Be All You Can Be: Celebrities Who Have Served In The Military

May 17, 2013  |  
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You’ve seen them on the T.V. and in movies and you’ve heard their songs on the radio, but you’ve never seen them in uniform. Though most celebrities are best known for their acting, musical talents, and money, some celebs should also be known for being veterans. Since May is National Military Appreciation Month, what better way to celebrate than to thank some of the best known celebrities who served in the military and defended our country.

Bea Arthur

Best known for her role as Dorothy on the show “The Golden Girls,”  Bea was also once a truck driver in the Marine Corps. She stands as one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve and aside from driving military trucks, she was also a typist. Despite being a pioneer in terms of female veterans, Bea kept her military service a secret until she was nearing death.

Jimi Hendrix

Who would have ever guessed that the man who became famous for his amazing guitar playing and musical composition was once in the military? Back when he was known as James Marshall Hendrix and at the ripe age of 18, Jimi had the choice between going to jail or joining the Army, after stealing a car. He served in the Army for 11 months but was honorably discharged due to an ankle injury. It comes as no surprise that Jimi wasn’t the best soldier and instead did things his own way, including playing his guitar in the barracks when others were trying to sleep.

Montel Williams

Montel Williams enlisted with the U.S. Marines after graduating high school in 1974. After impressing his superiors, he was sent to the U.S. Naval Academy and in 1976 was honorably discharged from the Marines and then enlisted as a midshipman in the Navy. In 1980, Montel became the first black enlisted marine to graduate from the Academy Prep School. After being sent to Guam, California, and Maryland, Montel found a love and compassion for speaking, which inspired him to leave the Navy, after ranking as Lieutenant, and become a talk show host.

Hugh Hefner

Long before Hugh Hefner ever became the face of Playboy and one of the most well-known playboys of all time, he served as a U.S. Army Soldier during WWII. In 1,946 he was released from the Army and became a copywriter for Esquire Magazine. After deciding that he wanted to make a real name for himself, Hefner raised thousands of dollars in order to launch the Playboy magazine and released the first centerfold: a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe.

Bill Cosby

In 1956, Bill Cosby joined the U.S. Navy and served as a hospital corpsman on various ships at Quantico inVirginia. He was also sent to Bethesda Naval Hospital during the time of the Korean War to take care of patients. During his time in the Navy, he won several awards for being on the track team. In 1960, Cosby was honorably discharged. He then went on to earn a degree from Temple University as well as the University of Massachusetts. Not too long after that, Cosby became a well-known face on the TV as an entertainer and actor.

Chuck Norris

If you couldn’t tell by the outfit, Chuck Norris was once enlisted in the U.S. Army and today shows plenty of support for the military. This should come as no surprise, especially if you’ve seen his movies and the stunts that he’s been able to pull off as a world known martial artist. Chuck entered the military right after high school and decided to join the Air Force. He was stationed in Korea, which fueled his passion to learn about and practice martial arts. He became the first American to earn an eighth-degree Black Belt. After the Air Force, he became a prominent actor and martial arts enthusiast.



Before he became Ice-T and a famous rapper and actor, Tracey Marrow was a soldier in the U.S. Army. He joined the forces after graduating in 1979. He was part of the Army for four years and was then honorably discharged in 1983 in order to pursue a career as a rapper and musician. Just four years later, his first album was released, which put his name on the charts for years to come.


Though his popularity has dwindled a bit, Shaggy was once a popular voice heard on the airwaves. But, before he became a well known R&B and reggae artist, he was known as Orville Burrell. In 1988 he joined the U.S. Marines and served in the Gulf War. After this experience, Shaggy became more grounded and even more committed to making music. In 1993 he released his debut album and things only went up from there.

Drew Carey

Drew Carey is probably best known for his comedic acting on The Drew Carey Show. If there’s something else he’s easily spotted by, it’s his glasses and short-cut blonde hair, which he claims stayed with him after his time in the Marine Corps Reserves. He served as a reservist from 1980 until 1986. During his time there, he was told to go out and try to tell jokes to make money, which eventually landed him a spot in show business.


Mystical, who was born Michael Tyler, is best known as being a rapper, but before he made it big in the rap world, he served in the Gulf War in the U.S. Army. During the war he worked as a combat engineer which some say influenced his ability to come up with witty lyrics that were crafty yet flowed off the tongue. During his height of fame, Mystical had create a rapping style of his own that set him apart from anyone else.

Source: WENN

MC Hammer

Way before he ever wore his famous parachute pants, MC Hammer, also known as Stanley Burrell, was part of the U.S. Navy as well as the bat boy for the Oakland A’s. After college didn’t go as planned, he joined the Navy and worked as an Aviation Storekeeper for three years. Once his service was done, he jumped right into a music career that inevitably launched his road to stardom and fame.

Leon Bennett / WENN

Nate Dogg

Starting in 1987, Nate Dogg served in the U.S. Marines as a Munitions Specialist, which means that he spent most of his time accounting for each and every grenade and bullet that was put in his control for accountability. He apparently joined the Marines in order to see whether or not he was a man. Once Nate Dogg left the Marines, he returned home to Long Beach and focused on re-establishing 213, a rap group that included himself, Warren G, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. He experienced years of fame until his death in 2011.

Elvis Presley

Even if you aren’t a fan of his music, everyone knows Elvis for his catchy songs, sexualized performances, and his baby face. Elvis joined the Army in March 1958 during the draft. At the time he was well known for his rock and roll music and looks that took the world by storm. He served as a normal soldier and was done serving in 1960.  After that, he was able to relaunch his career and become even more successful.


Unlike most celebrities on the list, Canabis joined the military after he had made a name for himself in the music business. Canabis, also known as Germaine Williams, joined the Army in 2002, when he was 22. He said that he wanted to join the military as a way to get away from music and do something different for once in his life. Unsurprisingly, he was dishonorably discharged after having been found smoking weed.

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  • Frank

    Just saw that you put on number 7, “If you couldn’t tell by the outfit, Chuck Norris was once in the U.S. Army.” The picture shown he is wearing USMC Marpat, with Honorary Marine on it. Don’t know if you saw that.

  • Rick Brohmer

    How about Nancy Culp ( Ms. Jane ) on the Beverly Hillbillies. Culp’s service included the US Naval Reserve during World War II. As a member of the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Ltjg. Kulp received several decorations, including the American Campaign Medal, the National Defense Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal. She left the service in 1946. ( HOW ABOUT THOSE APPLES?? )

  • Jackson

    It says he enlisted in the Air Force and the Army. But he only enlisted in the Air Force though he is wearing a Marines uniform.

  • 2ID

    ok for one. chuck norris is wearing an honorary MARINE uniform, therefore he wasnt enlisted in the ARMY.
    two, he wasnt even in the army, he was in the air force.
    three, they aren’t “outfits” they are uniforms: ACUs, MARPAT, AACUs, NWUs, not outfits.

  • Nay

    Sunny Anderson the Hot 97 and the Food Network fame, was also in the Air Force.

  • Nay

    That was awesome MN! There were some surprises there! MN, it would have been nice to see more black female veterans, especially since this site if for black women. Tae Heckard from “The Game” served in the Army for years and I am quite sure there are other celebrities that represented for the ladies as well. As an Air Force veteran it would have been nice to see my branch represented, Sinbad was in the Air Force and was a performer for the “Tops in Blue”.

  • laila

    Bea Arthur, ice-t, and nate dogg were the big shockers for me.

  • As a former veteran of the US Navy this was well appreciated!!!

    • dee4fun

      You are awesome.

  • yata

    Ok I was a hospital corpsman and we all know that Bill Cosby was discharged for recording blood pressure on a DEAD PATIENT. That s*** will get you kicked out as it did to Bill Cosby.

  • chanela

    i know it wasn’t us military but rihanna served in the military in barbados for a little while… in fact i think the singer shontelle was her superior or something. i’m too tired to google it right now. aha

    • Kenedy

      It was like military academy….I wouldn’t exactly call that “serving” in the military though

  • chanela

    oh lawdddddd! drew carey was FINE!

    • rainydaze80

      I said the same thing! I never woulda thought!

  • Dani

    You guys forgot Lashontae Hackard. She also was in the army too. Matter of fact her father was also in the military too

    • Dani

      But it’s still a great article I was just pointing it out if you didn’t know

    • Tehani

      Can she really be considered a celebrity though?

      • Geni

        She’s much bigger than this Canabis guy. She’s relevant due to “The Game” as the biggest show in BET.

        • Tehani

          I didn’t ask if she was relevant. I asked if she could be considered a celebrity. I mean, she is only known within the Hip Hop/R&B circle, and even then, she is not someone who is well known.

          • Nay

            A lot of the other “celebrities” named are only known within the Hip Hop/R&B circle as well. I’ve always been a fan of hers but being on The game and the attention she is getting from dating Nelly is putting her on the map. I would say she is up and coming.

        • NewYorkBunny

          “Bigger” than Canabis? You must be young.

      • I have no ideal who she is.

    • Geni

      I was hoping she was going to be on here as well.

  • TraceFace

    I am surprised that so many rappers were in the military!

    • Tehani

      A lot of Black men who join the services do so because they don’t have any other options in life.

  • chaka1

    What a great article…

  • IllyPhilly

    Go soldiers!!! That’s a job for the truly strong.