Veterans

8 celebrity veterans who went AWOL

There are few acts more shameful for a member of the military than deserting their unit, and going AWOL is the first step in that decision. We Are The Mighty has covered what can happen to a deserter before, and it's not a fate any servicemember should willingly bring upon him or herself.


That still didn't stop these 8 famous veterans from going Absent Without Leave, and they all faced the consequences.

8. Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart is an iconic Academy Award winning actor, but prior to his acting career, Bogie served in the United States Navy during the tail end of World War I. While most of the other cases on this list were clearly some level of intentional, in Bogart's case, going AWOL seemed to be a complete accident.

The full story is unknown, but what's on public record is that Bogart missed a connection to the USS Santa Olivia while in Europe, leading to him officially officially declared AWOL. He immediately turned himself in only to face a 3-day prison sentence.

It seems the misunderstanding was eventually cleared up, as he was honorably discharged in 1919.

7. Steve McQueen

Screenshot of Steve McQueen in film The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).

Steve McQueen got his reputation as a tough guy and a rebel, and while going AWOL is no joke, it's easy to picture him smiling and laughing while he did so. Legend has it the young Marine took a few extra days (or weeks) off while visiting his girlfriend on Weekend Leave.

When the King of Cool finally returned to his post, he was sentenced to 41 days in the brig for his insubordination. McQueen served his sentence and eventually returned to duty, ultimately using the benefits of the GI Bill to sponsor his acting education.

6. Jerry Garcia

Garcia in the 1970s.

Some vets will probably be pissed to learn some of these celebs almost deserted, but could anyone be surprised to learn about Jerry Garcia? The Grateful Dead singer/guitarist/songwriter was one of the faces of the 60s countercultural movement, but before becoming a rock legend, he served in the United States Army upon his mother's insistence.

Unsurprisingly, Garcia never took the Army particularly seriously, regularly missing roll call and going AWOL on several occasions. Ultimately he was generally discharged after less than a year of service.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger

So much potential...

The only foreigner on the list, Schwarzenegger was born in Austria, where a year of military service was mandatory for teenage males. Even as a young man, the future Governor was far more focused on bodybuilding, and chose to go AWOL to hone his craft.

Also read: 15 celebrities we'd love to see in boot camp

Appropriately, the Terminator star secretly climbed over a wall to attend a competition, and wound up imprisoned in a military stockade for seven days for his crime.

4. Sinbad

All Sinbad ever wanted to do was play basketball, which is a pretty misguided reason to join the Air Force, but it didn't stop the comedian from doing just that. After he failed to make the Air Force basketball team, Sinbad says he repeatedly went AWOL under the assumption the military either wouldn't notice or would dishonorably discharge him, relieving him of his duty.

The Air Force never did, however, and eventually Sinbad stopped going AWOL and started appearing in Air Force Talent Shows, beginning his career in standup.

3. Nate Dogg

Nathaniel Dwayne Hale aka "Nate Dogg" in 2006.

Nate Dogg was a rapper and G-funk singer popular for his collaborations with Warren G and Dr. Dre, amongst other rap superstars. When he was only 16, Nate Dogg dropped out of high school intending to join the United States Marine Corps. The "Regulate" singer served as an ammunitions specialist for three years before going AWOL and being dishonorably discharged.

2. C.J. Ramone

C.J. Ramone at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival for the premiere of Burning Down the House, a documentary about famous New York City rock and roll venue CBGB. (Image by David Shankbone)

The other celebrities on this list came to fame after they were discharged, but the final bassist of the legendary rock band the Ramones went AWOL in order to become famous. Serving in the Marine Corps, Ramone claims he was nearing his discharge, taking extended unapproved leaves to jam with the Ramones while they searched for a new bassist.

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After realizing he would get the gig, Ramone turned himself in and asked what he had to do to be discharged and allowed to play with the band. For going AWOL, Ramone had to serve five weeks in jail — but to his surprise, Johnny Ramone called him to tell him he still had a job if he wanted it.

1. Randy Orton

This is how Randy Orton stands at attention. (Image by Ken Penn)

Randy Orton is a 12-time WWE from Charleston SC, known professionally for his short temper and rebellious attitude. They say the best characters stem from real life, and Orton's rebelliousness started as a member of the USMC, where he went AWOL twice, serving 38 days in jail.

Orton also disobeyed orders from a commanding officer and was dishonorably discharged. His poor record of service lead to controversy when WWE announced Orton would star in The Marine 3, a casting choice that got scrapped when his poor military record became public.