions during the Federation-Klingon War.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • King of the Hill. Cotton Hill is a World War II veteran who killed 50 men and lost his shins to a Japanese gunner. He's been awarded both the Silver Star and the Medal of Honor.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Abe is ususally this. How heroic he was exactly is Depending on the Writer.
    • In "Homer vs. Dignity", Mr. Burns wants Homer to throw some pudding at Lenny to humiliate him. Homer protests, "Lenny? But he's a war hero!" Exactly what war Lenny fought in remains unknown.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: In "Little Johnny Jet", an old B-29 plane bemoans being unable to find a job despite his military record.
    Mary: Did you tell them of your wonderful war record? A hero of 90 missions across the Pacific?
    John: Yeah. I even showed 'em my Purple Heart [opens his chest cavity to reveal a ticking mechanical heart]