This Veterans Day, take a moment to honor someone who took the time out to serve our country in the military. On top of that, you can check out a film or show featuring one of these Hollywood stars who served in the military. Some of the actors on this list have military careers that date back to World War II. While this list excludes celebrity veterans who have died, including people like Jimmy Stewart, Elvis Presley, Kirk Douglas and Bea Arthur, there’s more than enough patriotism on this list to go around.
Adam Driver joined the Marines shortly after 9/11 and served for two years and eight months before being medically discharged after suffering a mountain biking accident. He was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Though he was never deployed, he did get a nickname from his fellow Marines: “Ears Two.” He explained to Stephen Colbert that he was one of two guys in his battalion with big ears, but that he avoided most of the verbal ridicule. Driver also told The Guardian how serving changed his outlook on life. “There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away: that whole clarity of purpose thing. It becomes very clear to you, when you get your freedom back, that there’s stuff you want to do.”
Morgan Freeman turned down a partial scholarship for acting and instead opted to join the Air Force. From 1955 to 1959, he served as a radar technician and rose to the rank of Airman 1st Class. He told AARP magazine (via military.com) that he felt as though he were sitting “in the nose of a bomb” once he finally trained to fly a fighter plane. “You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this,” Freeman said.
“Magnum P.I.” actor Tom Selleck served in the California Army National Guard between 1967 to 1973. Selleck has previously said he’s proud of his time in the military. “I am a veteran, I’m proud of it,” he told military.com. “We’re all brothers and sisters in that sense.”
Tony Bennett, now in his 90s, was drafted to serve in World War II in November 1944, and by March 1945, he was sent to the front line through France and into Germany as part of the 63rd Infantry Division, better known as the “Blood and Fire” division. In his autobiography “The Good Life,” Bennett recalled the experience as having a “front row seat in hell.”
Comedian Rob Riggle served in the Marines for 23 years, first joining in 1990 when he said he would rather be a “Top Gun” pilot than be a waiter. He served in Kosovo, Liberia, Afghanistan and Albania during his time, becoming a decorated lieutenant colonel in the process. Though he wanted to enter into flight school, Riggle realized it would hinder his dream of one day doing comedy. “I stopped flying, became a ground officer, had a short contract, fulfilled my contract and pursued comedy and acting,” he told CBS News. “I stayed in the reserves though and did the reserves for the last 14 years. And I just retired in January from the Marines. This is a great country, you can do it all.”
Though he’s more well known as a cowboy and cop, Clint Eastwood was drafted into the Korean War and served as a lifeguard while training at Fort Ord in California. He was discharged in 1953 and was able to attend acting school during his tenure thanks to the G.I. Bill.
Robin Quivers, a co-host on Howard Stern’s radio show, rose to the rank of captain while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force between 1975 and 1978. She was discharged shortly after, but remained a member of the reserve with no active duty until 1990, according to the biography “Howard Stern: King of All Media.”
In an effort to support his girlfriend and newly born daughter, Ice-T enlisted in the military to get off the streets and found himself stationed in Hawaii in the 25th Infantry Division between 1977 to 1979. In Hawaii, he met people who would inspire him to pursue a music career.
The comedy legend served in World War II as a combat engineer, defusing land mines as a corporal in the 1104 Engineer Combat Division. “I was a combat engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering,” Brooks joked to military.com. “War isn’t hell… War is loud. Much too noisy. All those shells and bombs going off all around you. Never mind death. A man could lose his hearing.”
Chuck Norris joined the U.S. Air Force as an air policeman in 1958, and was sent to Osan Air Base in South Korea. It was there where he developed his signature martial arts form, the Chun Kuk Do. He was discharged in 1962.
On an episode of “Inside the Actors’ Studio,” Hackman said that when he was 16, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1946. He spent four and a half years as a field radio operator and was stationed in China for a time before being assigned to Hawaii and Japan.
James Earl Jones
Though he was recruited during the most active time during the Korean War and eventually rose to the rank of first lieutenant, James Earl Jones was stationed at a cold-weather training command base in Leadville, Colorado beginning in 1953.
The comedian Sinbad told Ebony that he nearly had a dishonorable discharge for going AWOL while he was serving in the Air Force as a boom operator. He frequently left base to perform stand-up comedy.
Sidney Poitier lied about his age to enlist during World War II and wound up in a VA hospital in Northport, New York, serving for a year before obtaining a discharge in 1944. (Poitier died in 2022 at age 94.)
Colombian-American actress Zulay Henao served three years in the U.S. Army and enlisted after high school. She immediately felt the pressure of basic training at Fort Bragg. “It was miserable. I quickly realized I’d have to change my attitude if I was going to get through it. I’ve always tried to make the most out of my experiences, but that one was tough,” she told Maxim.
Drew Carey still has his crew cut and signature glasses that he first wore during his Marine Corps days. He served as a field radio operator in the 25th Marine Regiment in Ohio. The comedian served for six years and has frequently given back to the military in the form of performances for the USO.
MC Hammer served in the Navy in the early ’80s and worked as an aviation storekeeper for three years before he was discharged and finally kick started his music career.
While best known as a military doctor on “M.A.S.H.,” Alda completed a minimum six-month tour of duty in the Korean War as a gunnery officer.
Director Oliver Stone’s combat experience in Vietnam directly contributed to “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July,” which would be two of his signature films. Stone served in the Army for just over a year between 1967 and 1968 and was wounded twice in battle. He’s been honored with a Bronze Star with “V” device for heroism in ground combat and a Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster.
Robert Duvall may be known for his role in “Apocalypse Now,” but he did briefly serve in the Army shortly after the Korean War. He acted in plays while stationed in Camp Gordon in Georgia. He served for two years and left as a private first class. He did have to clarify the extent of his service however, telling People in 1984 (via military.com), “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.”
Anderson, a long time Food Network host and an Army nerd, joined the Air Force in 1993 and worked as a radio broadcaster stationed in Seoul and San Antonio, she told ABC News.