Connect with us

Entertainment

Celebrity Veterans: Stars Who Served in the Military

Published

on

Some were drafted during World War II; others are currently enlisted in the Army Reserves. All of these celebrities spent years serving their country in the military. From Bea Arthur driving a truck in the Marine Corps to Prince Harry flying as an Apache pilot in Afghanistan, many celebrities are proud veterans, and use their platform to bring attention to causes that benefit servicemembers and veterans to this day.

As former Marine Drew Carey said, “I believe it’s important for us to always recognize the sacrifices it takes to serve in our military, and how necessary they are… We need to recognize and applaud people in our military who do their jobs well, and with honor. Period.”

Tom Selleck

Getty

Perhaps Tom Selleck’s keen ability to portray former Navy SEAL Thomas Magnum in Magnum P.I. stemmed from his own time in the military. He served as a soldier in the California Army National Guard from 1967 to 1973.

Prince Harry

Matt Cardy/Getty

Prince Harry served in the Army for 10 years and took on two tours in Afghanistan. Following his years of service, he dedicated his time to helping wounded servicemen and women with the creation of The Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick veterans.

Recently, Prince Harry discussed the isolation service members often feel when returning home, and stressed the importance of supporting veterans at the 2021 Salute to Freedom gala.

“My experience in the military made me who I am today, and I will always be grateful for the people I got to serve with — wherever in the world we were,” said Harry, adding that he created the Invictus Games “to honor the legacy of those who have given so much” as well as to show “that the men and women who have experienced service injuries, as well as their families, are the strongest people in the world…and they deserve a platform to be seen, a platform to be recognized, and a platform to be truly celebrated.”

Craig Morgan

craig morgan; getty


Country star Craig Morgan served 17 years in the Army and Army Reserve with the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions as an E-6 Staff Sergeant and Fire Support Specialist, and includes Airborne, Air Assault and Rappel Master among his certifications. He is also a recipient of the Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal and the USO Merit Award, as well as a member of the U.S. Field Artillery Hall of Fame.

In 2023, Morgan re-enlisted with the Reserve onstage at the Grand Ole Opry. “I’m excited to once again serve my country and be all I can be in hopes of encouraging others to be a part of something greater than ourselves,” Morgan told PEOPLE in a statement at the time. “I love being an artist, but I consider it a true privilege and honor to work with what I believe are the greatest of Americans, my fellow soldiers.”

Bob Barker

US Naval Institute/Twitter; Jesse Grant/WireImage

The late Price Is Right host served as a naval aviator during World War II. In his autobiography Priceless Memories, Bob Barker described his time in the military by writing, “I was a Naval Aviator, a Fighter Pilot. I completed all facets of my training, including my qualifying landings on a carrier. I was all ready to go, and when the enemy heard that I was headed for the Pacific, they surrendered. That was the end of World War II.”

Drew Carey

US Naval Institute/Twitter; Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty

Barker’s successor on The Price Is Right Drew Carey also was a military man, having served in the Marine Corps from 1980 to 1986, before beginning his career in comedy. Though he is now a self-described “peacenik,” according to an interview with U.S. Veterans Magazine, he has tremendous respect for the military: “I believe it’s important for us to always recognize the sacrifices it takes to serve in our military, and how necessary they are… We need to recognize and applaud people in our military who do their jobs well, and with honor. Period.”

Blippi

Stevin John/Instagram; Blippi/Instagram

Yes, your kids’ favorite YouTube personality Blippi (real name: Stevin John) served in the U.S. Air Force before trading one uniform for another. “15 years ago! Happy Veterans Day to all my fellow Vets 🇺🇸 ! C-17 Loadmaster ✈️,” he captioned this throwback photo on Veterans Day in 2021.

Bea Arthur

Everett

The famed Golden Girls star Bea Arthur was a typist and truck driver in the Marine Corps for two years beginning in 1943. She was also one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve, and after being discharged in 1945, married Marine Private Robert Arthur before eventually embarking on a storied career in show business.

Morgan Freeman

ABC/Getty

The Oscar winner with the iconic voice, Morgan Freeman was intrigued by war films growing up, which inspired him to join the Air Force in 1955. He served as a radar technician, and, realizing that flying in the Air Force was not for him, left the military almost four years later. The actor would eventually return to duty on film: Freeman starred in the acclaimed 1989 Civil War drama Glory.

Hugh Hefner

David Gabber/PR Photos

Although it’s hard to picture the late Hugh Hefner as anything but the impresario behind the Playboy empire, he served as an infantry clerk in the Army after high school. He was discharged two years later in 1946.

Adam Driver

Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty

Before his acting days, 17-year-old Adam Driver joined the Marines shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“I joined … feeling like I think most people in the country did at the time, filled with a sense of patriotism and retribution and the desire to do something,” he said in a TED Talk. “That, coupled with that fact that I wasn’t doing anything.”

The Star Wars and Girls actor “loved” being in the Marines, but was medically discharged after two years of service. (You can see his Marine Corps portrait at 1:43 in this clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.)

Mel Brooks

At the outset of World War II, Mel Brooks joined the Army Specialized Training Reserve program at the Virginia Military Institute before going to basic training at Fort Sill. He served overseas at the end of the war in various duties, but his talent for performing was apparent and he was asked to join a touring variety show to entertain the troops in the Army camps still stationed in Europe.

Tony Bennett

TonyBennett.com; Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

The late legendary singer Tony Bennett was drafted into the army during World War II, serving in Germany and France. Bennett returned to the U.S. two years later in 1946 after being discharged, and went on to study at the American Theater Wing.

Rob Riggle

Actor and comedian Rob Riggle joined the Marines as a pilot in 1990 and served for 23 years before retiring in 2013.

“I was an undergrad a the University of Kansas, and I had my pilot’s license … I was also a theater and film major. So I either was going to be Top Gun when I graduated or I was gonna be a waiter. And I thought being Top Gun sounded much sexier, much cooler,” Riggle told CBS News.

Joking aside, he told PEOPLE, “I thought, it’s an American duty. It didn’t have to be the military, but I just thought service of some kind is important … for citizenship. I just think it’s important to give back, whether it’s locally in your own community or statewide or national.”

Johnny Cash

USAF; Scott Gries/ImageDirect/Getty

After graduating from high school in 1950, country superstar Johnny Cash enlisted in the Air Force. While stationed in Germany, where he served as an intelligence-service radioman, he wrote the lyrics for the song that would become his signature, “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Clint Eastwood

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

The legendary actor and Oscar-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood served in the Army before kicking up a celebrated career in Hollywood. Drafted during the Korean War, he trained at Fort Ord in California. There, he landed a job as a swimming teacher, and was eventually discharged in 1953.

Ice-T

Theo Wargo/NBC

Ice-T joined the Army’s 25th Infantry Division after high school. After being deployed to Hawaii and serving four years, he moved to California, eventually launching a career as a hitmaking rapper before moving into film and television, including the long-running series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Robin Quivers

Getty

The Howard Stern Show cohost Robin Quivers served her country from 1975 to 1978. After graduating with a nursing degree, she worked as a nurse in the Air Force, rising to the rank of captain. The radio personality, who is a cancer survivor and has spoken openly about her battle with the disease, published an autobiography in 1995.

Jimi Hendrix

Redferns/Getty

When the future rock legend Jimi Hendrix enlisted in the Army in 1961, it was something of a forced choice. After being caught up in a case involving a stolen car, Hendrix was given the option of prison time or joining the Army. He opted for the latter and served in the 101st Airborne Division. Hendrix was far from a model soldier though, reportedly falling asleep on duty, and he was discharged in 1962 following an injury.

Humphrey Bogart

Everett

The screen legend Humphrey Bogart, who memorably helped guide Katharine Hepburn through troubled waters in The African Queen, joined the Navy during World War I. As a sailor, he spent much of his time ferrying troops between Europe and the U.S.

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris.
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

The Expendables 2 star Chuck Norris served as an air policeman in the Air Force after high school. During his four-year military career, which ended in 1962, he was sent to the Osan Air Base in South Korea, where he reportedly began training in martial arts — a passion that would later become his trademark as an action star. Norris was made an honorary United States Marine in 2007.

Jimmy Stewart

Getty

Before starring in soon-to-be-classic films like It’s a Wonderful Life and Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941. The first time he was drafted, he was rejected for being underweight, but after putting on some pounds, he joined the Air Corps.

James Earl Jones

Petre Buzoianu/Keystone/ZUMA

The iconic screen and stage star James Earl Jones — who was the booming voice behind Darth Vader in Star Wars as well as Mufasa in The Lion Kingjoined the Army right after college. He was eventually promoted to first lieutenant, and was a member of the 75th Rangers Regime.

J.R. Martinez

J.R. Martinez.
courtesy Veterans United Home Loans

The All My Children actor and Dancing with the Starsseason 13 champ J.R. Martinez was serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2003, when the Humvee he was driving in Iraq hit a land mine. He was burned over 40 percent of his body and required 34 months of grueling rehab – but he went on to gain fame.

“My life would not be what it is today: full of joy, happiness and positivity,” he told PEOPLE about taking an optimistic outlook on the explosion. “I’m being blessed in so many ways, and it’s because of the energy I’m putting out in the world.”

David Alvarez

David Alvarez/Instagram; Roy Rochlin/Getty

David Alvarez, who makes his big screen debut as Bernardo in West Side Story, was one of the youngest actors ever to win a Tony when he was one of the three preteen leads of Billy Elliot the Musical. After graduating high school, he joined the army and served several years before returning to Broadway in On the Town; then he got cast in the highly-anticipated movie musical.

Alvarez told the New York Times his dance background prepared him for how tough the Army would be: “When I did basic training, I always thought, this is hard but it’s not Billy Elliot hard.”

Jackie Robinson

Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty

Groundbreaking baseball star Jackie Robinson served in the Army during World War II, though was honorably discharged, according to his foundation, for refusing to move to the back of a segregated military bus — one of his many acts for racial justice in his lifetime.

Norman Lear

Norman Lear/Twitter (2)

Prolific producer Norman Lear dropped out of Emerson College in Boston to enlist in the Air Force, fighting in World War II.

“My mother begged me not to enlist, but I couldn’t take it anymore,” Lear, who served in the Army from 1942 to 1945, told PEOPLE. “There was a love of country that existed then.”

After he was discharged in 1945, he became a publicist, settling in California.

Continue Reading