Veterans Day—the day we recognize those who have faithfully served our country. And among the multitude who have proudly worn the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard over the last two and a quarter centuries, I want to thank several veterans in particular who stood in defense of this nation.

1. Cpl. Maxwell Q. Klinger

Klinger in MASH 

Cpl. Maxwell Q. Klinger brought chic to wartime as no one since Helen of Troy and toted a rifle in skirt and pumps like a latter-day Annie Oakley. Klinger played a key role in the Korean War effort by deceiving the enemy into thinking him a female civilian with no military training whatsoever. This underestimation of American ground strength enabled the Allies to recover from the disastrous "Pusan Perimeter" in the early months of the war and push back past the 38th Parallel, deep into North Korea.

Promoted to sergeant before war’s end, Klinger accessorized better than Bess Truman and filled out an evening gown as elegantly as Mamie Eisenhower.

2. Sgt. Oddball

Sergeant Oddball 

Sgt. Oddball, a tank commander, led three Shermans on a mission deep behind enemy lines to destroy the German war machine economically by stealing $16 million in gold bars. An unorthodox leader, Oddball got the most out of his men by using a hippie philosophy twenty years ahead of its time. His long hair and beard, use of Turkish music, spot-on dog imitations, and intolerance for negative waves gave his men an "edge." Although Pvt. Kelly and MSgt. Big Joe criticized Oddball’s tactical decision to drink wine, eat cheese, and catch some rays during the Battle of Clermont, his victorious end justified the means.

3. SSgt. Crapgame

A veteran of the same mission as Oddball, SSgt. Crapgame organized matériel and kept his superiors apprised of fluctuating figures in accounts receivable. His acerbic New York personality maintained an agitated mood among the unit, keeping them in a state of combat readiness. Not a hardened combat soldier himself, Crapgame’s business savvy during a stalemate at the Clermont town square enabled his unit to capture the majority of Nazi gold, ultimately securing the mission’s success.

4. Super-Rabbit

Bug Bunny as Super-Rabbit 

The "Rabbit of Tomorrow," Super-Rabbit gave up his cushy stateside life, turned in his cape for Marine Corps dress blues, and headed to Berlin, Tokyo, and points East. Considering that timid woodland creatures were not subject to conscription during World War II, perhaps no one sacrificed more in going to war for his nation than Super-Rabbit. An exemplary leader of men and rabbits, Super-Rabbit made Master Sergeant by the end of the war and became legend for rallying his troops to battle with the war cry, "BRICKA BRACKA FIRECRACKER SIS BOOM BAH! BUGS BUNNY, BUGS BUNNY, RAH, RAH, RAH!"

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5. Privates Moe, Larry, and Curly

Privates Moe, Larry, and Curly played an invaluable role in the Second World War. Their incessantly violent antics amongst each other demonstrated to their company the finer points of hand-to-hand combat. Who knows how many American soldiers out of ammunition evaded death or capture by slapping, pulling the hair, and poking the eyes of the enemy? Moe and Curly were also dead ringers for Hitler and Mussolini, respectively, which provided the U.S. Army with valuable intelligence as to how to insult the Axis leaders should they be captured.

6. Pvt. Babe Ruth

Not merely the greatest baseball player who ever lived, Pvt. Babe Ruth served in the 104th Field Artillery of the New York National Guard. He was renowned for "calling his shot" during maneuvers by pointing where the howitzer shells would land, although several members of his unit claimed that he was merely indicating how many shells he had left to fire…

7. Pat Patriot

Pat Patriot of New England 

Because records from the revolutionary era are spotty, no one is sure whether Pat Patriot was a soldier of the Continental Army or just a local Massachusetts militiaman. But he tackled lots of Redcoats, so Pat gets the benefit of the doubt. While the British fought in proper line formation, the colonists often engaged in guerilla tactics-including hitherto unseen corner blitzes-and Pat Patriot became legendary for his tackling maneuvers as the Redcoats reloaded their muskets. In the words of Gen. Nathanael Greene, this "allowed our gallante army to triumphe at the Battle of Concord, 37-3."

8. Popeye the Sailor

Popeye the Sailor, who always seemed to have an inordinate amount of shore leave, kept America’s wharves safe for democracy between the wars. Even with his spinach-fueled strength, he lost an eye in the line of duty, quelling a Moro uprising with one punch during his service in the Philippines in the 1920s. (Although Popeye never received a Purple Heart, he was bestowed an unofficial commendation in the form of a corncob pipe, presented to him by Gen. MacArthur.)

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9. Pvt. Dewey Oxberger

Dewey Oxberger in Stripes 

Sgt. York. Audie Murphy. Dewey Oxberger. "Ox," as he was known to his platoon, single-handedly fought off a coordinated attack of six bikini-clad mud-wrestlers, preserving the honor of his unit… while en route to the bingo parlor at the YMCA. Although the United States was not technically at war with these curvaceous, yet savage, mud-wrestlers, Pvt. Oxberger’s actions on that evening in 1981 boosted the morale of a nation still smarting from the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

10. Maj. Gen. Colt

Maj. Gen. Colt personally rode at the head of his division to exploit the breakthrough created by Oddball, Crapgame, and their unit. Displaying uncommon courage for a high-ranking officer by racing into an unsecured area 30 miles behind enemy lines, Maj. Gen. Colt received a liberator’s welcome from the citizens of Clermont. Dedicated to his men, the intrepid Colt promised to decorate every man involved in the breakthrough and brought a box of medals in the Jeep for them. Viva les Americans!

11. Capt. Wild Bill Kelso

Wild Bill Kelso in 1941 

In the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Capt. Wild Bill Kelso fearlessly patrolled the skies over southern California, which, Washington fretted, was ripe for invasion. He destroyed a gas station that could well have been captured by the Japanese and made to serve as a refueling point for enemy tanks and planes. Kelso later became the first pilot of the war to shoot down an aircraft over the mainland United States. True, it was an American plane he’d downed, but no one can deny his skill or fortitude. Wild Bill was last seen trying to single-handedly capture a Japanese submarine off the Los Angeles coast. No one knows what became of him, although the host of the post-war show Samurai Delicatessen shockingly resembled Kelso, spurring rumors of capture and brainwashing…

12. Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore

Sgt Bill Kilgore 

As for Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, any man brave enough to have his men surf a hot LZ can drink from my canteen any day.

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