Ernest Hemingway was not only one of the best novelists of all-time, his war stories would bring you back to the gravest of times, on the frontlines, shot at, surrounded by the stench of death and fresh blood.
In fact, most of his writing was influenced by his experiences during the WWI, where he served as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, in Italy. There he was wounded by an Austrian mortar fire barely a week into active duty. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery during WWII. Henry Louis Gates believes the great Hemingway shaped his unique literary style from what he experienced during wartime.
American actor and television talk show host, Montel Williams, has a stellar resume, all starting with a previous career you wouldn’t expect from such a celebrity. Prior to all the lights and glamour of show business that he now dwells in, he actually spent a full 22 years serving his country as a lieutenant of the US Marine Corps. This was from 1974 to 1996, a world away from the spotlight.
He earned his degree in general engineering with a minor in international security while he was at Annapolis. He even studied Mandarin Chinese, perhaps as a foresight to the sleeping giant’s future rise in power.
The effect of the great wars back in the day roused in young men a strong sense of pride and courage, of being wronged, and the will to rightfully correct it. One of those who felt the need to reinstall justice and order in the world was Johnny Carson, who would become famous as The Tonight Show host.
He enlisted in the United States navy as an apprentice seaman, and was enrolled in the V-5 program. He had hopes of being trained as a navy pilot but was instead sent for midshipman training at Columbia University. From there he became a member of the crew on the USS Pennsylvania. As he was always one to entertain, he performed tricks for his classmates to keep spirits high.
When American actor, Gene Hackman, was only 16 years old, he struggled with direction. Not knowing what he really wanted out of life, he opted to join the US Marines. There he realized that he would perennially find it hard to operate under any form of authority.
He was stationed in Shanghai where he worked as a radio operator, and then eventually made his way to Hawaii. During the length of his service he was demoted three times, continually having problems with simply following instructions. “I was not a good Marine,” he admits.
The combination of comedy and military service in one’s career, is like putting together the opposite poles of the world in one picture. Yet we’ve already encountered a few who achieved this feat. Mel Brooks is another one to add to the growing list. The creator of film farces and comedic parodies found himself drafted into the army during WWII.
He worked to diffuse many land mines in the Battle of the Bulge, a corporal for the 1104 Engineer Combat Battalion. Completely out of character, he often laughs at the position he was put in, saying, “I was a Combat Engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate the most in the world are combat and engineering.”