Happy Veterans Day: TV Stars Who Have Served Their Country

TV Stars Who Have Served Their Country

Veterans Day celebrates the service of men and women who have served their country. While some TV stars are often celebrated for their acting work, we thought it would be appropriate to take some time to celebrate their military service.

Here’s a look at 10 TV stars who have served their country.

Rob Riggle

Rob Riggle

On ‘The Daily Show,’ Rob Riggle acted as a military correspondent, and on ‘NTSF:SD:SUV,’ Riggle plays the President of the Navy.  

While never rising to the impossible rank of President of the Navy, Riggle served for 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel. He retired only last January.

Riggle did service tours in both Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby at honorary service

Long before Bill Cosby played TV’s loveable dad, Cliff Huxtable, and even before his stand-up career, Cosby enlisted in the Navy.

Cosby gave four years of military service, where he trained as a hospital corpsman. He served as a medical aide at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. Later, the Navy assigned Cosby to the Bethesda Naval Hospital where he cared for Korean War casualties.

In 2011, the Navy held a ceremony where Cosby was recognized as an honorary chief petty officer. He joked to the crowd about why he joined the Navy. "I want to be in the Navy, because no matter how you die, you're in the middle of the ocean and it will wash out your underpants and that will make my mother very happy.”

Drew Carey

Drew Carey

 Drew Carey has had a long and successful TV career—‘The Drew Carey Show,’ ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?,’ and ‘The Price is Right.’ Much of that success is owed to his years of service.

After joining the Marine Corps Reserves, Carey adopted his signature look—a military buzz cut and standard-issue bold, thick-rimmed glasses. While serving, he decided on doing some stand-up to make a few extra dollars, and an entertainment career was soon to follow.

Following Carey’s fame, he continued to give back to the service, doing several USO tours.  

Jack Klugman

Jack Klugman

Known for his work opposite co-star Tony Randall on ‘The Odd Couple,’ and his role as a crime fighting coroner on ‘Quincy M.E.,’ Jack Klugman was a face on television for many years during the '70s and '80s.

In an interview, Klugman told a story about going for an examination with the WWII draft board with his brother. He thought that there would be little chance that they would choose his brother, who was married and had a glass eye. After they rejected Jack and drafted his brother, Klugman wrote an angry letter to the draft board. They invited him in for another examination and drafted him into the war where he served for six months before being discharged due to health issues with his kidneys. 

Klugman passed away on Dec. 24, 2012.

Charles Durning

Charles Durning

Charles Durning passed away on the same day as Klugman. On ‘Evening Shade,’ Durning played Dr. Harlan Elldridge, a role that earned him two Emmy nominations. Later, he received Outstanding Guest Actor nominations for roles on ‘Homicide: Life on the Street,’ ‘NCIS,’ and ‘Rescue Me.’

According to the New York Times, Durning was in the first wave of troops to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was the sole survivor after his unit ran into a machine gun ambush. During the Battle of the Bulge, his company was captured and marched to Malmedy. During the infamous massacre of prisoners, he managed to escape. For his services, he was given a Silver Star for valor, and three Purple Hearts.

Laurence Tureaud aka Mr. T

Mr. T

It’s difficult to think of what the '80s would be like without Mr. T. After playing Clubber Lang in ‘Rocky III,’ Mr. T became B.A. Baracus in ‘The A-Team.’ While the falsely accused A-Team escaped military police to find safety in Los Angeles, the real life Laurence Tureaud was at one time a part of the military police.

After joining the United States Army, Tureaud was recommend by his drill sergeant to take the role of squad leader, which he accepted. He was once given punishment by his Platoon Sergeant, with the detail of having to chop down trees in a specified area. Tureaud single-handedly chopped down 70 trees in three-and-a-half hours before being relieved of his detail.

Tracy Lauren Marrow aka Ice-T


From Mr. T to Ice-T, Ice-T has been on ‘Law & Order: SVU’ long enough that he can be considered a TV star at this point. Before that he was a notorious rapper. And before that, he served for four years in the Army in the 25th Infantry Division.

The Army deployed Ice-T in Hawaii where he became a squad leader. During his time there, he started in a direction focusing on music. He purchased turntables, a mixer, and some speakers. His career in entertainment all followed his time doing military service.

Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur

The late Bea Arthur, who starred as ‘Maude,’ and Dorothy on ‘The Golden Girls,’ had a long and successful career on television. In both of those roles she played strong characters. Her strong characters reflected her own personality. A Marine enlistment interviewer described her as, “probably a good worker--if she has her own way!”

When Arthur read about the opportunity to enlist in the Marines, she decided it was a good opportunity. She began as a typist in Washington, D.C. From there, she worked at Marine Corps and Navy air stations in Virginia and North Carolina. During her service her rank climbed to staff sergeant.

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris

The myth surrounding Chuck Norris, with all of the Chuck Norris jokes included, all began well before he starred as ‘Walker, Texas Ranger.’ It was during Norris’ service in the Air Force where he began to train in martial arts.

He joined the Air Force to become a police officer, becoming military police during his time in the service. When he was sent to Osan Air Base in South Korea, he engaged a new interest in martial arts, starting with studying a form of Tang Soo Do. He was the first Westerner to become an 8th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and for years he was undefeated as a Karate champion.

Jim Beaver

Jim Beaver

Actor Jim Beaver has had several roles on shows such as ‘Star Trek: Enterprise,’ ‘Deadwood,’ and ‘Supernatural.’ Before taking up acting, he had a distinguished career working in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Beaver trained as a microwave radio technician, becoming a radio operator in 1970 in the 1st Marine Regiment in Da Nang, Vietnam. Later, he became a supply chief for his division.

Beaver has credited his military experience as giving him confidence to take on challenges that come from working in Hollywood.

These are just 10 TV personalities who have served their country. Other notable TV actors with service include: Bob Newhart, Jamie Farr, Dennis Franz, Vincent Pastore, Don Knotts, Dabney Coleman, Tom Selleck, and many more.

On this Veterans Day, we’d like to thank anyone, TV personality or not, who has given service to their country. 

- Bill Cosby
- Drew Carey
- Chuck Norris
- Beatrice Arthur
- Jim Beaver
- Ice-T
- Rob Riggle
- Mr. T
- Charles Durning
- Jack Klugman

Written by: Robert_Steele
Nov 10th, 2013, 8:46 pm

Images courtesy of Kevin Winter, Neilson Barnard, CNN, New York Post, Reed Saxon, Charles Dharapak, Crave Online, Jesse Grant, Brad Barket


Message Posted On Nov 11th, 2013, 12:36 pm
How can one omit R. Lee Ermey from this list? " Ermey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1961. Ermey was a drill instructor at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, and Parris Island, South Carolina from 1965 to 1967. Ermey served in Vietnam 14 months with the Marine Wing Support Group 17 beginning in 1968. He then served two tours of duty in Okinawa, Japan, during which he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-6) and was medically discharged in 1972 for several injuries incurred during his tours". or Dennis Franz "He graduated from Southern Illinois University and was immediately drafted into the military. He served 11 month in Vietnam in a reconnaissance unit, and after his service he suffered depression for some time afterwards." How does one miss a COMBAT VET? While I'm at it the most glaringly obvious omissions are Audie Murphy, who's life reads like an action film. And Eddie Albert.

Message Posted On Nov 11th, 2013, 9:32 am
I heard about Rob being corps vet, but had no idea he rose to Lt. Col. I guess to be funny you need to be smart. Sempre Fi to all men and women USMC !

Level 2 (77%)
Since: 02/Mar/10
Message Posted On Nov 10th, 2013, 10:25 pm

I was just thinking of Charles Durning's NCIS guest role (in 2x07 "Call of Silence"), whie watching "11x07 - Better Angels" (another WWII veteran themed episode). I haven't seen anything to confirm it, but maybe NCIS tries to air a Vet themed show every early November?


Message Posted On Nov 10th, 2013, 9:28 pm
Pretty awesome, would be cool to see other stars from around the world who served in their own or adopted countries.
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