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Top 10 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Served in the Military

VO: Rebecca Brayton

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Top 10 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Served in the Military

War is hell, but then so is Hollywood. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Served in the Military.

For this list, we’ll be looking at celebrities and famous faces of all sorts who have a surprising or unlikely military history. Not all of the celebrities on today’s list will have seen conflict, but all had a real role, rank, and position in the military before, and unrelated to their eventual fame. Note that we’ve tried to be as accurate as possible with the dates, but some of them were difficult to verify 100%.

#10: Private First Class Hugh Hefner

United States Army (1944-46)
Known today as the commanding officer of a platoon of lingerie-clad Playmates, Hugh Hefner’s earliest years of adulthood were spent in the service of Uncle Sam. Armed with a reported IQ of 152 (despite his teachers’ feeling that he lacked enthusiasm), Hefner graduated high school in 1944 and enlisted in the Army soon after. Officially a clerk and typist, Hef spent much of the war writing and drawing cartoons for various military publications until his discharge in 1946. It wasn’t all pencil pushing and daydreams, however; Private Hefner earned a sharpshooter badge for his prowess with the M1 rifle and also graduated from live grenade training, otherwise known as “Killer College,” fully intact.

#9: Lance Corporal Adam Driver

United States Marine Corps (2001-04)
Following the 9/11 terror attacks, the future Kylo Ren actor sought to serve in arguably the toughest branch of the American military: the US Marine Corps. Serving in the Weapons Company of the First Battalion First Marines - the 1/1 - Driver was assigned to the 81mm Mortar Section but saw no field service. After breaking his sternum in a mountain biking accident, the eventual Master of the Knights of Ren was medically discharged shortly before his unit was deployed for service in the Iraq war. Driver credits his time in the Marine Corps for giving him the confidence to do anything, including re-auditioning for Juilliard, which he did about a year after his discharge.

#8: Captain James Blunt

British Army (1996-2002)
Sponsored through university by the British Army, James Blunt was required to serve in the military for a minimum of four years, and did so admirably. Trained at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, as well as the British Army Training Unit Suffield in Alberta, Canada, the singer was eventually commissioned by the Life Guards, a reconnaissance unit. In 1999, Blunt volunteered to take part in NATO’s mission in Kosovo. It was there that the Captain may have singlehandedly prevented an escalation in the already complicated conflict. After leading 30,000 people from the Macedonia border to an airport almost 10 miles outside the Kosovan capital, Blunt and company found it was held by the Russians. When American General Wesley Clark ordered him to gain control of the airport by force, Blunt refused and eventually the Russians agreed to share the facility in exchange for food and water.

#7: Corporal Mel Brooks

United States Army (1944-46)
17 years old and still known as Melvin Kaminsky, Brooks was tested and placed in the elite Army Specialized Training Program at the Virginia Military Institute in 1944. There, he not only had his first cheeseburger but also gained what he called a code of honor and behavior. Trained in saber wielding and horsemanship, among other skills, the future comedian eventually became a combat engineer in the 1104th Engineer Combat Group in the 78th Infantry Division. Tasked with defusing land mines, Brooks took part in the infamous Battle of the Bulge, but also engaged in some unsanctioned ideology-battles with the Nazis. When the Germans hit Allied troops with propaganda, Brooks allegedly took it upon himself to assemble a sound system and hit back by playing music by Jewish composer Al Jolson.

#6: Sergeant Drew Carey

United States Marine Corps Reserve (1980-86)
It’s hard to picture the bane of Mimi’s existence ever having a military career, but with his horn-rimmed glasses and crew cut, all the signs were right out in the open. As it happens, Carey acquired both during his time in the 3rd Battalion 25th Marine Regiment where he served as a field radio operator. It was during this time that Carey began dabbling in comedy, mostly as a way to make some extra money. Carey stayed in the reserves for six years until his comedy career began to pick up, but he repaid his gratitude to the forces by partnering up with the USO to entertain the troops.

#5: Private 1st Class Jimi Hendrix

United States Army (1961-62)
Just like Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix was a great guitar player but a terrible soldier. In lieu of serving jail time after he was found in a stolen car for the second time, James Marshall Hendrix enlisted in the army on May 31st, 1961. Eventually becoming a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, Hendrix didn’t go for the whole “rules” thing - rarely turning up for bed checks, requiring constant supervision, and often getting shut-eye while on duty. Jimi’s military performance only got worse when he asked his father to send him his guitar. After the instrument arrived, Private Hendrix would stay in his bunk and jam… that is unless his fellow soldiers hid it from him. Jimi’s commitment to the six-string resulted in him being discharged after only one year of his three-year enlistment, although he would later claim it was a broken ankle that did him in.

#4: Specialist 4 (SP4) Ice-T

United States Army (1979-83)
Tired of selling pot and stealing car stereos, and with a daughter to support, Tracy Marrow, aka Ice-T, joined the army and found himself in the 25th Infantry Division. T served in the army for four years, completed Advanced Infantry Training, and even became squad leader during his time at the Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. His old lifestyle didn’t completely leave him, however, and Ice-T was hit with charges for the theft of a rug, and received disciplinary action for going AWOL around the same time. Off duty, Marrow finally made a good investment when he bought turntable equipment to explore his then-growing interest in hip-hop. T returned to civilian life four months early in 1983 when he learned that being a single father entitled him to an early discharge.

#3: Ruth Westheimer

Israel Defense Forces (1948-49)
Best known as an adorable, accented, sex-obsessed, tiny old lady, Dr. Ruth was once an adorable, accented, sex-obsessed, tiny sharpshooter. After losing her parents to the Holocaust, Westheimer found her way to Palestine not long before Israel declared its independence. When war kicked off, Ruth joined the Haganah – a Jewish paramilitary organization and a precursor to the Israel Defense Forces – where, owing to her tiny 4 foot 7 inch frame, she was made a scout and sniper. Even though she was an excellent shot, Dr Ruth has no recorded kills – although she was nearly killed herself when a shell exploded near her (on her 20th birthday, no less), leaving her badly wounded. When she recovered, Ruth moved to France to further her education before immigrating to America in 1956.

#2: Airman 3rd Class George Carlin

United States Air Force (1954-57)
If you thought the only time George Carlin spent in uniform was when he played Mr Conductor, you’d be wrong. Very wrong. Yes, Ringo’s “Shining Time Station” replacement actually spent three years in the United States Air Force as a radar technician. After dropping out of high school, Carlin enlisted with the intent of using his GI Bill to fund his way through broadcasting school. As the man was famously profane, profound, and anti-authoritarian, Carlin’s time in the military went about as well as you’d expect. Stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana, Airman George was deemed “unproductive” and court-martialed on three occasions. This might have been due to his tendency to disc jockey at a nearby radio station while on active duty. We may never know...

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Specialist 4(SP4) Mr. T
United States Army & Military Police Corps (1975-77)

- Lieutenant Colonel Rob Riggle
United States Marine Corps Reserve (1990-2013)

- Airman 1st Class Morgan Freeman
United States Air Force (1955-59)

- Staff Sergeant Bea Arthur
United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (1943-45)

- Oliver Stone
United States Army (1967-68)

#1: Master Sergeant Bob Ross

United States Air Force (1961-81)
It may not be a tightly held secret that Bob Ross was in the military, but that doesn’t make it any less surprising. After quitting school in grade nine, Ross joined the Air Force and served as a medical records technician before eventually working his way up through the ranks to the position of First Sergeant of Eielson Air Force Base. Stationed in Alaska, Sgt Ross learned and started to develop his signature wet on wet painting style so he could paint quickly while on break during this time. Holding the rank of Master Sergeant, however, he was anything but the happy little tree we all know and love. Instead, he was a typical screaming and authoritative drill sergeant. After 20 years of shouting and making other people clean toilets, Ross vowed to never scream again, and took up painting full time.

Do you agree with our list? Which celebrity’s military record surprised you the most? For more guns-a-blazing and totally AWOL Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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