Famous Veteran: Kris Kristofferson
“I want you to know I’m an Army brat; I was a captain in the Army and my brother was a jet pilot in the Navy. So I support our troops; I identify with them. But I sure as hell don’t identify with the bastards who sent them over there.”
Kris Kristofferson is well-known for his country tunes and his talent on the silver screen, but if that isn’t enough to impress you, his time in the Army might. Born to Mary Ann and U.S. Army Air corps officer Lars Kristofferson, Kris Kristofferson spent his early years shuffling around like any normal military child. He obtained a BA in literature from Pomona college in 1958, and later earned a scholarship to Oxford. After graduation, his family finally pressured him into joining the Army and marrying his girlfriend from high school.
Joining in 1960, Kristofferson became a helicopter pilot after completing Ranger School and eventually worked his way to the rank of Captain. During this time he continued to work on music and even formed his own band while stationed in Germany. Kristofferson was offered a teaching position in Literature at West Point, but he turned it down to focus on music. By the time his military service was done, his family disowned him for leaving the Army, and he had gone through a bitter divorce.
Kristofferson moved to Nashville where he earned money as a janitor and by flying helicopters for oil rigs. He wrote some of his most successful songs during this time, and while his own recordings of them didn’t quite make it, other artists reached the charts with them. After Johnny Cash introduced him at the Newport Folk Festival, he released his first album, “Me and Bobby McGee,” to great success. He continued letting other artists use his songs while he worked on his own recordings. Following his release of the album “Silver tongued Devil,” Kristofferson launched his acting career with “The Last Movie.”
While both his music and acting career have seen dips and turns over the years, Kristofferson is still active in both professions and has secured his position as one of the great country music stars of his time. Kristofferson was inducted into the songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1985 and has earned over 48 different BMI Country and Pop awards. He also received the Veteran of the Year Award at the American Veteran Awards in 2011, with fellow country legend and vet Willie Nelson presenting the honor. True to his straight-shooting nature, Kristofferson noted during his acceptance speech, “Maybe military service oughta be a requirement of our political leaders today.”