Famous Veteran: Jesse Ventura

Jesse Ventura speaking at a podium.

Born James George Janos, Jesse Ventura is a multi-faceted celebrity who has written books, served as a governor, acted for cinema, and wrestled professionally. He was born in 1951 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to two World War II veterans. By the time Ventura graduated from high school in 1969, the Vietnam War was underway.

Ventura enlisted into the United States Navy and joined the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) after graduating from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) school. Ventura frequently references his military service in public, and a lawyer from San Diego criticized him for faking his claims of being a SEAL. Although Ventura never completed the extra 26 weeks of training to become a SEAL, the UDTs were broken apart and combined with the SEAL teams after Vietnam. Ventura claims that UDTs simply refer to themselves as SEALs due to the restructuring. Despite his membership with Underwater Demolition Team 12, Ventura never saw combat during Vietnam although he did receive the Vietnam Service Medal.

After Ventura left the Navy in 1975, he took on various odd jobs and drifted toward body building and wrestling. He adopted the stage name Jesse "The Body" Ventura and became a flamboyant personality in the wrestling world, building a successful career both in single and tag team matches. In the early 1980s, Ventura moved to the World Wrestling Federation until blood clots in his lungs cut his career short, and he moved on to match commentary. Later in the decade he would gain notice for appearing in bruising action films such as Predator and The Running Man.

Once Ventura left the WWF, he ran for mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and defeated the incumbent mayor. He served from 1991 to 1995, and ran for governor of Minnesota in 1998 under the Reform Party. He served until 2002 when he refused to run again. Ventura claimed that the media hounded his family rather than focusing on important issues, and the attention was negatively impacting his life at home.

Ventura subsequently pursued a relatively quiet life as a celebrity by writing books and hosting "Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura." Still, he frequently courts controversy, most recently for suing Chris Kyle over the book "American Sniper." Kyle recounted an incident where he punched Ventura in the face over remarks about the Iraq War, and although he did not name Ventura in the book, he later confirmed his identity in a radio interview. Multiple SEALs who were present during the altercation have recounted different stories, and as of 2013 Ventura is seeking damages from Kyle's wife, Taya, over her late husband's remarks.

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Famous Veterans