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He was released from active duty in 1946, at which time he began a four-year pro football career. Heywood played for the All-America Football Conference's Chicago Rockets (1946) the NFL's Detroit Lions (1947-1948), Boston Yanks (1948), and New York Bulldogs (1949).
Heywood resumed his military career in 1952, during the height of the Korean War, and is the recipient of a long list of medals and awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal with 1 Bronze Star, Vietnamese's Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device.
Lieutenant General Ernest C. Cheatham, Jr. earned his U.S. Marine Corps commission in 1952. In 1953, he served as a platoon commander in Japan and Korea. Upon his return to the United States in June 1954, he left active duty for a short stint to try his hand at professional football, playing defensive tackle for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts during the 1954 season. Deciding on a Marine Corps career, he returned to active duty in March 1955.
In July 1967, after graduating as an honor student from the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, Cheatham was transferred to the 1st Marine Division in the Republic of Vietnam where he served successively as Executive Officer, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; Operations Officer, 5th Marines; and Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic and motivating leadership of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines throughout Operation HUE CITY during the TET Offensive of 1968.
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