Famous veterans | Celebrities who served in the military

Clint Eastwood, Elvis Presley, Tom Selleck and Jimi Hendrix
Photo credit Getty Images

Morgan Freeman

Freeman enlisted in the Air Force after turning down a scholarship to attend Jackson State University. He served as a radar technician for almost four years and left the Air Force in 1959.


Bea Arthur

Aside from playing Dorothy Zbornak in "The Golden Girls," Arthur served in the Marine Corps as a typist and truck driver. She enlisted only days after the USMC opened up their ranks to women in 1943.


Jimi Hendrix

American musician Jimi Hendrix (1942 - 1970) performs onstage, late 1960s.

Hendrix was allegedly busted by Seattle cops for riding around in stolen cars and given the choice of jail time or military service. 

In 1961, Hendrix was assigned to the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The World War II-era Screaming Eagles had been reactivated for the first time just a few years earlier. While with the 101st, Hendrix earned the Screaming Eagles patch after finishing paratrooper training, though he was later medically discharged following an ankle injury during a jump.


Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash joined the Air Force during the beginning of the Korean War and served for four years, much of his time overseas in Germany.


Montel Williams

Image 1

Before becoming a famed talk show host, Montel Williams served in the Marine Corps and Navy.


Adam Driver

Staff Sergeant, US Army Michael Kacer and Actor Adam Driver attend as The New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation present the 10th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event.

Driver became a Marine after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines as an 81mm mortarman where he served a few months shy of three years before being medically discharged as a lance corporal following a sternum fracture. 


Jackie Robinson

American professional baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) of the Brooklyn Dodgers, dressed in a road uniform, crouches by the base and prepares to catch a ball, 1951.

Robinson was drafted into the Army in 1942, where he served in a segregated Army cavalry unit before he applied for Officer Candidate School. Though his application was delayed allegedly because of his race, he was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1943. He faced a court-martial for refusing to give up his seat and move to the back of a bus at Camp Hood, Texas, but was later cleared. Robinson would later be medically discharged for an ankle issue.


Hugh Hefner

Hugh Hefner enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1944 and drew comics for a military newspaper.


Chuck Norris 

Actor Chuck Norris poses with U.S. military members at the drivers meeting prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 6, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Norris served as an Air police officer in South Korea during his stint in the Air Force beginning in 1958, where he picked up some additional martial arts skills. 


Elvis Presley

 U.S. rock 'n' roll singer Elvis Presley (1935 - 1977) in military uniform during his stint as a U.S. soldier at the Grafenwoehr exercise camp, Germany.

Presley was drafted in 1957 and became an Army private first class in 1958. He served in the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Armor in Friedberg, Germany, where he would later meet his future wife. Before being deployed to Germany, he was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. 


Bob Ross

Bob Ross

Ross served 20 years in the Air Force and retired as a master sergeant, where he first began painting his famous landscapes after being stationed in Alaska. He mentioned his time in service a few times on his show, "The Joy of Painting," mentioning that after years spent barking orders at fellow airmen, he became the much more soft-spoken version of himself you may know better.



Ice-T visits SiriusXM Studios on February 18, 2020 in New York City.

Tracey Lauren Marrow, aka Ice-T, credits the military with helping him escape a potential life of crime in Los Angeles and helping him support his daughter. He served four years in the Army in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. 


Alan Alda

American actor, director and writer Alan Alda in the driving seat of a jeep, surrounded by Loretta Swit and other cast members of the hit television show M.A.S.H, in costume as members of a US Army medical corp.

You'll know him best as Hawkeye Pierce from "M*A*S*H" but Alda also served off-screen. He was in ROTC in college and enlisted in the Army after graduation, serving a year at Fort Benning, Georgia and six months in the Army Reserve in South Korea. 


MC Hammer 

Singer MC Hammer (L) and

Stanley Kirk Burrell, also known as rapper MC Hammer, served in the Navy for three years as a store keeper. 


James Earl Jones 

Actor James Earl Jones celebrates his 80th birthday by blowing the candles out on his cake at The Golden Theatre on January 17, 2011 in New York City.

Jones was an ROTC cadet and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1953 at the end of the Korean War. He earned a Ranger Tab at Fort Benning, Georgia and was part of a training unit in the Rocky Mountains. Jones was promoted to first lieutenant before leaving service. 


Steve McQueen

American actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980), on the set of 'Nevada Smith', in which he played the title role, 1966.

The "King of Cool' enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1947 and during training in the Arctic, saved five fellow Marines from drowning, earning him a place in President Harry Truman's honor guard. 


John Coltrane

John Coltrane enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945 and played in a Navy band, the Melody Masters. He was discharged after a year as the military downsized after the war and bands were considered nonessential.


Mr. T

Mr. T attends the Team USA Awards at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts on April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Laurence Tureaud, aka Mr. T, was an Army MP in the 1970s, awarded a letter of recommendation from a drill sergeant, was later elected "Top Trainee" of his cycle of more than 6,000 soldiers and became a squad leader.


Clint Eastwood

Military Technical Advisor Sgt. Major James Dever, USMC (Ret.) (L) and actor/director Clint Eastwood pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Paramount's

Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War but served his time stateside as a lifeguard at Fort Ord, California. 


Leonard Nimoy

Actor Leonard Nimoy arrives at the premiere of Paramount Pictures' 'Star Trek Into Darkness' at the Dolby Theatre on May 14, 2013 in Hollywood, California.

Nimoy enlisted in the Army Reserve at Fort McPherson, Georgia in 1953. He served for about 18 months and was discharged as a sergeant. 


Tom Selleck

 American actor Tom Selleck in London, where he is filming an episode of 'Magnum PI'.

Selleck served in the California Army National Guard and was activated as part of the response to the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles. 


Sidney Poitier

 Sidney Poitier , the American actor and film director. Hollywood's first real black star, his films include 'Something of Value' in 1957, 'Lilies of the Field' in 1963 and 'In the Heat of the Night' in 1967. He directed 'Stir Crazy.'

Poitier, a first-generation American immigrant from the Bahamas, enlisted in the Army in 1943, after allegedly lying about his age -- 16 at the time -- and served at a New York hospital. 


Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson performs during Farm Aid 2009 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on October 4, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri.

Nelson was an Airman for a few months short of a full year beginning in 1950 and was medically discharged for back issues. 


Gene Wilder 

American comic actor Gene Wilder, originally Jerry Silkman stars with nightclub comedian Richard Pryor in the action comedy 'Silver Streak'.

Wilder was drafted into the Army in 1956 where he served in the medical corps for a year before leaving to pursue his acting career.


Johnny Carson

 Johnny Carson, star of NBC's 'Tonight' show, one of the channel's flagship, colour programmes.

Carson joined the Navy in 1943 where he served as a midshipman for the USS Pennsylvania in the Pacific and worked in communications decoding encrypted messages.



haggy poses in the press room after winning the award for Best Reggae Album during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Orville Richard Burrell, aka Shaggy, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1988 as a field artillery cannon crewman. He served with a Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Gulf War and earning the rank of lance corporal.


Pat Sajack

Host Pat Sajak performs during the NFL Players Week 10th Anniversary on Wheel Of Fortune on December 6, 2005 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Sajak enlisted in the Army in 1968, serving as a finance clerk in Vietnam and a DJ for Armed Forces Radio. 


Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett performs at the 9th Annual Exploring The Arts Gala founded by Tony Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto at Cipriani 42nd Street on September 28, 2015 in New York City.

Drafted in 1944, Bennett served in the "Blood and Fire" division of the Army in Germany in France and started his career singing in an Army band. 


Harry Belafonte 

Honoree Harry Belafonte accepts the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award onstage during the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' 2014 Governors Awards.

Belafonte joined the Navy during World War II but was not deployed. He used his GI Bill to attend The New School, where he began acting for the first time. 


Henry Kissinger

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (C) talks with General Leon LaPorte (L), U.S. Forces Korea commander, during an armistice commemoration ceremony at Yongsan U.S. Army base July 27 2003 in Seoul, South Korea.

Kissinger fled Nazi Germany during World War II and just a few years later became a U.S. citizen and was drafted into the Army to fight in Europe. He served as a rifleman in France and as an intelligence officer in Germany. 


Bob Barker 

Television host Bob Barker poses for photographers at his last taping of

Barker served in the Navy Reserve during World War II, training as a fighter pilot and flying at least eight different aircraft. 


Mel Brooks

American filmmaker, actor, comedian, and composer Mel Brooks, UK, 16th February 1984.

Cpl. Brooks disarmed land mines during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. 


Drew Carey

Comedian/host Drew Carey appears onstage at the taping of the 39th season premiere of

Carey enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1981, where he served six years and first performed standup comedy.


 Sign up for the Connecting Vets weekly newsletter to get more stories like this delivered to your inbox.