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 injury. The military definitely helped turn his life around, as only a few short years later Hendrix shot into superstardom.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.