Air Force Star Power

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By Debbie Gregory.

Besides fame, another thing all of these celebrities have in common is that they served in the U.S. Air Force. Some of them used their military education benefits to further their careers. Others used their experiences in uniform as the springboard for a life in the spotlight.

It was rumored that Johnny Cash bought his first guitar at a base exchange while stationed with the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile at Landsberg, Germany. Cash translated Soviet Army Morse Code messages, and is cited as the first operator to learn of Joseph Stalin’s death.

The late Bob Ross was an American painter, art instructor, and television host. He was widely known as the creator and host of The Joy of Painting. The Air Force is credited with giving Ross his positive outlook on life. Ross served as a first sergeant while stationed at Eielson AFB in Alaska, where he first saw the snow and mountains that later became recurring themes in his artwork. He developed his quick-painting technique to create art for sale during brief daily work breaks. He is quoted as saying that since he had to be “mean” and “tough”, he would never scream again after leaving the military.

Morgan Freeman turned down a partial drama scholarship to enlist in the Air Force, where he served as a radar technician. While Freeman originally wanted to be a fighter pilot, he found the stage calling his name, and after four years, left the Air Force.

After dropping out of high school in 1954, George Carlin joined the Air Force. He was trained as a radar technician, and was stationed in Barksdale AFB in Bossier City, Louisiana. He once said, “Obviously I’m against militaries, because of what militaries do. In many ways though, the Air Force was unmilitary-like. They dropped bombs on people, but…they had a golf course.” Carlin used the GI Bill to cover the costs of broadcasting school.

Carlos Ray Norris, better known as Chuck Norris, was an Air Force security forces member. Known for his martial arts skills, Norris, first learned his moves while stationed in Korea. His love of karate is also where he got his nickname Chuck. After four years Norris left the service to start a new career – opening his first karate school.

David Adkins, better known by his stage name Sinbad, served as a boom operator aboard KC-135 Stratotankers. While assigned to the 384th Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, he would often travel downtown to perform stand-up comedy. He competed as a comedian in the Air Force’s Talent Contest in 1981. Sinbad was almost dismissed with a dishonorable discharge for various misbehaviors.

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