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The Quick 10: 10 Celebrities Who Served Our Country

It's Veterans Day in the U.S. (Remembrance Day in Canada), so I thought it was fitting that we look at a few famous folks who left fame at the height of their celebrity (OK, except for maybe Pete Rose) to serve our country. Happy Veterans Day!

1. Pete Rose was in the Ohio Army National Guard. He served at Fort Knox for six months, where he was a platoon guide, and then with a Reserve Unit at Fort Thomas for three years, where he was a company cook.

miller2. Glenn Miller really wanted to serve his country. Because he was too old (38), the Navy turned down his services. He actually had to convince the Army Air Forces to accept him. He said he wanted to lead a "modernized army band", and he did. He and his band had a weekly radio broadcast that was so successful, he was upgraded to a 50-piece band that traveled all over the world playing for troops. In England alone, he and his band gave 800 performances. On December 15, 1944, Major Glenn Miller was on his way to Paris when his plane disappeared over the English Channel. Neither Miller or the plane have ever been found. Is it just me, or is that picture a dead ringer for Ben Affleck?

3. Elvis. OMG, did you guys know Elvis was in the military? I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Elvis was drafted on December 20, 1957, completed basic training on September 17, 1958, and then served in Friedberg, Germany (where he met Colin Powell), from October 1, 1958 through March 2, 1960. He could have joined "Special Services," which basically would have allowed him to receive special treatment because he was Elvis. But he preferred to serve just like everyone else, and the guys who served with him have said that he just wanted to be one of the guys. He was honorably discharged as Sergeant Elvis Presley.

stewart4. Jimmy Stewart was born to a family of military men "“ both of his grandfathers were in the Civil War and his dad served in the Spanish-American War and WWI. He was an accomplished pilot before the war even broke out, so when he enlisted in 1941 (the first major movie star to do so), it was no surprise that he began pilot training immediately. When it seemed like he was going to be taken off of pilot duty to make recruitment films and things like that instead, Jimmy appealed to his superior and said that he really wanted to serve in combat. His wish was granted. We don't know how many missions he flew, because he requested that the total never be released, but we do know that many of his missions were deep into Nazi territory "“ he wasn't just running cargo. Jimmy Stewart's military history could be a whole post by itself, it's so impressive "“ but I'll try to keep it short by just saying that he ended up going from private to colonel in only four years, something only a handful of Americans have ever done. In 1959, he was named Brigadier General. His honors included the Distinguished Service Medal, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, four Air Medals, an Army Commendation Medal, an Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm.

5. Clark Gable.

This is my second post in a row that refers to Clark Gable. I'm going to see if I can fit him in all week! Anyway, I think Gable's story is the saddest. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces after his wife, Carole Lombard, died in a plane crash. She had been at a war bond rally in Indiana. She had encouraged him to enlist before her death, but MGM didn't want to lose one of their biggest stars. After she was gone, Gable insisted on enlisting and ended up serving in five high-profile combat missions. Here's an especially creepy fact: Hitler knew Gable was serving in the U.S. forces and offered a reward to any of his men who brought Gable to him, unharmed. Fortunately, that didn't happen and was he was honorably discharged as Captain Clark Gable after D-Day. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

ted6. Ted Williams not only served in WWII, like most of this list "“ he also served in the Korean War. His first stint saw him as a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station Pensacola. Although he was no longer on active duty after WWII, he did stay in the reserves and was called back to duty in 1952 and served in the same unit as John Glenn. And don't think that his celebrity status let him sit back at a cushy desk job "“ nope, Ted flew 38 combat missions and even received an Air Medal for bringing his damaged plane back to base. When he turned 40, General MacArthur sent him an oil painting and personalized it with this:

""To Ted Williams - not only America's greatest baseball player, but a great American who served his country. Your friend, Douglas MacArthur. General U.S. Army."

7. Henry Fonda famously enlisted in the Navy with the quote, "I don't want to be in a fake war in a studio." He served for three years, first as a Quartermaster (navigator) and then as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade. He received a Presidential Citation and the Bronze Star.

autry8. Gene Autry was inducted into the Army Air Forces on July 26, 1942, during a live broadcast of his radio show. He already had a pilot's license and made it his goal to become a Flight Officer, which he earned on June 21, 1944. His chief duty as a pilot was to haul fuel and other necessities, but he also served at war bond rallies, recruiting drives and with the USO. He was honorably discharged in 1946. His awards included the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the WWII Victory Medal.

9. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was a reserve officer in the Navy, but he was assigned to Lord Mountbatten's staff in England, which gave him lots of opportunities that most reserve officers didn't have. As a result, he came extremely proficient in military deception skills. So, he used those skills to form the Beach Jumpers. The mission of the Beach Jumpers was to land on beaches and convince the enemy that they were the force to be worried about, when in fact the real attacking unit was landing elsewhere. For his ingenuity, Fairbanks was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Croix Guerre with Palm, the Legio D'Honneuer, the Italian War Cross for Military and was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire.

10. Gene Roddenberry was the creator of Star Trek, so it's fitting that he was a combat pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941. He was part of the 394th Bomb Squadron that referred to themselves as the Bomber Barons. Like Ted Williams, Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart, he also received the Air Medal. And, also like Stewart and Gable, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross as well.

beelerAnd finally"¦ he's not famous, except in my family, but my grandpa was a career Navy man. It's fitting, because today is also his birthday. He was born on November 11 back when it was called Armistice Day, so his mom gifted him with Armistice as a middle name. His first name is Millard. Yep, say it together "“ Millard Armistice. You can see why he's gone by the nickname "Baldy" since he was about 10 years old!

Happy Birthday, Chief Beeler!! And Happy Veterans Day to our _flossers!

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entertainment
13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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