Happy Veterans Day: 10 famous vets you probably didn’t know served in the military

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s Veterans Day and time to recognize countless individuals who have risked their lives to give us freedom.

Many celebrities served in the military prior to becoming famous.

From Mr. T to to Kurt Vonnegut, here’s a look at some that you might not of known served in the armed forces.

Johnny Cash

Born J.R. Cash, the Air Force made him choose John as his first name when he enlisted. He served 4 years in the Air Force from 1950-54 and was honorably discharged as the rank of a Staff Sergeant. Stationed in Germany, his job was to intercept Soviet Morse Code during the beginning of the Cold War.

Here’s a tremendous quote from Johnny on his ability to intercept Soviet code, “I had such a talent for that particular line of work and such a good left ear, that in Landsberg, where the United States Air Force Security Service ran radio intercept operations worldwide, I was the ace. I was who they called when the hardest jobs came up. I copied the first news of Stalin’s death.”

Mr. T

Before fools were pitied and his signature gold chains, Mr. T, aka Lawrence Tureaud, joined the Army in the mid-70’s. The Chicago native served in the Military Police Corps before his acting career.

Take a look at Mr. T. preparing for his role as Clubber Lang in Rocky III with Sylvestor Stallone in 1982.

Ernest Hemingway

One of the world’s best wordsmiths has a distinctive military past. Hemingway signed up as an ambulance driver for WWI and quickly found himself fighting in Italy.

When he was just 18, he was seriously injured by motor fire and received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery. His time in the military led him to covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

While landing at Normandy, Hemingway’s craft turned around from striking the beach because he was deemed too precious of cargo. He later got in trouble for trying to lead a group of French resistance members outside of Paris.

Bob Ross

Talk about having two polar opposite occupations, before Bob Ross was painting canvasses, he was a drill sergeant in the Air Force.  Being from Florida, he saw snow and mountains for the first time while being stationed in Alaska during the early 60’s.

“We don’t make mistake, we have happy accidents,” is one of the best quotes of all-time, take a look at 19 other gems from the legend.

Bozo the Clown

The man behind America’s favorite clown, Bozo, was a Marine during the pacific theater of World War II.

Bob Bell started “Bozo’s Circus” in 1960 and remained the character until his retirement from WGN in 1984.

His character was a major influence on Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons.

John Coltrane

John Coltrane’s first ever recording of him playing music took place on a Hawaiian base in 1946. He enlisted the day America dropped the A-bomb on Japan and even though his stint was short of a year, he lead many bands while his time in the service.

Apparently, you had to get graded on your music ability prior to enlisting to lead a band; his skills were so good they let him slide. Relax away to “I’ll Wait and Pray.”

Kurt Vonnegut

The best author from Indy dropped out of college to enlist in the Army in 1943. Vonnegut was captured by the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge and was held in the city of Dresden during the Allied bombing that took our nearly 90 percent of it.

He said he survived by taking refuge in a meat locker located three stories underground. Vonnegut was put to work recovering bodies of the dead and described the activity as a “terribly elaborate Easter-egg hunt.”

Hugh Hefner

Did you know Hugh Hefner got his creative start writing for military newspapers during World War II? He worked as an infantry clerk from 1944-1946 and historians say his life would have turned out differently without being able to draw cartoons for the Army.

Take a look at an old school interview of him with David Letterman in 1985.

Drew Carey

After leaving Kansas State University a year or so short of his degree, Drew Carey decided to join the Marines and was in the reserves from 1980-1986. In 1985, he began his stand up comedy career which led to The Drew Carey Show in 1995.

It’s very hard to believe that Carey is turning 60 next summer.


When you think of Shaggy, you probably first think of a certain use of a bathroom floor and an elaborate tale of non-infidelity.

It was shocking to discover that he was on the front lines of The Gulf War, achieving the rank of lance corporal in the Marines.

I’m sure all of these soldiers used their experience in the military to be able to go on and do great things. Happy Veterans Day!

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