Veterans Day, we salute the people who have served, fought, and sacrificed for our country. Chances are, you know a veteran, either someone in your family, circle of friends, or community. But did you know celebrities are veterans, too? Yes, many stars you recognize best from TV, movies, or music have also enlisted and donned a uniform at some point in their lives. We’ve rounded up 10 people who are famous for their artistic talents but who also deserve to be recognized for their roles in the U.S. military this Veterans Day.
Without further ado, these are the 10 celebrities you didn’t know were once American troops (and should be saluted on Veterans Day).
Cover Photo: Laurent KOFFEL / Contributor (Getty Images)
The hit actor was only 18 when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But a mountain biking accident pre-deployment derailed his plans. He spent two years training and rehabilitating, but was ultimately medically discharged. After establishing his acting career, he formed Arts in the Armed Forces, a theater company that performs for troops all over the world.
The action movie star joined the United States Air Force in 1958 after high school. He was an air policeman in South Korea, which is where he first fell in love with martial arts and laid the foundation for his training. He has since received multiple black belts in various forms of martial arts.
The Academy Award-winning actor joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955 and stayed in for almost four years, but ultimately left because, as he told
Interview, “I realized my fantasies of flying and fighting were just that—fantasies. They had nothing to do with the reality of killing people. What I wanted was the movie version. So that was the end of the whole idea of doing anything other than acting for me.”
The legendary actor and director was drafted into the Army during the Korean War in 1950. As a swimming instructor at Fort Ord in California, he learned skills that would later save his life when, at 21 years old, his military plane took a nosedive into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Northern California.
The Alpha male actor received a draft notice during the Vietnam War, to which he responded by enrolling in the California National Guard in 1967. He served for six years, during which time his unit was called to the Watts riots in Los Angeles. After leaving the service, Selleck became a literal poster boy for California National Guard recruiters.
Before making it big as a rapper, Ice-T served in the Army for four years. He enlisted because he needed a way to financially support his then-girlfriend and their young daughter. While deployed in Hawaii, he began amassing the equipment he would later need to make music.
You’d never guess that this funnyman was once a member of the U.S. Marine Corps (OK, maybe the buzz cut gives him away). He joined up in 1980 and served for six years. While in the reserves, he began contemplating side hustles to make a little money and someone suggested stand-up. The rest is show biz history.
This actor, writer, and producer was recruited to join the Army Specialized Training Program at the Virginia Military Institute while still in high school. He then served in WWI and fought the Battle of the Bulge. As a combat engineer, he diffused landmines. Brooks told
NPR that the Army “taught me a code of honor, a code of behavior...I learned an awful lot. You know, it was a growing up process and I'm very grateful.” The experience also provided ample material for his future stand-up routine.
America’s favorite crooner was drafted during WWII and served for two years. As an infantry rifleman, he fought in both France and Germany. It was in the Army that he began singing for a military band, and after completing his service, the GI Bill allowed him to study voice. It clearly proved to be a worthwhile investment.
The high school dropout joined the Air Force at 17, but wasn’t exactly a star recruit. Over his three years of service as a radar technician at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, he racked up several disciplinary actions and court marshals, resulting in his general discharge. Somehow, this doesn’t surprise us at all.