17 Hollywood Stars Who Served In The United States Military

It’s easy to think of Hollywood celebs as lazy and spoiled. Because let’s be honest — many of them are. But there are also some stars who have worked for everything they have, and then worked some more. A surprising number of famed actors, actresses, and musicians have even given back to our country by serving in the U.S. military. Whether it be the army, marines, or national guard, these celebs run the gamut of service.

In some of these cases, it’s kind of crazy that the star went from life in combat to life celebrity. Whether they’re making us laugh on film or giving back to our country, we appreciate their services all the same. Here are some Hollywood stars who served in the military before they gained fame!

17. Drew Carey

Before he launched his career in comedy, sitcoms, and daytime game shows, Carey was in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for six years. He enlisted after being expelled twice from Kent State University for poor academic performance. The third time he left school it was of his own accord, and it was then that he decided to join the military. After his time in the military, he began doing stand-up and even competed on Star Search in the late ’80s. His early stand-up days led to The Drew Carey Show and the rest is history.

16. Jimi Hendrix

Before he was one of the greatest guitar players of all time, he was another soldier in the army. Hendrix enlisted as a young adult after a stint stealing cars saw him facing either jail time or enlistment. He chose the military route, though life in the army definitely wasn’t for him. He was rebellious and focused on honing the guitar, not on drills and military rules. His commanding officers noted his many faults and when an ankle injury occurred during a parachute jump, he was able to honorably discharge from the military due to injury. Once he parted ways with the army he blew up on the music scene with his band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. While his music career only spanned a short four years before his eventual overdose death, he made enough of a mark to still be considered a legend to this day.

15. Mr. T

Mr. T (real name Lawrence Tureaud) is known for playing a tough guy on TV, but it turns out he was a tough guy in real life, too! The actor and former professional wrestler grew up in a rough neighborhood, but a sports scholarship to Prarie View A&M; University allowed him to go to college. That is, until he was expelled after his first year. After that, he decided to enlist in the army. He excelled and was even named “Top Trainee” during his early military days. After his discharge, he worked as a bodyguard to the rich and famous before making the leap to becoming rich and famous himself!

14. Tom Selleck

Before he kicked off his long and storied acting career, Selleck was drafted into the military. During the Vietnam War, the actor received a draft notice and joined the California National Guard. He served from 1967-1973. When he left the military, he began the acting career that he had begun in bit parts and commercials before his enlistment. Selleck went on to star in Magnum P.I., became a huge movie star, and was eventually the ultimate crush of middle-aged women everywhere.

13. Oliver Stone

Stone’s military stint was short but memorable. He joined the army in 1967 and served until the end of 1968. In his time in the army, he was highly decorated. He was awarded the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, and the National Defense Service Medal just to name a few. His time as an army man in the Vietnam War inspired his film career, including the trilogy of films he made based on that specific war: Born of the Fourth of JulyPlatoon, and Heaven & Earth. He’s gone on to be a decorated director and writer, too, for his many of his on-screen works.

12. Ronald Reagan

Sure, he was the United States President and Presidents who are military vets are par for the course, but Reagan was also an actor before his time in politics! Also unique: he joined the Army Enlisted Reserve in the midst of his acting career. His tenure in the army was also unique in that he spent much of his time with the First Motion Picture Unit creating hundreds of training films for the military. He didn’t stray too far from his acting roots! His political career began during his time as a Hollywood liberal when he joined organizations like the American Veterans Committee. He eventually ran for and won the race for Governor of California and then, of course, the Presidency.

11. Vincent Pastore

His The Sopranos character may have been killed on a boat, but he had much more positive memories at sea from early in his life after he joined the United States Navy. After high school, Pastore decided to enlist and spent a few years in the Navy before deciding to attend Pace University in New York. His life took an entirely new direction when he met Kevin Dillon and Matt Dillon and, like them, decided to be an actor. Apart from his famous mobster role, he’s been in countless TV shows and has a pretty storied reality TV career.

10. Ice-T

Ice-T’s time in the military was born from necessity. Growing up in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, he never had much money and was struggling to support his pregnant girlfriend. Once his daughter was born, he joined the United States Army in order to provide for his growing family. He got heavily into hip-hop music while in the military, thus starting his massive rap career. He wasn’t always on the straight and narrow during or after his time in the military, though. Ice-T admitted to becoming a pimp while stationed in Hawaii and said that after he left the military, he was involved in several bank robberies. Good thing music worked out for him better than a life of crime!

9. Morgan Freeman

Before he was the smoothest voice in Hollywood, he was in the United States Air Force. Despite receiving a scholarship to Jackson State University, Morgan Freeman opted to join the Air Force as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman. He spent four years in the military before moving to Los Angeles to study acting. And clearly, that worked out pretty well for the superstar. In one of his many hit films, The Bucket List, his service portrait appears at the very end.

8. Rob Riggle

Riggle is one of the funniest men in Hollywood and even if you don’t know his name you definitely know his face. This guy is in everthing. But before he was in everything, he was in the United States Marine Corps for 23 years. Yeah, over two decades of service! He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and is highly-decorated. He officially retired from the Marines in 2013, but he had been working in his backup career of comedy since long before that. Two starkly different career paths for one man!

7. Elvis Presley

Riggle is one of the funniest men in Hollywood and even if you don’t know his name you definitely know his face. This guy is in everthing. But before he was in everything, he was in the United States Marine Corps for 23 years. Yeah, over two decades of service! He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and is highly-decorated. He officially retired from the Marines in 2013, but he had been working in his backup career of comedy since long before that. Two starkly different career paths for one man!

6. Elvis Presley

Norris is known as an international badass, a reputation he began in the United States Air Force. He enlisted as an Air Policeman in 1958 and was stationed in South Korea. He began studying Tang Soo Do, which led to black belts and the founding of the Chun Kuk Do (“Universal Way”) form. After he was discharged from the military in 1962, he dove headfirst into studying martial arts and participating in competitions. He turned those skills into an action movie career and now he’s basically the toughest guy who’s ever walked the earth.

5. Hugh Hefner

The Playboy magazine mogul was always so interested in written media — he even did it for the Army! From 1944 to 1946, Hefner served as a U.S. Army writer for a military newspaper, foreshadowing his later magazine days. After his time in the army, he on went to college and began working in print journalism. After a short time at Esquire, he decided to put it all on the line and start his own magazine: Playboy. Hefner stayed true to his vision until he passed away last year.

4. Johnny Carson

Carson was always an entertainer, even when he was in the United States Navy during World War II. Carson enlisted in 1943 and remained active through the end of the war. He describes the high point of his military career as being able to entertain the United States Secretary of the Navy, someone who was always cranky and stoic. His career in media and entertaining began right after he left the navy, first on radio and then eventually on his eponymous late-night show: The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Carson could make or break a comedian during his tenure on-air and discovered many stand-ups by having them on his show.

3. Clint Eastwood

Eastwood is one of the most dramatic, talented actors in Hollywood. But before all that, he was another kid drafted into the Army. He was drafted in 1951 during the Korean War and spent about a year in the military before transitioning his life towards acting. By the late ’50s, his career began blowing up and he’s been a fixture in film and television ever since.

2. Bea Arthur

This Golden Girl was also a marine! Yep, the sitcom actress and star of The Golden Girls spent World War II in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. She was a truck driver and typist at the time and was honorably discharged in 1944 as a sergeant. Her life took a sharp turn when she began studying acting in New York and pursuing it as a career full-time. She’s known for All in the Family and, of course, The Golden Girls. But we should also know her as a complete badass woman!

1. Adam Driver

The Star Wars star didn’t just fight for the empire — he fought for the U.S. as well! Driver joined the United States Marine Corps after the September 11th attacks. He spent two and half years in the Marines without deployment before being injured and medically discharged. After leaving the Marines, he went to Julliard School to study drama and it seems like this acting thing is really working out for the up-and-coming star. With major roles on the HBO show Girls and in the Star Wars franchise, big things are clearly in his future!

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