They sing, they act, they dance, they entertain. However, these celebs have also done much more. They once served in the military. Unfortunately, this part of their life was not as heavily reported as their love lives. However, it deserves to be known, that these celebrities decided to protect and serve their country.
Legendary rock and roller Jimi Hendrix served in the U.S. Army from 1961-1962. However, he did not have a patriotic motive when he enlisted. He joined the army in order to avoid being put in prison for riding in stolen cars. He trained as a paratrooper in 101st airborne division. He was discharged from his service in 1962 due to his inability to “conform to military rules and regulations,” according to his army discharge papers. Only a few years later did Hendrix begin performing and soon hitting superstardom.
Chuck Norris joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school. He wanted to train in the security police, in order to prepare for a career in law enforcement. However, while he was serving in Korea, he was introduced to martial arts. He studied Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do. Now a martial arts master, Norris returned to the states and served at March Air Force Base until he was discharged in 1962. He went on to use all those skills later in his acting career.
Alan Alda is best remembered for appearing as Hawkeye Pierce in the hit TV series “M*A*S*H.” However, his army training days started way before that. After Alda graduated from Fordham University, he joined the Army Reserve. During the Korean War, he completed a six-month tour. It was after his military service that he came home and really devoted his life to acting.
In 1958, Elvis Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was already “The King” by this point, so his drafting was a major media event. However, Presley did not want to be treated differently than any other soldier, and he even said “The Army can do anything it wants with me.” After training, Presley joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany, where he met Priscilla. During his time in service, the record company released multiple new songs, and Elvis continued to have top 40 hits.
Although Jeff Bridges was born into a Hollywood family, he still worked hard to earn his fame, which included time in the military. When he was 18 he joined the Coast Guard Reserves, and he served for a full 7 years. Regarding his service, Bridges has said “But, again, all the tough times make great memories when you look back. Like, I’m glad it’s in the rearview mirror.”
After graduating from high school, Morgan Freeman put his dreams aside of being an actor to join the military. Freeman had always been intrigued by war films and in particular fighter pilots. Therefore, he turned down a scholarship for drama at Jackson State University to join the U.S. Air Force. However, after enlisting he was relegated to being a radar technician. Eventually, he got to train as a fight pilot but he did not love it as much as he thought it would. After over 3 years of duty, Freeman left the Air Force and began his acting career.
Oscar-winning actor, producer and director Clint Eastwood was drafted into the army, during the Korean War. He was sent to Fort Ord, in California, for his basic training. However, he lucked out and was assigned to be a swimming instructor. He taught lessons at Fort Ord and was never deployed overseas. He was discharged in 1953.
After Willie Nelson left high school in 1950, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. However, he did not serve long, as nine months into his service he was medically discharged due to back problems. After his service, he began working odd jobs, such as a bouncer and a DJ. It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that he got his big break in music.
Talk show host, Montel Williams has one impressive military background. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines. After training and showing amazing leadership skills, he was recommended for the Naval Academy Preparatory school at Newport, Rhode Island. He later attended a one-year course at U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.While at the Academy, he studied Mandarin Chinese and graduated with a degree in general engineering and a minor in International Security Affairs. He became the first black marine to graduate from the Prep School and the Academy.
While studying for his degree, Mel Brooks was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was a corporal in the Engineer Combat Battalion. Brooks has said “I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering.” He fought in the Battle of the Bulge as well as was tasked with defusing landmines.
Famed actor Jimmy Stewart always had an interest in aviation and originally wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. However, his father directed him down a different path originally, and he attended Princeton University. After college, he was able to begin his acting career on the stage and then made the jump to Hollywood. However, he was drafted during World War II. Due to his interest in aviation, and logging over 400 hours as a civilian, he worked his way up the ranks rather quickly. By the time of his retirement he had flown in 20 combat missions.
Ice-T, born as Tracy Marrow, was a father right out of high school, and struggling to support his girlfriend and family. Therefore, he joined the U.S. Army for the financial benefits. He served four years in the 25th Infantry Division. After leaving the army, Ice-T lived in Hollywood and started making connections in the music industry.
The king of late night TV, Johnny Carson once served in the military. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy, in 1943. He served as a midshipman and as a communications officer in charge of decoding encrypted messages. After the Navy, Carson went on to attend and graduate college. He then began working on various radio and TV shows, until he became the legendary host of The Tonight Show.
Multi-Grammy winning singer, Tony Bennett can thank the army as part of the reason why he is in show business. Bennett was drafted into the Army, during World War II, in 1944. He was deployed in both Germany and France. He was discharged and returned to the U.S. in 1946. After returning he studied at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill.
Humphrey Bogart appeared is classic movies such as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep. However, before he was an actor he was a sailor. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1918. He spent most of his service ferrying troops between U.S. and Europe. It has been reported that he was a model sailor. He was honorably discharged, in 1919, with the rank of seaman second class.
Not only was he cracking jokes on the big screen, but Mickey Rooney served his country by entertaining the troops. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943. He served 21 months in uniform performing for the troops and working on the American Armed Forces Network. He was even awarded the Bronze Star Medal for entertaining troops in combat zones.
During the Vietnam War, Tom Selleck was issued draft orders. In order to take some control, he decided to join the California National Guard. He served from 1967-1973. The military would later utilize him as the face of their recruiting posters. Selleck has said, “I am a veteran, I’m proud of it. I was a sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry, National Guard, Vietnam era. We’re all brothers and sisters in that sense.”
Before he became known for that deep voice and his famed western acting, Sam Elliott served in the military. Elliott was born in Sacramento California. After moving around with his family, he ended up back in California to attend California State University, Los Angeles. While studying and working construction, he served in the California Army National Guard. It was only a few years later that he landed his first western role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
When Gene Hackman was only 16 years old, he dropped out of high school to join the U.S. Marines. His acting talents proved helpful, as he had to lie about his age to enlist. While serving, he worked as a radio operator. He also earned his high school diploma before he was discharged in 1951. After being discharged, he went on to study journalism and TV production on the GI Bill.
A self-proclaimed trouble maker, Owen Wilson was kicked out of school in 10th grade. For his junior and senior years of high school, he attended the New Mexico Military Institute. However, he did not continue his military training after high school and decided to attend University of Texas at Austin, where he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He got his film debut in 1996, and since then his career has only continued to grow.
Before he was Spock reporting for duty on the Starship Enterprise, he served as a soldier in the United States Army Reserves. He enlisted in the early 1950s and spent a total of 18 months in the reserves. Along with his other duties, Nimoy would also put on shows for the Army Special Services branch. He spent most of his duty on Fort McPherson in Georgia, and earned the rank of sergeant.
Actor Gene Wilder, born Jerome Silberman, was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1956. He was originally assigned to the medical corps and trained at Fort Sam Houston. After training, he was transferred to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a paramedic. He was honorably discharged in 1958, and in 1959 he began calling himself Gene Wilder.
Singer Shaggy, was born in Jamaica, however, moved to New York when he was 18. After the move, he immediately began trying to break into the music scene. Although he had 2 semi-succesful songs, he didn’t achieve super stardom. He enlisted, soon after, in 1988. Two years later, he fought in the Gulf War. After fighting in the war, he dedicated his life to his music. He went on to release hit songs such as “It Wasn’t Me,” “Boombastic,” and “Angel.”
Pat Sajak has hosted the hit game show Wheel of Fortune for over 35 years. However, before he became an iconic TV host, he was was a member of the U.S. Army, during the Vietnam War. However, he avoided combat and worked as a disc jokey on the Armed Forces Radio. About his service, Sajak has said “I used to feel a bit guilty about my relatively soft duty…I always thought it strange that they [combat soldiers] should be thanking me, given what so many of them were going through on a daily basis.”
Sinbad, born David Adkins, attributes a lot of his success to his time in the military. The first time he did stand up comedy was while he was in the Air Force. He did his routine during a talent show, and it was a flop. A fellow airman told him to script his show less and just be himself. After her service was finished, he jumped right into show business.
In 1956, actor Harvey Keitel dropped out of vocational school to join the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Lebanon during operation Blue Bat. His time overseas even earned him a medal as fire team leader. It wasn’t until years later, after landing a role in Martin Scorsese’s 1967 Who’s That Knocking at My Door, that his film career took off. Regarding his service, Keitel has said “For me the Marine Corps was a spiritual journey. It’s not about war.”
Adam Driver is best known for playing the villain, Kylo Ren, in the newest Star Wars films. However, his combat skills are real as he once served in the military. Driver was deeply affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and he joined the USMC. Due to an injury, Driver was medically discharged after 2 years of service. Upon returning home, he attended Julliard and began his acting career.
Drew Carey is best known for his TV sitcom “The Drew Carey Show,” or as the host for “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” or more recently, “The Price is Right.” However, Carey had previous life experiences before he made big on TV that he attributes to his achievements today. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1980-1986. Carey says this was also the time he found his trademark look of a crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses.
Before he was comedian-actor, Rob Riggle was a Marine. His first position in the Marines was a pilot. However, once he realized he couldn’t pursue his dreams of being a comedic actor and stay in the Marines, he completed his contract and left active duty. However, he remained a reservist for 14 years after. Riggle says the Corps made him mentally tough, which he needed to succeed in show business.
Before he was a famed actor, Paul Newman was a proud patriot, wanting to join the U.S. Navy. Hoping to become a pilot, he joined the Navy’s V-12 program at Yale University. However, he was kicked out when they discovered he was colorblind. Instead of completing the program he was sent to basic training, where he became a rear-seat radioman and gunner for torpedo bombers. He was later moved to aircraft carriers as a turret gunner. He was discharged in 1946. He has received several military honors such as the American Area Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Outspoken, funny guy, George Carlin, is a military vet. However, his service was as hectic as you may expect. He dropped out of high school and joined the Air Force, in 1954. He was hoping to use the GI Bill coverage to pay for broadcasting school. He was trained as a radar technician and was stationed in Louisiana. Unfortunately, he developed a bad reputation in the military. He was considered an unproductive Airman and was court-martialed three times. He also worked as a DJ for a radio station while on duty (which helped him make his way into the entertainment industry). He was eventually discharged from the Air Force.
Before he was a member of the A-Team, Mr. T was part of a different team – the U.S Army. Born Laurence Tureaud, Mr. T served in the Military Police Corps in the mid-170s. During his time in training, his drill sergeant elected him for the “Top Trainee of the Cycle”. Out of 6,000 other troops, he won the honor. His was once punished by his platoon sergeant and was told to chop down trees. Mr. T ended up chopping down 70 trees in 3 and a half hours.
After Johnny Cash graduated high school, he enlisted in the Air Force. He enlisted right at the beginning of the Korean War and spent most of his 4-year service in Germany. As he was good with the rhythm of Morse Code, he served as an intercept operator with the USAF Security Service. We can also thank the military for his musical growth. As Cash came from a poor background, it wasn’t until he received his military pay that he was able to buy a guitar. He purchased his first guitar at the Base Exchange while stationed in Germany.
Drew Carey isn’t the only “The Price is Right” host that served in the U.S. military. Bob Barker (the original host) is also a military veteran. When World War II began, Barker enlisted in the U.S. Navy and began training as a fight pilot. However, the war ended before he was deployed overseas. After his service, he returned to college to finish his degree.
James Earl Jones
After graduating from the University of Michigan, James Earl Jones was recruited into the U.S. Army. At the time he was recruited, the Korean War was picking up momentum. Therefore, he believed he would definitely see combat. However, this was not the case. He and his battalion were sent to construct a cold-weather training command in Colorado, and trained full-time. Jones was promoted to first lieutenant before being discharged in 1955.
Channing Tatum was not the best or well-behaved student growing up. Therefore, when it was time for him to go to high school, he had two options: private school or military school. He chose military school. He began playing football and excelled on the team. He hoped that he could get a college scholarship after graduation. Unfortunately, his football dream never came to fruition. After high school, he decided not to continue his service and eventually began modeling.
Actor Kurt Russell once served in the California Air National Guard. He worked on the Air National Guard Space at Van Nuys Airport. According to the Los Angeles Times, “It [his base] was nicknamed the ‘Hollywood Air Force’ by other National Guard fliers and the regular Air Force, because of the actors in its ranks and because the base was used by producers of many movies and TV shows.” That air base was handed over to the city of Los Angeles in 1990.
As the owner and founder of a successful mens magazine, Hugh Hefner had the dream job of many men. However, before he created the world famous tabloid, he served in the military. Soon after graduating high school, in 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantry clerk. While serving, he contributed cartoons to the Army newspapers. He was honorably discharged in 1946. It wasn’t until 1953 that he published his first magazine.
Charles Bronson was a well-known actor who starred in films such as ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ and ‘The Great Escape’. Before his rise to fame, Bronson enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces during World War 2 and enlisted to the Gunnery Training Squadron. He flew a total of 25 missions throughout his army service and ended up receiving a Purple Heart award.
Before he was protecting the country (and seducing lots of women) as James Bond, Sean Connery served in the Royal Navy. He enlisted when he was only 16 years old. After 3 years of service, he was medically discharged due to a severe stomach ulcer. After his service, he got a job as a bricklayer and lifeguard. However, he moved on to bodybuilding, which lead to his career in modeling and eventually acting.
Oliver Stone is a famous film director and writer. With movies such as “Natural Born Killers,” “Platoon,” and “JFK,” he has achieved must success in the business. However, before he began his career, he also served in combat duty in the U.S Army in 1967. In one interview he talked about his decision to enlist, “I knew it would be the only war of my generation, so I said, ‘I’ve gotta get over there fast because it’s going to be over.'”
Stanley Burrell, known by his stage name: M.C Hammer, has had many hit records including “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” He is a hip-hop artist, producer, and dancer. In the early ’80s, after graduating from high school, Burrell joined the Navy. He was an officer working as an aviation storekeeper at the Naval Air Station.
You may know Dennis Franz from his role as NYPD detective Andy Sipowicz on the series “NYPD Blue.” He also played in “A Perfect Couple” and “Dressed to Kill.” However, before he was winning Golden Globe and Emmy awards for his great acting, he was also enlisted in the US Army. He served in Vietnam as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Kirk Douglas was part of what is called the Golden Age of film. In the ’50s and ’60s, he played leading roles in various westerns and war movies. One role which got him worldwide recognition was his boxing hero role in the 1949 film “Champion.” Believe it or not- he has appeared in over 90 films throughout his career! During World War II, he served in the Navy as a Communications Officer in antisubmarine warfare.
Bob Ross was both a painter and a TV host. In the ’80s and early ’90s, audiences who wanted to learn art would turn on their TV and watch Ross’s show “The Joy of Painting.” Later on, he became a Youtube star with many successful instructional videos about painting. He too served in the army. At the age of 18, Ross enlisted in the Air Force and served at the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.
Bea Arthur was famous for her acting in sitcoms such as “All in the Family,” “Maude,” and “The Golden Girls.” During her career, which lasted seven decades, she was highly successful and won both Emmy and Tony Awards. But did you know she also served in the army? She enlisted in the Marine Corps and became one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve.
The actress Zulay Henao has appeared in various movies including “Fighting,” “Boy Wonder,” and “Takers.” She has also starred in the Oprah Winfrey Network show, “If Loving You Is Wrong.” Before she went into acting, she served in the U.S Army. This may explain her natural talent in the film “Fighting!”
Wayne Rogers was an actor best known for his role as Captain John McIntyre in the successful comedy series “M*A*S*H”. He also appeared on “House Calls” and “Murder, She Wrote.” But before he discovered his love for acting, he enrolled in the US military. He served as a navigator on a cargo ship in the US Navy.
Another actor known for the hit TV series “M*A*S*H” is Mike Farrell. He too served in the US military. On “M*A*S*H” Farrell played the loyal and mild-mannered Captain B.J Hunnicutt. However, in the early 1960s, before the show, he served in the marines. Nowadays he is also an activist and public speaker.
Steve McQueen was known for his acting career in the 1960s and 1970s. He appeared in various popular films including “The Cincinnati Kid,” “The Sand Pebbles,” and “The Getaway.” Due to his high popularity, in 1974, he even became the highest-paid film star in the world. McQueen was in the Marine Corps and served as honor guard to President Truman’s yacht.