Remember that episode of Star Trek when lieutenant commander Montgomery Scott shot two snipers during the Invasion of Normandy to achieve a defensive position on D-Day? Or the time Obi Wan Kenobi recited Shakespeare while commanding a landing craft? If these events don’t ring a bell, it’s because you didn’t watch them on-screen; they happened in REAL LIFE.
Below are just a handful of the pop culture icons who achieved hero status long before they played a hero on television. And while you read, remember the countless men and women in the service who aren’t in the public eye, but continue to deserve out thanks and respect.
Best known for: Being a comedic producer, director, and writing legend
Before creating the beloved Space Balls, Mel Brooks served in the United States Army, defusing land mines in World War II. It is rumored he opposed Germans blasting propaganda over their loudspeakers during the Battle of the Bulge by rocking out to Jewish musician Al Jolson.
JAMES EARL JONES
Best known for: Darth Vader, Mufasa (Lion King)
Jones served as second lieutenant in a training unit of the Rocky Mountains during the Korean War. At the time of his discharge, he had achieved the ranking of first lieutenant, before moving to New York to study acting while working as a janitor.
Best known for: Obi Wan Kenobi, Prince Faisal (Lawrence of Arabia)
As if being a Jedi Master weren’t enough. In between productions of Hamlet, Great Expectations, and Henry V opposite Sir Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in WWII.
Best known for: Adam (Girls), Kylo Ren (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
Overwhelmed with a feeling of patriotic duty, Driver joined the U.S.M.C. after the attacks on September 11th, 2001. He speaks about entering the service in an insightful NPR interview, expanding on his reasons and how the military training informed his acting career down the line. “The discipline, the self-maintenance, the comradery—they’re so similar,” Driver says. “I don’t view acting as such a radical departure from the military.”
Best known for: Lex Luthor (Superman), Little Bill Daggett (Unforgiven)
Not always using his cunning genius for LuthorCorp status evil, Hackman felt the urge to serve his country so strongly that he lied about his age at 16 years old to join the Unites States Marine Corp as a field radio operator.
Best known for: Lucius Fox (Batman), Red (Shawshank Redemption)
Brilliant actor Morgan Freeman delayed his destiny when he rejected a drama scholarship to pursue his passion for flight, joining the U.S. Air Force instead.
Best known for: Dorothy Zbornak (Golden Girls)
Sigourney Weaver, move over (No don’t! Come back…). This Golden Girl spent almost 3 years as a United States Marine Corp truck driver, making her one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve.
Best known for: The French Chef
Her knowledge extends far beyond the pages of cookbooks, although she can whip up a mean batch of shark repellent. She began as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division in Washington, D.C. and finished her intelligence as head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat. If there was ever a real-life, American ‘M’, this is your woman. More government than military, but impressive nonetheless.
Best known for: Spock (Star Trek)
Nimoy’s achievments in arts, humanities, space exploration, and education are too numerous to count. But it was during his service in the United States Army Reserves where he developed his well-known acting career, writing and narrating various shows for military entertainment.
Best known for: Montgomery Scott (Star Trek)
You could make an entire television show based on Doohan’s military service. He was shot 4 times (albeit by friendly fire). A shot to the chest was stopped by a silver cigarette case! If you look closely, you’ll see throughout his acting career that he had to conceal a missing finger from this mishap. He later earned the label of “craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” by veering a Mark IV Auster plane between telegraph poles just to prove he could.
So many honorable veterans, so little time. Post who we missed below in the comments, and not just famous people, either!
If you’re mega-proud of a loved one’s service, feel free to share, and let us know if you’ve served as well. Geek & Sundry would like to extend a huge “thank you” to all those real-life heroes out there!
Featured Image: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) courtesy of Paramount Studios
Image Credits: History.com, BBC, Variety, Rodney Wright/ Daily Mail, MGM, Evening Tribune, Jezebel, PBS/Shutterstock MMCNews, The Bright, Free Republic