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  • Martel Sharpe

Honoring Notable Black Veterans for Veterans Day


While Black people have served in the armed forces since the beginning of this country, it's rare for them to get recognition for their contributions. With Black people starting to get recognition for what they've done in all facets of American life, it's only right to honor Black veterans for Veterans Day.



Americans take numerous opportunities to celebrate veterans, but Veterans Day is particularly special because it allows all military servicemen, past and present, to be honored at the same time.


Since it's not easy to spot a former member of the armed forces out of uniform, we've compiled a list of notable Black people who are veterans.

Before Berry Gordy Jr. became the founder of Motown Records and one of the first Black music moguls, he was a high school drop out who wanted to become a professional boxer. In 1952, Gordy was drafted into the United States Army to fight in the Korean War where he served for a year.


Tracy Marrow, professionally known as Ice-T, was a drug dealer and thief who enlisted in the United States Army in 1977 to financially provide for his girlfriend and newborn daughter. During his time in the army, he became interested in music and later became a pimp to pay for turntable equipment. After serving for two years, he was able to get an honorable discharge for being a single father.


While attending the University of Michigan, James Earl Jones joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Originally, he was a pre-medical major with a desire to become a doctor. However, he later realized that his passion wasn't in medicine but in drama. Before he could switch majors he was commissioned to fight in the Korean War as a second lieutenant.


James was never deployed to Korea and worked as a stage hand at a theatre until he received orders. He would later graduate college in 1955 and become a United States Army Ranger, before being discharged to move to New York.


A high school dropout, Marvin Gaye enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1956 at the age of 17-years-old. He was given a general discharge after faking mental illness due to his dissatisfaction with the tasks he had to perform.


Stanley Kirk Burrell, also known as MC Hammer, joined the United States Navy after failing to pursue a career in Major League Baseball. He served for three years before receiving an honorable discharge, but not before developing his entertainment persona.


A decorated naval officer, Montel Williams enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1974. After completing the one-year Naval Academy Preparatory School course, he was accepted to the four-year officer training program at the U.S Naval Academy. He graduated in 1980 with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.



Eventually, Williams spent 18 months in Guam as a cryptologic officer for naval intelligence and was involved in the US invasion of Grenada in 1983. He left the navy as a Lieutenant Commander with awards that include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.


In 1955, Morgan Freeman turned down a scholarship to Jackson State University to enlist in the United States Air Force he served for four years before moving to Los Angeles to be an actor.


David Akins, better known as Sinbad, enlisted in the United States Air Force after graduating from the University of Denver. He began his standup comedy career while assigned to the 384th Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas. After a while, Sinbad decided that he longer wanted to be in the air force, and after a series of incidents he was discharged.


Lawrence Tureaud, who legally changed his last name to T, making him Mr. T, enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Military Police Corps, after being expelled from Prairie View A&M University. The high school football and wrestling star had won a scholarship to the university and majored in mathematics. He was later discharged and decided to try out for the Green Bay Packers, but failed due to a knee injury.

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