It seems as though celebrities can do it all: they sing, they act, they dance, they model. But, beyond the cameras, sometimes celebs do things that the media does not publicize. These celebrities not only entertain but also helped protect their country. Here are the celebs you didn’t realize served in the military.
Rock and roll legend Jim Hendrix was once a military man. Hendrix served in the U.S. Army from 1961-1962. However, joining the military wasn’t exactly his plan. He was arrested for stealing cars, and the judge gave him two options: the military or jail. He chose the military. He trained as a paratrooper until he was discharged due to an inability to “conform to military rules and regulations” (according to his army papers).
We can thank the military for the martial arts, crime-fighting man we know as Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, after high school. While serving in Korea, he was introduced to martial arts. During his time in Korea, he learned Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do. After returning to the states, Norris was stationed at March Air Force Base until he was discharged in 1962. The martial arts expert used all his new skills and began working towards an acting career.
Alan Alda became a household name after landing the role of Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H. However, Alda’s time in the military started way before his TV appearances. After graduating from Fordham University, Alda enlisted in the Army Reserve. He was called to duty during the Korean War, and he severed overseas for six months.
Jeff Bridges may have been born into opportunity. However, he never took a hand out, but rather worked for his fame and fortune. One stop on his way to the top was in the Coast Guard Reserves. Bridges enlisted when he was 18-years-old and served for seven years! On his time in the service, Bridges said “But, again, all the tough times make great memories when you look back. Like, I’m glad it’s in the rearview mirror.”
Morgan Freeman always dreamed of being an actor, but he thought it was best to put his dreams on hold in order to protect his country. As he was always fascinated by war films and fighter pilots, he joined the U.S. Air Force. His first job was as a radar technician. However, he was eventually able to train as a fighter pilot. He remained on active duty for three years.
Tom Selleck was actually forced into the military through the draft in the Vietnam War. However, in order to have some control of his destiny, he decided to join the California National Guard. His service began in 1967 and ended in 1973. Due to his good looks, Selleck would later appear on recruiting posters. Selleck once 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.”
Paul Newman had aspirations of becoming a pilot in the U.S. Navy. When he entered Yale University, he joined the Navy’s V-12 program. However, he was released from the program when they realized he was colorblind. He was sent to basic training instead. He became a rear-seat radioman and gunner for torpedo bombers. He later was transferred to aircraft carriers as a turret gunner. He has been awarded several military honors such as the American Area Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Clint Eastwood is an Oscar-winning actor, producer, and director. He is also a military veteran. Eastwood was drafted into the U.S. Army, during the Korean War. He was sent to Fort Ord for his basic training. However, instead of being deployed overseas, he was assigned to be a swimming instructor on base. Eastwood was discharged in 1953.
Hugh Hefner revolutionized the magazine industry with the creation of a new gentleman’s article. However, before he created the dream job of many men, he served in the military. After graduation from high school, Hefner enlisted in the U.S. Army, as an infantry clerk, in 1944. While serving, his publishing interests took root, as he used to create cartoons for the army newspaper. He was honorably discharged in 1946.
Elvis Presley’s draft into the U.S. Army was highly publicized. After basic training, Elvis was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. While deployed in Germany, he met his future wife, Priscilla. Before his deployment, Elvis recorded several songs. The record company released several of these new songs, while he was deployed, as to keep up “The Kings” fame.
Willie Nelson enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1950. However, his service was short-lived, as he was medically discharged, nine months after enlisting, due to his back problems. After his service was completed, he worked various odd jobs, such as a club bouncer. It wasn’t until 20 years after his service that he got is big break into music.
Talk Show host, Montel Williams, is a celebrated U.S. Marine. Montel showed promising leadership skills early in his U.S. Marine service. He was sent to the prestigious Naval Academy Preparatory school in Newport, Rhode Island. He excelled and was then sent to a one-year course at U.S. Naval Academy. In the Academy, he studied Mandarin, engineering, and International Security Affairs. Montel was the first African-American marine to graduate from the Prep School and Academy.
Ice-T always plays characters that you normally do not want to mess with. However, with his military training, you most likely don’t want to cross him in real life either. As a struggling father, trying to support his girlfriend and family, Ice-T joined the U.S. Army, which offered great financial benefits. He served for four years. After his time in the military, he was able to move to Hollywood and pursue his acting dream.
Pat Sajak has been spinning the “Wheel of Fortune” for over 35 years. Before he became a game show host, he was a member of the U.S. Army. Although he served during the Vietnam War, he never actually saw combat. He worked as a DJ on the Armed forces Radio. Sajak 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.”
Adam Driver has been in the Hollywood scene since 2009. However, he became a household name when he landed the role of Kylo Ren in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” After the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, Driver believed it was his duty to serve his country, and he joined the Marine Corps. After two years of service, he was medically discharged.
Drew Carey has landed some pretty iconic TV roles such as the star on his self-titled show as well as the host of the iconic game show “The Price is Right.” Before TV fame, Carey was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, from 1980-1986. Carey has stated that it was his time in the military that he discovered his trademark look of a crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses.
Comedic actor, Rob Riggle, once proudly wore a U.S. Marines’ uniform. He was first posted as a pilot. However, once he realized he wanted to be an actor, he left the military after his contract was completed to pursue his dreams. However, he remained a reservist for over 14 years. Riggle believes the military is what made him so mentally tough, which helped him succeed in Hollywood.
While Mel Brooks was still in University, he was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve during World War II. In an interview, Brooks said, “I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering.” The comedic actor was charged with defusing landmines. He even fought at the notorious Battle of the Bulge.
When most think of Prince Harry today, they usually associate him with Meghan Markle, his wife to be. Few would think that a man of royalty would actually serve his country, but Harry did. In fact, the young prince actually served twenty weeks in Afghanistan with the Army Air Corps. He only left after an Australian magazine revealed his location. Due to safety issues he returned to England.
While many might know him simply as the “Old Man” from Pawn Stars, Richard Harrison is actually a man with a very extended Navy career. He served his country for over twenty years and served on several different ships. He didn’t fight in any wars and eventually, he left the Navy when his wife’s business collapsed and he had to help run it.
Few people know that Gal Gadot served for two years in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat instructor. She has stated that the two years there molded her into becoming a better actress. She learned respect and discipline that ultimately helped her move forward with her passion. It was her knowledge on combat tools that actually got her the role for Wonder Woman.
Prince William is heavily associated with Kate Middleton, his wife, and their little child. From the looks of William, few would ever guess that he served his country in the military. He served in England’s Blues and Royals regiment. Along with that, he is completely qualified as a pilot. His services with the British Armed Forces came to screeching end in 2013.
Before he was a superstar in the rough and tumble world of wrestling and the even rougher arena of politics, Jesse “The Body” Ventura had an easy job as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War. Ventura joined the navy in 1969 where he volunteered to join the elite fighting squad and become a member of the Underwater Demolition Team. Ventura served for six years, until the end of the war, after which he felt sufficiently trained for the tough reality of being a bodyguard for the Rolling Stones, a champion wrestler, and governor of Minnesota.
Jimmy Stewart had been interested in aviation since he was a child. He actually wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. However, his father had other plans, and Stewart attended Princeton University instead. But, due to World War II, Stewart was able to dive into his passion for flying. Due to his aviation hobby before being drafted, and flying 400 hours as a civilian, he worked his way up the ranks quickly. By the time he left the army, he had flown in 20 combat missions.
Before he was the king of late night television, Johnny Carson enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He served as a midshipman and as a communications officer. His main duty was to decode encrypted messages. After being released from the military, Carson continued his study in communications at college. Upon graduation, he worked on various radio and TV shows. He eventually worked his way to the host of The Tonight Show.
Tony Bennett may not have become the Emmy-winning artist he is today without the U.S. military. In 1944, he was drafted into the army to serve in World War II. During his time serving, he was sent to Germany and France. He was discharged in 1946. He was able to study he passion of singing, at the American Theatre Wing, as he education was paid for by the GI Bill.
Humphrey Bogart is best known for his performances in classic films such as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep. But, before he was an actor, he severed his country in the Navy. During his enlistment, he served as a sailor ferrying troops across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. to Europe. Before he was honorably discharged in 1919, he was promoted to seaman second class.
Mickey Rooney was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943. However, he did not work as communication, engineering nor combat officer. His sole duty was to entertain the troops. Serving in war is depressing. Therefore, the U.S knew their troops need someone to help lighten the mood. Rooney was the perfect man for the job. He served 21 months in uniform as a member of the American Armed Forces Network. He even entertained troops in combat zones. For his work, he was awarded the Bronze Star.
Gene Hackman was only a 16-years-old when he enlisted in the U.S. Marines. Hackman’s acting abilities were put to use at this time, as he was too young to enlist. However, he lied about his age, and it worked. He dropped out of high school and served as a radio operator. While serving, he also earned his high school diploma. Upon being discharged, he went to university to study journalism and TV production.
Before he was serving on the Starship Enterprise, Leonard Nimoy served in the U.S. Army Reserves. Nimoy enlisted in the early 1950s. He remained on reserve duty for 18 months. Along with daily duties, he also entertained as a member of the Army Special Services branch. He earned the rank of sergeant and spent most of his time serving on a base in Georgia, U.S.A.
Before he was Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder, born Jerome Silberman, was a member of the U.S. Army. He enlisted in 1956 and was originally assigned to the medical corps in Texas. However, he was transferred to a base in Pennsylvania where he worked as a paramedic. He was honorably discharged in 1958. He took up acting soon after, but it wasn’t until 1959 that he began using the stage name, Gene Wilder.
Shaggy is a reggae singer and DJ best known for his songs such as “It Wasn’t Me” and “Boombastic.” He was born in Jamaica but moved to the U.S. when he was 18-years-old. After struggling to break into the music scene following the move, he decided to enlist in the U.S. military in 1988. He fought in the Gulf War. After being discharged, he once again returned to music. This time finding success.
David Adkins, better known as Sinbad, says much of his success in thanks to his service in the military. During his service, he did stand up comedy for his fellow troops. His first routine was performed during a talent show. It was a huge flop, but some of his fellow airmen told him he needed to script his stand up much less and be more himself. He followed that advice and continued with stand up after the service.
Harvey Keitel was attending vocational school when he decided to enlist in the U.S. Marines Corps. He dropped out of school, and he was deployed to Lebanon. He even fought in operation Blue Bat. During his time serving, he acted as the fire team leader. For his work, he was awarded a medal. Keitel once said, “For me, the Marine Corps was a spiritual journey. It’s not about war.” It wasn’t until many years after his time in the service that he landed his breakthrough role in “Who’s Knocking At My Door.”
Outspoken comedian and actor, Geroge Carlin’s military service was just as chaotic as one of his stand-up routines. He dropped out of high school to enlist in the Air Force, as he wanted to take advantage of the GI Bill to pay for his college tuition. During his time in the service, he was court-martialed three times. While on duty, he worked as a radar technician as well as a DJ for the local radio. After being discharged, he began working towards a career in entertainment.
Before he joined the elite ranks of the A-Team, Mr. T learned to be part of an elite squad through the U.S. Army. Laurence Tureaud served in the Military Police Corps in the mid-1970s. During his training, out of 6,000 other troops, he was awarded the Top Trainee of the Cycle. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. As a punishment, one of his sergeants told him he had to chop down trees. Tureaud cut down 70 trees in 3-and-a-half hours.
Soon after Johnny Cash graduated from high school, he joined the U.S. Air Force. At the time of his enlistment, the U.S had just begun fighting in the Korean War. However, Cash spent most of his 4-year service in Germany. Cash was easily able to learn Morse Code and was, therefore, assigned to work as an intercept operator with the USAF Security Service. It was through his salary as a military man that Cash was able to buy his first guitar while stationed in Germany.
Oliver Stone is famous for directing movies such as the satirical comedy “Natural Born Killers,” the conspiracy thriller “JFK,” and the drama film “Platoon.” He has achieved much success in the film industry. But did you know that before building his career, he also served in the military? In 1967, he served in combat duty in the U.S Army.
Everyone knows M.C Hammer’s hit songs “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” Stanley Burrell, also known as M.C Hammer, is not only a successful hip-hop artist but also a dancer and producer. But before he was singing and dancing, in the early ’80s, he joined the Navy. He served as an aviation storekeeper right after he graduated from high school.
Dennis Franz is an actor who has won both Golden Globe and Emmy awards for his acting. His roles include NYPD detective Andy Spowicz on the TV show “NYPD Blue,” Police Detective Marino on “Dressed to Kill,” and Costa on “A Perfect Couple.” Franz was enlisted in the US Army as well- he served in Vietnam as part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
Douglas’ debut film was in 1946: Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Afterwards, he continued appearing on our screens throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He has played several roles in both western and war films. One famous film of his was Champion. In the 1949 film, he played a boxing hero. During World War II, Douglas served in the Navy and was a Communications Officer.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, people who wanted to enhance their artistic skills would watch Bob Ross’s art show, The Joy of Painting, on television. When Youtube came along, he also became an online star as he published various instructional art videos. When Ross was 18, he served in Alaska at the Eielson Air Force Base.
Bea Arthur has appeared in several comedy shows including All in the Family, The Golden Girls, and Maude. She was not only an Emmy Award-winning actress but also a singer and animal rights activist. Arthur served in the army in the Marine Corps. She became a member of the Women’s Reserve. In fact, she was one of the first members in history to join the Reserve.
Actress Zulay Henao appeared both on the big screen and on television. She had roles in movies such as Fighting and Boy Wonder. In 2007 she appeared in the drama show Army Wives and also guest starred on the show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. However before she was acting in the sports film Fighting with actor Channing Tatum, she served in the US Army. What a strong woman!
You may recognize Wayne Rogers as Captain John McIntyre from the hit comedy show M*A*S*H. In the show, members of an Army Surgical Hospital take care of injured patients during the Korean War (all is portrayed in a humorous manner.) Rogers also had roles on House Calls and Murder, She Wrote. He too has enrolled in the US military: he served in the US Navy as a navigator.
Mike Farrell is also known for appearing on M*A*S*H. On the show, he played B.J. Hunnicutt- a loyal and easygoing Capitan. He was also a producer for Patch Adams and guest-starred in Desperate Housewives and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. However, before his successful career, in the early ’60s, he served in the marines.
In 1974, Steve McQueen or The King of Cool was the highest-paid actor int he world. He is best known for his acting in the 1960s and 1980s. McQueen has done a variety of successful films such as The Cincinnati Kid, The Sand Pebbles, and The Getaway. He too has contributed to the US military. He served in the Marine Corps as an honor guard on President Truman’s yacht.
Before he became the modern day symbol of the Wild West, Sam Elliot served in the military. Elliott had moved to California to pursue his dream of acting. However, in order to do so, he also needed to pay the bills. He picked up some odd jobs including construction. He also joined the California Army National Guard. However, it wasn’t long until he landed his first cowboy role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Before he was James Bond, Sean Connery was a member of the Royal Navy. He enlisted in the service when he was only 16-years-old. He was medically discharged due to a severe stomach ulcer, after three years of service. After the service, he worked various jobs but eventually began bodybuilding. His new buff physique led to modeling and later acting.
Owen Wilson has played many roles that have led to some sticky predicaments. However, he is not only a troublemaker on camera but also in real life. When he was in 10th grade, he was kicked out of school. Therefore, for his last two years of high school, he was sent to the New Mexico Military Institute. He chose not to continue his military service after high school. Instead, he chose to attend the University of Texas Austin, where he studied English.