Clearly the world we are all accustomed to wouldn’t be what it is today without its entertainment from Hollywood, but it certainly wouldn’t be what it is without its armed forces either. Soldiers make the ultimate contribution to society, putting their lives on the line whether serving abroad or in training. In my opinion, there is nothing more honorable than to serve one’s country. The many celebrities who were in the military are those who signed up to make the ultimate sacrifice for their countries. Through the years, many famous people have served in the military. A few were drafted, some voluntarily enlisted, and others have joined the military multiple times, many of whom served in World War II and The Vietnam War.
Quite a few famous military veterans have gone on to have outstanding careers in Hollywood – names like Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris and Elvis Presley. All of them, like all soldiers, had to learn the value of hard work, discipline and sacrifice while serving their time in the military.
Here is our list of the top 20 stars who served in the military.
20. Montell Williams
Williams enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1974. Shortly after graduating the U.S. Navel Academy in Annapolis, he was named a midshipman for the U.S. Navy. He served in Guam, as a cryptologic officer for naval intelligence and was transferred in 1983 to the National Security Agency in Maryland, where he first began counseling his team. Williams left the Navy a decorated officer, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal. Over his twenty years as the host of The Montell Williams Show he continually supported marines and was awarded The Department of the Navy Superior Public Award in 2008.
19. Mel Brooks
Writer and director Mel Brooks was in high school in Brooklyn when he was considered to join the army. He has said in regards to joining the army:
“…I was 17 and the army came there and they took one look at me and they said, Melvin, you’re our guy. They issued a test, the army specialized training reserve program test. If you pass this test, I think it was like how much is one and one, you know?” And I nearly failed because I said, well, side by side they’re 11, but they took me anyway.”
After attending the Army Specialized Training Program in Virginia at the Virginia Military Institute, he served in the U.S. Army as a corporal during World War II, defusing land mines and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
18. Bea Arthur
Before being known for her role as Dorothy in The Golden Girls, Bea served in the Marine Corps. She served a total of 30 months in the Marines as a truck driver and a typist. When joining at 21 she was asked why she wanted to be a part of the Corps she said, “heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so decided the only thing to do was to join.” She was stationed at air bases in Virginia and North Carolina, and was honorably discharged in 1945 with the title of staff sergeant.
17. Rob Riggle
Rob Riggle is probably best known for his hilarious minor roles in films like The Hangover, The Other Guys and 21 Jump Street, and for his appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This former Daily Show correspondent is a former Lieutenant Colonel for the U.S. Marine Corps and has served in Liberia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. A decorative officer, he holds over 19 medals and ribbons for his strength and heroism in combat.
16. Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone was born a child of privilege who grew up to attend Yale University, but dropped out to join the military. He served in Vietnam, where he experienced violence and drugs. Stone was awarded the Bronze Star for Gallantry as well as a Purple Heart for his efforts in the war, but he had a passion for the arts and politics. After Vietnam, he engulfed himself in film, writing screenplays and attended New York University studying under famous director Martin Scorsese.
15. Bill Cosby
Everybody most likely has seen “TV Dad” Bill Cosby in the news lately, but perhaps what you didn’t know is that Cosby enlisted in the Navy back in 1956. He trained as a hospital corpsman, serving on ships and at the Quantico, Virgina base and was later sent to serve at the Bethesda Navel Hospital, where he worked with Korean War Casualties. His time with the Navy was filled with high and low points. He won awards, running on the Navy track team, but also endured racial discrimination and was forced to eat in the kitchen when the team stopped to eat while on the road. Cosby was honorably discharged in 1960.
14. Mr. T
Before Mr. T (Laurence Tureaud) became B.A. Baracus from the A-Team, he was actually a member of one of the greatest teams in history – the U.S. Army. After leaving high school, he enlisted in the U.S Army back in the mid ’70s, where he served in the Military Police Corps. During his time in the Army, Tureaud was awarded a letter of recommendation. Out of six thousand troops he was selected as the “Top Trainee of the Cycle” and subsequently promoted to Squad Leader.
13. Hugh Hefner
The Playboy founder has not only had a successful career with the original men’s magazine, but also one in the military. After graduating from Steinmetz High School in 1944 he joined the U.S. Army as an infantry clerk. During World War II Hefner served as a writer for the military newspaper in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946, supplying cartoons for the paper before his discharge.
12. Drew Carey
Funny man Drew Carey went to Kent State University, but after being expelled twice he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1980 and served for six years. He has been quoted as saying, “While in the Marine Reserves, I was looking for a way to make some more money, and it was suggested that I try using my jokes.” He took this suggestion to heart and started performing stand-up comedy while serving in the Marines. Since, serving in the Marine Corps, Carey has teamed up with the United Service Organization and regularly visits military bases to perform for the troops.
11. Ice T
Known as a musician and actor Ice T, Tracy Marrow served four years in the U.S. Army in the 25th Infantry Division after he graduated from high school. When asked about his enlisting in the army, he said,
“When I had my daughter, I was like, man, I’m going to go to jail, I got to do something, and I went to an enlistment office. Next thing you know, I’m in the military, four years infantry.”
During his deployment in Hawaii, he served as a squad leader at Schofield Barracks and it was there that he first purchased stereo equipment. Throughout his deployment in Hawaii he used his time in the army to build financial stability and launch his career as a rapper.
10. Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin is notably recognized as the second person to walk on the moon. Besides being an American engineer and astronaut, he is also a retired Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Buzz officially entered the USAF in 1951, scoring near the top of his class in flight school, and began fighter training that same year. During his time in the military, he joined the 51st Fighter Wing and flew F-86 Sabre Jets in 66 combat missions in Korea. After the end of the Korean War, he returned home and earned his Ph.D in aeronautics and Astronautics, graduating in 1963, and the rest is history…
9. Gene Hackman
At 16, Gene Hackman lied about his age to join the Marines where he served four-and-a-half years. Within a few short months he went from basic training to a duty station in China, working primarily as a radio operator. Hackman’s deployment took him from Tsing Tao to Shanghai, but he was later stationed in Hawaii. Over the course of his time in the Marines, he was demoted three times for leaving his post without permission. When asked about his demotions he said, “I have trouble with direction, because I have trouble with authority. I was not a good Marine.”
Hackman’s acting career spans over five decades and he has been nominated for five Academy Awards. Some of his Military-related roles over the years are Behind Enemy Lines, Crimson Tide and Bat 21.
8. Morgan Freeman
With a very recognizable authoritative voice and gentle mannerisms, Morgan Freeman is now known as one of the most popular and respected actors in Hollywood. At a young age, he became infatuated with the idea of flying, and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955 but was ordered to be a radar technician. Although he wasn’t satisfied with his occupation within the Air Force he held on to the dream of being a fighter pilot for quite some time.
“I joined the Air Force. I took to it immediately when I arrived there. I did three years, eight months, and ten days in all, but it took me a year and a half to get disabused of my romantic notions about it.”
7. Elvis Presley
Just two years after his hit songs “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog” hit radios all over the world, turning this Mississippi boy into the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley was drafted into the United States Army in 1957. When asked what he thought of being at the height of his career and serving in the army at the same time, he said,
“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.”
He was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas and later deployed to the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Armor in Friedberg, Germany and was honorably discharged in 1960.
6. Sean Connery
Known as the original James Bond, Sean Connery enlisted in the army at the young age of 16. After three years of service he was discharged because he suffered from a stomach ulcer which was threatening his health at the time. He returned back home to Edinburgh, Scotland and soon began to start bodybuilding, which essentially led him to a career in film and modeling.
5. Chris Hadfield
Chris Hadfield is best known as a Canadian astronaut (he was the first Canadian to ever walk in space), best-selling author, public speaker, and musician and he was also in the Military. After graduating high school in 1978 he joined the Canadian Armed Forces, spending two years at the Royal Military College, during which time he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Hadfield retired as a Colonel from the Air Force in 2003 after 25 years of service.
4. Chuck Norris
You probably know who Chuck Norris is from his action movies and as a world champion martial artist, but what you may not know is that Norris is also very dedicated to the military community. He has used his success to give back to the military and is a spokesman on behalf of the Veteran’s Administration and hospitalized veterans, and he created the “Kick Drugs Out of America” Foundation. Chuck Norris joined the Air Force after high school in 1958 as an Air Policeman and served at the Osan Air Base in South Korea. He was discharged in 1962.
3. Jimi Hendrix
At a young age, Hendrix was caught by police riding in stolen cars in Seattle, so he had two options – to go to jail or join the Army. In 1961 he enlisted and was sent to the 101st Airborne Division in Kentucky. While he was in the Military, Hendrix would play his guitar as much as possible, which often led to him slacking on his duties and drew unwanted attention from fellow soldiers. He was awarded the Screaming Eagles patch after paratrooper training, but due to an ankle injury he sustained in a parachute jump he was discharged from the army…And the rest, as you know, is rock and roll history.
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Actor, producer, writer, body builder, politician… It seems the list of Schwarzenegger’s professional endeavors goes on and on. He also served in the Austrian Army in 1965 – it was required by all 18-year-old Australian males to serve one year of service. At the same time he was a young weight trainer, and would often sneak out of camp for a week at a time so he could compete in the Junior Mr. Europe contest. He won the competition’s title, but was punished for leaving camp and was forced to spend a few nights in Military prison. Arnold completed the mandatory year of service with the Austrian Army and later went on to win Mr. Universe, which turned out to be his ticket to America.
1. Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood first started acting in Western movies, but it was his time serving in the military during the Korean War that most likely granted him the biggest adventure of his lifetime. Eastwood was sent to Ft. Ord in California for basic training, where he became a swimming instructor. He stayed at FT. Ord and was eventually promoted to corporal. After being discharged in 1953 Eastwood studied drama under the GI Bill and began his acting career which has now spanned over six decades.