Pop culture

18 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Veterans

From Elvis Presley to Adam Driver, L'OFFICIEL celebrates Veterans Day by looking back at the celebrities that served their country.
Reading time 6 minutes
Elvis Presley in his U.S. Army uniform.

On Veterans Day, America honors the men and women who have served in uniform across the five military branchs: the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. However, over the decades, some of the biggest names in Hollywood have been among those ranks, intercepting messages from the Soviets and diffusing land mines in World War II. From Elvis Presley to Adam Driver, these 18 notable figures prove that there's no one way to be a hero. In honor of Veterans Day, check out which famous faces served their country before they became national treasures.

Queen Elizabeth II

During WWII, the future Queen of England trained as a truck driver and mechanic for the women's auxillary of the British Army. She later obtained the rank honorary junior commander, the female equivalent of captain.

Bea Arthur

Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur signed up as a typist for the Marine Corps at its Washington, D.C. headquarters when she was 21 years old. She later worked as a truck driver and dispatched in North Carolina, before receiving an honorable discharge at the rank of staff sergeant.

Sidney Poitier

Before he was an Acadamy Award winner, a young Poitier moved from the Bahamas to the U.S., eventually arriving in New York. There, at 16, he lied about his age to enlist in the Army, where he was employed as a medical attendant in a VA hospital on Long Island.

Mel Brooks

The comedic director was drafted in 1944 to the U.S. Army during WWII. As a member of the 1104th Engineer Combat Battalion, 78th Infantry Division, Brooks defused land mines, eventually fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

Hugh Hefner

After joining the Army in 1944, the Playboy founder wrote for a military newspaper until 1946.

Sean Connery

Before he was the martini-loving 007, Sean Connery enlisted in the Royal Navy at age 16 before leaving three years later for medical reasons. 

Steve McQueen

The "King of Cool" joined the Marines at age 17, beginning a tumultuous career of promotions and demotions. He spent 41 days in the brig for spending two weeks with his girlfriend, unauthorized. However, he also saved the lives of five men during an Arctic training exercise, which prompted his assignment to the honor guard.

Johnny Cash

The country crooner joined the Air Force in 1950, where he was stationed in Germany to intercept messages from the Soviet Army. According to his autobiography, Cash received the message announcing Joseph Stalin's death, making him the first Westerner to hear the news.

Clint Eastwood

Eastwood was drafted for the Army in 1951, during the Korean War, serving as the lifeguard at Ford Ord, California.

Morgan Freeman

Freeman turned down a partial college scholarship, instead joining the Air Force. He served for four years as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, before leaving in 1959 as an Airman First Class.

Elvis Presley

After a succesful music and acting career, the "Blue Suede Shoes" singer was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1958. Presley was stationed in Friedberg, Germany, which is where he met a young Priscilla Beaulieu, who would later become his wife.

Bob Ross

The mild-mannered painter spent his first 20 years after high school in the Air Force. While stationed in Alaska, Ross painted landscapes of the mountainous terrain. In 1981, he retired in favor of a kinder life. Ross told the Orlando Sentinel in 1990, "The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn't going to be that way any more."

Jimi Hendrix

In 1961, an 18 year old Hendrix joined the Army to avoid jail time for stealing a car. While stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Hendrix met musician Billy Cox, who would eventually perform with Hendrix at Woodstock

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Terminator himself joined the Austrian Army at 18, fulfilling the one-year required by the government. In that year, Schwarzenegger went AWOL after leaving his training to compete in, and eventually win, the Junior Mr. Europe competition. He spent time in military prison as punishment.

Tom Selleck

The original Magnum P.I. served in the California Army National Guard from 1967 until 1973. Here, the '70s star is photographed in uniform, without his famous mustache.

Rob Riggle

The Daily Show correspondent Rob Riggle joined the Marines in 1990, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. During his time in the military, he received numerous awards including two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and a Humanitarian Service Medal. Riggle retired in 2013.

Adam Driver

Stars Wars actor Adam Driver enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. However, he did not deploy with his unit after suffering an injury to his sternum while mountain biking, resulting in his medical discharge.

Gal Gadot

At age 20, Gadot served in the Israel Defense Force, a mandatory two-year minimum for all Israeli citizens, as a gymnastics and combat trainer. 

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