10 awesome celebrities who served in the military - We Are The Mighty
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10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

There are many famous people who served in the United States Military. Some were drafted, some had the choice between jail or service, and some felt the call and volunteered.

From World War II to 9/11 and beyond, these celebrities served their country before they became famous — except for Elvis. Elvis was always a star.

Note: There are some celebrities who are already well known for their military service (like everyone’s favorite Gunny, R. Lee Ermey). You won’t see them on this list, since our goal was to point out celebrities whose military service isn’t as well known.


In no particular order, these are ten awesome celebrities who served in the U.S. Armed Forces:

Rob Riggle Is Golfing For Veterans

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1. Rob Riggle, United States Marine Corps

Rob Riggle served in the United States Marine Corps for over 20 years. After graduating from the University of Kansas, he went through Officer Candidate School. Though he originally had the intention of becoming a pilot, he realized that he wanted to pursue comedy, so he became a Public Affairs Officer instead. After his Active Duty service commitment was complete, he transitioned into the reserves, where he served for 14 more while doing comedy and acting full time.

Riggle served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan during his time in service. Now retired, he continues to help the veteran community through initiatives like his Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic, a veteran-celebrity golf tournament that raises money and awareness for veteran non-profits, like Semper Fi Fund, an organization that assists service members and their families.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

(Photo by Bob Sandberg)

2. Jackie Robinson, United States Army

Jackie Robinson was drafted to the United States Army in 1942, where he was assigned to a segregated Army cavalry unit before applying to Officer Candidate School. His application was delayed due to the color of his skin, but, after protests by heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, he was accepted. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in January, 1943.

In August, 1944, he faced court-martial for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, a segregated location known for its racism.

On July 6, 1944, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus. Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. Angry from the way he was treated and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait for the MPs in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.

He was charged with two accounts of insubordination. His defense would win out, however, and Robinson was freed. He medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle and went on to become the first African American to play Major League Baseball.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

It looks like a mug shot, but that’s an OG CAC picture on the left.

3. Bea Arthur, United States Marine Corps

The late Bea Arthur served as a truck driver in the U.S. Marine Corps. She enlisted into the Women’s Reservists during World War II at the age of 21 under her maiden name, Bernice Frankel. A handwritten letter of hers states,

I was supposed to start work yesterday, but heard last week that enlistments for women in the Marines were open, so decided the only thing to do was join.

She was stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. She was honorably discharged after the war at the rank of Staff Sergeant. She would marry a fellow Marine, Private Robert Aurthur, and go on to have a successful career in the arts.

Any fan of Arthur’s incisive Dorothy on Golden Girls won’t be surprised to hear that Arthur’s enlistment interviewer described her as “argumentative” and “officious — but probably a good worker — if she has her own way!”

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

4. Bob Ross, United States Air Force

Robert Norman Ross, better known as the friendly painter Bob Ross, enlisted in the Air Force at age 18 and went on to serve for 20 years. While stationed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, Florida-native Ross saw snow and mountains for the first time, which would influence his serene landscape choices as he began his prolific painting career.

It might be surprising to know that while in the Air Force, Ross became a Drill Instructor.

I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work. The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it. I promised myself that if I ever got away from it, it wasn’t going to be that way anymore.

True to his word, he developed The Joy of Painting, his famous program where he taught others to paint with an uplifting and soft-spoken demeanor that has become famous around the world.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Semper Fi,​

5. Adam Driver, U.S. Marine Corps

Adam Driver, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and became an infantry mortarman after the 9/11 attacks. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s (eighty-ones) Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines and was training for his first deployment when he sustained an injury that would result in a medical discharge.

After his service, Driver founded a non-profit organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings high-quality arts programming to active duty service members, veterans, military support staff, and their families around the world free of charge with the intention of bridging the divide between civilians and the military.

Of his military career, Driver once said, “In the military, you learn the essence of people. You see so many examples of self-sacrifice and moral courage. In the rest of life you don’t get that many opportunities to be sure of your friends.”

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Montel Williams at the premiere of ‘War, Inc.’

(Photo by David Shankbone)

6. Montel Williams, United States Marine Corps and United States Navy

Talk show host Montel Williams enlisted in the United States Marines Corps after high school and completed basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, before going to the Desert Warfare Training Center at Twentynine Palms, California. After impressing his superiors with his leadership skills, he was recommended for the Naval Academy Preparatory School at Newport, Rhode Island. He was then accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Upon graduation, he became a cryptologic officer for the United States Navy. He served in Guam before transferring to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, where he studied Russian for a year before putting his linguistic skills to use for the National Security Agency. He served aboard submarines for three years before he decided to separate from the military and pursue public and motivational speaking full time.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Elvis Presley inventing ‘Blue Steel’ during his military service in Germany.

7. Elvis Presley, United States Army

After one deferment to complete the film King Creole, Elvis Aron Presley reported for U.S. Army basic training at Fort Hood on March 24, 1958, where he was assigned to the Second Armored Division’s ‘Hell on Wheels’ unit. His induction was a major event that attracted fans and media attention.

After basic, Presley sailed to Europe aboard the USS General Randall to serve with the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. By March, 1960, Sergeant Presley finished his military commitment and received an honorable discharge from active duty.

Reflecting on his service, Presley once told Armed Forces Radio and Television that he was determined to go to any limits to prove himself — and he did, though his career as an artist was never too far from reach. Shortly after returning to the United States, he shot the film G-I Blues, a musical comedy where Presley played a tank crewman with a singing career.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

8. Jimi Hendrix, United States Army

Jimi Hendrix, one of rock’s greatest guitar players, served a brief, thirteen-month stint with the famed U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division — nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles” — just a few years before his epic rise to rockstardom in the late 60s. Hendrix wanted to enlist as a musician but had no formal music training, so he opted for the 101st Airborne Division.

Months after joining the Screaming Eagles, life as a paratrooper began to wear on Hendrix’s morale. He was constantly reprimanded for dereliction of duties.

Jimi just wanted to play his guitar. His days as a paratrooper came to an end on his 26th jump when he broke his ankle.

Hendrix began exploring the Fort Campbell area nightlife before venturing down to nearby Nashville where he began jamming with local bluesmen. It was in that vibrant music scene that he met fellow service member and bassist Billy Cox. In September, 1963, after Cox was discharged from the Army, Hendrix and Cox formed a band called the King Kasuals, but it was later in New York City where Hendrix would catch the break that would help him become the rockstar he’s remembered as today.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

9. Kurt Vonnegut,  United States Army

Kurt Vonnegut enlisted in the United States Army during World War II. In 1944, then-Private First Class Kurt Vonnegut was captured by the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge. He, along with boxcars full of fellow POWs, were taken to the German city of Dresden and forced to work – until the city was firebombed by the Allies. Vonnegut and a few others survived the devastation, in what looked like a different, horrifying new world.

Slaughterhouse Five is named after the underground bunker in which he waited out the bombing. The book is the story of a man who became “unstuck in time,” floating back to the past at seemingly random times. It has become one of the most famous PTSD flashback stories and one of the most banned books of all-time.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

10. Kris Kristofferson, U.S. Army

Before he was a recording artist, Kris Kristofferson, under pressure from his family and following in the footsteps of his Air Force General father before him, joined the U.S. Army.

Kristofferson trained as a Ranger and a helicopter pilot, eventually reaching the rank of Captain while stationed in Germany. But then he received orders to West Point to teach English.

He chose to separate from the Army to pursue a music career instead, but served in the Tennessee National Guard when he needed to make ends meet. It was during that time when he infamously stole a helicopter and landed it on Johnny Cash’s lawn, a bold move that would pay off when Cash, a fellow veteran, recorded Kristofferson’s song and began an epic musical friendship.

In 2003, he was presented with the “Veteran of the Year” Award at the 8th Annual American Veterans Awards.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Union general challenged Karl Marx to a duel

The history of Communism goes way far beyond the rise of Vladimir Lenin and the Soviet Union. The idea of a class struggle had been kicking around before Marx even started writing Das Kapital. In fact, the idea of a worker’s paradise was much more popular in even the United States before the Bolsheviks went and killed the Americans’ friend Tsar Nicholas II. There were even avowed Communists in the Union Army fighting the Civil War.


10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

J. Edgar Hoover does not approve.

In the days well before the Communist revolutions that put the Red Scare into everyday Americans, everyday Americans weren’t totally against the idea. One such American was Johann August Ernst von Willich, a Prussian-born American who emigrated to Ohio in 1853. Less than a decade after coming to his adopted homeland, the Civil War broke out, and the man who dropped his noble Prussian titles and settled on being August Willich, a newspaper editor from Cincinnati soon took up the Union blue as Brigadier General August Willich.

Before coming to the United States, however, he led a very different life.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Okay, maybe a similar life but for different reasons.

Born into a military family, Willich’s father was a Prussian captain of the Hussars, an elite light cavalry regiment. His father was killed in the Napoleonic Wars that ravaged Europe in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. He was sent to live with a relative who sent him to military schools in Potsdam and Berlin. He was soon a distinguished Prussian Army Artillery officer. But his experiences in wartime Europe began to change his political views.

At a time when much of Europe was still raging over the idea of republicanism and democracy versus long-established monarchies, Willich was just turning Republican when he decided to leave the Prussian Army. After a brief court-martial, he was allowed to resign. Then he lent his martial skills to the wave of political uprisings engulfing Europe in 1848. From Spain in the West to Hungary in the East, and Sweden in the North to Italy in the South, regular working people were tired of the conditions of their daily lives, under the boot of absolute monarchs and began to rise against their entrenched kings and queens – with varying degrees of success.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Thomas Jefferson approves.

But Willich’s views were much further to the left than mere Republicanism allowed. Willich was forced to flee to London after the uprisings of 1848 were largely put down. That suppression only strengthened his resolve and pushed him further. He became a Communist to the left of even Karl Marx, a man considered by Willich and his associates to be too conservative to be the face of the movement. While Willich’s friends plotted to kill Marx, Willich simply insulted the writer publicly and challenged him to a duel. Marx declined, but a close friend of Marx decided to fight the duel – and was wounded for his troubles.

Willich then came to the United States working in Brooklyn before making the trek to Ohio. When the Civil War broke out, the onetime Prussian field commander raised an army of Prussian-Americans and took the field with the Union Army at Shiloh, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Kennesaw Mountain, among other places. Willich would rise to the rank of Brevet Major General, having fought in the entirety of the Civil War.

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4 awesome traditions to look for at the Army-Navy Game

Along with more than 100 years of history, the game comes steeped in traditions that range from the usual smack talk between fans to events that can only be found when Army plays Navy.


Almost all American sporting events feature the National Anthem, many games get a U.S. military flyover, and every sports rivalry is characterized by fans going above and beyond to demonstrate their team spirit. The Army-Navy Game has all of those, except this game gets a flyover from two service branches and fans in attendance willing to break strict uniform regulations to show their spirit.

Along with the traditions typical of every other sporting event, the Army-Navy Game comes with the added traditions of two military academies that are older than the sport they’re playing, of military branches whose own traditions date back to the founding of the United States, and a unique culture developed through the history of American military training.

And despite the intense rivalry, it’s all in good fun.

1. The Prisoner Exchange

Before the game kicks off, seven West Point cadets and seven Annapolis midshipmen will march to midfield in Philadelphia to be returned to their home military academies. These “prisoners” were sent to their rival service academies in the Service Academy Exchange Program, which sends students from each of four service academies (along with West Point and Annapolis, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy also participate) for the fall semester.

The prestigious, competitive exchange program began its semester-long life in 1975 and has remained the same ever since. Each academy sends seven sophomore students to the other academies. The “Prisoner Exchange” allows the visiting cadets and mids to sit with their team’s fans.

2. The Army-Navy Drumline Battle

At the Army-Navy Game, there’s more confrontation than just what happens on the football field. Before the game, the bands representing each branch engage in a drumline – one as much about showmanship as it is about skills with the sticks.

3. “The March On”

Before the kickoff of every Army-Navy Game, the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy and the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy take the field. No, not just the teams playing the game that day, the entire student body — thousands of people — march on the field in the way only drilled and trained U.S. troops can.

4. “Honoring the Fallen”

Every Army-Navy Game is going to see one loser and one winner. No matter what the outcome of the game, the players sing both teams’ alma maters. The winners will join the losing team, facing the losing side’s fans. Then, the two groups will do the same for the winning team. It’s a simple act of respectful sportsmanship that reminds everyone they’re on the same side.

To date, this tradition hasn’t caught on across college teams, but it might be happening as we speak. The Navy team invites every school it plays to sing “Navy Blue and Gold” after the game, and sometimes they do, like in 2014, when the Ohio State Buckeyes joined in.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy story of the only underwater sub battle in history

America has 50 attack submarines in active service designed to tail and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships. China and Russia have dozens more.

Strangely enough, only one submarine battle has been fought underwater in over 100 years of modern submarine warfare — it was a World War II action that saw a British sub with limited firepower attack a much larger German adversary.


10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Captured German U-boats sit after the war. The one on the right is a Type IX similar to U-864.

(Imperial War Museums)

The fight took place in 1945, near the end of the war. British intelligence intercepted communications about Operation Caesar, an attempt by Germany to send advanced technology to Japan, helping it stay in the war and, hopefully, buying the Axis a few more months to turn everything around.

The Germans had loaded prototypes and advanced weapon designs as well as German and Japanese scientists onto U-864 with massive amounts of liquid mercury for transport to Japan. Some of the most exciting pieces of technology onboard were jet engines from German manufacturers.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Corvette Capt. Rolf-Reimar Wolfram, commander of U-864.

Operation Caesar was launched on Dec. 5, 1944, under the command of Corvette Capt. Ralf-Reimar Wolfram. His rank is the equivalent of a U.S. lieutenant commander or major — fairly junior for such an important mission.

His initial plan was solid. The Allies controlled much of the water he would have to transit, and the beginning was the most dangerous. Britain had solid control of the North Sea, so Wolfram decided to stick to the coast and allow German shore installations to protect him.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

“Tallboy” and “Grand Slam” earthquake bombs penetrated the surface of the Earth and detonated underground, channeling most of their power through the rock and broke structures like submarine pens, canals, roads, and other targets.

(Imperial War Museums)

Unfortunately for him, he grounded his sub while going through the Kiel Canal and had to head to drydock for repairs. While the boat was being repaired at Bergen, Norway, an attack by British planes dropping “earthquake bombs” damaged the pen and the sub, further delaying the mission.

This delay would prove fatal. Britain had intercepted early communications about the mission, and the delay gave them a chance to send a British submarine to intercept the German one. The HMS Venturer was sent to Fedje, Norway.

Venturer was a fast attack submarine, quick, but with a smaller crew and armament than its enemy. It could fire four torpedoes at once and had a total inventory of eight torpedoes to U-864’s 22.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

The HMS Venturer in 1943.

(Imperial War Museums)

The British sub, under command of Lt. James S. Launders, moved into position on Feb. 6, 1945. Launders was a distinguished sub commander with 13 kills to his name, including the destruction of a surfaced German submarine. The technological challenges he was facing would still be daunting, though.

The Venturer had only two methods of finding an enemy sub, hydrophones or active sonar. The active sonar would give away his position, but the hydrophones had a limited range. And the boat’s torpedoes were designed to attack ships on the surface.

Worse for Launders and his crew, by the time he arrived, Wolfram and U-864 had already passed their position. The German sub was safely beyond the British position.

But then the German sub’s diesel engines began to misfire. Wolfram had a decision: press forward with his mission and risk engine trouble or failure while sailing north past the Baltic countries and Russia and through the Arctic Circle, or double back for additional repairs.

Out of an abundance of caution, Wolfram headed back to Bergen, taking him right through Launders’ trap.

On February 9, the British crew was monitoring their hydrophones when the misfiring diesel engine on the German sub gave away its position. Launders had his sub stealthily move to the source of the noise where he first saw an open ocean, a sign that the engine noise was coming from underwater.

Then, he saw what he suspected was an enemy periscope, likely the German subs snorkel mast that allowed it to run its diesel engines while shallowly submerged. Launders knew he had his target in front of him.

The Venturer tailed the U-864 for the next few hours. U-864 began taking evasive actions, a sign that it had likely detected the British presence.

The British, running low on battery power, decided to put all their eggs in one basket, attacking with two salvos of four torpedoes. The first salvo was “ripple-fired,” with each torpedo launch coming about 18 seconds after the previous one.

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The British sub dove and began re-loading its four tubes. Again, the British fired all four. Of the eight torpedoes, seven were complete misses.

One was a direct hit. The British hydrophone operators heard the torpedo impact, the explosion, the wrenching of iron as the pressure crumpled it like paper, and the dull thud as the wreckage crashed to the sea floor.

The site was undisturbed for almost 60 years until the Norwegian Navy discovered it in 2003. Mercury was leaking from damaged vials, and Norwegian authorities decided to bury the wreck under tons of sand and rocks to prevent further damage to the ecosystem.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force pilots ready to replace UH-1N Huey helicopter

Pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, recently received the certification they need to fly the MH-139 helicopter, scheduled to replace the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey.

Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, an Air Force civilian pilot, completed the five-week course on the AW-139, Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s commercial version of the helicopter, according to a news release.

Roycroft and Arrington both received their “type certification,” a Federal Aviation Administration qualification that requires specialized training for a specific aircraft, the service said. They earned the certification in Whippany, New Jersey, on July 29, 2019.


The FAA type rating is a standard qualification to become mission-ready on an airframe, but pilots will receive further Air Force-specific training for the MH-139.

“Test pilots and initial cadre are qualified to fly both the AW-139 and MH-139 after having received this training,” Roycroft told Military.com in a statement.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

A SASEMAR AW-139 during a helihoisting exercise.

“This puts our team one step closer to flight testing the new aircraft when production is completed,” said Roycroft, the MH-139 lead test pilot, in the release. “Ultimately, it puts the Air Force one step closer to delivery of a much-needed increase in capability.”

The 413th has kept busy: Last month, pilots from the unit conducted the first test flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter, meant to replace the service’s current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.

Additionally, maintenance airmen from the 413th and Air Force Global Strike Command have completed a technician course for the AW-139/MH-139 to familiarize themselves on new systems unique to the aircraft, the release states.

“Every engineer, pilot and [special missions aviator] is dedicated to ensur[ing] the UH-1N community receives the most capable replacement aircraft to defend our nation’s assets,” Roycroft said.

In September 2018, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N Huey helicopter at a cost of approximately .38 billion.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

A UH-1N Huey helicopter.

The award contract stipulates approximately 5 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration.

The service said receiving the helicopter will mark “the first time in recent history” that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft “not previously used in another branch of the military,” according to the release.

The first MH-139 aircraft delivery to the 413th is expected in late November 2019.

The UH-1Ns — some of which entered the Air Force’s inventory in 1970 — will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.

The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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The amazing way this Israeli pilot survived a birdstrike

An Israeli pilot only known as “Lt. H” was flying at a low level near 350 knots in an A-4 Skyhawk one day. He was flying over the desert near the Dead Sea in September 1985. He was flying straight and level when the next thing he knows he is laying on the floor of the valley near where he was previously flying. All he knows is that he has a massive headache and no memory of how he got there.


Eventually, H did remember seeing a small object coming at him at a high speed. As he approached, he instinctively ducked to avoid hitting the object, but to no avail.

“I couldn’t tell what it was,” he told the New York Times. ”As it got closer, instinctively I ducked. That’s all I remember. I woke up on the ground with a parachute around me and my neck broken.”

His command knows exactly what happened – he ran head-on into a migrating flock of birds. One of those birds penetrated the canopy and flew into the cockpit, then hit H in the head, knocking him unconscious. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

This wasn’t an ordinary bird, it was a Honey Buzzard.

The Israelis found H laying in the desert, as H remembers. But they also found feathers and blood on the helmet of their young IDF lieutenant. They sent the evidence to a lab in Amsterdam to get some answers. That’s how they discovered what kind of bird the Skyhawk hit and how it was able to break into the jet’s canopy. It turns out Israel in the 1980s was smack-dab in the center of a migration corridor for storks, pelicans, and predatory birds like the Honey Buzzard.

It turns out the bird crashed through the front windshield and eventually hit the pilot’s ejection seat lever after knocking him out. Lieutenant H’s parachute opened on its own, and that’s how H ended up on the ground with a headache.

The bird, however, probably went down with the Skyhawk.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This combat wounded Vietnam veteran has the spice to make anything nice

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the grill master or pit mistress:

~ a pack of spice rubs from the kitchen of a Vietnam vetrepreneur ~

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

“One of the beauties of being a human being is that you have the ability to adapt.”

Gene (Cappy) Holmon is a force at a farmer’s market. I’d know. All it took him was five minutes talking to my wife about his local Los Angeles line of dry rub spices and she came straight home and put me in a headlock until I promised to include Cappy’s Dry Rub in the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide.

And she doesn’t really like meat. But she’s sure got a thing for Cappy.

I caught up with Holmon this week and got the 411 on how an Army veteran who was disabled during the Tet Offensive in 1968 first transitioned to a busy career as a FedEx Distribution Hub Director before pivoting to become the Meat Spice King of Los Angeles. Brace yourself. It involves losing an arm.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Holmon had been in Vietnam about 6 months when he was injured in combat, suffering damage from both AK-47 rounds and what he assumes was an RPG. Medics amputated his right arm above the elbow in a field hospital before sending him to Japan for recovery.

“…I was pretty depressed…I think it was probably three days before I actually looked to see if my arm was still there…I was in an amputee ward and I saw a lot of guys, you know, like me but with both legs gone…or both legs and an arm or something like that and at that point I said, well, hey, I’m not that bad off…At that point I just decided to get better.”

Holman returned home to San Francisco and studied business management at USF on the G.I. Bill. Then he returned to his previous employer, UPS. He quickly rose through the ranks to Division Manager of UPS Hub Operations for all of Arizona, New Mexico and Southern Nevada. That’s when FedEx poached him to help implement their new Super Hub Distribution Center in Memphis.

And as he tracked across the American South for business, he sampled the many flavors of sauce, spice and smoke upon which Southern culinary tradition pins its most heartfelt pride.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military
You’ll want to lick your palms. Probably wash your hands first.

By the time he retired, Holmon was experimenting with his own blends of dry rub spices, perfecting his grill skills, and winning praise for his cooking at family events. When California Cottage Law went into effect in 2013, Holmon’s wife Paulette urged him to offer his blends to the public and Cappy’s was born. But because Cottage Law permitting initially limits sales to direct-to-consumer, Holman found that he’d have to adapt from being the distribution genius behind the scenes to being a grassroots-level, Face-of-the-Brand at farmer’s markets and local boutique grocery stores.

It can’t have been too hard. Insider knowledge: Cappy is a peach. As soon as you meet him, you’re sipping the paprika-flavored Kool-Aid.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Cappy’s has since expanded to online sales, which is where we wholeheartedly recommend that you go to order yourself one or several of his blends in time for Holiday cooking. Cappy’s Dry Rubs are great on meats, obviously, but check out how well they crossover to fruits and vegetables. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

MIGHTY MOVIES

These R. Lee Ermey bloopers are priceless

America’s favorite Gunny Sergeant, R. Lee Ermey was famous for his portrayal of Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket. Ermey also went on to host a History Channel show called Mail Call, where he answered viewer questions about weapons, equipment, and military culture.

Lucky for us, the bloopers from Mail Call are available to watch — and they’re amazing. In Ermey’s own words,

“Now a SNAFU [Situation Normal: All F***ed Up] can come at any time at any size and at any shape and when things get screwed up, well, the Gunny just can’t hold his tongue… and that’s why you’re never gonna see this stuff during prime time!”


Check out this video to catch some incredible bloopers, in which Ermey somehow manages to make the f-bomb as wholesome as it is hilarious:

One of my favorite moments is at 2:20 when Ermey says, “Well, John, the answer to your damn, stupid-ass f***in’ question here…” before he dissolves into laughter.

The best thing about blooper reels is how they show the real personality of the actor — in this case, we get to see that Ermey had a great sense of humor in addition to abundant intelligence and a good nature. The video feels like hanging out with an old friend. Every time Ermey cracks up, I crack up.

At 17:35, he tackles a malfunctioning Browning Automatic Rifle and it’s glorious — he’s not even phased. “A little malfunction. Pull. Push. Aim.” The gun goes off and he cackles victoriously.

The man knew what he was talking about, and he had fun doing it.

Watching the video, I had fun, too. It’s a must see, so raise a toast to Ermey and enjoy.

 

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick M. Johnson-Campbell)

“Almost overwhelming, the urge to say jack s***, you know? Isn’t it?”

Every day, Gunny. Every damn day.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army nerfed its ammunition before WWII

The bottom line for the military is always cost-effectiveness (barring elite tier-1 units). As we’ve seen with the Modular Handgun System competition, acquisitions are driven by the lowest bid and not necessarily performance. The argument between Glock and Sig Sauer aside, the necessity of fiscal responsibility forced the Army to limit the effectiveness of their .30-06 ammunition prior to America’s entry into WWII.


10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

The Spanish-American War showed the inferiority of the Krag to the Mauser (U.S. Army)

The Army adopted its first smokeless powder cartridge, the .30-40 Krag, to replace the black powder .45-70 in the early-1890s. After a review of the cartridge’s performance in the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army ordnance corps made modifications to the round in an attempt to match the ballistics of the superior 7x57mm Mauser cartridge used by the Spanish during the war. Though the ordnance department succeeded in increasing the muzzle velocity of the .30-40, the new cartridge had a tendency to damage the rifles that shot it due to the increase in pressure.

In 1903, following the recommendations of the infantry Small Arms Board, the Army replaced the .30-40 with a higher velocity cartridge, the .30-03. Also called the .30-45 due to its 45 grain powder charge, the .30-03’s service was short-lived. The heavy 220 grain M1903 bullet required high pressures and temperatures to achieve its maximum effective velocity which caused severe bore erosion in rifle barrels. Additionally, the bullet’s weight and roundnose design still left it ballistically inferior to its European 7mm and 8mm counterparts. After just three years, the .30-03 was replaced by the venerable .30-06.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

The M1 Garand was designed in .30 caliber due to the surplus of wartime ammo (Springfield Armory)

Equipped with a modern pointed spitzer bullet, the .30-06 was more effective at long range than the .30-03. However, the Army’s claim of a maximum range of 4,700 yards was disproved when the cartridge saw service in WWI. Machine gun barrages used as indirect fire with the .30-06 M1906 round proved to be 50% less effective than expected. In 1918, extensive testing showed that the M1906 cartridge actually had a maximum effective range of 3,300 to 3,400 yards. The Germans experienced a similar problem with their ammo which they solved by replacing the flat-based bullet with a boat-tail bullet. The result for the Germans was a round with a maximum range of approximately 5,140 yards.

In 1926, the U.S. Army ordnance corps applied the same solution to the .30-06. After extensive testing of the 7.5x55mm Swiss GP11 cartridge, the ordnance corps replaced the M1906 flat-based bullet with the M1 Ball’s boat-tail bullet. The new round had a higher ballistic coefficient, greater muzzle velocity, and a maximum range of approximately 5,500 yards. Despite the development of the .30-06 M1 Ball cartridge, the Army continued to field the M1906 cartridge.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Left to right: M1903, M1906, M1 Ball, M2 Ball, and M2AP .30 caliber bullets (Public Domain)

With over 2 billion rounds of wartime surplus ammunition, the Army needed to expend the old ammo before it introduced the new. Over the next decade, old stocks of M1906 rounds were shot in training as the supply of the new M1 Ball ammo was allowed to grow. However, by 1936, the Army realized that its new long-range rifle round had a serious problem—it was too effective.

Firing ranges are designed with an emphasis on safety. When Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head and Private Joe Schmo has a negligent discharge at an angle that lobs a bullet as far as it can possibly travel, that round needs to land within a designated impact area. As a result, military firing ranges of the day had all been designed with the ballistics of the .45-70, .30-40 Krag, and .30-06 M1906 rounds in mind. Due to its increased maximum range, the performance of the .30-06 M1 Ball was beyond the safety limitations of most ranges.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Infantrymen fire both the M1 Garand and M1903 Springfield (U.S. Army)

With war looming on the horizon and the cost of modifying ranges to accommodate the M1 Ball prohibitively expensive, an emergency order was issued to manufacture mass quantities of a new .30-06 round that more closely matched the ballistics of the expended M1906 cartridge as quickly as possible. Developed in 1938, the new M2 Ball cartridge was nearly identical to the M1906, though it had a slightly greater maximum range of 3,450 yards. While the M2 Ball became the standard cartridge for the U.S. military, the Marine Corps retained stocks of the superior M1 Ball ammo for use by their snipers and marksmen.

Despite its ballistic inferiority to the M1 Ball, the M2 Ball was still an extremely capable cartridge. It saw service through WWII, Korea, and even saw limited use in Vietnam before it was replaced by the 7.62x51mm and 5.56x45mm NATO rounds. Today, a high volume of military surplus firearms chambered in .30-06 and a dwindling supply of military surplus ammunition has led to many manufacturers producing commercial .30-06 M2 Ball ammo.


MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II’s most decorated woman was a housewife-turned-spy

French-born Odette Sansom was a sickly child. She wrestled with a slew of childhood illnesses, including a bout with polio that left her blind for three years. The adversity she overcame as a youth was good preparation for what she would do as an adult: joining the British “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.”


Sansom’s accomplishments in World War II earned her the Order of the British Empire, a knighthood of the French Légion d’Honneur, and she was the first woman to be awarded the George Cross for “acts of the greatest heroism.” Her life foreshadowed the fortitude she would require as she was tortured by the Gestapo, to whom she would never give any information.

Her exploits are detailed in an exciting new book by Larry Loftis, Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy. Loftis’ detail of Sansom’s life reads like a spy thriller but with the research of a nonfiction narrative, covering one of the best stories of clandestine heroism during the Second World War.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Sansom after the war.

(Imperial War Museum)

Sansom’s wartime story begins in 1941, as the British Admiralty was looking for native-born recruits they could send to Nazi-occupied France. Odette Sansom was a French-born woman who initially responded to the office’s request for photos of the French coastline — except she accidentally sent her photos to the War Office instead of the Admiralty. Soon, the Special Operations Executive, the department responsible for infiltrating Hitler’s Fortress Europe, would recruit her for much, much more.

After less than a year of training, Sansom found herself on a boat headed to France, landing near Cassis in 1942. She was picked up by a spy ring run out of Cannes, where she would work as a radio operator for her group leader, Peter Churchill, relaying secret information back to London. This was always a very dangerous task as the Gestapo were always looking for outgoing radio signals.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Sansom and Churchill.

(Imperial War Museum)

For more than a year, Lise, Sansom’s code name, kept one step ahead of the Gestapo. Along with her radio work, she acted as a courier for all of Southern France, sending messages between resistance cells and SOE operatives. Her skill and professionalism kept her alive, but accidents happen to even the best of operatives, and for Lise, it would be her undoing.

An agent riding a train fell asleep while carrying a list of 200 SOE agents operating in France in 1943. Eventually, that list fell into the hands of Nazi counterintelligence agents. A German double agent calling himself “Colonel Henri” infiltrated the group and betrayed them all. Colonel Henri was really Hugo Bleicher, the notorious Nazi spy hunter.

Sansom and Churchill were arrested and sent to Frenses Prison near Paris. The two were tortured and sentenced to death – a sentence that would never be carried out. While Churchill had no relations with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, his famous name saved both their lives.

Ravensbu

Sansom told the Nazis that Churchill was related to the Prime Minister and that she was the younger Churchill’s wife – and that she was also his boss, and not the other way around. This served the dual purpose of keeping the pressure off of Churchill, even though the Nazis only tortured Sansom even more, while keeping the two alive.

But while Sansom and Churchill survived the torture and execution orders, they spent much of the rest of the war in solitary confinement and suffering cruel, brutal treatment at the hands of her SS captors in the Ravensbrück concentration camp until it was liberated by the Red Army in 1945. But Sansom wasn’t liberated by the Russians. The camp commander drove her to an American position and surrendered himself to the U.S., with a “Churchill” as a bargaining chip.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Ravensbrück was a primary camp for women and political prisoners.

Though she physically came out of the war an emaciated shadow of her former self, the treatment left her with no ill will towards anyone. She would testify against the Nazis who imprisoned and tortured her during the Nuremberg Trials, but her main activities after the war involved helping ease the suffering of those affected by the war.

“How strong the reserves upon which you draw you never realize until you need them, but believe me they do not fail you,” she once said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Hollywood and the Army come together in the California Desert

120 miles Northeast of Los Angeles lies the fictional country of Atropia. That’s the name of the area given to what the commanders at the Fort Irwin National Training Center call ‘The Box,’ a 1,000 square mile area in the Mojave Desert used to train U.S. & allied troops and their commanders in large scale combat and the realities of modern warfare.

I was honored to visit Fort Irwin and witness the lives of some of the 10,000 soldiers and dependents stationed there.


10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

The Department of Defense routinely provides what they call ‘Civic Leader Tours’ to local communities so we might learn and take our experiences back to the rest of the civilian population.

As the closest Army installation to Los Angeles, they hope that their outreach here helps influence creative leaders in Hollywood to provide realistic depictions of military life, instead of the harmful portrayals of dangerous PTSD damaged veterans, or fanciful representations of larger than life superheroes the public can’t relate to.

Two of the most important lessons learned from my visit with the brave men and women stationed at Fort Irwin were quite different from what is commonly portrayed by Hollywood or suggested by our leaders in D.C.

The first is the importance of counterintelligence and public relations in modern warfare. One of the greatest assets the U.S. Military has is in its technological advantages. Comprising of an area larger than Rhode Island, with complete control of the land, airspace, and electronic signals in the area, the commanders of the 11th Armored Cavalry that make up the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) not only have the home field advantage of knowledge of the terrain, but the ability to jam or spoof GPS, track radio transmissions, and operates a closed intranet with its own “Falsebook”, “Tweeter”, and even an “Atropia News Network” for the actors portraying the citizens and insurgents that the visiting units must contend with.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

(Courtesy of DVIDS)

One past engagement involved the visiting unit accidentally killing some innocent civilians, and exasperated the situation when a young junior officer came off as unsympathetic when approached by role-playing journalists for the ‘Atropia News Network’ that went viral in the simulation. Another involved a helicopter of the visiting unit being ‘shot down’ by the OPFOR, and reached by insurgents before the visiting unit could rescue the crew. The insurgents then were able to strip the helicopter of its valuable electronics and armament, which were then sold on ‘Falsebook’ and provided the OPFOR additional resources to use against the visiting unit.

Commanders and troops must contend not only with the unforgiving desert terrain as they attempt to approach Atropia, but frequently find themselves either without technological advantages they rely on such as the jamming of their GPS guidance systems, or the targeting of their radio transmissions by OPFOR artillery units that require strategic thinking instead of brute force.

The second, and more important lesson learned was through conversations with some of the spouses and dependents of the troops also invited to participate.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

(Courtesy of DVIDS)

They expressed a desire to see more depictions of the difficulty they face at home as their spouses are deployed. Less than 10% of the American population has ever served or come from a military family, and the difficulties they face from constant relocation, inability to conduct some legal transactions without their spouse, or simply the loneliness and worry faced by a deployed spouse is something often forgotten in our rush to war.

Although Hollywood has had a long and beneficial relationship with the military, depictions of the experience of those most affected by a soldier’s deployment are often overlooked. Recent productions such as NatGeo’s ‘The Long Road Home’ or the book ‘Sisters of Valor’ by Rosalie Turner offer an insight into the sacrifices made on the homefront are often glossed over.

As tensions in Korea heat up and the conflict in the Middle East continue with no end in sight, we’ve become used to the sights of soldiers in combat, but thanks to the outreach by Army OCPA-West, the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, let’s hope we can continue to be a witness not only to the brave men and women serving our country, but to those left behind as well.

Like their sister services, the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs is the primary contact for processing film and television production requests seeking support from the Army.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you might be able to access military assets or knowledge for your project, give the Department of Defense a call and see if it is something they might be able to support.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

(Courtesy of Kent Matsuoka)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Puerto Rico National Guard faces a perfect storm

A deadly pandemic, a Category 5 hurricane and two earthquakes. While this sounds like cataclysms from the Old Testament — it’s not. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a range of natural disasters for the past three years.

In the center of them all is the Puerto Rico National Guard, stepping up to the challenges each provides.


“It’s certainly showing that the Puerto Rico National Guard is a flexible and adaptable force,” Maj. Gen. José Reyes, adjutant general, said.

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of just about every American. The mantra of elected officials has been, “Flatten the curve,” meaning stop the spread of the virus. PRNG is doing its part to accomplish that by conducting medical evaluations of everyone entering Puerto Rico.

Earlier this year, PRNG and other federal and state agencies started screening incoming passengers at the international airport in San Juan by installing 11 infrared cameras that measure a person’s body temperature.

If a passenger has a temperature of 100.3° or over, they are immediately taken to a triage area and tested for COVID-19.

This is a 24/7 operation with about 260 PRNG members participating — roughly 60 are assigned to each six-hour shift.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Laiza Rivera, a medical student at Central Caribbean University, took the oath of office to become a 2nd Lt. in the Puerto Rico National Guard on April 2. Here she signs her enlistment contract as Gen. José Reyes looks on. Photo by First Sgt. Luis E. Orengo.

In addition to military personnel, 150 students from Puerto Rico’s four medical schools have volunteered for this mission as well.

This actually worked as an unintentional recruitment campaign when four of them decided to join the PRNG. One of them is 2nd Lt. Laiza Rivera.

The 27–year-old says she was going stir-crazy being home all day because of the lockdown so she decided to volunteer at the airport. Rivera, whose major is ophthalmology, was already in the process of joining but inspired the other three student-volunteers to join as well.

PRNG has similar operations at other ports of entry.

Annual training

PRNG’s ability to adapt is illustrated in its revised plan for annual training. Ordinarily, large groups of personnel would attend exercises at the national training center in California, as well as another location in Louisiana. Not this year. In an effort to practice social distancing, those exercises will be modified to be conducted in smaller groups at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico.

Additionally, classes that would normally be held in a conference room have switched to video conferencing.

Hurricane Maria

In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Under Reyes’ command, the island’s combined military forces provided its residents with just about everything they needed.

They provided MPs to the local police departments to maintain law and order; engineers cleared hundreds of miles of debris from roadways; and they conducted search and rescue operations in flooded communities and evacuated stranded citizens. The Army aviation unit conducted countless flights to and from the center of the island (its most rural and isolated area) to deliver food, water and emergency supplies.

Puerto Rico still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane and the 56 year-old general predicts that won’t happen for another 10 to 12 years.

Two earthquakes  

If the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, Puerto Rico was shaken by two major earthquakes in January. There were 10,000 people who either partially or completely lost their homes.

Reyes, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, presented a plan to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to relocate these refugees. PRNG then established five major camps, each with a capacity of about 1,700. In partnership with FEMA and other agencies, they relocated over 10,000 people in 56 days.

Hurricane season 

While no one can predict when an earthquake will occur, there is an established hurricane season for the Caribbean and it’s happening now.

Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives Nos. 8 and 9, states and territories are required to conduct preparatory training in response to the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including natural disasters.

PRNG is on it conducting emergency management exercises for hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics and even tsunamis with all 78 municipalities on the island. Until last year, exercises were only for Category 5 hurricanes. The new exercises anticipate all these disasters happening concurrently.

Puerto Rico has had a lot thrown at it over the past three years and, in theory, it all could happen again. PRNG will be ready if it does.

Additionally, Reyes knows Guard units from other states, as well as additional DOD personnel, has Puerto Rico’s back and will be there to support him.

Reyes came out of retirement to take on this command and he’s glad he did.

“It’s a tremendous honor to command the Puerto Rico National Guard, eight-five hundred strong, fully committed men and women with an unbreakable sense of service towards the people of Puerto Rico and our nation,” he said. “I’m very proud of each one of them.”

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Marine vet made a daring beer run to Vietnam for his buddies

There’s not a lot a veteran won’t do for his buddies, especially if they’re still in the service and the veteran is out. This is particularly helpful for troops who are deployed because their buddy back home knows exactly what they need. And you know what people fighting a war could use more than anything else? A beer.

John “Chickie” Donohue set out to get a few beers to his best Army buddies — while they were fighting in Vietnam. That’s one hell of a beer run.


In 1967, the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unbeknownst to the U.S., the Tet Offensive was still to come, but that didn’t mean the fighting was inconsequential. More than 11,000 American troops would die in the fighting that year. The largest airborne operation since World War II happened in February, 1967, the 1st Marine Division was engaged with the Army of North Vietnam, and the U.S. Army was chasing down Viet Cong south of the DMZ — in short, it was a busy year.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

M113 armored vehicles advance in Vietnam during Operation Junction City, 1967.

(U.S. Army)

Donohue had already served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a sandhog — a kind of miner — for the city of New York. He was a native of Inwood, a Manhattan neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island. As 1967 progressed, he saw many, many funerals of Inwood natives who were killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he grew sick of antiwar protestors who criticized troops who were sent there.

One day, Chickie Donohue was at his local watering hole when the bartender remarked that troops over in Vietnam deserved a pat on the back and a cold beer. Donohue agreed. He agreed so much that he took a gig as a merchant seaman on a ship taking supplies and ammunition to Vietnam. He packed a bag and a supply of beer and set sail.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Chickie Donohue worked as an oiler aboard the Drake Victory steamer.

(Chick Donohue)

The trip took two months and Donohue actually drank all the beer he brought along. But he grabbed more upon arrival and set out to find a half dozen of his old friends who were stationed in country. His first stop was actually where his ship docked, Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company.

“I said, ‘Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'” Collins told the New York Times. “He said, ‘I came to bring you a beer.'”

That wasn’t his last stop. He journeyed throughout the country to bring cold ones to his old friends fighting a war that Americans back home were increasingly hostile toward. His friends, who sometimes just happened to bump into Donohue on his trek to see them, were amazed.

10 awesome celebrities who served in the military

Beer run recipients in Quang Tri Province, 1968.

(Rick Duggan)

Donohue even took fire from the enemy a few times.

For his friends, Chickie was a sight for sore eyes. A New York Times reporter documented their reactions to the retelling of Donohue’s story when they were interviewed for the book about Chickie’s biggest beer run. It even helped some of them get through the war and work on their post-traumatic stress.

“Seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back,” said Bob Pappas, who was a communications NCO in Long Binh. Pappas was demoralized after hearing about the deaths of longtime Inwood friends. Donohue’s cold one gave him a little hope.

But even local residents of Inwood who knew Chickie Donohue his whole life couldn’t believe the story of his beer run. For decades after, New Yorkers and fellow sandhogs alike told him he was full of it. But in March, 2017, he released his book about the trip, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War,” and held a book signing with recipients of the beers present.

“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” he said. But still “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”

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