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The Quick 10: 10 More Celebrity Veterans

A couple of years ago on Veterans Day, we listed 10 celebrities who stopped what they were doing in the middle of a successful showbiz career to serve their country. We had a lot of mentions of other celebrities who also served before they were famous, and we thought today would be a good day to honor them as well. Here are just a few – feel free to share others in the comments. They don’t even have to be famous – if you just want to honor someone you know, we’re all ears.

1. Drew Carey. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years and has said it’s where he first acquired his signature black glasses and buzz cut look.
2. Kurt Vonnegut. Private Vonnegut was a prisoner of war who was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, he survived only because he was part of a group of Americans held captive in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker called Schlachthof Fünf – Slaughterhouse Five. Because they were underground when the city of Dresden was bombed, they were saved.
3. Steve McQueen. That rebellious act of Steve McQueen’s wasn’t really an act – although he was promoted to Private First Class in the Marine Corps, he was reportedly demoted back to Private seven times, including once when he stayed out long after a weekend pass had expired and had to be hauled back by the shore patrol. He was also heroic, though – he saved the lives of five Marines when he pulled them out of a tank just before it broke through ice and fell into the ocean.

4. Paul Newman. He was in the Navy and hoped to be a pilot until his color blindness was discovered. He ended up being a gunner instead and should have been at Okinawa, but his pilot developed ear infection and they were delayed. It was an ear infection that changed cinematic history: had Newman and his pilot gone when they should have, they likely would have been killed – the rest of their detail was.
5. Captain Kangaroo, AKA Bob Keeshan. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1945, but never saw combat. There’s long been a story floating around that Lee Marvin said he and Bob Keeshan served together at Iwo Jima, but much like the Mr. Rogers myth, this one is false – neither of them served at Iwo Jima.

6. Ed McMahon. Johnny Carson’s sidekick was a Marine Corps flight instructor for two years before finally getting his orders to fly in combat in 1945. They were canceled, however, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed. He did end up flying 85 combat missions during the Korean War, earning six Air Medals and retiring as a Colonel.
7. Johnny Carson. Speaking of Ed, there’s a rumor that McMahon was Johnny’s commanding officer in the military, but there’s no truth to it. The pair met for the first time in 1958. Johnny enrolled in the Navy in 1943, also hoping to be a pilot. He was assigned to be a midshipman instead. He reported for duty on August 14, 1945, which was the day Japan accepted surrender terms, marking the end of the war. As you might imagine, Carson’s military career was pretty quiet after that – he has said the highlight of the whole thing was getting to perform a magic trick for James Forrestal, then-Secretary of the Navy.

8. Bugs Bunny. Really. Warner Brothers produced a cartoon called “Super-Rabbit” where Bugs says, “This looks like a job for a real Superman!” then jumps into a phone booth to presumably change into his Superman costume. When he emerges, though, he’s in a Marines uniform singing the Marines’ Hymn. The Marine Corps loved the homage so much they officially inducted the fictional rabbit as a private, even producing real dog tags for him. He was officially discharged at the end of WWII as a Master Sergeant.

9. Montel Williams. You’ll never think of Montel Williams as a mere daytime talk show host again. He’s actually an incredibly accomplished veteran, serving 22 years in the military before leaving as a Lieutenant Commander. He started his career in the Marines, then was discharged when he was accepted to the Naval Academy. After earning a degree in General Engineering there, he spent years as a cryptology officer, notably during the invasion of Grenada. He has a slew of awards and medals under his belt.

10. Clint Eastwood. He may have the Army to thank for his movie career, actually. Eastwood was drafted into the Army in 1950, stationed at Fort Ord in California. Another man who was stationed there, Chuck Hill, had contacts in Hollywood and thought that he might do well in the movies. Guess he was right. Before then, though, Eastwood narrowly escaped death when a military plane he was crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He managed to use an inflatable raft to swim to shore, and testifying at a hearing about the incident prevented him from serving overseas in Korea.

Thanks for your service, veterans!


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