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Celebrity Veterans

Before you knew them as actors, musicians, politicians and important personalities, these brave men and women served their respective countries in both times of war and times of peace. This page serves as nothing more than a way to honor that legacy of commitment and service.

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Entries in Musicians (5)


Willie Nelson, US Air Force, 1951

Willie Hugh Nelson
b. 29 Apr 1933

After graduating high school, young Willie Nelson voluntarily joined the Air Force. In the midst of the Korean War, Willie enlisted hoping to be a jet pilot. He received his first basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, but it was concluded Willie was too “absentminded” (as Willie puts it) to be in the cockpit of a jet. So the Air Force shipped him to Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, TX, and eventually to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois for more basic training.

Eventually they made him a medic, but years of bailing hay back in Abbott, TX had given him a bad back and he was discharged after 9 months of service. 

His time in service did leave a lasting impression on Willie though and on his basic philosophy for living life. 

"I was in the Air Force a while and they had what they call "policing the area." That's where you looked around and if there's anything wrong here, there, anywhere, you took care of your own area. And I think that's a pretty good thing to go by. If everyone just takes care of their own area then we won't have any problems. Be here. Be present. Wherever you are, be there. And look around you and see what needs to be changed." Source

Nelson performing at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas for patients and staff. 2006

Despite his limited stint in the Air Force, Nelson has remained passionate about veterans issues, advocating for veteran's healthcare and supporting advocacy groups such as Operation Firing for Effect. Below are two PSA's Nelson shot in 2008 in his continued support of his fellow veterans. This, is one of a gazillion reasons why I love Willie... don't even get me started on that adorable-pie pic of him in his uniform. 


Conway Twitty, US Army 1954-1956

Conway Twitty
(Harold Lloyd Jenkins )
b. 1 Sep 1933 – d. 5 Jun 1993
US Army (1954-1956)

Harold Jenkins was first drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies after high school before being drafted once again into the US Army. While stationed in Japan, he kept both his dreams alive by forming a band and playing on the local Army baseball team. His first band, the Fuji Mountain Boys represented their Yokohama unit and won the 1954 All-Army Talent Competition. Johnny Eubanks, Gene Jones, Craig Reemes and Harold changed the band’s name after their big win to The Cimarrons. They were later joined by Nick Cristiano on drums and trumpet and the quintet frequently played for military service clubs around Japan.

The unit was attached to the Armed Forces Radio Service in Tokyo and recorded a series of programs for the Far-East Radio Network. They were awarded the “Best Instrumental Group” of the Far East Command. Listen to original recordings from 1955.

After returning from his deployment in Japan, Harold didn’t think his musical service to his country would translate into anything substantial. After discovering rock-n-roll via Elvis, Harold decided to take his ,music career seriously and, at the encouragement of his manager Don Seat, became the country music legend we all know as Conway Twitty.




James Blunt, Captain, British Army 1997-2002

James Blunt
(James Hillier Blount)
b. 22 Feb 1974 d. -
British Army 1996- October 2002

Because the British Army sponsored his university education, Blunt was obliged to serve a minimum of four years in the armed forces. Blunt trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Life Guards, a unit of the Household Cavalry, where he rose to the rank of captain. One of his first assignments was to British Army Training Unit Suffield in Alberta, Canada, where his battalion was posted for six months in 1998 to act as the opposing army in combat training exercises.

In 1999, he served as an armoured reconnaissance officer in the NATO deployment in Kosovo. Initially assigned to reconnaissance of the Macedonia-Yugoslaviaborder, Blunt and his unit worked ahead of the front lines directing forces and targeting Serb positions for the NATO bombing campaign. His unit was given the assignment of securing the Pristina International Airport in advance of the 30,000-strong peacekeeping force; the Russian army had moved in and taken control of the airport before his unit's arrival. The confusion surrounding the taking of Pristina airfield in 1999 has been written about in political memoirs, and was widely reported at the time.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live broadcast Blunt recounted the following:

I was given the direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there. I was the lead officer with my troop of men behind us from the Parachute Regiment, so they're obviously game for the fight.

"The direct command [that] came in from Gen Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as 'destroy' came down the radio." Asked if following the order would have risked starting World War III, Blunt, who was a 25-year-old cavalry officer at the time, replied: "Absolutely. And that's why we were querying our instruction from an American general.

"Fortunately, up on the radio came Gen Mike Jackson, whose exact words at the time were, 'I'm not going to have my soldiers be responsible for starting World War III', and told us why don't we sugar off down the road, you know, encircle the airfield instead.

If Gen Jackson had not blocked the order from Gen Clark, who as Nato Supreme Commander Europe was his superior officer, Blunt said he would still have declined to follow it, even at the risk of a court martial.

He said: "There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong, that I think it's morally important to stand up against, and that sense of moral judgement is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army."

It was while on duty in Kosovo that he wrote his song "No Bravery". He also stood guard at the coffin of the Queen Mother during the days of her lying in State and was part of the funeral procession on April 9, 2002.



Hollywood Canteen - a place to write home about.

Judy Garland at the Hollywood CanteenThe Hollywood Canteen operated at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, California between October 3, 1942 and November 22, 1945 (Thanksgiving Day) as a club offering food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen, usually on their way overseas. Even though the majority of visitors were U.S servicemen, the Canteen was open to servicemen of allied countries as well as women in all branches of service. The serviceman's ticket for admission was his uniform and everything at the Canteen was free of charge.


The driving forces behind its creation were Bette Davis and John Garfield, along with composer Jules Stein, President of Music Corporation of America. Bette Davis served as its president and devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to the project . The various guilds and unions of the entertainment industry donated the labor and money for the building renovations. The Canteen was operated and staffed completely by volunteers from the entertainment industry. By the time the Canteen opened its doors, over 3000 stars, players, directors, producers, grips, dancers, musicians, singers, writers, technicians, wardrobe attendants, hair stylists, agents, stand-ins, publicists, secretaries, and allied craftsmen of radio and screen had registered as volunteers. Source Source

John Garfield Takes the stage with troopsBette greeting soldiers at the Canteen


Here's a short newsreel featuring footage from the Hollywood Canteen in its' heydey. Chock full of stars including Bette Davis, John Garfield, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Benny, Diana Durbin and more.



Mel Blanc, Claudette Colbert, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby


Shaggy, US Marines, 1988-1992/3

Shaggy  (Musician)
(Orville Richard Burrell )
b. 22 Oct. 1968 – d.    
US Marines, 1988-1992
Operation Desert Storm 

In 1988 Shaggy joined the US Marine Corps. Stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he continued to pursue music in his free time, and often made the drive back to New York for recording sessions. During his service he was a Field Artillery Cannon Crewman in the 10th Marines during Operation Desert Storm. It was while leading marching cadences that he exercised and further developed his vocal talents.