Serving in the military is a proud tradition for countless men and women around the world. Still, with Memorial Day or Veterans Day commemorating the sacrifices made for our great nation, it's not just you or a family member that has served. Some of your favorite stars from over the years have also dedicated their lives to protecting their home. For many celebrities like Tom Selleck or even Ice-T, the military is the first step in their long road to fame.
During World War II, dozens of celebrities volunteered to serve in combat or to help the military make training films. Directors like John Ford, Frank Capra, and George Stevens filmed the war, creating essential and lasting documents of the bravery of soldiers. Actor James Stewart became the highest-ranking actor in military history by serving as a pilot. Others who didn't serve on the frontlines still traveled to boost morale and to encourage the sale of war bonds.
Some of today's stars, including The Price Is Right host Drew Carey and Star Wars actor Adam Driver also served in the military, while Shaggy served in the Marines. "Being in the Marines actually helped me take on this job, because this is the hardest job in the world," rapper Shaggy, said in 2013. "For me to get up here in the morning — I have done a radio station before this, and I am here now — and to continue on for the rest of the day, that discipline came from being in the Marines. I didn't know [the service] was preparing me for that."
Here's a look at just a few of the celebrities who served in the military; and for some of your favorite country stars who served, head over here for details!
Believe it or not, "Boombastic" rapper Shaggy served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He enlisted in 1988 and is a veteran of the Gulf War. In a 2013 interview with Hot 93.7, Shaggy said the Marine Corps. prepared him for his successful career as a musician.
“I think the discipline is what you need more than being successful. You see a lot of artists who might not be the most talented [out there], but the fact that their work ethic is so good they end up making it. You can have ten percent talent, ninety percent work ethic [and make it]," he explained.
Shaggy said being in the Marine Corps. was the "hardest job in the world." He still supports the Marines by performing for the USO. Shaggy is best known for the hits "Oh Carolina," "It Wasn't Me," "Angel" and "Boombastic." The 49-year-old was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
Adam Driver, best known today for playing Kylo Ren in the new Star Wars movies, joined the military after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "September 11 happened and all my friends were like 'Let's join the military!' and I was the only one who actually did," Driver told Military.com.
He joined the U.S. Marine Corps. but injured his sternum in a biking accident before he was deployed. He still hoped to serve, but he was medically discharged two years later. During his training, he was inspired to become an actor and decided to pursue that career after he was discharged. Small roles in J. Edgar and Lincoln were followed by Girls and his eventual casting in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
"You miss the rigor, the discipline, the camaraderie," Driver said of being in the Marines. "I think you become very aware, probably more than average people your age, that we’re all going to die. You’re aware of your own mortality, and also of how much you can accomplish in a day. Time is precious, and you don’t want to waste it."
Drew Carey was also a member of the Marines. As the U.S. Naval Institute notes, he served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. He decided to keep the Marine crew cut early in his entertainment career.
"While in the Marine Reserves, I was looking for a way to make some more money, and it was suggested that I try using my jokes," Carey once said, notes Military.com. Carey continues to support the troops and has toured for the USO.
"I think if I did not have such a great break, I would still be in the military," Carey said. "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."
Oscar winner Morgan Freeman served in the U.S. Air Force. He joined based on the romantic visions of the Air Force portrayed in his favorite films, but soon realized that it wasn't like that in real life. He decided to become an actor instead.
"I joined the Air Force. I took to it immediately when I arrived there," Freeman said, notes Military.com. "I did three years, eight months, and ten days in all, but it took me a year and a half to get disabused of my romantic notions about it."
Freeman joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955 and left in 1959. He was so excited to join that he even turned down a scholarship. But when he got in, he was stuck being a radar technician. After Freeman left, he turned to act, putting him on the road to becoming one of America's greatest actors.
During World War II, James Stewart served in the U.S. Air Force. A trained pilot who descended from a family of war veterans, he won the Distinguished Flying Cross. He flew in 20 combat missions and even commanded his own squadron.
Stewart put his career on pause to serve in the Air Force. After appearing in three films in 1941, he didn't make another movie until the 1946 classic It's A Wonderful Life. That film was directed by Frank Capra, who served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, producing the Why We Fight films.
Stewart didn't retire from the U.S. Air Force reserves until 1968. He retired as a Brigadier General, the highest rank ever achieved by a Hollywood actor.
The actor also made films about flying and appeared in other war movies. In 1955, he starred in Strategic Air Command and played Charles Lindbergh in 1957's The Spirit of St. Louis.
Bea Arthur was a truck driver and typist for the U.S. Marine Corps Women's Reserve during World War II. Strangely enough, she often denied serving, doing so in the following interview with the Television Academy.
In December 2010, over a year after her death in 2009, The Smoking Gun uncovered documents showing that she enlisted in 1943 when she was 21. In a February 1943 letter, Arthur wrote that she wanted to join after hearing about an open position.
She was willing to get in now and do whatever is desired of me until such time as ground schools are organized," she wrote. “As far as hobbies are concerned, I’ve dabbled in music and dramatics."
A Marine qualification card included hunting with a .22 caliber rifle. Arthur's acting career spanned seven decades. She's best known for her roles in The Golden Girls and Maude.
Comedian Rob Riggle also served in the Marines. As Military.com notes, he served for nine years on active duty before joining the reserves. During his time in the Marines, he served in Liberia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. He retired in January 2013.
"Well, my military service definitely helped me understand what the military was up against in Iraq and what they were trying to accomplish. Having served in Afghanistan, I understand how difficult the mission can be. With regard to my military experience and comedy," Riggle said in a 2009 Washington Post interview. "I learned how much fun it is to play 'arrogant ignorance.' Meaning I love to play an authority figure who is total wrong or missing the point, but is absolutely convinced that he's right on track! I think the news could always do better, however they're doing okay.
Jeff Bridges was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve from 1967 to 1975. He also attended a military academy for a year while in high school, notes Military.com. One of the tasks Bridges had was chipping paint off buoys. He considered this one of the worst jobs he's ever had.
"The ceiling is about 7 feet tall and below the racks where you sleep there's three or four racks stuffed into that space and you're out in the ocean at sea in a flat-bottomed boat up against the wind and the swells and everyone is puking," Bridges said, reports Military.com. "You return from the watch at about 4 a.m. and get dressed in your wool suit and go up there — that was a pretty terrible living condition. But, again, all the tough times make great memories when you look back. Like, I'm glad it's in the rear-view mirror."
Bridges also told The AV Club this was the worst job he's had, but he had some fond memories of his time in the coast guard. "Even as I describe that work as a kind of labor, I actually had wonderful times doing that and great conversations and fond memories," he said.
The late Hugh Hefner also had a brief military career. He was in the Army from 1944 to 1946, joining when he was only 18 years old. After he was honorably discharged, Hefner started on the career path to becoming the founder of Playboy. He attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, then started in the magazine world working for Esquire. He left the magazine in 1953 and raised $8,000 to establish Playboy.
“Without that time in the military to sit behind a desk and spend time working on creative things, his life would’ve been different,” Susan Gunelius, who wrote Building Brand Value The Playboy Way, told The Washington Post.
Law & Order: SVU star Ice-T also served in the military. According to Military.com, Ice-T joined the Army to support his girlfriend and daughter. He spent four years in the Army's 25th Infantry Division. "When I had my daughter I was like, man, I'm going to go to jail, I got to do something, and I went to an enlistment office," Ice-T has said about serving. "Next thing you know, I'm in the military, four years infantry."
After his military service, Ice-T came home and ran in trouble with the law, robbing jewelry stores. A lot of these kids are doing it "backward," Ice-T told Factmag in November. "If you got your feet in the streets you have to let that go to become a celebrity. You now have a real name and police can find you. So, you don’t get into the music business and then decide to break the law… The internet allows overnight success, immediate gratification. You can become so big so fast."
Before being an acclaimed actor and producer, Kirk Douglas was also one of the greatest fighting for the U.S. during World War II, following his Broadway performance in Spring Again and before his big-screen movie career, according to CNN. Following his two years of service, Douglas finally starred in his first film — 1946's The Strange Love of Martha Ivers opposite actress, Barbara Stanwyck.
It was after that performance that the New York native catapulted to movie star fame, becoming the icon he is today, starring in Spartacus (1960), The Vikings(1958) and Lust for Life (1956). One of his most notable films is Paths of Glory, that has been touted a "transcendentally humane war movie" from Stanley Kubrick, featuring impressive battle sequences and a powerful ending.
Blue Bloods star, Tom Selleck has spent a majority of his film and television career protecting others, but before all that Hollywood magic and charm, the Detroit native was protecting his country. Selleck was called to arms during the Vietnam War, becoming a sergeant in the California Army National Guard. With a face like Selleck's too, his days of modeling while at the University of Southern California propelled him into becoming the face of numerous recruitment posters, according to Military.com.