Steve McQueen joined the Marines in 1947. While serving he was promoted to Private First Class and served with an armored unit, but was demoted back to private seven times. McQueen was thrown in the brig for overstaying a weekend pass and spent 41 days in the brig. While on the ship it hit a sandbank which threw several tanks and their crews into the water. McQueen was able to save 5 men from drowning. Because of his actions, McQueen was chosen to partake in the Honor Guard protecting Harry S. Truman's yacht. McQueen stayed with the Marines until 1950 when he was honorably discharged.
Ironically enough, the man responsible for guys referring to themselves as a “Hemingway Man” almost didn’t make it into the military. Hemingway applied for enlistment at the age of 18, but due to poor vision, was deferred. Yet, the Red Cross would give him a backdoor entrance into the military after all. In April 1918, Hemingway set sail for Europe and landed in the thick of it. Upon return to civilian life, Hemingway noted it was dull compared to all of the adventures of war.
After September 11, Adam Driver said his friends wanted to make a difference by joining the military. However, he claims he was the only one who actually signed up. His enlistment caused heated debate with his father, but he doesn’t regret his time spent in the Marine Corps. His only regret is the injury that caused him medical discharge. It seems he was involved in a mountain bike accident that injured his sternum. Two years later, he was sent home.
Because his father was a rear Admiral and because he is a descendent of General Robert E Lee, Robert Duvall had big shoes to fill. He says he himself was a Navy brat, and moving every time his dad received new orders. After college graduation in 1953, Robert enlisted in the US Army. During this time his love for acting grew as he began to take theater roles in plays on base. After discharge, he would use his G.I. Bill to fuel acting passions. The rest, as they say, is history.
Iconic in almost every film he stars, Gene Hackman was trouble as a marine. That’s right, it seems he didn’t take direction well because of authority issues. He even lied about his age to enlist because he was a high school dropout. However, controversy followed him everywhere. He was demoted three times over the course of his military career for abandoning a post without permission.
Don had quite a decorated military career. His list of metals includes the World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with four bronze service stars), Philippine Liberation Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Pin and the Army Good Conduct Medal Marksman Badge (with an M1 carbine). After World War II service, he obtained a bachelor’s degree and went on to become the greatest Mayberry deputy sidekicks of all time!
Sinbad credits the military for his life taking shape. Until then, he had passion and a solid work ethic, yet was unsure of what he wanted to do. After his time with the Air Force in the late 70s and early 80s, he jumped headlong into the entertainment world. It was only a matter of time before we would know this former veteran as one of the world’s foremost comedians, and leading men for shows like “A Different World” and the “Sinbad Show.”
Sydney is of Bahamian descent, yet obtained American citizenship because he born in the US. He was poor for most of his life. He finally moved to New York City on his own where he worked a string of dishwashing jobs. To get into the service, he lied about his age and was enlisted in 1943 to help with the World War II effort. Yet, it was short-lived. He feigned insanity as a mental hospital attendant in order to get discharged.
Most of us would never guess the iconic face of Willy Wonka to be a former military veteran. However, Gene Wilder, the Waco kid, was drafted by the Army in 1956. He served under his given name, Jerome Silberman. Assigned to the Medical Corps, he trained at Fort Sam Houston. After a psychiatry assignment at Valley Forge, he was honorably discharged in 1958 and shortly thereafter begin calling himself Gene Wilder.
Did you ever wonder where Drew Carey got his trademark look? Well, that crewcut and horn rimmed glasses are courtesy of a look he adopted during his time in the military. That’s right, he served the Marine Corps Reserves from 1980 to 1986. It was during his time with the military he started performing stand up. Eventually, it led to supporting television roles, and shows we know him for today such as the “Drew Carey Show” and “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” He still supports the troops today doing USO tours.
Seems "The Beaver" spent some time in the military as well. In fact, he started early, joining the United States Air Force Reserve while still attending high school in 1966. Yet, he was already a star in his own right. He could be seen in 1967 in full dress uniform giving an award to Gene Kelly alongside child star Angela Cartwright. And even though there were rumors of him being killed in action during the Vietnam War, Mathers never left the states during his years of service. He had an acting career to pursue!
Some people are as bad in real life as they are on the silver screen. Take Charles Bronson for instance. Before he was pumping lead in Hollywood bad guys, he served the United States Army Air Force as an aircraft gunner with the 760th flexible gunnery training squadron. That was in 1943. In 1945 he became part of the 39th Bombardment Group as a Superfortress crewman, and flew 25 missions. After he received a Purple Heart for service, he left in 1946. Don’t mess with Charles, he’s the real deal.
Before a life fraught with scandal, Bill Cosby served in the United States Navy. He enlisted in 1956 and was trained as a hospital corpsman. Afterward, he served on ships in the Marine base located at Quantico before ordered to serve Bethesda Naval Hospital. There, he worked with Korean War casualties. After serving four years, he received an honorable discharge.
After leaving high school in 1950, Willie Nelson joined the Air Force. However, he was discharged nine months later due to suffering back problems. And while he worked a string of odd jobs and moved frequently, he started his music career at the same time. It only took 20 years to achieve success, but he still credits his time in the military for giving him the structure and perseverance needed to make it as an American Country icon.
Now we know him best from movies like “Stepbrothers” or television shows like “The Daily Show”, but Rob Riggle spent more than 20 years as a United States Marine. At first, he wanted to be a pilot, but eventually left flight school to pursue comedy of all things. After nine years of active duty, he went into the reserves, eventually serving as a Public Affairs Officer where he found himself frequently attached to Command Elements (during the Afghan war he visited Kosovo, Liberia and Afghanistan). And while many entertainers ditch their military service after becoming successful, Rob continued as a reservist for years while his career was in full swing.
Sometimes it’s hard to picture an actor as a former veteran. Such is the case with Jeff Bridges, a.k.a. “The Dude.” However, Jeff is no stranger to the military. He joined the Coast Guard reserves at the age of 18 and subsequently spent seven years aboard ships defending the American coast. He says he enlisted out of a sense of duty.
Gal did not serve in the American military, however she did spend two years as part of the Israeli Defense force. And she wasn’t just a regular soldier either. She served as a combat instructor. In her own words Gal says, “You give two or three years and it’s not about you.” Seems like we could all take a lesson from that sentiment. Would you expect anything less? She is Wonder Woman after all.
Mr. Terminator himself served in the Austrian army during 1965. For Austria, it’s a requirement that all males serve at least one year in service. Arnold enlisted when he was 18 years old to get his out of the way as quick as possible. However, during his service he snagged the Junior Mr. Europe title. And while that’s impressive, all we really want to know is where he got the line, “Get to the Chopper!”