Rock Legends That Served In The Military
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Military to Music
For this post, we are paying tribute to musicians who served their country. They all deserve to be recognized.
1. Willie Nelson
This country legend joined the Air Force after graduating high school in 1950. However, he only served for nine months before receiving a medical discharge due to back problems.
“I was in the Air Force a while and they had what they call ‘policing the area,'” he told Military.com. That’s where you looked around and if there’s anything wrong here, there, anywhere, you took care of your own area.And I think that’s a pretty good thing to go by. If everyone just takes care of their own area, then we won’t have any problems. Be here. Be present. Wherever you are, be there. And look around you and see what needs to be changed.”
2. Kris Kristofferson
This legendary songwriter was the son of a two-star Air Force general. Coming from a military family, it was no surprise that he joined the the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of captain. He served in Germany and after his tour of duty ended in 1965, he received invitation to teach at West Point. He declined because he decided to pursue a career in music.
“I’m kind of amazed by the whole thing,” he told Rolling Stone. “I was on my way to a totally different life. And all of a sudden I committed my future and all my family and everything to this! It was pretty scary.”
3. Maynard James Keenan
The Tool frontman joined the Army immediately after high school in 1984 because he was inspired after watching Bill Murray in the 1981 film Stripes. His performance in basic and advanced training earned him a spot at West Point, but he eventually refused.
“In that moment, when you’re staring at this thing going, OK, is this what I want to do? Is there something else? I had an overwhelming feeling that this wasn’t what I was supposed to do,” he said in an interview with Revolver. “I’m pretty in touch with my intuition, and in that moment, I had to listen to it and decline the appointment.”
4. Johnny Cash
At 18 years old, Johnny Cash enlisted in the US Air Force on July 7, 1950. He was sent to Germany as a Morse code operator intercepting Soviet transmissions during the Korean War. He was still with the Air Force when he purchased his first guitar and learned how to play it. He was honorably discharged after four years as a staff sergeant.
“The Air Force taught me the things every military service imparts to its enlisted men,” he wrote in his memoir, “plus one skill that’s pretty unusual: If you ever need to know what one Russian is signaling to another in Morse code, I’m your man.”
5. Jerry Garcia
Jerry Garcia revealed that he was sent to the Army for stealing his mom’s car. After completing his basic training, Garcia was transferred to Fort Winfield Scott in San Francisco. He was discharged less than a year later.
“I lasted nine months in the Army,” he told Rolling Stone in a 1972 interview. “… It started me into the acoustic guitar; up until that time I had been mostly into electric guitar, rock ‘n’ roll and stuff.”
6. Ray Manzarek
Years before co-founding The Doors, Ray Manzarek signed up in the Army Signal Corps in 1962. He wanted to enlist as a camera operator but was assigned to the Army Security Agency instead. He was stationed in Japan and Laos. Manzarek was discharged after one year.
7. Jason Everman
Jason Everman played in Nirvana and Soundgarden. He later joined the Army and served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger and Green Beret. He received an honorable discharge in 2006 and formed a military veteran band called Silence and Light.
8. John Fogerty
In 1966, John Fogerty signed up with the U.S. Army Reserve as a supply clerk. He was at Fort Bragg, Fort Knox and Fort Lee during the Vietnam War. He was discharged in 1967 and didn’t see any combat. His active service was only for six months.
“It was pretty intense because this was right at the height of the Vietnam War,” he recalled. “Every young man’s clock was running pretty fast.”
9. Jimi Hendrix
Unlike the others on this list, Jimi Hendrix didn’t join the Army of his own free will. At 19 years old, he was given a choice whether to enlist or go to jail for two years for stealing cars. He chose the Army, and was given honorable discharge a year later. Even though he completed his paratrooper training, his superiors ultimately decided he wasn’t fit to be a soldier.
10. Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley entered the Army at the height of his fame in 1958. He achieved the rank of Sergeant before being honorably discharged after 18 months of service.
“I had quite a few interesting experiences: slept out in the snow, ate through rations,” he said in a news conference. “I suppose the biggest thing is that I did make it. I tried to play it straight like everybody else. I made a lot of friends that I wouldn’t have made otherwise. All in all, it’s been a pretty good experience.”