10 Famous Veterans Who Died in 2021

folded flag
A folded flag is presented during a ceremony. (Brent C. Powell/U.S. Army Reserve)

Thousands of men and women who served have died this year. Military.com takes a moment to remember a few notable U.S. veterans who made a lasting impression both in and out of the military before leaving us in 2021.

Colin Powell

Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks on Capitol Hill
In this Sept. 25, 1991, file photo, Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, at a House Armed Services subcommittee. Powell, former Joint Chiefs chairman and secretary of state, has died from COVID-19 complications. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)

Colin Powell joined the ROTC while a student at City College of New York and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army upon graduation in 1958. He did a tour in Vietnam as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Vietnam in 1962-1963.

Gen. Powell's final military assignment came when he was named chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989 at age 52. He was both the youngest and first Black officer to hold that job. He went on to serve as secretary of state under President George W. Bush from 2001-2005.

Powell, who was suffering from multiple myeloma, died of complications from COVID-19 in October at age 84.

Related: Colin Powell RIP, and Forever Hold the Sauerkraut

Tommy Lasorda

Dodgers Spring Baseball
Los Angeles Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda during a spring training baseball workout in Phoenix, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Army veteran Tommy Lasorda had a brief career in Major League Baseball as a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Kansas City Athletics but found lasting fame as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1976-1996. Lasorda's career included two World Series championships, four National League pennants and eight divisional titles.

Lasorda died of cardiac arrest in January at the age of 93.

Larry Flynt

Larry Flynt
Larry Flynt

Larry Flynt faked his birth certificate to join the Army at the age of 15. After an honorable discharge, he started a career as a bootlegger before he came to his senses and enlisted in the Navy, where he became a radar operator aboard the USS Enterprise.

After his return to Kentucky, he bought his mother's bar and converted it to a strip club. After opening a chain of nude dancing emporiums, he started publishing "Hustler," a newsletter for his patrons. The newsletter became a magazine that took off, and Flynt became a titan in the adult entertainment business.

Flynt survived a shooting in 1978 that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, and he lived almost another 43 years before he died of heart failure in February at the age of 78.

Clarence Williams III

Clarence Williams III Mod Squad 1500
Clarence Williams III in "The Mod Squad." (ABC)

Clarence Williams III joined the Army and served as a paratrooper in C Company, 506th Infantry, of the 101st Airborne Division. He's most famous for his role as Linc Hayes on the hip undercover cop series "The Mod Squad," but he played nearly 100 roles during a five-decade career.

Williams died in June at age 81.

Related: Great Screen Performances by Clarence Williams III, 101st Airborne Paratrooper

Harry Beal

Beal joined the Navy in 1948 and served as a gunner's mate aboard the USS Shenandoah. He was a member of the underwater demolition team, starting in 1955. We remember Beal because he's credited with being the first diver to sign the roster to join the first Navy SEAL unit in 1962. He served until 1968, but he'll forever be credited as the first SEAL.

Beal died in January at age 90.

Hal Holbrook

Obit Hal Holbrook
FILE - Actor Hal Holbrook, who plays Mark Twain in "Mark Twain Tonight!" appears in his dressing room in New York on April 10, 1959. Holbrook died on Jan. 23 in Beverly Hills, California, his representative, Steve Rohr, told The Associated Press Tuesday. He was 95. (AP Photo/Ruben Goldberg, File)

Hal Holbrook served in the Army during World War II and appeared in plays while stationed in Newfoundland. He found early success by adapting and performing a play called "Mark Twain Tonight!" that was based on the author's own writings. He continued to perform that play throughout his life.

His movie breakthrough came in the Dirty Harry sequel "Magnum Force," and Holbrook went on to play "Deep Throat" in "All the President's Men," Cmdr. Joseph Rochefort in "Midway" and a recurring role on his wife Dixie Carter's series, "Designing Women."

Holbrook died in January at age 95.

Houston Tumlin

Houston Tumlin Walker Bobby Talladega Nights
Houston Tumlin as Walker Bobby in "Talladega Nights." (Sony Pictures)

Houston Tumlin had exactly one movie credit, but almost any comedy fan can quote you lines from his performance as Walker Bobby, son of Ricky Bobby, in the classic comedy "Talladega Nights."

After he grew up, he left acting behind and served with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell.

Tumlin died in March at age 28.

Related: Army Vet Houston Tumlin, Star of 'Talladega Nights,' Dead at 28

Melvin Van Peebles

Melvin Van Peebles
Melvin Van Peebles wrote, directed and starred in "Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song." (Criterion)

Melvin Van Peebles enlisted in the Air Force after he graduated from college in 1954 and spent three years serving as a navigator and bombardier in the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command.

As a promising young filmmaker, he got a shot at making a studio movie and decided that working for the big companies was not the career he wanted. He wrote, directed, starred in and raised the money for "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song," a Black gangster movie that was a runaway hit and made Van Peebles a wealthy man.

No one had ever made that kind of money from an independent film before, and "Sweetback's" success has inspired every independent filmmaker for the last 50 years.

Van Peebles died in September at the age of 89.

Related: How Air Force Vet Melvin Van Peebles Changed Hollywood Forever

George Shultz

U.S. Embassy in Beirut
United States Secretary of State George Shultz is shown in front of the wrecked U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, April 28, 1983. He is accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Dillon. (AP Photo/E. Tamerian)

George Shultz served as a Marine during World War II and was detached to the U.S. Army 81st Infantry Division at the Battle of Peleliu in 1944. Shultz became a college professor but left academic life to join President Richard Nixon's first administration as secretary of labor. He later served as Nixon's treasury secretary.

President Ronald Reagan named Shultz as his secretary of state in 1982. Shultz was heavily involved in negotiations with China and the Soviet Union and was a vocal opponent of the administration's arms-for-hostages scheme that came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

Shultz died in February at age 100.

Ed Asner

Ed Asner
Ed Asner starred in "Lou Grant." (MTM Productions)

Ed Asner served with the Army Signal Corps after he was drafted in 1951. He appeared in plays during his Army service and caught the acting bug.

Asner played supporting roles in Hollywood until he broke out playing editor Lou Grant on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." He next played Grant on a spinoff series that was a drama instead of a comedy. Later in his career, he won a new generation of fans when he played Santa Claus in "Elf" and voiced Carl Fredricksen in the animated Pixar movie "Up."

Ed Asner died in August at age 91.

Related: Why Army Vet Ed Asner Was a Hollywood Legend

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