Famous Veterans: Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris is famous as a world-champion martial artist, and movie and television star. What many people don't know is that Norris is also very dedicated to the military community.
Carlos Ray "Chuck" Norris was born on March 10, 1940 in Ryan, Oklahoma. His mother was Irish-English and his father was Cherokee. Norris joined the Air Force after high school, with the goal of training in the Security Police in preparation for a career in law enforcement. It was in the Air Force, while stationed in Korea, that Chuck was introduced to martial arts. One night on duty, Norris realized that he couldn't arrest a rowdy drunk without pulling his weapon.
He thus studied Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do, both Korean martial arts, and became the first Westerner to be awarded an eighth-degree Black Belt in Tae Kwan Do. When he returned to the US, Norris served at March Air Force Base, California before being discharged in August 1962. He then worked for Northrop Aviation, but moonlighted as a karate instructor and soon was teaching full-time and running a number of martial arts schools, teaching famous celebrities such as the Osmonds, Priscilla Presley and Steve McQueen. He held the world middleweight karate champion title for six years, and was named Black Belt magazine's "Fighter of the Year" in 1969, eventually founding 32 martial arts schools.
It was McQueen who encouraged Norris to go into acting. After bit roles, he captured the public's attention with his show-stopping turn as Bruce Lee's martial arts opponent in "Return of the Dragon" (1973). By the late 70s he was popular enough to headline his own movies, and starred in cult classics such as "Good Guys Wear Black," "Delta Force" and "Missing in Action." He currently stars in the popular TV series "Walker, Texas Ranger." Norris' fame grew to the point that fans began making up "Chuck Norris facts" about him (i.e., "Chuck Norris once kicked a horse in the chin. Its descendants today are known as giraffes"), and to this day new "Chuck Norris facts" are still being created, much to the good-natured Norris' amusement.
Norris has used his success to give back to the military community. He has been a spokesman on behalf of the Veteran's Administration and hospitalized veterans. In 1990 he created the "Kick Drugs out of America" Foundation, and has also been named "Veteran of the Year" at the American Veteran awards show.