Most Americans thought the Covid-induced craziness would end as we rang in the New Year to 2021, but we were wrong. Now, an entire year has passed following that 2020 “year from hell,” and as much as it pains me to say it, Covid mania is still rampant throughout our nation. However, Covid isn’t the main topic of this article – though it will pop its head in now and again. What I’d like to do in this piece is to honor the brave men and women – some of our National Treasures – that breathed their last in 2021. Whether by illness, accident, tragedy, or old age, here is a list (in no particular order) of some of the famous veterans, leaders, and heroes we lost in 2021.

Still from the interview SEAL Team 6 Founding Officer Dick Marcinko on Joining the Navy | The DEVGRU Files – Episode 1. Photo; SOFREP

1. Richard Marcinko

SOFREP has already done numerous pieces on Marcinko, the founder and first Commander of SEAL Team 6, but his death was definitely one that touched the American Special Operations community. Former SEALs and co-workers of Marcinko paid tribute to him through social media and honored his life and legacy at every chance they had. Marcinko infamously gave his new unit the name “SEAL Team 6” for no other reason than to confuse the enemy regarding how many SEAL Teams there were in existence. Marcinko died on Christmas Day at 81 years of age.

In April 1976, Rumsfeld describes the B-1 bomber he just personally flew. CNN

2. Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld holds the title for being the only person in history to have been the Secretary of Defense on two separate occasions, and he did so with 30 years between service dates. Rumsfeld was best known for his service at the beginning of George W. Bush’s Presidency, though he had already been in public service for decades when he took that post. Rumsfeld served three years as an aviator in the U.S. Navy as a young man. Following that, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962 and was subsequently reelected three times. As the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld established the B-1 bomber, the Trident ballistic missile submarine, and the MX (Peacekeeper) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programs. Rumsfeld died on June 29 at 88 years of age.

Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, points to a group of American troops at an airbase after his arrival in Saudi Arabia on Sept. 13, 1990. Powell served as chairman under both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
J.Scott Applewhite/A.P.

3. Colin Powell

Colin Powell was a retired Army General and a respected American leader. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell grew up in the Harlem and South Bronx sections of New York City and attended the City College of New York. Upon graduation, Powell enlisted into the U.S. Army and served two separate tours in Vietnam (1962–63 and 1968–69). Powell held numerous billets over the following 20+ years before eventually becoming President George H.W. Bush’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989. In 2001, he was appointed Secretary of State by the second President Bush. Powell resigned from political life in 2004. Powell’s family said he died of Covid complications on October 18 at 84 years of age.

Harry Beal was the first Navy SEAL, thanks to the roster being ordered alphabetically. He also may have been the shortest, but he was capable of doing a one-armed pullup. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute.

4. 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. The most impressive and unique notch in Beal’s career was that he is said to be the first man in history to sign the roster to become a Navy SEAL. He then served as a Navy SEAL from 1962-1968. Beal died in January at 90 years of age.

Houston Tumlin. Facebook

5. Houston Tumlin

U.S. Army Veteran Houston Tumlin is probably a name you aren’t familiar with. Tumlin’s claim to fame was that he played Will Farrell’s son in the comedy “Talladega Nights.” That role was the only one Tumlin ever had, but it certainly was a classic. Tumlin eventually went on to join the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. Fellow soldiers remembered Tumlin as a kind person and an excellent soldier. Tumlin died in March of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 28 years of age.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz at the London Economic Summit on June 8, 1984. CHRIS BACON/PA IMAGES VIA REUTERS

6. George Shultz

George Shultz entered public service as a United States Marine during World War II and, in 1944, was detached to the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry Division at the Battle of Peleliu. Shultz would later be both the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury for President Nixon. In 1982, President Reagan named Shultz as Secretary of State. Shultz died in February at 100 years of age.

Ed Asner arrives for the 82nd Academy Awards. A.P. Photo/Matt Sayles.

7. Ed Asner

Beloved actor Ed Asner served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps after being drafted in 1951. During his time in the service, Asner appeared in various plays, where he eventually caught the acting bug. Following his stint in the Army, Asner moved to Chicago, where he helped found the Playwrights Theatre Club. Asner’s big break came in 1970 when he became a part of the Mary Tyler Moore show (along with cast member Betty White who died in 2021 as well). Among Asner’s numerous awards and nominations were five Golden Globe Awards (1972, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980), seven Emmys (1971, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980), and a SAG Life Achievement Award (2001). Asner died on August 29 at 91 years of age.