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Emmett is a World War II Veteran, having served in U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division at the Battle of the Bulge in western Europe. After separating from the military, Emmett Joined the Baltimore Police Department and later achieved the rank of Lieutenant and worked as a detective in the department's homicide division. He and his wife Catherine Burke would later have two children, Jack Ryan and a daughter.
Emmett and his wife later died in 1974 in a plane crash at Chicago Midway International Airport. This occurred 19 months after Jack had been involved in a helicopter crash during a NATO exercise over Crete which badly injured his back and ended his military career. With his parents deaths, Jack developed a fear of flying that persisted for years.