There are plenty of celebrities who served in the military that most people instantly know. Elvis Presley famously served and it’s widely known that a number of A-listers enlisted to serve during WW2, including Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Paul Newman, and many others.
But did you know about these other celebrities who served in the military? Read on to learn the surprising history of some famous people who were military members.
Actors Who Served in the Military
Branch: Marine Corps
The “Girls” and “Star Wars” actor enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001, upon turning 18. He was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. He served for two years and eight months before being medically discharged at the rank of lance corporal after fracturing his sternum while mountain biking.
Fascinating Fact: In 2006, Driver founded the nonprofit Arts in the Armed Forces along with his wife Joanne Tucker. The nonprofit was active until early 2023.
Branch: Marine Corps Women’s Reserves
The beloved Golden Girl enlisted in 1943 to serve her country during World War II. She was a typist at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C., then worked as a truck driver and dispatcher in North Carolina. Arthur was discharged in September 1945 with the rank of staff sergeant.
Fascinating Fact: Arthur was one of the first to join the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, enlisting just five days after the Marine Corps began recruiting women.
Branch: Air Force
Freeman enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school and served from 1955 to 1959. During his time, he was an Automatic Tracking Radar repairman and achieved the rank of airman first class.
Fascinating Fact: The Academy Award-winning actor has maintained an interest in the military, especially in the stories of Black Americans who have served. He recently produced a documentary about the 761st Tank Battalion, known as the “Black Panthers,” that premiered on the History Channel.
Branch: Army Reserve
Alda is best known for playing a military doctor during the Korean War in the TV sitcom “M*A*S*H,” but that role was very different from his real-life military experience. He entered the U.S. Army Reserve after ROTC in college, but by the time he was sent to South Korea as a gunnery officer in 1956, the war was long over.
Fascinating Fact: Alda isn’t the only veteran from the “M*A*S*H” cast; Jamie Farr (Klinger) served in the Army, Wayne Rogers (Trapper John McIntyre) joined the Navy, and Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunnicut) was in the Marine Corps.
James Earl Jones
Like Alan Alda, Jones also joined his university’s ROTC and expected to be sent into combat in the Korean War but received his commission after the conflict ended. Instead, Jones completed Ranger School and spent his time in Colorado until being discharged with the rank of first lieutenant.
Fascinating Fact: Jones was with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 38th Regimental Combat Team which was tasked with establishing a cold weather training command.
Branch: Marine Corps
Terrence Stephen McQueen had a tumultuous upbringing filled with petty crime and family struggles. With permission from his mother, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1947 at the age of 17. He had a shaky start, which included going AWOL and spending time in the brig, but had a change of heart and committed to military life. He later credited the Marines for making him the man he became.
Fascinating Fact: McQueen saved the lives of five Marines during a military exercise in the Arctic when he pulled the men from a tank before it sank through the ice.
Comedians Who Served in the Military
Branch: Air Force
Comedian and actor David Adkins – better known as Sinbad – was in the U.S. Air Force from 1979-1983. He served as a boom operator on KC-135 Stratotankers.
Fascinating Fact: Sinbad states that he joined the Air Force hoping to play basketball and was crushed when he didn’t the team.
Branch: Marine Corps Reserve
The comic-turned-actor-turned-game-show-host enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1980 after leaving college. As part of the 25th Marine Regiment in Ohio, Carey served six years as a field radio operator.
Fascinating Fact: Carey later said the military was a pivot point in his life, teaching him about leadership and teamwork.
Branch: Air Force
Carlin joined the U.S. Air Force in 1954 and was trained as a radar technician. It was during his time in the Air Force that he started working as a DJ at an off-base radio station, a starting point for his legendary comedy career.
Fascinating Fact: Carlin wasn’t exactly military material. Before he received a general discharge in 1957, he was court-martialed three times.
TV & Entertainment Celebrities Who Served in the Military
Branch: Marine Corps and Navy
Of all the celebrities who served in the military on this list, talk show host Montel Williams had the longest military career by far. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy for a total of 22 years – 15 active duty, 7 as a reservist – from 1974 to 1996. Williams received a number of medals and citations during his time and retired from the Navy with the rank of lieutenant commander.
Fascinating Fact: Williams was the first Black Marine accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy’s four-year officer training program.
Branch: Air Force and Air Force Reserve
Quivers, the longstanding co-host of “The Howard Stern Show,” went to nursing school before joining the U.S. Air Force in 1975 as a second lieutenant. She was stationed at Sheppard AFB in Texas where she worked as a nurse. In 1978, she left active duty having attained the rank of captain, and remained in the Air Force Reserve until 1990.
Fascinating Fact: Quivers is an amateur race car driver in addition to being a nurse and military vet. She finished in 14th place in the 2007 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, California.
Born Laurence Tureaud, the wrestler and “The A-Team” actor was strong, disciplined, and determined from the start. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1975 where he served in the Military Police Corps.
Fascinating Fact: Tureaud did so well in basic training he was named the top trainee out of 6,000 recruits.
Musicians Who Served in the Military
When given the choice between prison or the military as a young man, James Marshall Hendrix chose the latter. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1961 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He was discharged in June 1962 once it was clear that Hendrix and the military were not a good fit.
Fascinating Fact: It was while in the military that Hendrix met Billy Cox who would later become a regular bass player for him.
Ice-T, born Tracy Lauren Marrow, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1977 at the age of 19 and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division. He served two years and two months, receiving an honorable discharge at the rank of Private First Class.
Fascinating Fact: The iconic rapper-turned-actor’s time in the Army was not exactly exemplary. He was charged with the theft of a rug along with a group of soldiers and was later punished for going AWOL.
Branch: Marine Corps
Orville Richard Burrell, better known by his stage name Shaggy, was born in Jamaica and moved to the U.S. at the age of 18. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps two years later, in 1988. The rapper and singer served as a Field Artillery Cannon Crewman.
Fascinating Fact: Burrell served with the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War.
Erin Danly is a freelance writer whose work focuses on marketing content and verbal branding for B2B and B2C clients. Before turning to writing, she was a pastry chef and a psychology lab manager at Columbia University. Erin lives with her family in Mt. Pleasant, SC.