Ten celebrities who served in the military, from Adam Driver to Prince Harry

As the news of BTS's conscription makes waves, we take a look at other famous faces who signed up to serve, from Oscar and Grammy winners to royalty

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As the seven members of South Korean pop sensation BTS prepare to start their mandatory military service, they are following in the footsteps of many other celebrities who have served their countries.

From acclaimed The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars actor Christopher Lee’s Second World War service to Song Joong-ki’s reconnaissance missions, here are 10 famous people who have earned their stripes…

1. Adam Driver

Before he found fame as Hannah’s boyfriend Adam Sackler in the TV show Girls, Adam Driver spent two and a half years in the US military.

The Oscar-nominated star was inspired to join up at the age of 18 after witnessing the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.

Joining the US Marine Corps, the Star Wars actor served as an 81mm mortarman assigned to the weapons platoon with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines at Camp Pendleton, California.

Before he was scheduled to be sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, the actor was injured in a car accident which forced him to leave the military. He later said, “Being told I wasn’t going to deploy was very devastating.”

2. Bikramjeet Kanwarpal

Indian actor Bikramjeet Kanwarpal is the son of Indian Army officer Lt Col Dwarka Nath Kanwarpal, who was a recipient of the Kirti Chakra, awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the field of battle.

Bikramjeet joined the army in 1989 and retired in 2002, having achieved the rank of Major.

The following year, he made his Bollywood debut, going on to star in movies such as Grand Masti and Drive and opposite Anil Kapoor in the series 24.

3. Prince Harry

After completing his training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Prince Harry was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 2008.

As he was considered a high-value target, the prince deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 amid a media blackout and served 10 weeks in the Helmand Province before German newspaper Bild and Australian magazine New Idea published information on his location, causing him to be withdrawn.

He returned in 2012, on a four-month combat tour as a co-pilot and gunner for an Apache helicopter.

“The happiest times in my life was the 10 years in the army. Without question," he later told Parade.

4. Christopher Lee

Before he carved a long and lucrative career playing some of cinema’s most terrifying and ghoulish characters, British actor Christopher Lee, 93, was a military man.

Even before Second World War broke out, Lee had already been fighting with the Finnish Army, before joining the British Royal Air Force.

The Lord of the Rings actor served in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Libya during his career, although optic nerve damage prevented him from flying.

Becoming fluent in French, German and Italian, in his final months of service Lee worked with the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects tracking down Nazi war criminals.

5. Song Joong-ki

The popular South Korean actor made his acting debut in 2008’s A Frozen Flower, going on to star in many movies and TV shows, including 2012’s award-winning A Werewolf Boy.

Joong-ki, 37, enlisted for his mandatory military service in 2013 at the 102nd draft camp in Chuncheon, serving in an infantry unit assigned to patrol and conduct reconnaissance missions along the DMZ.

Following his discharge in May 2015, he made his comeback in the hit drama Descendants of the Sun, in which he played a military officer.

“Living as a soldier made me more mature and I was able to gain valuable life’s experience,” he said.

6. Ice-T

The rapper and actor, whose real name is Tracy Lauren Marrow, joined the US Army in October 1977 at the age of 19.

Following basic training, he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, before going AWOL for a month while awaiting trial for the theft of a rug.

Marrow, 64, was later stationed in Hawaii where he began to get interested in rap music. He was honourably discharged in December 1979 after serving two years.

7. James Stewart

Oscar-winning actor James Stewart remains the highest-ranking actor in military history, achieving the rank of Brigadier General. Photo: US Air Force

It’s a Wonderful Life actor and Oscar-winner James Stewart remains the highest-ranking actor in military history thanks to his involvement in the liberation of France during Second World War.

The amateur pilot joined the US Army when the country entered the war in 1941 and was sent to England to serve as the commanding officer of the 703rd Bomb Squadron.

Stewart went on to fly 20 dangerous combat missions in a bomber aircraft and was awarded two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and the French honour of the Croix de Guerre.

He served for 27 years, including missions in the Vietnam War.

8. Lee Jong-suk

The actor and model made his acting debut in South Korean TV series Prosecutor Princess in 2010 before his breakout role in the hit drama Secret Garden.

He would go on to win awards for his roles in Doctor Stranger and Pinocchio.

Jong-suk, 33, took a break from his career to complete his mandatory military service in 2019. However, injuries he sustained during a car accident when he was 16 meant he was unfit for active duty, so he instead worked as a public service officer.

He was discharged on January 2, 2021.

9. Rob Riggle

'The Hangover' actor captioned this Facebook post: '1st Lt. Rob Riggle on his way to Liberia circa '96. Refuelling at sea.' Photo: @Rob Riggle / Facebook

Long before he launched his comedy career in movies such as The Hangover, Step Brothers and The War with Grandpa, Riggle was a decorated US Marine.

Joining in 1990 after getting his pilot’s licence, he set his sights on becoming a naval aviator.

After serving nine years of active duty he left to pursue his comedy career, switching to the United States Marine Corps Reserve and serving in Liberia, Kosovo, Albania and Afghanistan.

He was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for his tour of Kosovo and retired in January 2013 after serving 23 years.

“People in show business rarely say what they're really thinking,” he told Marine Mag. “Marines usually shoot straight with you.”

10. Morgan Freeman

The Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actor enlisted in the US Air Force straight out of high school in 1955.

Turning down a scholarship to Jackson State University to study drama, Freeman wanted to pursue his love of flying and trained to be an automatic tracking radar repairman.

However, the Seven actor’s dream of becoming a pilot was dealt a blow when he began his training and realised it wasn't what he thought it would be.

"When I was getting close to being accepted for pilot training, I was allowed to get in a jet airplane," he told AARP The Magazine. “I sat there looking at all those switches and dials, and I got the distinct feeling that I was sitting in the nose of a bomb. You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this.”

After four years in the Air Force, he was honourably discharged as an airman first class in 1959.

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Updated: October 18, 2022, 12:30 PM
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