On the anniversary of his birthday, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Elvis Presley, who served with the 3d Armored Division in Germany.
Elvis Presley was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, to a working-class family. In 1953, he graduated from Humes High School in Memphis, Tennessee, and began to pursue a music career while working odd jobs. By the age of 21, Presley had attracted a loyal following after achieving early success in the music and film industries.
The Army deemed Presley fit for the draft. The Pentagon was well aware of Presley’s celebrity status. The Navy invited him to join the Elvis Presley Company, which comprised of his friends and other men from Memphis. They also offered Presley the opportunity to perform in Las Vegas. The Army asked him to travel to bases around the world to improve morale and promote the Army’s mission. However, Presley declined these special offers and joined the military as a traditional soldier.
Presley was set to report for duty in January 1958, but he received a deferral to finish his movie, “King Creole.” Presley joined the Army in March with international news crews documenting the ceremony. He completed basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, as a member of Company A, 2d Medium Tank Battalion, 37th Armor. He took emergency leave in August after his mother fell ill. She died shortly after Presley arrived, devastating him.
In September 1958, Presley joined the 1st Medium Tank Battalion, 32nd Armor, 3rd Armored Division in West Germany. His first job was to drive reconnaissance platoon Sergeant Ira Jones of Company C. Presley’s fellow soldiers described him as generous; he bought extra fatigues for the unit, purchased televisions for the post and donated his Army salary to charity. While stationed in Germany, he learned karate, which he continued to practice throughout his life. Presley promoted to sergeant in January 1960 and honorably discharged two months later. He received an Army Good Conduct Medal during service.
For the duration of Presley’s service, he was concerned that he would not return to the level of fame and professional success he experienced before he was drafted. His agent had been arranging album and movie releases for when Presley finished his service. His career picked up where it left off, becoming the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Presley passed away Aug. 16, 1977. He is buried near his mother, father and grandmother at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.
We honor his service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
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Writer: Erica MacSweeney
Editor: Jacob Reis, Julia Pack
Fact checker: Ciara Nalda
Graphic artist: Grace Yang