Famous Veterans: What Adam Driver’s Marine Corps Career and Acting Have in Common

adam driver marine corps veteran
Marine Corps veteran Adam Driver attends the 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Japan Premiere Red Carpet. (Photo by Dick Thomas Johnson)

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Adam Driver and all of his friends declared they would join the military as soon as they could.

Driver was the only one who followed through, joining the Marine Corps. It "was one of the things I'm most proud of having done in my life," he said during a 2015 TED Talk.

During that same talk, he discussed how putting on a performance is similar to being in the military. "You have people trying to accomplish a mission greater than themselves," he began.

Driver was born Nov. 19, 1983, to Nancy and Joe Driver. He began acting in plays at Mishawaka High School and graduated in 2001. He wasn't old enough to join the Corps immediately after Sept. 11, but did so after he turned 18.

He was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, California, as an 81mm mortar man.

"I found I loved the Marine Corps the most for the thing I was looking for the least when I joined, which was the people -- a weird motley crew of characters from a cross section of the United States that on the surface, I had nothing in common with," he said. "Over time, all the political and personal bravado that led me to the military dissolved. And for me, the Marine Corps became synonymous with my friends."

Adam Driver and the Marine Corps

Like many Marines, Driver looked forward to a deployment with his unit, but it wasn't to be. He fractured his sternum while mountain biking, and the injury was exacerbated by a forced march with a 90-pound pack.

"It was pretty devastating. It took me a long time to get over it," he told NPR's Terry Gross. "It's really about the people, this small, intimate group of people that you are lucky enough to get to serve with. And it's about them. Then, not going because you hurt yourself was pretty embarrassing and terrible."

At the time of his injury, Driver and his platoon were preparing for a deployment to Iraq. Instead, he was medically discharged in 2004, after just two years and eight months in the Corps.

"I wanted to go so much. I mean, you were training to do this job for two years with these people," he said. "The idea of not going, someone else going in your place or not being there, is not really an easy thing to sit with."

Upon leaving the military, Driver attended The Juilliard School for drama, graduating in 2009. His career started on stage, where he performed in Broadway and off-Broadway productions. He made his television debut in 2009 in an episode of the ABC show, "The Unusuals," starring Jeremy Renner and Adam Goldberg.

Two years later, he was on the silver screen with a small part in Clint Eastwood's 2011 film, "J. Edgar." Since then, a string of critically acclaimed films, box-office draws and Academy Award nominations have skyrocketed Driver to fame.

During his 2015 TED Talk, he discussed the worlds of acting and military life and the similarities between the two.

"Every film or play has a director, just as every military unit has a leader," Driver said. "Also, in the Marine Corps, people are forced to be intimate with complete strangers in a short amount of time, and that's the same in films."

To bring the experience of creating art to the military community, he founded Arts in the Armed Forces, a nonprofit that provides free arts programming to U.S. active-duty service members, veterans, military support staff and their families worldwide.

"I thought, how great would it be to create a space that combine[s] these two seemingly dissimilar communities? That brought entertainment to a group of people that, considering their occupation, could handle something a bit more thought provoking than the typical, mandatory fun events that I remember being 'voluntold' to in the military," he said.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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