To mark Memorial Day on May 31, 2021, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at some of the stars who've served our country and others as members of the military. Let's start with this TV star… Fact: Chuck Norris acquired his mad martial arts skills as an air policeman in the U.S. Air Force. Fact: He joined up in 1958 and was stationed in South Korea, where he began training in Tang Soo Do. Fact: After four years in the service, Chuck opened a chain of karate schools. Fact: Chuck Norris isn't afraid of the dark; the dark is afraid of Chuck Norris.
Keep reading for more stars who've served in the military…
"Star Wars" franchise actor Adam Driver joined the United States Marine Corps shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. After serving for nearly three years, Adam was badly injured in a mountain biking accident, which resulted in his medical discharge, after which he went to college and studied drama at Juilliard. In 2006, Adam and now-wife Joanne Tucker founded Arts in the Armed Forces, a nonprofit that brings arts programming to veterans, active-duty service members, support staff plus their families.
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"Magnum P.I." alum Tom Selleck often takes on roles that play to his innate masculinity and toughness, but it seems the "Blue Bloods" actor has some life experience to back it up. During the Vietnam War, Tom was drafted and served in the California National Guard from 1967 to 1973.
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In December 2019, Playboy scion Cooper Hefner joined the United States Air Force after stepping down as chief of global partnerships at his late father Hugh Hefner's Playboy Enterprises empire. In February 2020, Cooper — whose dad served in the Army — took to Instagram to share photos of himself in uniform during a family visit weekend amid basic training, captioning it, "I'm proud to serve my county in the United States Air Force. I'm proud to be an Airman." A few months later, he launched an exploratory campaign as he considers running for the California Senate in the state's 30th District as a Democrat.
Actress Carly Schroeder, who's appeared on shows like "Lizzie McGuire" and in movies like "Rites of Passage," joined the U.S. Army in 2019. The actress told "Inside Edition," "If you can survive Hollywood, I think you can survive the Army." The actress graduated from basic combat training in July 2019 and completed Officer Candidate School that September, emerging as a second lieutenant.
Back in the late '70s, rapper-actor Ice-T spent four years in the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division. Ice joined up at 19 as a way to provide for his infant daughter.
"Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot served in the Israel Defense Forces for two years after graduating from high school. In her native country, service is mandatory for all Israeli men and women. While in uniform, the future action hero worked as a combat trainer. "I taught gymnastics and calisthenics," she told Maxim. Gal valued her time in the military. "In Israel serving is part of being an Israeli. You've got to give back to the state. You give two or three years, and it's not about you. You give your freedom away. You learn discipline and respect," she told Glamour magazine.
Comedy star Rob Riggle was a U.S. Marine for 23 years — first on active duty for nine years and then as a member of the Marine Corps Reserves. The "Step Brothers" and "The Daily Show" star — a trained pilot who completed two tours in Afghanistan — retired from the USMC in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel. "It made me mentally tough, which is what you have to be in show business," he once told Marines Mag.
Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgard was 19 when he began his national service in the Swedish military. "I come from a very bohemian family, grew up in an urban environment so the notion of being in the military in the islands running around with a gun was very foreign to what I believe in and how I was raised," he told the Tribune News Service in 2018 of serving 18 months in the SäkJakt ("protect and hunt") unit, which focused on anti-sabotage and anti-terrorism in the Stockholm archipelago. "But for some reason, I felt a strong desire to do it. There was something about the challenge of it … I had three guys on my team and we were out on the islands and had to be self-sufficient for a long time. It taught me a lot about planning and organizing and leadership and the dynamics within a group. And I feel I matured a lot while I was there. That was a huge shift. There were moments I hated it, but in hindsight I'm very glad I did it." The "True Blood" and "Big Little Lies" star completed his service in 1996.
Like many on this list, Oliver Stone joined the military after being drafted during the Vietnam War. The filmmaker requested combat duty. From 1967 to 1968, he served in the U.S Army in Vietnam with the 2nd Platoon of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry and was wounded in action twice. The director is one of the more decorated celebrities and has military awards that include the Bronze Star for valor, the Purple Heart with an oak leaf cluster, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
"True Grit" star Jeff Bridges, as well as older brother Beau Bridges, served eight years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. Jeff joined up at 18 after graduating from high school. In 2011, the Bridges brothers and actor dad Lloyd Bridges, who also served, were honored with the USCG's Lone Sailor Award, which celebrates Coast Guard vets who have distinguished themselves in their subsequent careers.
In 1965, the Governator served exactly one year in the Austrian army in order to fulfill his homeland's requirement for all 18-year-old males. But Arnold Schwarzenegger was no dream soldier: He spent a week in military prison for going AWOL during basic training. What caused the bodybuilder and future movie star to skip out on his duty? The Junior Mr. Europe contest — which he won.
Stand-up star Sinbad served in the U.S. Air Force as a boom operator on refueling planes. It was during this time in 1981 that he competed as a comedian in the Air Force Talent Contest. He was dishonorably discharged in 1982. "I wanted out because I had achieved all that I could achieve," he told The Morning Call. "I wanted to get on with my life; the Air Force wanted me to re-enlist. We had a problem. I went AWOL, mockingly impersonated an officer and, as the final insult, parked my car facing the wrong way at the base. By the time I was discharged, I had no rank, no sleeves, no shirt. I spent the next couple of years hitching rides on Greyhound buses from one comedy club to another."
After he was expelled from Kansas State University for the second time, funnyman Drew Carey decided it was time for a change of pace. "I just had to get out on my own," Drew told Time magazine. "I didn't have a place to live, and I was sleeping on my brother's couch." He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, where he served for six years. "The Marines was a fresh start — that is why they shave your head," said the sitcom star-turned-"Price Is Right" host.
After graduating from high school, future Oscar winner Morgan Freeman turned down a drama scholarship to attend Jackson State University to instead pursue his dream of becoming a fighter pilot. But his service in the Air Force wasn't what Morgan expected — rather than flying the skies, he served as a mechanic and radar technician. "I had this very clear epiphany," he told AARP Magazine. "You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this."
If we had to venture a guess, we'd bet music star Shaggy wasn't so "shaggy" while serving as a field artillery cannon crewman in the U.S. Marine Corps. The singer enlisted in 1988 just after he relocated with his family from their native Jamaica to New York City. "I didn't know what I was getting into, so I decided to go with the one with the good uniform — because I figured at least I could pull chicks in it," he told Navy Times. Shaggy went on to serve during the Persian Gulf War.
Hollywood's favorite cowboy was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Clint Eastwood was stationed on the central coast of California, where he served as a lifeguard and earned the rank of corporal. He never made it to Korea with the rest of his unit: When they were deployed, Clint was entangled in an investigation into the crash of an aircraft on which he was a passenger.
We pity the fools who came up against Laurence Tureaud when he served in the Military Police Corps. "A-Team" star Mr. T enlisted in the U.S. Army after he was expelled from Prairie View A&M University. He so excelled in the Army that he was named top trainee of his training cycle and was promoted to squad leader.
Before he claimed the Mirrorball Trophy on "Dancing With the Stars," J.R. Martinez served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman. He was deployed to Iraq in February 2003. Two months later, he suffered burns over 40% of his body when a Humvee he was driving hit an IED. The explosion marked the end of J.R.'s Army career, but it launched his career as a motivational speaker and, later, soap opera actor on "All My Children."
Before he coined one of the most popular dance crazes in modern history, Stanley Kirk Burrell — better known as music star MC Hammer — spent three years in the U.S. Navy. The rapper joined up after failing to launch his career as a professional baseball player. He served as a petty officer third class aviation store keeper until he was honorably discharged.
We know him as The King, but as a member of the U.S. Army, Elvis only earned the rank of sergeant. He was drafted in 1958 and after receiving special offers from the Navy, Army, and Special Services, decided to enlist in the Army as a regular soldier. "The Army can do anything it wants with me," he famously said. The rocker was deployed to Germany after training. During his two years of service, he reportedly donated his military pay to charity, bought TV sets for his base and purchased an extra set of Army fatigues for everyone in his outfit.