6 Famous Veterans from TV

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Here's a TV-Holic tribute to some familiar faces who served their country. Happy Veterans Day to all our men and women in uniform, then and now!

1. Bill Cosby

Cosby Show fans will see a lot of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable in Bill Cosby's biography. In 1956, Cosby dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. While he trained as a medical corpsman, he also earned his high school diploma via a correspondence course. He was assigned for a time at Bethesda Naval Hospital, helping rehabilitate wounded Korean War veterans. He also excelled in basketball and track, and toured nationally with the Navy teams. When he left the Navy, it was with a scholarship to Temple University in hand.

2. James Doohan

James Doohan, Star Trek's Scotty, was just 19 years old when he enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Canadian Artillery. He studied diligently and had worked his way up to the rank of Command Post Officer by the time he was sent to Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion.

In command of 120 men in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Doohan sustained machine gun wounds to his chest (a metal cigarette case saved his life), leg and hand. The hand wound resulted in a partial amputation of his right middle finger, an injury that was visible (despite his attempts to conceal it) in several episodes of Star Trek.

3. Ernest Borgnine

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Who would've guessed that the conniving, wise-cracking Lt. Commander McHale (of McHale's Navy fame) had actually served in the U.S. Navy? Ernest Borgnine enlisted not once, but twice: his first tour of duty was from 1935 to 1941, during which time he served aboard the USS Lamberton. When the United States entered World War II, he re-upped and was promoted to gunner's mate first class. He was assigned to the USS Sylph, which patrolled for U-Boats and also tested new equipment.

4. Brian Keith

The benevolent (and wealthy!) uncle any kid wanted to call their own in the late 1960s was Family Affair's Uncle Bill, played by Brian Keith. Keith joined the Marines after graduating from high school, and received an Air Medal after serving as a rear gunner in several actions on Rabal in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

5. Dennis Weaver

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Dennis Weaver has carved out several niches in TV-land "“ he won an Emmy for playing Chester on Gunsmoke, he played Marshall Sam McCloud as part of the NBC Mystery Movie wheel series, and he was pursued by a faceless truck driver in the classic made-for-TVer Duel. He joined the Navy right out of high school and served as an F4U Fighter Pilot during World War II. When the war ended, he enrolled at the University of Oklahoma where he excelled in track and just missed qualifying for the 1948 Olympic team.

6. Ed McMahon

Ed McMahon will forever be remembered as Johnny Carson's second banana on TV, but let the record show that he bested Johnny in terms of military service. Ed dropped out of Boston College when Pearl Harbor was attacked and joined the Marines with hopes of becoming a fighter pilot. He went through the necessary training and worked as a flight instructor for two years in Pensacola before finally getting his orders for the Pacific fleet in 1945. His orders were cancelled, however, when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. McMahon was called back to active duty during the Korean War, where he flew unarmed single-engine spotter planes.
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These are obviously just a handful of famous veterans. Please feel free to share others in the comments.

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November 11, 2009 - 5:59am
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