When it comes to the military, TV characters have a long and distinguished history of service. For Veteran’s Day, we honor 40 of those characters with military service in their backgrounds.
#40 Damon Salvatore, The Vampire Diaries
Damon briefly served in the Confederate Army. He deserted prior to the end of the Civil War due to a combination of disillusionment in the cause and a disinterest in the whole war thing.
#39 Terry Bellefleur, True Blood
A veteran of the Iraq War, Terry Bellefleur suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that interfered with his day-to-day life more than vampires and other monsters.
#38 Bill Compton, True Blood
Although he was turned into a vampire on his way home, Bill Compton was a soldier for the Louisiana division of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
#37 Red Foreman, That 70s Show
Having joined the Navy before the end of high school, Foreman fought in both World War II and the Korean War. Most of his military action in World War II was in the Pacific, where he achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
#36 John Winchester, Supernatural
Before he ever thought of fighting monsters, John Winchester served in the Marines. He fought in the Vietnam War and attained the rank of corporal.
#35 Jimbo Kern, South Park
Stan’s Uncle Jimbo was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and attained the rank of sergeant.
#34 Ned Gerblanksy, South Park
Having met his friend Jimbo at Da Nang, Ned was injured by a grenade during the Vietnam War, losing his arm.
#33 Kip “Half-Sack” Epps, Sons of Anarchy
Epps served in the Marines during the Iraq War and lost a testicle while there (the explanation for his nickname).
#32 Abraham Simpson, The Simpsons
Grampa Simpson served as a master sergeant in the Flying Hellfish unit of the Army during World War II. The unit also included Montgomery Burns, which brought the two into conflict when it was revealed that they had hidden German art liberated during the war.
#31 John Watson, Sherlock
Like the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character, Sherlock’s John Watson was a medical doctor only recently returned from British military service in Afghanistan. The modern-day Watson, however, suffered from PTSD (possibly because he missed the violence and action) and was wounded during his time at war.
#30 Frank Costanza, Seinfeld
Costanza served as an Army cook with the Fighting 103rd during the Korean War (and may have caused a few casualties from food poisoning).
#29 Dr. Bob Kelso, Scrubs
Before running a hospital, Dr. Bob Kelso was a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. While there, he fathered a child, Trong Tri Kelso, with a Vietnamese woman.
#28 Richard Belding, Saved by the Bell
A “hero” in the Vietnam War, Mr. Belding served three tours of duty with the Army and fell in love with a North Vietnamese girl.
#27 Sam Hanna, NCIS: Los Angeles
Later a member of the Navy’s NCIS division, Sam Hanna began his military career as a Navy SEAL.
#26 Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS
A veteran of the Desert Storm action in Iraq, Gibbs was a gunnery sergeant in the Marines.
#25 Jay Pritchett, Modern Family
Although the specifics of his service are unknown, Jay mentioned: “ That was my Vietnam. And I was in Vietnam.” (Referencing a past building project with Mitchell in episode 2.1, “The Old Wagon”)
#24 Thomas Magnum, Magnum PI
Magnum was a Naval officer who served in the Vietnam War as a SEAL and in naval intelligence. He rose to the rank of lieutenant before leaving the military and later was reinstated as a commander.
#23 Don Draper/Dick Whitman, Mad Men
As Dick Whitman, he enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. Injured in an accidental explosion (caused by a dropped lighter) and having stolen an identity, he returned home as Lieutenant Donald Draper.
#22 Roger Sterling, Mad Men
During World War II, Roger Sterling served in the Navy, primarily in the Pacific theater of fighting. He’s been on shore leave ever since.
#21 Sayid Jarrah, Lost
A communications officer and interrogator for the Iraqi Republican Guard, Sayid’s military service might best be described as a series of manipulations. It wasn’t pretty.
#20 Elliot Stabler, Law & Order: SVU
Elliot Stabler served in the Marine Corps and was a specialist in hand-to-hand combat.
#19 Michael Knight, Knight Rider
Knight saw military action during the Vietnam War, where he was a Green Beret working in counter-intelligence. Captured and imprisoned, Knight sustained a brain injury while escaping from a POW camp. The steel plate he received to treat that injury would later save his life in a shooting.
#18 Nathan Petrelli, Heroes
Nathan Petrelli served as a Naval officer and pilot. He saw combat in Bosnia, Serbia and Rwanda before leaving the military for careers in law and politics.
#17 Steve McGarrett, Hawaii Five-0
A Navy SEAL with experience in both investigation and interrogation, McGarrett returned to his home in Hawaii to find the international baddie that killed his father.
#16 Owen Hunt, Grey’s Anatomy
Dr. Hunt was an Army trauma surgeon who was the sole survivor of an attack on his unit in Iraq. As a result of this incident, he left the military and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
#15 Teddy Altman, Grey’s Anatomy
Dr. Altman joined the Army as a surgeon following the September 11 attacks on New York and served during combat in Iraq.
#14 Olivia Dunham, Fringe
Although most of her career was with the FBI, Olivia Dunham spent an earlier period serving in the Marines as a special investigator, prosecuting a powerful figure involved in the assault of Marine privates.
#13 Martin Crane, Frasier
Having joined the Army at the age of 19, Martin Crane fought in the Korean War.
#12 Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly
During the Unification War, Reynolds achieved the rank of platoon sergeant in the 57th Overlanders division of the Browncoats. He and his corporal, Zoe, were their unit’s only survivors during the Battle of Serenity.
#11 Zoe Washburne, Firefly
A corporal in the Independent Browncoat army, Zoe served in the Unification War and fought under Malcolm Reynolds at the Battle of Serenity.
#10 James Doakes, Dexter
Before joining the Miami Police Department, James Doakes was an Army Ranger with extensive experience in black operations.
#9 John Casey, Chuck
Casey started out as Alexander Coburn, a Marine who gave up his civilian life and name to join a Special Forces unit. While his military history remained hazy, Casey achieved the rank of major and then colonel through his paramilitary spy work.
#8 Sam Axe, Burn Notice
While a member of the Navy SEALs, Sam Axe had a long career working in covert operations and intelligence gathering. His work was shadowy at best but did put him in touch with members of all branches of the intelligence community.
#7 Justin Walker, Brothers and Sisters
The youngest Walker joined the Army, serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq. His time in combat left him with post-traumatic stress disorder and a wounded leg.
#6 Seeley Booth, Bones
An Army sniper, Booth served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 101st Airborne Division and the Special Forces. He reached the rank of Master Sergeant following service in the Gulf War, Somalia and Kosovo.
#5 William Adama, Battlestar Galactica
Originally a Viper pilot in the Colonial Fleet, Adama rose in prominence following the Cylon Wars, eventually becoming the military commander for the remainders of human civilization.
#4 Buster Bluth, Arrested Development
Buster enlisted in the Army and underwent basic training with minimal success. His military service was somewhat complicated by a seal (not the Navy kind) eating his hand.
#3 Archie Bunker, All in the Family
During World War II, Archie Bunker served in the Army Air Corps and was stationed in Foggia, Italy.
#2 Hannibal Smith, B.A. Baracus, Faceman Peck and H.M. Murdock, The A-Team
The men who would become the A-Team were members of the Army’s Special Forces before their false conviction at the end of the Vietnam War.
#1 Jack Bauer, 24
A member of the Army’s Delta Force well before he ever had to save the world in a single day, Jack Bauer had a distinguished military career. He received Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger and Special Forces training, earning a Silver Star, Purple Heart and Legion of Merit before leaving the military with a rank of captain.
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Laurel grew up in Mamaroneck, NY, Grosse Pointe, MI and Bellevue WA. She then went on to live in places like Boston, Tucson, Houston, Wales, Tanzania, Prince Edward Island and New York City before heading back to Seattle. Ever since early childhood, when she became addicted to The Muppet Show, Laurel has watched far too much TV. Current favorites include Chuck, Modern Family, Supernatural, Mad Men and Community. Laurel received a BA in Astrophysics (yes, that is possible) from Colgate University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and History of Science from Columbia University before she realized that television is much better than studying.