5 Celebrities with Surprisingly Badass Military Backgrounds

5 Celebrities with Surprisingly Badass Military Backgrounds

We often look at a celebrity and forget that there is a real person there, somewhere. We focus on their movies or their music and overlook the fact that, whenever they aren’t filming or recording, they oftentimes live normal lives. Some of them raise families – take the kids to school, go grocery shopping etc. On the other hand, others choose to serve their country and, surprisingly, some of them are quite good at it.

1. Montel Williams

Montel_Williams_navy interview

Montel Williams will be familiar to some as a popular talk show host, radio personality and occasional actor. However, before all of this, he was a decorated Navy Intelligence Officer.

Williams’ military career started right after high school when he enrolled in the U.S. Marines Corps in 1974. Over there, he made quite an impression on his superior officers so he was transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy. He would go on to graduate and immediately enlist in the Navy as a cryptologic officer (which meant that he gathered and decoded classified intelligence). He held this position while he served in Guam for a year and a half before being transferred to the NSA.

For the next few years, he continued to serve in a supervisory role on various submarines. He offered counseling to his crew which is how he discovered he had a gift for public speaking (one which he would later on develop into a career). When he finally left the Navy, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant and was awarded three different Navy medals for his contributions.

2. Dr. Ruth


Definitely the most surprising entry on this list, Dr. Ruth is, arguably, the most famous sex therapist in the world who has been dispensing sex-related advice for the past three decades. However, way before this, when she was a teenager, she actually was a sniper (yes, really).

Her story begins on a tragic note – she lost her Jewish family in the Holocaust. She managed to survive because her mother sent her to Switzerland. From there she eventually emigrated to Israel where she joined a paramilitary organization called the Haganah (which later would become the core of the Israeli Defense Forces). It turned out that she was a crackshot who put everyone else around her to shame and her very small stature of 4 ft 7 in (1.40 m) was actually an advantage. So, naturally, she became a sniper.

Her military career only lasted until she was 20 when she was gravely wounded in 1948 during the Israeli War of Independence. A cannon ball exploded in the house where she was living with other students. Three students were killed, several others were injured including Ruth who almost lost her legs. She would eventually recuperate and move to Paris where she began studying psychology. Despite this, Dr. Ruth retains some of her old skills. According to her, she can still load a Sten automatic rifle while being blindfolded in under a minute.

3. Mel Brooks


Photo Credit: Angela George via Wiki Commons

Today we know him as the creator of some of our favorite parody movies of all time: Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Blazing Saddles, just to name a few. Before this he was a successful comedian and afterwards he even began staging successful Broadway shows. In other words, he’s done it all when it comes to showbiz but, before that, he also served in World War II.

His military career started early on. He was drafted into the war in 1944 right out of high school. He was then sent to the Virginia Military Institute to receive special training and, soon enough, he was a corporal in the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion.

As a combat engineer, Brooks specialized in detecting and defusing landmines. He retained this position until the end of the war, time during which Brooks was actively working on the frontlines and even took part in the Battle of the Bulge.

4. Rob Riggle

Rob Riggle

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

If the name doesn’t ring a bell immediately, you might recognize Rob as an actor/comedian who appeared in some of the funniest movies of recent times including The Hangover, Talladega Nights, The Other Guys and 21/22 Jump Street. Before this, though, he acquired an extremely impressive 23-year career with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Riggle joined the Marines while he was in college in 1990. His initial intention was to become a Naval Aviator after he obtained his pilot’s license, but he eventually quit flight school in order to focus on comedy. He still remained in the Marine Corps Reserves, however, and he eventually served in Liberia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

He was still a reserve while he developed his comedy career until 2013 when he officially announced his retirement. By then, he had been active for 23 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

5. James Doohan


Younger readers might have problems remembering who James Doohan was while even older ones will still remember him just as Scotty from Star Trek. It’s true, he played such an iconic role that it was almost impossible for anyone to think of him as anything else other than the Scottish engineer onboard the Starship Enterprise (which is made even weirder by the fact that Doohan was Canadian). However, his military career is definitely something worth mentioning.

Like Mel Brooks, James Doohan fought in World War II in the Royal Canadian Artillery. What makes Doohan so badass? The fact that his first ever combat mission was a little thing called D-Day. That’s right, when the Allies invaded Normandy, Doohan was right there as a lieutenant in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.

It gets better. While taking part in D-Day, Doohan was tasked to guide his men through anti-tank mines and he still managed to take out two enemy snipers while doing so. However, in the process, Doohan himself was also shot…six times. Fortunately for him, most of the bullets hit him in the legs and hands. One of them went into his chest but the bullet was actually stopped by a cigarette case. The bullet in his hand was the most problematic because it cost him a finger. This is something that Doohan tried to hide later on as an actor, but you can still catch glimpses of his four-fingered hand if you are quick enough (if you see it and it has five fingers, it’s a hand double).