‘Survivor’ Castaways Who Served In the Military

Rudy Boesch, 'Survivor'

CBS Rudy Boesch, 'Survivor'

There is no shortage of “Survivor” castaways who served in a branch of the United States Armed Forces — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. On Veteran’s Day, we would like to recognize them and thank them for their service. The list is organized chronologically based on the first season each castaway appeared on.

Rudy Boesch, Season 1

This two-time “Survivor” player enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 17 in the 1940s. He was chosen as one of the first Navy SEALs in the 1960s and later completed two deployments in the Vietnam War, earning the Bronze Star. He retired in 1990 after becoming the longest-serving SEAL still on active duty. Sadly, Rudy died in 2019 at the age of 91.

Richard Hatch, Season 1

This season one winner enlisted in the United States Army in 1980 and later attended the United States Military Academy, which is a four-year federal service academy in West Point, New York. He was honorably discharged in 1985.

Kel Gleason, Season 2

This castaway from “Survivor: The Australian Outback” was an intelligence officer in the United States Army. He was commissioned in 1996 and stationed in Germany for three years. During that time, he was also assigned to Bosnia for a peacekeeping mission.

Frank Garrison, Season 3

This “Survivor: Africa” castaway served as a Non-Commissioned Officer with the 24th Infantry Division G-3 training, United States Army. He still follows the 24th Infantry Motto, “First to Fight.”

Vecepia Towery Robinson, Season 4

This “Survivor” winner is a U.S. Air Force veteran assigned to the 32nd Security Police Squadron. She served for several years in the Netherlands and earned the base’s Airman of the Year honors.

Hunter Ellis, Season 4

After college Ellis was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy and went on to complete Naval Flight Training in Corpus Christi and Kingsville, Texas. Graduating number one in his class, Ellis moved to Corona Del Mar, California, to continue his training as an F/A-18 strike-fighter pilot. He served two Persian Gulf deployments and achieved qualifications as a Landing Signals Officer and as an F/A-18 Flight Demonstration pilot. Ellis ended his tour with the Navy as an F/A-18 tactics instructor in San Diego, CA, in July 2001.

Sandra Diaz-Twine, Season 7

This two-time “Survivor” winner is a senior office associate with the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Prior to her current employment, she served as a chemical repair specialist with the United States Army. She also previously worked in the mailroom of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, and she’s returning to “Survivor” in 2022 in a “Blood vs. Water” format with one of her daughters.

Lea Masters, Season 9

#62. Sarge's silent meltdownaverdata.net/~locbaseb/funny/62.htm2010-03-02T11:57:31Z

Lea “Sarge” Masters enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1986 and rose to the rank of drill sergeant and non-commissioned officer. He was deployed to Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, and Iraq.

Terry Deitz, Season 12

This castaway played baseball for the U.S. Naval Academy and served on the USS Carl Vinson flying the F-14 Tomcat. He left active duty in 1992 but continued to fly in the Navy Reserves. When he fully retired in 2001, he had achieved the rank of Commander.

Jerry Sims, Season 18

Sims served in the U.S. Army National Guard for 20 years, rising to the rank of 1st Sergeant and specialist in Nuclear Operations. He did a tour of duty in Afghanistan shortly before appearing on “Survivor”.

Shambo Waters, Season 19

Waters was the first female Marine Sergeant to play “Survivor”. She served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years before being discharged.

Mike Chiesl, Season 22


Chiesl is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who says his personal claim to fame is that he brought home all his fellow Marines during his first deployment to Iraq. He played football for the U.S. Naval Academy and his grandfather was a POW in World War II.

Phillip Sheppard, Season 22

Despite “Survivor” making a joke out of Sheppard saying he was a former federal agent, he really did serve in the military. He is a U.S. Army veteran who served with the Defense Investigative Service, which is now known as the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.

Shamar Thomas, Season 26

This non-commissioned Marine Corps officer served in the Iraq War, which he said in his pre-show bio gave him “the confidence to face anything.”

John Cody, Season 27

Cody graduated from West Point, attended Georgetown Medical School, and then did training at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before becoming an Army physician and Army orthopedic surgery resident.

Kass McQuillen, Season 28

She doesn’t talk about it much, but McQuillen was a Seabee in the United States Navy, which is a nickname for the Construction Battalion.

Kyle Jason, Season 32

He was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of sergeant. He served for over five years and was deployed to Iraq.

Caleb Reynolds, Season 32

This two-time “Survivor” player and “Big Brother 16” alum joined the U.S. Army after high school and was a prison guard in Iraq.

Debbie Wanner, Season 32

This castaway is a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. She is also a Hawk Mountain 1st Class Ranger and a Squadron 811 Captain and Communication Officer for the Civil Air Patrol. And it looks like her daughter has followed in her footsteps.

Ben Driebergen, Season 35

This “Survivor” winner is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq where he lost a dear friend, Michael Blake Wafford. He carried Wafford’s identification tags (“dog tags”) around for years after his friend was killed in action, and Driebergen has also been open about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Angela Perkins, Season 36

This fourth-place finisher from “Survivor: Ghost Island” is a U.S. Army veteran who served over 20 years and rose to the rank of captain. She was second-in-command in an Operations Battalion and was deployed to Iraq in the early 2000s.

Dan DaSilva, Season 38

This U.S. Army veteran earned the Bronze Star in Afghanistan. His “Wardog” nickname came during basic training but it stuck around and became his “way of life.”

Tra’Mese ‘Missy’ Byrd, Season 39

This “Survivor” castaway is an Air Force veteran and played basketball for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Survivor” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on CBS. The 42nd season will air in the spring of 2022. Seasons 43 and 44 are casting now, so if you’ve always wanted to apply, now is your chance!

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