Millions of Americans across the country are honoring veterans of the United States military, our heroes, and recognizing their endless sacrifices this Veterans Day. This list highlights some of the actors, directors, singers, and producers who’ve served in the U.S. military.
The Oscar-winning director and movie star was drafted in 1951 during the Korean War and served at California’s Fort Ord as a lifeguard. The American Sniper director survived a Navy bomber crash in Northern California’s Point Reyes after visiting his parents in Seattle.
“In those days, you could wear your uniform and get a free flight,” the Flags of Our Fathers director recalled. “On the way back, they had one plane, a Douglas AD, sort of a torpedo bomber of the World War II vintage, and I thought I’d hitch on that. Everything went wrong.”
The mixed martial artist, who starred in The Delta Force and Walker, Texas Ranger, joined the U.S. Air Force in 1958 and was sent to the Osan Air Base in South Korea, where he learned martial arts.
Norris was discharged in 1962 and appeared in The Wrecking Crew thereafter.
The It’s a Wonderful Life and Harvey actor was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1940, initially failing twice for medical reasons, standing 6’3” and weighing just 138 pounds.
Stewart, wanting to serve his country, gained weight and enlisted in the Army Air Corps, passing with “an ounce to spare.” The Oscar-winner’s prior experience as a pilot bode him well, and he began to fly combat missions March 31, 1944.
“He was appointed Operations Officer of the 453rd Bomb Group and, subsequently, Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat wing, 2nd Air Division of the 8th Air Force. Stewart ended the war with 20 combat missions. He remained in the USAF Reserve and was promoted to brigadier general on July 23, 1959,” according to Military.com. He retired in 1968.
The Gone with the Wind actor enlisted in the Army Air Force on Aug. 12, 1942, following his wife’s untimely death. He was 40 at the time, making him out of the range for the draft.
He graduated from the Officers’ Candidate School as a second lieutenant two months later with training as a photographer and aerial gunner. He is most well-known for traveling to Britain to film Combat America.
The 40th president served in the Army Air Force during World War II, combining his acting skills with his love of country, enlisting in the Army Enlisted Reserve on 29 April 1937 and ordered to active duty on April 19, 1942.
While he was limited by vision issues, his units produced “some 400 training films for the Army Air Forces,” including Recognition of the Japanese Zero Fighter and Beyond the Line of Duty.
The Burning Love singer had a military career spanning six years, entering the U.S. Army in March 1958. He “belonged to Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas” for much of 1958 before serving overseas in Germany “from October 1, 1958, until March 2, 1960, as a member of the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32d Armor.”
The rock legend was honorably discharged from active duty just three days later, March 5, 1960, and discharged from the Army Reserve on March 23, 1964.
Perhaps most well-known for playing military doctor Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H, Alda joined the military reserve after graduating from Fordham University.
He served as a gunnery officer, ultimately completing a six-month tour of duty during the Korean War.
The actor, comedian, and producer served as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army during World War II, tasked with defusing land mines, according to Military.com.
The Blazing Saddles actor also fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
The Oscar-nominee and Emmy Award winner served as a military police soldier during the Korean War after graduating from the University of Texas.
Torn’s acting credits extended through the decades in theater, television, and movies from the Men in Black franchise to The Larry Sanders Show.
Comedian David Adkins, known by his stage name Sinbad, served as a boom operator on KC-135 Stratotankers.
“I was an Air Force man back in 1979. I started off doing comedy for Tops in Blue. I tried out for Tops in Blue back in, oh, God, man, 1980. I did that because I knew comedy was what I wanted to do. I was kind of lost in my life, and it was because of the Air Force – although I was a crazy Airman; I was a nut when I was in the military. Having been in the military, I know what it’s like to be away. As cool as these places are, you’re still away from everything,” Sinbad said.
R. Lee Ermey:
Widely known for playing Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987’s Full Metal Jacket, Ermey served in the Marine Corps for over a decade, working as a Drill Instructor and ultimately arriving in Vietnam in 1968.
Marine Corps officials confirmed to Military.com that Ermey was a Rifleman and Repair Shop Mechanic. Officials also provided information on his awards, which included: Good Conduct Medal (x2); the National Defense Service Medal; the Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star; the Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device; the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit; Meritorious Unit; the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; and a Meritorious Unit Citation.
The Shawshank Redemption star turned down a scholarship to Jackson State University to join the U.S. Air Force.
From 1955-1959, Freeman served as a radar technician and “rose to the rank of Airman 1st Class,” according to TheWrap.
The Magnum P.I. actor served in the California Army National Guard between 1967 to 1973 in the 160th infantry regiment. Selleck has spoken highly of his days serving.
James Earl Jones:
The Lion King and Star Wars voice actor, who has been referred to as “one of the greatest actors in American history” served in the Army during the Korean War and “rose to the rank of first lieutenant.”
Legendary “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” singer Tony Bennett was drafted during World War II and assigned to the 63rd Infantry Division, or “Blood and Fire” division, in France and Germany.
The actor and comedian, most well-known for his work on The Daily Show, joined the Marines in 1990 and had a military career spanning 23 years.
Musician, songwriter, and rapper Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name Ice-T an d his long-running starring role on Law & Order SVU, joined the U.S. Army in 1979 after graduating high school and served the 25th Infantry Division for four years.
The actor, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor in The French Connection, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1946, lying about his age, as he was only 16.
He worked as a field radio operator and was stationed in China, as well as Hawaii and Japan.
Poitier, the first black American to win an Academy Award, enlisted during World War II in November 1943, despite being too young, claiming to be 18 when he was only 16 years old.
He “went on to serve the Army as a physiotherapist for almost a year.”
The Godfather actor enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from Principia College in 1953, where he ultimately found his passion for acting, performing in plays while stationed in Camp Gordon.
He served two years, leaving as a private first class but had to clarify the details of his service.
“Some stories have me shooting it out with the Commies from a foxhole over in Frozen Chosen. Pork Chop Hill stuff. Hell, I barely qualified with the M-1 rifle in basic training,” Duvall clarified in an interview in 1984.
The filmmaker behind the films Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July is a combat veteran, serving in the U.S. Army from 1967 and 1968.
He was wounded twice and is the recipient of two awards: “The Bronze Star with ‘V’ device, which he received after conducting ‘extraordinary acts of courage under fire,’ and a Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster,” according to Military.com.
The 102-year-old actor, producer, and director served in the Navy from 1942 to 1944 during World War II, serving as a “gunnery and communications officer in anti-submarine warfare on board PC-1139.”
Driver, widely known for his role in the Star Wars sequel trilogy films, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after 9/11.
However, he was never deployed due to a mountain biking accident and was ultimately medically discharged.
“There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away: that whole clarity of purpose thing,” Driver told The Guardian in a 2017 interview. It becomes very clear to you, when you get your freedom back, that there’s stuff you want to do.”