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James Garner, 5th Regimental Combat Team veteran dies at age 86

James Garner and Jack Kelly-TV Show Maverick
Wikipedia photo/released

America lost a favorite leading man, supporting actor and all-round Hollywood hero yesterday when actor James Garner, 86, passed away at his home in Brentwood-Los Angeles, Calif.

What most fans didn’t realize, James Garner was also a veteran of the Korean War and two-time recipient of the Purple Heart. Garner’s first injury was to the face and hand from an enemy mortar round.

Always one for a good laugh, even on himself, Garner no doubt cracked a few jokes about his second injury from “friendly fire. “ Diving headfirst into a foxhole on April 23, 1951, the handsome Soldier was hit in the butt as rounds flew from a U.S. fighter jet overhead. It wasn’t until 32 years later that the government saw fit to award Garner the second Purple Heart.

Prior to being in the Army, James Garner was a Merchant Mariner, a job for which he was apparently very well suited, minus the part about not being able to overcome chronic seasickness. After leaving the Merchant Marines, he joined the National Guard, but after just seven months he was deployed to Korea as a Soldier in the Regular Army. He served with the 5th Regimental Combat Team a regiment of the United States Army infantry established in 1808 and continues to this day. The 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment deployed in February 2014, to Herat Province, Afghanistan.

Best known to older fans as Bret Maverick in TV western series "Maverick" , James Garner entertained younger fans with his more recent big screen roles in "Victor/Victoria," "Space Cowboys" and "The Notebook." Somewhere in between, are dozens of episodes of “The Rockford Files” which, although officially ended in 1980, are still in syndication due to immense popularity.

In one of the true love stories in Hollywood, James Garner and Lois Clarke Garner were married in 1956 until his death yesterday. Although James Garner suffered a stroke in 2008 and was reportedly in poor health recently, news reports say he died of natural causes.