Memorial Day is about honoring the men and women who have served in the armed forces and recognizing all that they give in defense of freedom. On this glorious holiday, we show our appreciation for our armed brother and sisters by proudly flying flags, watching our favorite military movies, and celebrating freedom.
Today, we recognize celebrities who answered the call of duty, enlisting to serve in the military before going on to have memorable careers in the entertainment spotlight. To those celebrities below: We salute you!
1. Drew Carey
Unrecognizable and totally recognizable at the same time, this Dolph Lundgren look-alike served in the Marine Corps from 1980–1986. It was during his enlistment that Carey adopted his signature crew cut hairstyle.
2. Gene Hackman
Lex Luthor served in the Marine Corps from 1947–1949, starting off as a radio operator before transitioning into a permanent news-casting role. He didn't follow orders very clearly, however — he was demoted three times for leaving his post without permission.
3. Johnny Cash
The Man in Black served from 1950–1954, and specialized in Morse code intercepting Soviet Army transmissions while stationed in Landsberg, Germany. He certainly proved to have a good ear when he was the first radio operator to pick up news about Joseph Stalin's death.
4. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman enlisted right out of high school, turning down a college scholarship to join the US Air Force from 1955–1959. He worked primarily as a Radar Repairman and made it all the way to Airman 1st Class. Though he didn't see any battle time, it's hard not to imagine this guy on the front lines fighting and narrating the whole thing at the same time!
5. Chuck Norris
Chuck served from 1958–1962. Or did the United States serve him? He enlisted after high school and wanted to train Security Police for future employment in law enforcement. It was in South Korea that he discovered his affinity for martial arts.
It's been said that with one roundhouse kick, he single-footedly ended the Vietnam War! Bam!
We couldn't find a great photo of Chuck in his military days, so here he is kicking ass on Walker, Texas Ranger:
6. Hugh Hefner
The Hef served from 1944 –1946, during WW2. His interest in journalism landed him a position as an infantry clerk, where he contributed cartoons to the newspaper.
He's been serving lonely males since 1953, when the first Playboy was printed, featuring Marilyn Monroe.
7. Clint Eastwood
Was there any reason not to believe Dirty Harry didn't serve in the military? Eastwood was drafted out of Seattle University in 1951, where he was moved down to California to serve as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. We sort of expected something a little more badass , no? He was released from service in 1953.
8. Leonard Nimoy
That's right! The man known for his iconic portrayal of the Vulcan Spock actually served in the US Army Reserve. He served from 1953–1955, spending part of his time working in the Army Special Services, entertaining troops with shows that he himself wrote and emceed.
9. Mel Brooks
Due to his impressively high intelligence score in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), Brooks was sent to Virginia to learn advanced skills like military engineering, horsemanship, and saber-wielding. Eventually, the funny man served as a WW2 combat engineer specializing in land mine deactivation. He said that his sense of humor got him through it. That part isn't a surprise!
10. Kris Kristofferson
Kristofferson proved to be a damn good soldier. After his enlistment in 1961, he was promoted to the rank of Captain in the US Army, eventually making his way to West Germany to join the 8th Infantry Division. It was his service that lead to the creation of his first band and a budding music career. Sadly, members his family disowned him for leaving the service in 1965. You've still got our support, Kris!
11. James Earl Jones
Along with Morgan Freeman, this is another guy I'd like to serve beside, just to hear him narrate the whole damn battle. He served from 1953–1955, and was expected to deploy to Korea with the intensifying conflict. Thankfully, he was instead sent to the rugged Rocky mountains where his battalion became a training unit.
Serving from 1979–1983 in the 25th Infantry Division, Tracy Lauren Marrow joined the army as a way to turn his drug-selling life around. It was during this time that he discovered hip-hop music, kickstarted by the release of Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight"
13. Mr. T.
Another Big T, Laurence Tureaud enlisted in the Army in the mid-1970s, and was awarded a letter of recommendation by his drill sergeant in 1975. During a punishment exercise, T was ordered to chop trees until told otherwise. A shocked major called off the punishment after only 3.5 hours when Tureaud singlehandedly felled 70 trees.
14. Alan Alda
Go figure! Alan served joined the Army Reserve, and did a six month tour of duty during the Korean War, which was, of course, the war in M*A*S*H. During his 11 year tour on the show as Hawkeye, Alda won five Emmy Awards.
15. George Carlin
George enlisted in the Air Force in 1954 as a way to cover the costs of broadcasting school. Carlin wasn't great military material, as he was court-martialed three times before being discharged in 1957. Alrighty then!
16. Elvis Presley
We'll end this with quite possibly the most recognizable face ever. The King served from 1958–1960 in the 3rd Armored Division. During the time of his enlistment he was already a well-known entertainer. Despite several offers to join special entertainment divisions of the Army, Elvis insisted on serving as an infantry soldier, saying he enlisted to prove that he didn't want to be different than anyone else. Yes, just like everyone else who gets to wield a bazooka:
His military service paid off, as he was able to market his rock n' roll music to an older crowd, thanks to his military brethren.
Memorial Day also kicks off the start of the summer movie season, with X-Men: Apocalypse dominating over Disney's Alice in Wonderland sequel. Our very own Captain America saw good news this weekend with Civil War earning the title of highest grossing domestic film of the year. Hooah!