Hollywood may be known for bragging and showing off, but these celebs decided to stay humble about their time in the military. Who knew that so many celebrities served our country in the military? It’s a wonder they managed to stay so quiet, even though they did the most selfless thing possible for one’s country. Some of them chose to enlist and others were drafted when their country went to war. It doesn’t matter how famous you were, though, you couldn’t get out of enlistment! In fact, many celebrities have fought in the Vietnam War, Korean War, World War II, while others did some service in the 21st century. Here are the celebrities that used to be in the military!
It must have been in the army where Mr. T (born Lawrence Tureaud) got his bad-boy look but then again, he did grow up in Chicago.
The I Pity the Fool actor enlisted in the United States Army after he was expelled from Prairie View A&M University and served in the Military Police Corps. Mr. T did well in the army as his drill sergeant gave him a letter of recommendation and out of 6,000 troops, he was named “Top Trainee of the Cycle.” He went on to become squad leader!
His voice was probably so soothing to soldiers! After high school, Morgan Freeman chose to go into the United States Air Force instead attending Jackson State University where he was awarded a drama scholarship.
He became an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman in 1955 and ended up serving in that position for 4 years. At first, Freeman thought flying was his passion but after being a pilot in the military, he changed his mind. He remarked, “You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.” When he left the Air Force in 1959, he was given the title “Airman 1st Class.”
It may come as a surprise to many that actor and funny-man Drew Carey served in the military at one point during his life. Carey actually served in the US Marine Corps for six whole years. He was once asked why he doesn’t talk about his time as a Marine more often and he stated that he didn’t want to hurt his image as a comedian.
Carey adopted his iconic crewcut while he was in the military and has kept it ever since. Also interesting, for much of his life, he didn’t need to wear corrected lenses. The black-rimmed glasses were a fashion choice but later in life, he did develop a need for bifocals.
That’s right, Willy Wonka was a veteran! Gene Wilder was drafted into the Army when he was 23-years-old but even then, he knew he was going to be an actor!
When he finished his recruiting training, Wilder was assigned to the medical corps and got to choose where he wanted to go. He ended up picking the Valley Forge Army Hospital, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where he was a paramedic, because it was close to New York City where he was taking acting classes. Wilder was discharged after two years and went on to become a full-time acting student!
Celebrity musician Willie Nelson enlisted in the US Air Force straight after high school in 1950. His military career didn’t last long though, he was medically discharged after about nine months of service due to back problems.
After his service and a number of odd jobs, he began to pursue a career in music. It took him nearly two decades to achieve success but he stuck with it and now he is world famous for his work, as well as for his advocacy for the legalization of marijuana.
It wasn’t just male celebrities who served in the military. Actress and comedian Beatrice “Bea” Arthur was another famous face who joined the marine corps during World War II!
The Golden Girls‘ actress was a truck driver and typist for the Marines 30 months, although she did deny it at one point. 21-year-old Arthur stated back then, “heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so decided the only thing to do was to join.” When she was honorably discharged in 1945, she had the title of staff sergeant.
Hollywood tough-guy Charles Bronson is known for his roles portraying police officers, gunfighters and vigilantes. Before all that, he served in WWII as an aerial gunner. He enlisted in 1943 and was based in Guam carrying out missions against the Japanese home islands. He received the Purple Heart and directly participated in 25 missions.
Bronson was born to a poor immigrant family and had 14 siblings. He actually didn’t even learn English until he was a teenager, he grew up speaking Russian and Lithuanian. And if that weren’t enough, Bronson also started working in a coal-mine to help out his family at the young age of ten.
Dan Blocker, the American TV actor who starred in Bonanza also happened to serve in the military. Also known as a Korean War veteran, Blocker drafted into the U.S. Army during the war in 1951. He served in several battalions and infantries after he became an infantry sergeant upon completing his training at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Blocker was wounded during the war and received a Purple Heart for his dedication and perseverance. The actor was also awarded a National Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Korean War Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unity Citation, and Korean Service Medal with two 3/16 bronze campaign stars. Pretty impressive, don’t you agree?
Maybe this is where he got his intimating look! The famed actor and director was drafted during the Korean War and trained at Ft. Ord in California. The Dirty Harry actor ended up staying there for his two-year service and became a swimming instructor on base while making money as a bouncer at the Army NCO club.
During his service, Eastwood caught a ride with a Navy plane on his way home to visit his family. The plane had to make an emergency water landing due to engine trouble, forcing Eastwood and the pilot to swim over a mile back to land. In a recent interview, Eastwood described the experience as “stark terror,” having not known anything about flying at the time. In addition, the actor said he later discovered the crash site was a shark breeding ground. Yikes!
Turns out Gal Gadot isn’t just an onscreen fighting amazon, she is one in real life too! The actress, model and mother of two served in the Israeli army for two whole years as a combat trainer.
After winning the title of Miss Israel in the 2004 beauty pageant, Gadot enrolled in the army when she was 20. When asked about her military service in a recent interview, the Wonder Woman actress explained that it wasn’t that bad–as a matter of fact, Gadot said it prepared her for Hollywood
Mickey Rooney was another comedian that served in the army towards the end of World War 2 and during the 21 months he was in Europe, he was known for making the troops laugh!
Rooney was even rewarded a bronze star for entertaining troops in combat zones. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, 21-year-old Rooney was drafted but was declined enlistment due to his high blood pressure. Instead, he became a radio host for the Armed Forces Radio and eventually, in 1944, he was able to become a soldier whose main job was performing shows for the troops in Europe.
Bet you aren’t surprised to see this celebrity on this list! Chuck Norris served in 1958 as an Air Policeman in South Korea and then later, at a base in California.
He spent 4 years in the Air Force and it was during that time that he developed a passion for martial arts. Norris trained in Tang Soo Do and even founded his own form, Chun Kuk Do (universal way)! After he was discharged in 1962, he kept that passion and went on to become a famous martial artist in Hollywood.
Did you know that up until 2013, comedian Rob Riggle served in the Marine Corps? That means that all that time he was on Saturday Night Live, acting in movies, and so forth, it was second to being a Marine!
Rob Riggle was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and then later, a public affairs officer in the NYC unit. He joined the Marines in 1990 and served in Kosovo, Liberia, and Afghanistan. While working as a correspondent on the Daily Show, he traveled to Iraq as a documenter while also entertaining troops. He eventually retired after serving 23 years!
The musician was 18-years-old when he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to Germany for a 3-year tour. As it turns out, Cash was originally named J. R. Cash, but when he enlisted in the Air Force, using initials as a first name was not allowed, so he ended up being called John.
Cash served during the Cold War for 4 years starting in 1950 and became a skilled Morse coder. He was an important Morse Code Operator in the Security Service Unit and it was in that position where he was the first American to find out that Joseph Stalin died.
The sixth in line for the British throne is famous for many things, mainly his fun loving nature and numerous appearances in scandalous tabloid exposés. But Mr. Meghan Markle is also known for his lengthy career in the British army, much like his brother, Prince William.
Princess Diana’s youngest son completed officer training at the British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2006. He was deployed to Iraq with the rest of his regiment, but it was later decided that the young Prince was too much of a target to join his fellow troops on the front line, though he was later deployed to Afghanistan. The Prince officialy left the army in 2015.
You know him as the millionaire who brought Playboy magazine to the world but before Hugh Hefner even entered the publishing business, he was in the military in World War II.
He enlisted in the army right after graduating from high school in 1944 and ended up serving for 2 years. Hefner worked as an infantry clerk and as a writer for a military newspaper. He was known for his cartoon contributions to the paper!
While this picture portrays Owen Wilson posing at the Behind Enemy Lines NAVY Premiere at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California, he actually attended the New Mexico Military Institute in his youth. He was kicked out of high school for his last two years, so the military seemed like the next best option to get his discipline back into gear.
After high school, Wilson decided not to pursue his military service and went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the University of Texas at Austin. The rest was history, and instead of getting up to mischief in high school, Wilson went on to play the rather humorous and mischievous character in many movies as a household name in Hollywood.
This actor may not be America’s favorite at the moment but Bill Cosby did help our country out during the Korean War as part of the Navy. Cosby enlisted in the Navy in 1956 when he was 19 and served in bases in Virginia, Maryland, and Newfoundland.
During the 4 years that he served, he worked as a hospital corpsman, particularly as a physical therapist for injured Korean War soldiers. At a Navy ceremony in 2011 where cosby was made an honorary chief petty officer, he said, “The Navy showed me obedience and that’s the thing that pushed me to realize the mistakes I had made in my young life at 19-years-old and that I could do something with myself and become somebody.”
Before Sean Connery was saving the world as a 007 agent, he joined the Royal Navy to fight for his country at age 16! That is how he got his ‘Mum and Dad’ and ‘Scotland Forever’ tattoos!
The future James Bond actor would have stayed in the Navy for longer than 3 years if he didn’t end up getting discharged. The reason for that was a stomach ulcer he developed, which was too life-threatening to stay in the military with. After that, Connery had various jobs, including bodybuilding, until he eventually went into showbiz.
Yes, he’s had his fair share of playing a military man on-screen, but many of his fans don’t know that Sam Elliott also served in the military before becoming a famous actor. That’s right, he served in the California Army National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, otherwise known as the Hollywood Guard, at Van Nuys Airport before the unit re-stationed at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
When reflecting on his military career, Elliott has claimed that his experiences in the army instilled in him leadership skills and discipline. It sure must have helped when he played numerous army personnel in TV shows and films.
Turns out the former Governator is also a military veteran, Arnold Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian Army, which used to be a requirement for all 18-year-old Austrian men.
The requirement was only for a year and the future actor started his service in 1965. During his service, he snuck off base to attend the Junior Mr. Europe contest, which he won, but had to spend a week in military prison for going AWOL The famed bodybuilder later said, “Participating in the competition meant so much to me that I didn’t carefully think through the consequences.”
Before he became a beloved and prolific comedian, Mel Brooks was known as Private Melvin Kaminsky (Mel Brooks was his stage name) and then later, Corporal Kaminsky.
He served during World War II in Europe as part of the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion, after he completed a specialized training program at Virginia Military Institute. For the two years that Brooks served, his main job was to diffuse landmines set up by the enemies. He once said, “I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering.”
Here’s a celebrity you wouldn’t normally associate with military service and discipline. Jimi Hendrix was known to not be a totally focused soldier as he spent way too much time on his guitar!
When he was 19 years old, Hendrix was caught driving stolen cars and when he was arrested, the famed guitarist was given the choice of going to prison or joining the army. He chose the latter and enlisted in 1961 where he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Kentucky. It was clear that being a soldier wasn’t for him and the future rock and roller eventually received an honorable discharge on the basis of unsuitability.
Whether you know him as private investigator Thomas Magnum (Magnum, P.I.) or as Dr. Richard Burke (Friends), Tom Selleck was also a veteran!
He served in the 160th Infantry Regiment of the California Army National Guard for a couple of years starting in the 60’s. In 1965, he was one of the 4,000 members of the national guard that were called to put an end to the Watts riots that broke out in Los Angeles. Now, he is a spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
No wonder Alan Alda could play Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H so well! He actually did a tour in Korea in the late 1950’s! In college, he trained at Fordham University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and after he graduated, he was sent to Fort Benning where he stayed for a year.
Then, Alda, as a junior officer, spent six months in the United States Army Reserve and was sent to Korea. In a speech at Southern Connecticut State University, the actor said, “They had designs of making me into an officer but, uh … it didn’t go so well. I was in charge of a mess tent. Some of that made it into the show [M*A*S*H].”
Before he became famous for playing Spock in the Star Trek franchise, Leonard Nimoy was doing service in the army from 1953 to 1955.
He was 22-years-old when the future actor enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve at Fort McPherson Georgia and served there for 18 months. When he was discharged, he was a sergeant! During his time in the army, Nimoy worked with the Army Special Services where he put on shows for the troops.
After Paul Newman graduated from high school, he went to Ohio University for a short time before he decided he wanted to be a Navy pilot. Unfortunately for Newman, the Navy rejected him because he was colorblind.
Instead, he became a radioman and rear gunner and served in the Pacific theater. Qualifying in torpedo bombers, he became Aviation Radioman Third Class and was sent to Barbers Point, Hawaii. After the war ended, Newman went back to college and became an actor.
Humphrey Bogart wasn’t a good kid in school and his parents were not happy with his poor academic records. After he got expelled, the future actor decided his only option was to enlist in the navy in 1918.
After World War I ended, Bogart spent most of his time ferrying troops back from Europe. When he later talked about his service in the Navy, he said, “At eighteen, war was great stuff. Paris! Sexy French girls! Hot damn!” He actually got his iconic lip scar and memorable lisp while in the navy.
MC Hammer (born Stanley Kirk Burrell) made the right decision when he was tempted to become a drug dealer after college didn’t work out for him but, instead, choose to join the Navy.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the 1980’s and served with PATRON FOUR SEVEN of NAS Moffett Field in Mountain View, CA. The future rapper was a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper and after 3 years, he was honorably discharged.
Before Ernest Hemingway became a famed author, he served during the last year of World War I after he answered a Red Cross recruitment effort in Kansas City. He signed up to be an ambulance driver in Italy and when he arrived in Paris, it was under bombardment from German artillery.
Eventually, he made it to Milan, Italy where Hemingway was taken to the scene of a munitions factory explosion. He received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery after he helped Italian soldiers get to safety after a mortar fire, despite the fact that he got severely wounded himself.
Did you know that the It’s a Wonderful Life actor is the highest-ranking actor in military history? He certainly made his family of veterans (both of his grandfathers and his dad fought in wars) proud of him!
During World War II, James Stewart was drafted into the army but ended up being rejected because he didn’t meet the weight requirement. Eventually, the determined actor was able to gain the weight and enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he became the first major American movie star in the military fighting in World War II. Stewart served 27 years, where he also became a Vietnam War veteran.
Kirk Douglas knew at a very young age that he wanted to be an actor but after the U.S. entered World War II, he decided to put his country first before his career.
The actor enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and became a communications officer in anti-submarine warfare. After serving for 3 years, Douglas was medically discharged after sustaining war injuries. When he returned to New York City, he resumed his passion for being an actor.
Alan Alda wasn’t the only M*A*S*H actor with a military record! The actor who played Maxwell Klinger on the TV show about the Korean War also spent time in Korea while in the Army.
The dog tags his character wears are actually his own! After Jamie Farr had his first film role, he ended up being drafted into the United States Army and trained with the 6th Infantry Division Fort Ord California. In the two years he served, Farr did tours in both Japan and Korea.
Robert Duvall’s father was a U.S. Navy admiral so it wasn’t much of a surprise when he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the U.S. army. The actor even recalled being a navy brat but he didn’t have that same passion for the military like his father.
He served for only a year in the mid-50’s before being discharged as private first class. Duvall later recalled how the press said ridiculous things about his service. “Some stories have me shooting it out with the Commies from a foxhole over in Frozen Chosin. Pork Chop Hill stuff. Hell, I barely qualified with the M-1 rifle in basic training.”
Ernest Hemingway wasn’t the only author that served in the military! Unlike that author, though, Kurt Vonnegut fought during World War II!
After the Pearl Harbor attacks, the U.S. entered the war and a draft begun. Vonnegut could have been eligible for a student deferment if he didn’t flunk out of the ROTC and since he knew he was going to be drafted anyway, he enlisted in 1943. The author fought in the Battle of the Bulge but ended up becoming a prisoner of war, which inspired some of his future writings.
Here is another celebrity who served during World War II. It was while he was serving in the Army Air Force that Carl Reiner discovered his passion for show business.
In 1943, the 21-year-old was drafted into the Army Air Force and eventually became a corporal. At first, he was trained to be a radio operator but after suffering from pneumonia, Reiner went to Georgetown University to learn how to be a French interpreter. He was then sent to Hawaii to be a teleprinter operator and it was there that he decided to audition for a play that led him to be transferred to Special Services to be a performer for troops in the Pacific.
This must be why Ice-T, whose real name is Tracy Marrow, is able to give Detective Tutuola such a badass persona on Law and Order: SVU. When the rapper was a teenager, he sold drugs on the streets in LA (never used them himself, though) and even stole things like car radios to make money.
He decided to become a better person, though, after he had a daughter with his girlfriend. To redeem himself, Ice-T enlisted in the army and served from 1979 to 1983 in the 25th Infantry Division, which was based in Hawaii.
In 1997, Congress made Bob Hope an honorary veteran of the United States Armed Forces because of all the work he did as part of the United Service Organizations (USO). The comedian, actor, and singer was already well-known by the time he joined the USO and started performing for troops during World War II.
Hope’s career with the USO ended up being a long one where he headlined 57 tours in 6 wars. When Bill Clinton named him an honorary veteran, the performer said, “I’ve been given many awards in my lifetime — but to be numbered among the men and women I admire most — is the greatest honor I have ever received.”
Jackie Robinson was the famed baseball player who broke MLB’s color barrier but before he accomplished that, he was a member of the first black tank unit that saw combat.
Robinson was drafted in 1942 during World War II and became a part of the 761st “Black Panthers” Tank Battalion, although he was never deployed overseas. Instead, he was held up in court after he refused to move to the back of an army bus and ended up getting transferred to another Battalion. In 1944, Robinson was honorably discharged.
The 40th president of the United States had military experience before he took office in 1981. Reagan enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve two years before World War II broke out in 1939 and became a second lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps.
In 1942, the 31-year-old was called to active duty for the first time but he wasn’t allowed to be deployed overseas due to his poor eyesight. 3 years later, Reagan’s military service was completed and he left the army with the rank of captain.
Marvin Gaye was meant to be a singer but after his stint in the military, it was clear that was not the place for him so he is only remembered for influencing the sound of Motown!
When Gaye was 17-years-old, he dropped out of high school so he could enlist in the United States Air Force. He became a basic airman but didn’t last very long. The young singer wasn’t pleased with the fact he was given lowly tasks, and eventually faked a mental illness so he could be discharged.
So, come on down to the next person on this list! The Price is Right host served during World War II as a Navy fighter pilot. Barker was attending Drury University on a basketball scholarship when the second world war began and decided to enlist in the United States Navy.
He became a fighter pilot but never got to be assigned to a seagoing squadron because the war ended before he was qualified. After Barker was discharged, he went back to school and got his degree in economics.
Even being a famous baseball star didn’t stop DiMaggio from being drafted. The legendary Yankee Clipper decided to enlist in the United States Army Air Forces in 1943 before he even got the draft notice.
This was only two years after DiMaggio became famous for accomplishing a 56-game hitting streak. While in the army, he rose to the rank of sergeant but never actually saw combat and mainly acted as a physical education instructor. After serving for 2 years, the center fielder was released on medical discharge because of tomach ulcers.
Growing up, the singer and dancer was shielded from racism from his parents and it wasn’t until he joined the military that he saw how prejudice the world really was.
Sammy Davis Jr. served in the army during World War II and explained his experience later as, “Overnight the world looked different. It wasn’t one color anymore…I appreciated their loving hope that I’d never need to know about prejudice and hate, but they were wrong.” When he was assigned integrated entertainment Special Services unit, the prejudice lessened as white men just wanted to see him perform.
Everyone knows Mike Farrell for his role as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on the television series M*A*S*H but did you know that he actually served in the military? In real life, he served in the US Marine Corps, based in Okinawa.
After his service ended he began working a number of odd jobs to support his fledgling acting career. One of his first notable roles was in the TV series Lassie in 1967. During his time on M*A*S*H, apart from acting, he wrote five episodes and directed four. Farrell certainly put his talent and real-life experience to good use in the hit series.
World-renowned fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien delayed being drafted by the British for WWI as long as possible. He entered a program defer the draft in order to complete his degree, much to the dismay of his family and social norms of the time.
He was eventually drafted and after a short training period, sent off to France. Tolkien participated in the Battle of the Somme and the majority of his battalion never returned home. He suffered multiple health issues during the war and even came down with trench fever at one point, which most likely saved his life as he was taken out of the front lines.
Did you know the King served in the army at the height of his career? Elvis Presley received his draft notice in 1957, only a short time after he performed his last concert on the Ed Sullivan Show.
He ended up serving for two years in the 3rd Armored Division and was the most well known soldier in the army. He did say once, “The army can do anything it wants with me. Millions of other guys have been drafted, and I don’t want to be different from anyone else.” It was when he was serving in Germany that he met his future wife Priscilla Beaulieu.
One of the greatest American writers of all time, J.D. Salinger, was drafted into the US army in 1942 as an infantry soldier. The author of The Catcher in the Rye saw combat in numerous WWII battles, including D-Day on Utah Beach, the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest.
Salinger became proficient in French and German to help assist with prisoner interrogation and even remained in Germany after the war ended for six months with the Counterintelligence Corps for “Denazification” duty. His experiences in the war influenced a number of his later books but he never fully recovered from the emotional trauma of WWII.
Before his comedy career took off, Don Knotts was entertaining troops in the Pacific Islands. He joined the US army after his college freshman year and served most of his time with a G.I. variety show called “Stars and Gripes.”
He went back to finish his degree after the army and then used his entertainment connections from the army to start his acting career. Knotts got his first big break on the television soap opera Search for Tomorrow and eventually went on to acting roles on The Andy Griffith Show and Three’s Company.
Harrison Ford is one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors. His roles as Indiana Jones and Han Solo will be remembered for many generations to come. While he hasn’t been in the military directly, he has directly helped with many rescue missions.
Ford has a pilot’s license and frequently assists with rescue missions at the request of local authorities. He pilots small planes and helicopters. The rescue missions are generally locating lost hikers. One rescued hiker, not realizing at the time that she had been rescued by Ford, got sick in his helicopter. “I can’t believe I barfed in Harrison Ford’s helicopter!” the woman later told reporters.
Jesse Ventura, born James Janos, served in the US Navy right after high school. He was part of Underwater Demolition Team 12 during the Vietnam War but never saw combat. After his military career ended Ventura began wrestling professionally. Due to his wrestling persona, that of a blond beach boy, he adopted the name “Ventura.”
After that, he got into acting and even ran for governor of Minnesota. He was elected and was in office from 1999 to 2003. Currently, he is hosting a variety show on RT, a Russian international television network funded by the Russian government.
I bet the troops that were on the same ship as Johnny Carson were glad to have him abroad because he was always entertaining them and making them laugh! The future TV host enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 and was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania, which was stationed in the Pacific.
Carson served as a midshipman and then after the war ended, he went on to be a communications officer who decoded encrypted messages. When asked what was the highlight of his military career, the young Carson said doing a magic trick for the United States Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal!
It’s arguably America’s favorite game show and its host, Pat Sajak, served in the US armed services. He joined the army in 1968 and was sent to Vietnam to serve as a radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio. And no, we’re not just rehashing the plot from Good Morning, Vietnam, that’s what actually happened.
He spent a total of 18 months in Vietnam and famously botched President Nixon’s Christmas broadcast in 1969. During the president’s speech to the troops, Sajak accidentally cut the feed early. He quickly realized the mistake but it was already too late to repair the damage, so he just left it off.
He may have been one of America’s great depression-era mobsters, robbing at least 24 banks, but John Dillinger also served in the military. His troubled life led him to enlist in the US Navy where he served as a machinist on the USS Utah, but that didn’t last very long.
Just a few months into his service he deserted while his ship was docked in Boston. After that he became involved in organized crime, fashioning himself a Robin Hood figure. Dillinger was arrested twice and in both cases escaped from prison. He was eventually killed while trying to flee from federal agents.
Silent-film actor and comedian Bust Keaton began performing at a very early age and was already an up and coming actor before serving in the US Army. He was shipped off to France to fight in World War I with the 40th Infantry Division.
Keaton was lucky enough to survive the war but his hearing was severely impaired. He was widely known for his physical comedy and stoic expression, for which earned him the nickname “The Great Stone Face.” Roger Ebert once called Keaton the “greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.”
Film star Steve McQueen, or “The King of Cool,” as he was known to many starred in such hit films as The Cincinnati Kid, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway and Papillion. He also joined the US Marine Corps 1947.
He had quite a rebellious army service and was demoted to private a whopping seven times. Even though he had a tendency to not follow orders or to return to base on time, he was responsible for saving the lives of five other Marines in an Arctic exercise. He was eventually discharged, honorably.
Pat Tillman is one of just a handful of people who left their professional sports careers in the NFL to enlist in the US Army. He turned down a $3.6 million contract from the Arizona Cardinals in favor of enlisting.
He enlisted alongside his brother who turned down a chance to play basketball with the Cleveland Indians. Tillman served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was killed during active duty. One month after his death and memorial, it was released that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire.
Baseball Hall of Famer Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was signed to play for the New York Yankees when he began his service in the US Navy in 1943. He served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Bayfield, on attack transport ship.
Berra participated in the D-Day invasion of France and launched an attack on German forces at Omaha Beach. After the war he returned to playing baseball, starting with a position in the minor-league team the Newark Bears. He eventually moved up to play major-league with the Yankees as a catcher and later manager and coach.
Actor and comedian Fred Willard is well known for his goofy humor and crazy old man roles on television but what few know is that he served in the US Army. It’s hard to think of Willard as being serious but he apparently used to be pretty tough.
Willard served in the 1960s and was almost sent to Vietnam. After his service, he continued acting and doing comedy. He’s been in so many movies and television shows that it’s almost hard to name something that he hasn’t been in.
Harvey Keitel joined the US Marine Corps at the ripe age of 16 and served in active combat. He was shipped off to Lebanon to participate in Operation Blue Bat, an intervention to protect the Lebanese government from what the US perceived was a communist threat.
After his service in the Marines, Keitel worked as a court reporter in order to support his fledgling acting career. His career took off with a fury and today he is known for his roles in hit movies such as Taxi Driver, Thelma & Louise, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and tons of other great films.
James Earl Jones is famous for being the voice of Darth Vader and Mufasa, but before he became a well-known actor, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps during the Korean War.
Jones never fought in Korea but instead, served in the U.S. in 1953 to 1955. Jones, along with his men, was in charge of a cold weather training command in Colorado and eventually, he was promoted to first lieutenant.
Jazz saxophone legend John Coltrane, or at times just known as Trane, enlisted in the Navy the same day that the US dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. He trained in New York and was then sent off to Pearl Harbor.
By the time Coltrane arrived to Hawaii, the Navy was already starting to downsize and in his downtime, he performed with a band called the Melody Masters. The very first records of Coltrane are from informal sessions with Navy musicians in Hawaii.
Don Rickles was known as the insult comedian for his habit of responding to hecklers in the audience but he was also a WWII veteran. He enlisted in the United States Navy after high school and served on the USS Cyrene, a motor torpedo boat.
After leaving the Navy in 1946 he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts but eventually became more focused on comedy after finding out that there wasn’t much work for actors. Rickles once commented on his style of comedy by saying, “I always pictured myself facing the audience as the matador.”
Besides being known as Adam Sackler from Girls and Kylo Ren from Star Wars, Adam Driver is also the founder of Arts in the Armed Forces, a non-profit organization that brings theater performances to all branches of the military.
Like many others, 18-year-old Adam Driver became patriotic after 9/11 and wanted to fight for his country. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was designated to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines where he was an 81mm mortarman. After serving for 32 months, Driver was medically discharged after he broke his sternum.
Fred Durst is best known as the lead vocalist in the rap-rock band Limp Bizkit, but before he reached music fame he served in the US Navy. He met his first wife, Rachel Tergesen, during his service and the couple had one daughter together.
Durst’s stint in the Navy was, however, short-lived. He served for rwo years and was discharged due to medical issues. He reportedly broke his hand skateboarding. After his service, Durst returned to Jacksonville where he worked as a landscaper and tattoo artist.