With the Fourth of July coming up, it’s time to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday and overlook the glamorized mainstream meaning of it. Similarly, these celebrities have reputations for being legends for their work and the entertainment they have provided the world. However, like the Fourth of July, these celebrities have a deeper-rooted history to them, that they have all bravely served in the military. Read up on these 12 celebrities who you probably didn’t even know served, and how their time serving affected their futures in Hollywood:
1. Hugh Hefner
Yup, before his days of being the ultimate Playboy, Hefner served in the U.S. Army as an infantry clerk. While in the Army, he earned a sharpshooter badge, made it through “Killer College” (when troops go through maneuvers while throwing grenades) and drew cartoons for an Army newsletter which sparked his interest in the arts. Once he left the Army, he continued to show interest in the arts, working for Esquire magazine. When Esquire refused to give him a raise, he left and decided to come up with his own magazine, and, well, the rest is history.
2. Elvis Presley
Yes, the King of Rock and Roll actually served our country while serving up his legendary music. Right in the prime of his music career, Elvis was drafted for the Army, causing absolute chaos that such a famous figure had to serve in the military. When news came out that the Army drafted him, the Navy and Air Force even made counter-offers asking Elvis to join their respective branches. The Navy even offered to create a specially trained “Elvis Presley Company”! However, Elvis made it clear that he didn’t want any special treatment and served his time in the Army, even earning the title of “Sergent”.
3. Mr. T
Mr. T is known for being that dude that nobody wants to mess with, which is why it should be no surprise that he served in the military. After being expelled from college where he was on a football scholarship, Mr. T enlisted in the Army and quickly made a name for himself. In a cycle of 6,000 troops, he was named “Top Trainee of the Cycle” and was promoted to Squad Leader. Once, he was punished by his platoon sergeant and was forced to chop down 70 trees by himself in a matter of three and a half hours. Once he left the Army, he took his frighteningly-tough ways with him and began his career as a bodyguard. It was when he started gaining fame as a celebrity sought-after bodyguard that Sylvester Stallone noticed him, and cast him in Rocky III which catalyzed his fame.
Before his rapping and Law & Order SVU days, Ice T served in the U.S. Army. He joined the military primarily seeking financial benefits since he and his girlfriend recently had a baby. However, Ice-T ran into some trouble when he and some friends stole an infantry rug and had to scramble to avoid punishment. When that drama ended, he then purchased a stereo, turntables, and speakers which sparked his music career while in the Army. Thanks to one of his sergeants who told him that he “couldn’t survive on his own in the civilian world”, Ice-T was pushed to make the best career for himself possible, even winning himself a Grammy.
5. Pat Sajak
If I told you the man who calls letters of the alphabet out on your TV every weekday night was once in the Army, would you believe it? Well, it’s true! Although Sajak never saw front-line combat, the game show host contributed to the war in true entertainer fashion — as a DJ on the Armed Forces Radio.
6. Drew Carey
Yet another game show host who found their passion for entertainment during their service is Drew Carey. Carey served in the Marine Corps, which is where he got his start in performing stand-up comedy in order to make some more money. After he discovered his love for comedy and entertainment, he left the service to pursue his dream of becoming an entertainer. Carey has even said, “I think if I did not have such a great break, I would still be in the military. I still wear my hair short and have the glasses. Also, I enjoyed the regimen and camaraderie. I knew that once I left the Reserves, I would give back to the military, so I teamed up with the USO.”
7. Chuck Norris
It was while Norris was stationed in Korea during his time in the Air Force when he learned the insane martial-arts skills he’s best known for. There was one pivotal moment for Norris in Korea — when he realized he couldn’t arrest a drunk civilian without having to pull his weapon — this is when he decided to start training in martial arts. He became trained in Tang Soo Do and Tai Kwan Do, and when he came out of the service, he began teaching others how to master these arts.
8. Gal Gadot
Before Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman, she was busy being Wonder Woman IRL during her time in the Israeli Army. Gadot once revealed that the physical training she completed prior to filming Wonder Woman wasn’t “nearly as demanding as what she experienced as an army officer.” Her specific role in the military was a combat trainer, and she specifically taught gymnastics and calisthenics. Gadot has even said that her military experience prepared her for Hollywood, as she landed her role in Fast & Furious because of her weapon knowledge and her role in Wonder Woman for her physical abilities. On top of being an amazing actress and a total bad-ass, she was even crowned Miss Isreal in 2004.
9. Bea Arthur
Before she was a “Golden Girl”, Bea Arthur was a Marine! When the Marine Corps became the last service branch to allow women to serve, they established the “Women’s Reservists”, and even began calling their members “Glamarines”. Wanting to be a part of paving the way for women to be able to serve in the military, Arthur quickly joined the group — just five days after it was created. When she was discharged, she left with the title of “Staff Sergent” and it was even stated in her discharge paperwork that she “desired to attend dramatics school”, foreshadowing her career as a star.
10. Morgan Freeman
Before he was the esteemed actor he is today, Freeman had another passion — to be a fighter pilot. Although he admits he loved acting since his childhood, his #1 life goal was to join the Air Force, so much so that he even turned down a drama scholarship for college. However, when he finally worked his way up to receive the chance to start flying fighter jets, he had a “very clear epiphany”. Speaking on the experience, he said, “You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.” Thus, he left the Air Force and pursued his acting dream, which took about 20 years for him to even be recognized in Hollywood; but look where he is now!
11. Walt Disney
The man behind the most magical place on Earth once served our country as a part of the American Ambulance Corps, part of the Red Cross. He was so eager to help with the war that he actually lied about his age so that he could start serving at a mere 16 years old. There have been rumors that Disney was dishonorably discharged from the military, but those have been proven to be false.
12. James Doohan
This is perhaps the most bad-ass military experience of them all. Doohan, otherwise known as Scotty from Star Trek, served during World War II. On the infamous D-Day, he was shot SIX times — 4 times in the leg, once in the hand, and once in the chest. The only reason he survived the chest shot was that the bullet was blocked by a silver cigarette case given to him by his brother.