Five Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Veterans

When you think of famous military vets, the people who come to mind are most likely well-known for what they achieved while they wore the uniform. People like Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, or Colin Powell might be among the names that come to mind. However, we can’t forget just how many of our former military personnel have gone onto fame as civilians, after their service was complete.

The military can be a springboard to any of a number of careers, as shown by these five veterans who went on to fame after gaining structure, stability, and courage from their time honorably serving the people of the United States.

Pat Sajak

The game show emcee and one time talk show host spent his time in the service unsurprisingly in an entertainment-based capacity, honing his skills as a disc jockey for the AFVN during the Vietnam War. Sajak was for several years the voice that servicemen heard proclaim “Good Morning Vietnam” upon awaking every morning, the successor to the famed Adrian Cronauer.  Sajak continued to work as a DJ after returning to civilian life after the war, eventually getting the Wheel of Fortune hosting job that made him famous in 1983.

Adam Driver

He’s best known now for portraying Darth Vader’s heir apparent Kylo Ren in the newest Star Wars films, but before he ever picked up a lightsaber Adam Driver was a United States Marine. Like so many in his generation, Driver felt compelled to enlist after the September 11 attacks. Though he never deployed overseas due to a medical issue, he still carries the memory of his service with him. He currently operates Arts in the Armed Forces, a philanthropic group that brings high-quality theatrical performances to active-duty military and their families.

Mr. T

Famous as a tough guy, Mr. T cut his teeth among some of the toughest there are in the U.S. Army. A high school wrestling champ and college football player seeking structure in his life, Laurence Turead was a standout from the start, impressing his basic training instructors so much they voted him “Top Trainee” out of 6,000 recruits and appointed him squad leader. Once he was out of the service, he became an in-demand personal bodyguard for many celebrities before becoming a TV and movie star in his own right.

Bob Ross

Believe it or not, the soft-spoken host and artist at the center of PBS’s beloved Joy of Painting was a tough-talking drill instructor for nearly twenty years. Ross enlisted in the Air Force at 18, rising to the rank of Master Sergeant. His side hobby of selling the paintings he quickly made during his breaks turned into a full-time job when he left the service, and he eventually made his way to public television where he gained fame by serenely creating charming, quaint landscapes and encouraging viewers at home to paint along with him.

Ice T

The rapper turned actor formerly known as Tracy Marrow enlisted in the Army after graduating high school in 1979. Seeking structure and financial stability after a tumultuous childhood, Ice T served as a squad leader at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. After returning to civilian life, he released multiple gold and platinum albums but might now be best known for his role as Detective Odafin Tutuola on Law and Order: SVU.