When it comes to celebrities who have served in the military at some point in their lives, there are usually two separate types: famous veterans, and veterans who are famous. The former are people who became famous for their military exploits, like “Chesty” Puller, while the latter are people who became famous through other means but served in the military at one point, like Elvis Presley. There are actually many high-profile celebrities who did a stretch in the military.
This is a list of a few celebrities whose military service may surprise you.
MC Hammer, or Stanley Kirk Burrell, is an American rapper who shot to celebrity status in the 1980s and 1990s with the release of a number of popular songs.
Before his entry into the music scene, Burrell had tried to achieve his dream of becoming a baseball player, but failed when he did not make it through tryouts. After this, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he served for three years. He was a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper at the time of his honorable discharge.
On top of speaking three different languages, legendary actor Charles Bronson served in the U.S. Air Force during WWII. He entered the service in 1943 as part of the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron.
In 1945, he served in the 61st Bombardment Squadron which operated from Guam in the Pacific. Here, he flew 25 missions as a B-29 Superfortress tail gunner and even received a Purple Heart for his battle wounds.
Adam Driver is most famous for his role as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise, but he’s less well-known for his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He enlisted after the September 11 attacks in 2001 and joined the 1st Marines as a mortar man. After two and a half years in the Marines, he had a mountain biking accident and fractured his sternum just before he and his unit left for Iraq. “To not get to go with that group of people I had been training with was…painful,” Driver said.
After earning the crown for Miss Israel in 2004, Gal Gadot served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Service in the IDF is mandatory for all Israelis over 18 including women, where they must serve for two to three years.
In the IDF, Gadot taught gymnastics and calisthenics, a position that gave her the ideal skills to perform in action movies: “You give two or three years, and it’s not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect.”
Probably the least shocking on this list is Chuck Norris. Norris is a legendary American film producer, actor, martial artist, and the only person to have counted to infinity, twice. Prior to his time as a movie star and the subject of internet memes, he served in the U.S. military.
He joined the Air Force in 1958 as an Air Policeman on Osan Air Base in South Korea. Here, he discovered his interest in martial arts, something that would propel him through his career. He was discharged from the U.S. Air Force in 1962.
Schwarzenegger has a list of achievements that could fill multiple libraries. He is the most famous bodybuilder in history, and once he retired from that sport, he tried his hand in Hollywood, again reaching the top of his field as one of the most famous stars ever — and for a time, the highest-paid. He managed to squeeze in the time to become the governor of California too.
Born in Austria, Schwarzenegger served a year in the Austrian Army in 1965, which was compulsory for all males over 18 at the time. While in the Army, Arnold snuck off his base to participate in the junior Mr. Europe bodybuilding competition.
He won the competition, but upon his return, he was placed in a military prison for a week. “Participating in the competition meant so much to me that I didn’t carefully think through the consequences,” Schwarzenegger said.
Freeman is well known for his interesting characters, deep voice, and calming persona. After leaving high school in 1955, he turned down a partial drama scholarship and instead chose to join the U.S. Air Force.
In the Air Force, Freeman served as a radar technician: “I took to it immediately,” he said. “I did three years, eight months, and ten days in all, but it took me a year and a half to get disabused of my romantic notions about it.”
Freeman left in 1959 and began his career in drama.