A Veterans Day Salute: Stars You Probably Didn’t Know Served In The Military

November 11, 2015  |  
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Today is Veterans Day! And where we would be without those who served in the armed forces? I don’t want to think about it.

On this day, we salute all veterans. And in a fun attempt to shout some out (which we’ve done in the past not once but twice), here is a list of stars who served before deciding to take on Hollywood. Any surprises?

Sheryl Underwood

The Talk co-host and comedian was in the Air Force Reserves for two years. And while she joined to obtain some discipline and serve her country in some way, Underwood said she broke into comedy while in the Reserves. During down time, Underwood said one of the commanders told her and her peers that someone needed to entertain them, and of course, Underwood stepped up to the plate and made ’em laugh. It’s an experience that she speaks fondly of to this day.

Adam Driver

The Girls star enlisted in the Marines after 9/11 but had to be given a medical discharge two years later after breaking his sternum. When he returned home and healed, Driver applied to Julliard and got in. Since graduating, he’s landed the role of Adam on Girls, has been in countless other popular films, and is in the new Star Wars film. But before the fame, Driver was just trying to serve his country, telling GQ, “You’re put in these very heightened circumstances, and you learn a lot about who people are at the core, I think. You end up having this very intimate relationship where you would, like, die for these people.”

Charlie Murphy

While Eddie was making a name for himself as a gifted comedian, his brother Charlie Murphy was in the Navy trying to serve his country and stay out of trouble after doing almost a year in jail prior to enlisting. Charlie told Esquire that he learned a great deal while in the Navy for six years, including how to appreciate country music.

“You’re around a lot of people from different parts of the country. They’ve got different accents, different upbringings. I learned to love country-western music. In high school, you played that crap and it would start a fistfight. Being forced to cohabitate with guys from other parts of the American culture, you start liking that stuff. You realize there’s a reason why Tammy Wynette is Tammy Wynette.”

Drew Lachey

If you weren’t team NSYNC growing up or team Backstreet Boys, then the only option left was to be team 98 Degrees, which was led by Nick Lachey (Jessica Simpson’s ex-husband) and his brother Drew. But before Drew was singing and doing a two-step with the group, he was a combat medic in the Army, enlisting straight out of high school.

Bill Withers

You have the United States Navy to thank for Bill Withers’s classic music. After enlisting when he was 18 and serving for nine years, during that time, Withers cultivated his writing and singing talents, and was able to overcome a stuttering problem. Once his time in the Navy came to an end, Withers moved to L.A. in 1967 to pursue a career in music.

Jeff Bridges

The beloved actor known for everything from The Big Lebowski to Crazy Heart and The Last Picture Show joined the United States Coast Guard Reserve and served for seven years. He must have been following in the footsteps of his older brother, Beau Bridges, who is also a famous actor and did the same.

Flip Wilson

After struggling in foster homes and reform schools after his mother left and his father couldn’t afford to take care of him, Wilson, at the age of 16, joined the United States Air Force after lying about his age. His sense of humor made him a popular figure among his fellow servicemen, who were the ones who gave him the nickname “Flip.” They claimed it was because the comedian was always “flipped out.”

Sherman Hemsley

Way before The Jeffersons, Sherman Hemsley was in the United States Air Force for four years. After he had left, Hemsley decided to pursue acting. He moved to New York City and worked at the Post Office during the day to pay the bills while auditioning and acting at night.

James Avery

Another beloved and late TV figure, James Avery played Philip Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But before that, Avery enlisted in the United States Navy after graduating from high school. The actor even served in the Vietnam War for a year in the late ’60s.

Dr. Seuss

Before he was writing books with the complicated rhyme schemes (seriously, have you read Fox in Socks?!), and before he ditched some racist cartoons he created that he reportedly ended up regretting (in case one of you tries to bring it up in the comment section), Dr. Seuss was Theodor Geisel. He worked in the animation department for the United States Army during World War II, creating political cartoons and films in the role of a major to help get support up for the war effort.

Robin Quivers

The Howard Stern Show co-host joined the Air Force in 1975 and rose up the ranks quickly, including being appointed second lieutenant before entering active duty, and then first lieutenant and finally, captain. After being discharged in 1978, Quivers was a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve until 1990.

Harriet Tubman

A lot of people think Underground Railroad when they think Harriet Tubman, but she was also a spy for the Union Army, a nurse, and was the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War. Tubman knew that a Union win could finally help put an end to the slavery, so she offered her knowledge and services. Sadly, after all of her efforts, the U.S. government moved at a snail’s pace concerning compensation to Tubman through a pension, leaving her constantly in poverty. She didn’t receive it until 1899.

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