9 celebrities that joined the military post-fame

Jin/Elvis Presley/Prince Harry - Getty
Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Archive Photos/Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty Images

For some, serving their country in the Armed Forces is a personal goal, or life dream, for others it’s an honor, and for many, in different territories where there’s an active conflict threat, it is a duty.

In recent years, the Korean wave, or “Hallyu,” has meant that an increasing number of Americans now follow and support celebrities who are subject to conscription. In the U.S., it’s less common that your favorite singer, actor, or celebrity might join the military, but there have been a few examples over time.

Here are nine celebrities who joined the military after becoming well-known and building a fan base.

Jin (BTS)

Jin BTS
Image via Han Myung-Gu/GC Images/Getty Images

BTS fans were left heartbroken when the band announced that the members would be going ahead with their mandatory military service. Just like a number of K-Pop idols before them, conscription was always on the horizon for the boy band, but a large portion of its fan base was still holding out hope that the members would be excused, given their unprecedented success in the global music scene.

The oldest member of BTS, Jin was the first to enlist in December 2022. He is expected to spend 18 months as an active duty soldier in the army, which places his dismissal around June 2024. His fellow BTS members were there to see their brother off at Jin’s enlistment ceremony.

Elvis Presley

Image via Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Elvis is maybe the most famous celebrity to join the military after reaching fame. By the time Elvis enlisted in 1958, he was already one of the biggest names in the music industry, both nationally and internationally.

As a rock and roll singer, the man who would later be known as The King, was seen as a bad influence on the youth of that time, so joining the military was more of a career move than anything. In order to dodge any outrage that special conditions of enlistment would cause, Elvis joined the army as a regular soldier, and served for two years. He received an honorable discharge on March 5, 1960.

Prince Harry

Prince Harry
Image via Joe Giddins – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Harry was basically born famous, so his enlistment in the Army technically counts as happening post-fame, right?

Princess Diana and now King Charles’ son served for ten years, including two tours in Afghanistan. He began training in 2005, and in 2006 became an Army officer. He went on to become a Captain, and an Apache aircraft commander, famously comparing operating the helicopter’s weapons to “playing PlayStation and Xbox.”

Active military service ended for Prince Harry on 19 June, 2015, but as a member of the Royal Family, up until 2020, he held a number of honorary military appointments.

Gong Yoo

Gong Yoo
Image via Han Myung-Gu/WireImage/Getty Images

American audiences will best recognize Korean actor Gong Yoo from his work in the 2016 zombie movie Train to Busan, or as The Salesman in Netflix’s mega-hit Squid Game.

Gong, who is now 43, enlisted when he was 28, by which point he was already recognized as one of Korea’s most coveted leading men. He had starred as the lead in a few television shows, including his break out role in 2007’s Coffee Prince – one of the most popular Korean series of all time.

The Train to Busan actor did 8 months of active service near the North Korea border, before bring transferred to the public relations department of the Defense Media Agency, where he also worked as a DJ for the army radio station.

Chanyeol (EXO)

Chanyeol
Image via David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Chanyeol was the fifth EXO member to enlist in the South Korean Military, after his band mates D.O., Xiumin, Suho, and Chen. He served as an active duty soldier from March 2021 to September 2022.

While in the military, the singer and actor joined a musical with other K-Pop idols in the army at the time. The musical, titled Blue Helmet: A Song of Meissa, also starred ONF’s Hyojin and J-Us, IN2IT’s Inpyo, and actor Jang Kiyong. It was broadcast on a global livestream in 153 countries, which helped fans of Chanyeol not miss him as much.

Rob Riggle

Rob Riggle
Image via Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Actor and comedian Rob Riggle didn’t exactly join the military after becoming famous, but he did stay in the reserves well into the years of his career.

Known for his roles on Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and a number of different comedies, Riggle joined the Marines in 1990, and retired 23 years later. He served as a public affairs officer in Liberia, Kosovo, Albania, and Afghanistan, eventually reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In the 2018 movie 12 Strong, Riggle plays Colonel Max Bowers, who he served directly under, in real life, at the start of the Afghanistan War.

G-Dragon (Big Bang)

G-Dragon
Image via Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

G-Dragon is one of the biggest stars in the Korean music industry. After rising to fame as a member of Big Bang, he famously became the only solo artist to ever win the country’s most coveted award – MAMA Artist of the Year – in 2013.

The rapper initiated his conscription in 2018, and served in the military for 20 months. At the time, it was reported that thanks to the infinite letters G-Dragon was receiving from fans, the camp where he was stationed ran out of printer ink and paper. When he came back, there was a welcoming event with three thousand fans. All fellow members of Big Bang have completed their military service, too.

Jimmy Stewart

James Stewart
Image via Getty Images

Jimmy Stewart was already a famous Hollywood actor when he joined the military in March, 1941, just fresh from winning the Academy Award for best actor in a leading role for The Philadelphia Story. By that time, he had also starred in hits like You Can’t Take It With You, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, among numerous other roles.

He became one of the first major acting stars to join the Armed Forces to fight in World War II at 32 years-old. He was first rejected for not weighing enough, but eventually enlisted as a private in the Air Corps, making the most out of his pilot license.

He enjoyed a long military career, transferring to the reserves of the United States Air Force in 1947, and becoming the highest-ranking actor in American military history.

Taemin (SHINee)

Taemin
Image via Han Myung-Gu/WireImage/Getty Images

Like Jin, Taemin of boy band SHINee is currently carrying out his military service. He just recently shared an update with his fans on Instagram during his Christmas break, confirming that his discharge date is April 4, 2023.

Taemin initially enlisted as part of the military band in May 2021, but in January, following episodes of depression and anxiety, he was transferred to supplementary service where he works as a public service worker. The change lengthened his conscription, which was initially scheduled to finish by November of this year.

Taemin is one of the most successful K-pop idols of all time, and widely regarded as one of the most competent vocalists and performers. He debuted as a solo act in 2014, after six years with SHINee.