33 famous faces who served in the military

By , Connecting Vets

Before they were famous, some of your favorite stars served in the armed forces.

Veterans Day falls on Thursday, November 11. To celebrate, we’ve put together together this list, looking at the fascinating stories of celebrities who served in the military.

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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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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.

Adam Driver

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Photo credit Getty Images

The Star Wars actor enlisted in the Armed Forces after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

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

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Photo credit Cpl. Jesse Johnson

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

Hugh Hefner

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

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.

Jackie Robinson

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Photo credit Getty Images

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.

Chuck Norris

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Department of Veterans Affairs

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.


Photo credit Getty Images

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

Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

James Earl Jones

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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.

Mr. T

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

Leonard Nimoy

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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.


Photo credit Getty Images

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 Sajak

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

Tony Bennett

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

Harry Belafonte

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

Photo credit Getty Images

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

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

Mel Brooks

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

Drew Carey

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Photo credit Getty Images

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

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