“THEY ALSO SERVE,
WHO ONLY STAND AND WAIT”
On Veteran’s Day earlier this week, we published a short article that took a look at the many entertainment celebrities that served in the U.S. military during times of war. Most were active during World War II. About half served through enlistment, and half because of the draft.
One person we know commented, “You won’t see any of today’s actors serving our country.” That got us thinking. Our first reaction was that it was probably true. We couldn’t think of anyone popular in films now that is also known for defending the country. But was it a true? And was it fair? Well, we decided to revisit the issue and take a look at some now-famous contemporary actors.
We chose to look at notable actors that are American citizens, are alive today, and were living while the most recent U.S. military draft was in force between 1948 and 1973. After 1973, we have had an all-volunteer military. Registration with Selective Service is still required but there is no actual draft any longer.
We selected 31 actors - none of which were old enough to serve in WWII or Korea. Some were of draft age during the Vietnam War. All were technically of age during the Gulf War and the Iraq/Afghanistan War, although most were well past service age.
We need to say that we have no information about their draft status or their eligibility for deferment. So there may be very legitimate reasons they were exempted.
What we found was that it may be unfair to criticize them. Truth and fairness are frequently different. Thirteen percent served in the military (or alternate service), 32% were eligible for the draft (but were well down the age priority list), 23% were eligible and prime candidates (based on age alone), and 32% were too young (they had not reached the age of 18 prior to the draft being abolished).
Clint Eastwood (b. 1930, age 83) - enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Robert Duval (b. 1931, age 82) - enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Morgan Freeman (b. 1937, age 76) - enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
Richard Dreyfuss (b. 1947, age 65) - a conscientious objector, he performed alternate service in a hospital.
A. This group was 27 or older prior to the end of the draft; and while technically eligible, they were well down the priority list:
Dustin Hoffman (b. 1937, age 75) - eligible for the draft for 18 years
Al Pacino (b. 1940, age 73) - eligible for the draft for 15 years
Martin Sheen (b. 1940, age 72) - eligible for the draft for 15 years
Harrison Ford (b. 1942, age 71) - eligible for the draft for 13 years
Christopher Walken (b. 1943, age 70) - eligible for the draft for 12 years
Robert DeNiro (b. 1943, age 69) - eligible for the draft for 12 years
Sylvester Stallone (b. 1946, age 67) - eligible for the draft for 9 years
Tommy Lee Jones (b. 1946, age 66) - eligible for the draft for 9 years
B. This group was under 25 years old prior to the end of the draft, and would have been prime candidates:
Richard Gere (b. 1949, age 63) - eligible for the draft for 6 years
Bill Murray (b. 1950, age 62) - eligible for the draft for 5 years
Robin Williams (b. 1951, age 62) - eligible for the draft for 4 years
Kurt Russell (b. 1951, age 62) - eligible for the draft for 4 years
John Travolta (b. 1954, age 59) - eligible for the draft for 1 year
Denzel Washington (b. 1954, age 58) - eligible for the draft for 1 year
C. This group gets kind of a free pass. Each of them was NOT YET OF DRAFT AGE (18) when the draft was discontinued in 1973:
Bruce Willis (b. 1955, age 58)
Tom Hanks (b. 1956, age 57)
Alec Baldwin (b. 1958, age 55)
George Clooney (b. 1961, age 52)
Laurence Fishburne (b. 1961, age 51)
Tom Cruise (b. 1962, age 51)
Johnny Depp (b.1963, age 50)
Brad Pitt (b. 1963, age 49)
Robert Downey Jr. (b. 1965, age 48)
So what’s the point? Is it unfair to judge this generation of actors as being unpatriotic? While it’s true that they could have volunteered in their younger days (aside from physical problems), most were either too old to be acceptable to the military, had valid deferments, had a low draft priority number, or were simply under age when the draft was abolished; and since there was no war seriously threatening America, who can blame them for getting on with their careers?
NOTE: Here may be the most interesting fact of all. EVERY ONE of these 31 actors has portrayed a U.S. soldier in a film.