HomeCelebsCelebs You Didn’t Realize Served In The Military

Celebs You Didn’t Realize Served In The Military

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.

Jimi Hendrix

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 the 101st airborne division. He was discharged from his service in 1962 due to an injury. Only a few years later did Hendrix begin performing and soon hitting superstardom.

Hugh Hefner

As the owner and founder of Playboy Magazine, Hugh Hefner has 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 the first Playboy magazine.

Chuck Norris

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

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.

Elvis Presley

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.

Morgan Freeman

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.

Willie Nelson

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.

Montel Williams

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.

Mel Brooks

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 diffusing landmines.

Jimmy Stewart

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 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.

Johnny Carson

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.

Tony Bennett

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

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.

Mickey Rooney

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.

Gene Hackman

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.

Leonard Nimoy

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.

Gene Wilder

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, he 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-successful 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

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 jockey 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 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.

Harvey Keitel

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

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, so 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

Drew Carey is best known for his TV sitcom “The Drew Carey Show,” or as the host of “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.

Jeff Bridges

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.”

Tom Selleck

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.”

Rob Riggle

Before he was a comedian and an actor, Rob Riggle was a Marine. His first position in the Marines was as a pilot. However, once he realized he couldn’t pursue his dreams of being an actor and stay in the Marines, he completed his contract and left active duty. However, he did remain a reservists for 14 years after. Riggle says the Corps made him mentally tough, which he needed to succeed in show business.

Clint Eastwood

Oscar-winning actor, producer and director Clint Eastwood was drafted into the U.S. 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.

Sean Connery

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 led to his career in modeling and eventually acting.

Rachel Washburn

As a Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader, Rachel Washburn toted pom-poms. As an Army intelligence officer with a special ops combat unit in Afghanistan, she carried an assault rifle and pistol. She was a pioneer on a special mission to relate to local women in ways that would be culturally inappropriate for male troops — including helping deliver an Afghan baby in a snowstorm.

Owen Wilson


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