Vincent Hancock, Army:
Last, but definitely not least, is former Sgt. Vincent Hancock, 27, of Port Charlotte, Florida. He’ll be heading to Rio this year to defend his two-time title as Olympic champion. Hancock won the gold medal in skeet shooting in London and in Beijing, becoming the first shotgun shooter to ever win consecutive Olympic golds. He has also set several world records in the sport over the years.
Hancock joined the Army in 2006 as a motor vehicle operator. He left the AMU in 2012 with the goal of opening up a shooting academy with his dad, but he has said that Army service gave him the opportunity to learn to perform at a higher level.
The gentlemen below are former military Olympians who I thought deserved a mention, too:
Bret Erickson, Army:
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Bret Erickson may no longer be competing professionally, but his shooting career has spanned decades. Erickson was a trap shooter for Team USA in Barcelona, Atlanta, Athens and Beijing in 2008. He’d been on a national team since 1984, even shooting at the Athens Olympics just four weeks after he had a pacemaker installed after his heart stopped.
Erickson, now 55 and originally from Bennington, Nebraska, joined the AMU in 1983 and stayed in the Army until he retired in 2005. In the years since then, he has remained active as a shooting coach.
Lloyd “Butch” Keaser, Marines:
Lloyd “Butch” Keaser, a five-year veteran of the Marines, was the first black man to win an Olympic medal in wrestling. Keaser, who is now 66 and lives in his native Maryland, took silver in the 1976 games in Montreal. Before making history, he won the gold medal at the 1973 world wrestling championships in Iran.
Keaser graduated from the Naval Academy in 1972, where he was named that year’s outstanding athlete and was a two-time All-American. As an active-duty Marine, he rose to the rank of captain and was an instructor at Officer Candidate School, as well as an expert pistol and rifle shooter. After active-duty service, he commanded a Marine Corps Reserve combat engineer platoon in Baltimore, Maryland.
Be sure to cheer on all our military athletes while you’re watching the games in Rio this year! Go Team USA!
By Katie Lange