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Veterans Day: Famous Figures – Lesson
Did you realize these famous figures are veterans?
Veterans Day is a time to honor and remember military personnel who have served to protect our freedom and liberties, some paying the ultimate price of their lives. Some make the armed forces their career, and then there are others who serve and then choose another profession. Nearly half of America’s presidents, beginning with George Washington, have been veterans, as have many other famous people. Here’s a selection of well-known veterans who you might have heard of, and some who might surprise you:
Harriet Tubman is most known for her work in the Underground Railroad, but she is also recognized as the first woman to lead a military project in her role as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. Working with Colonel James Montgomery, her spy ring was able to free about 750 slaves in South Carolina.
Best known for her character Dorothy on the sitcom The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur enlisted under the name Bernie Frankel during World War II and became one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve.
At the time, she needed her parents’ permission because she wasn’t 21 years old yet. She joined the Marine Corps and worked as a truck driver and a typist in Virginia and North Carolina, earning the rank of staff sergeant. After leaving the military in 1945, she started acting on Broadway and earned a Tony Award before turning to television.
Elvis Presley was already one of America’s biggest stars, with music hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Love Me Tender,” when he was drafted into the military. At the time, American men could be drafted into military service when they turned 21 years old.
When Presley was forced into the military, his young fans were disappointed and upset that his career would be interrupted, and that the performer may be put in danger. On the other hand, many older Americans had disliked his rock ‘n’ roll style, and this improved their opinions of him. While he was offered a place in the “special services,” which would allow him to spend his military time performing concerts, in the end he decided to join as a regular soldier.
In 1958, Presley joined the Army. He was assigned to a tank battalion and was sent to Germany for around 18 months. While there, he met Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he later married. During an interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television, he explained the expectations of his fans and how he dealt with them:
“I was in a funny position. People were expecting me to mess up, to goof up in one way or another. They thought I couldn’t take it and so forth, and I was determined to go to any limits to prove otherwise, not only to the people who were wondering, but to myself.”
The martial arts and movie star wasn’t born knowing those karate chops and kicks; he actually learned them while serving in the military. After high school, he joined the Air Force, working toward a career in law enforcement. While he was stationed in Korea as a security officer, he realized he wasn’t able to arrest violent people without using his weapon, so he started studying local martial art styles Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do.
In 1969, Norris won Black Belt magazine’s “Fighter of the Year” award and went on to found 32 martial arts schools, as well as catching the acting bug. Audiences loved him after seeing his performance in Way of the Dragon, where he was the legendary Bruce Lee’s opponent. He continues supporting the military and veterans, and on March 28, 2007, he was made honorary United States Marine by Commandant James T. Conway.
The western actor and former mayor of Carmel, California, was drafted into the military during the Korean War. He became a swim instructor while stationed in Fort Ord, CA. Eastwood’s swimming abilities came in handy when he was on a plane that ran out of gas, forcing him to jump into the Pacific Ocean and swim a mile to shore.