Photos: Surprising celebrities who served in the U.S. military

Updated 1347 GMT (2147 HKT) November 11, 2013
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Jimi Hendrix enlisted in the army at age 18, but it wasn't exactly his idea. He got into trouble with the law and he was given a choice: prison or the Army, according to his biography on After about a year, the Army gave him an honorable discharge, despite his rebellious ways. His musical career quickly exploded after that. Click through to see more celebrities who have served our country. Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Before Fat Albert and the Cosby Show, a young Bill Cosby followed in his father's footsteps and joined the U.S. Navy. During his military service from 1956 to 1961, Cosby, now 76, worked with veterans of the Korean War and was on the U.S. Navy track team. United States Navy
Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of Spock on Star Trek, enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in the early 1950s and was discharged in 1955 at the rank of sergeant, according to his biography on During that time, he put on shows for Army Special Services and starred in military training films. Nimoy also had a role as a sergeant in the show "Steve Canyon" in 1959. John R. Ellis/The Milton Caniff Estate
Jamaican-born rapper Shaggy, 45, joined the U.S. Marines in 1988 to help make ends meet, according to his bio on As his musical career started taking off, he was deployed to Kuwait in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm. US Marines
Singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, 80, enrolled in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from high school in 1950. He was stationed at several air bases and, during his stint, got to sing and play with other airmen musicians across the country, according to the biography "Willie Nelson: An Epic Life." He left the service after nine months on an honorable medical discharge, because of back problems. Mike Theiler/USO/PRnewsfoto
Three years ago, the Smoking Gun uncovered Bea Arthur's military records, contradicting the late actress' denial that she served in the armed forces. According to the website, Arthur -- then Bernice Frankel -- enlisted in the Marines in 1943 and rose through the ranks to staff sergeant until her honorable discharge in 1945. US Marines
Rapper Mystikal, 43, joined the Army after graduating from high school in New Orleans and served as a combat engineer in Iraq during Desert Storm. He described his eight months in the Persian Gulf War as crazy, and said he never expected to be deployed when he enlisted. "That was like a shock 'cause the whole military that I knew and remembered for 20 years that passed, (the) last war they had was Vietnam," he told "But if I had to do it again, I couldn't change it 'cause it definitely made me what I am. It definitely defined my character." Scott Gries/Getty Images
He built a multimillion-dollar business on sex and naked women, but years before he created his Playboy empire, Hugh Hefner, 87, joined the U.S. Army as a writer for a military newspaper. He was honorably discharged from the service and, a short time later, he launched Playboy magazine with $600. Archive Photos/Getty Images
Late Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia is the epitome of 1960s counterculture. But Garcia enlisted in the Army in 1960 after dropping out of high school, according to his biography on He didn't last long: A few months later, he was dishonorably discharged. Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
He's known for making fun of World War II (remember "Hitler on Ice"?) but comedian and director Mel Brooks, 87, served in the war after enlisting in the Army shortly after high school graduation. "I was a combat engineer. Isn't that ridiculous?" he said, according to his biography on the Army's website. "The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering." GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty
Ice-T, 55, is best known today for his starring role as a police detective on "Law & Order," but in the 1980s, he was a pioneer of gansta rap -- generating controversy with songs such as "Cop Killer." Before he became Ice-T, Tracy Marrow joined the Army at age 19 to take care of his young daughter. He spent four years in the 25th Infantry Division before launching his musical career. Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
During his stint in the U.S. Air Force, the late Johnny Cash intercepted Soviet military radio transmissions in Morse code. According to the book "Johnny Cash: The Life of an American Icon," Cash kept up with the quick pace of the Soviet transmissions at 35 words per minute. He said his time as a code translator helped influence his music. "That rhythm of Morse code had a lot to do with the rhythm I felt in my music," he said. "After I got out of the Air Force, I could still hear it and when I started writing songs again, I had that rhythm in my head." PH1 GARY RICE/US Marines
Funnyman and TV show host Drew Carey, 55, spent six years in the Marine Corps Reserves in the 1980s, according to his biography on He says he got his signature look -- closely cropped hair and basic black-frame glasses --from his years in the military. US Marines