Star Wars’ Actor and Former Marine Uses His Celebrity Influence to Touch the Life of a Veteran in Need
Celebrity scandals are nothing new. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t see news of some famous actor or musician splashed across the covers of every supermarket tabloid. This leading man is being shipped off to court-ordered rehab. That former child star has been arrested for public indecency. Another starlet keeps racking up the drunk driving charges. At times it seems that the rich and famous are competing to outdo each other with outrageous—and sometimes even criminal—behavior.
But other celebrities come by their publicity for very different reasons. These are the famous people who use their visibility, their resources, and their reputations to make a difference in the lives of others, and too often their acts of goodwill go under-reported in favor of covering the latest scandal.
One of those celebrities is Hollywood A-lister Adam Driver. Onscreen, his list of credits includes playing the role of Adam Sackler in the smash-hit HBO dramedy Girls, and, perhaps most notably, the villainous Kylo Ren in the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise. Many will recognize him from his turns on the small screen and the silver screen, but few realize that prior to breaking into the entertainment industry, Driver also made waves as a proud member of the United States Marine Corps.
According to a write-up in the Military Times, “After stints selling vacuums door-to-door and other odd jobs, Driver was among the first to go see a Marine Corps recruiter after the Sept. 11 attacks, signing up for the infantry. His new hope was to test himself in the toughest environment he could think of. After boot camp and joining his unit at Camp Pendleton, California, Driver became an 81mm mortarman assigned to the weapons platoon with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. As his unit trained for war, Driver says he got exactly what he was looking for.”
Driver continued his military service until a biking accident crushed his sternum, leaving him medically unfit to continue his service and putting an untimely end to his career as a Marine. Now unable to deploy to Iraq as planned, he was granted a medical discharge only two years into his service. Soon thereafter, Driver, who had dabbled in acting prior to his enlistment but was denied entry to the prestigious Juilliard School, decided to take another shot at the arts. This time, his efforts took him all the way to Hollywood.
After being fast-tracked to success in the film industry, it would be easy for anybody to lose sight of what’s really important. But Driver took a different path, opting instead to use his newfound visibility to give back to his fellow veterans. Memorably, he joined forces with Budweiser and Folds of Honor—an organization providing educational scholarships to the families of disabled and fallen service members‐to make a difference in the life of a vet whose story closely mirrored his own.
The vet was John Williams, who was disabled during Desert Storm. Due to a back injury sustained during a training exercise, he was not only never able to see active duty, but he lives every day in chronic pain thanks to the two steel rods and six screws holding his spine together. His family struggles financially, and Williams still lives with the guilt of never having been able to deploy as planned. Nevertheless, Williams is no less heroic in the eyes of his family, including his daughter Hayley who reached out to Folds of Honor in hope of obtaining a scholarship that would allow her to complete nursing school.
Instead, Adam Driver delivered an even better surprise to the Williams family home in person. Rather than just give her the scholarship, Driver traveled to Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania and informed the stunned Hayley that he planned to personally finance her education through the end of next year. For Driver, this simple gesture of goodwill cost him a few hours out of his day and some dollars out of his pocket. But for Hayley, her father John, and the rest of the Williams family, it added up to a potentially life-changing experience, which just goes to show how sometimes it is the smallest acts of kindness that have the furthest reach in the lives of others.
In addition to the work he has done with Folds of Honor and Budweiser, Adam Driver is also the founder of another charitable organization, Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF), which aims to provide quality theatrical programming to active-duty service members, veterans and their families, and military support staff.
Adam Driver isn’t alone in his philanthropic work. He’s but one of many celebrities who over the years have used their wealth and fame to lend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate. Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Bono, Sting, Bill and Melinda Gates, George Clooney, and Angelina Jolie are just a few of the most recognizable names who have made an effort to use their privilege for the betterment of the world they live in. Theirs are examples we can follow when we ask ourselves what sort of impact we can make. While we may not all have the same number of commas in our bank accounts as most of the people on this list, all of us can find ways to make a difference in our communities.