Norris joined the Air Force after high school to prepare for a career in law enforcement. It was while he was stationed in Korea that he was first introduced to martial arts. 

Foundation of discipline

“I didn’t succeed at it immediately, but I continued to work on it, and I learned an important lesson,” he tells Mediaplanet. “It was the first time I’d stuck with something and not given up.”

When he returned to the United States, Norris continued to act as an Air Policeman at March Air Force Base in California until he was honorably discharged in 1962. He went on to study Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwan Do, and eventually became the first Westerner to be awarded an eighth-degree Black Belt in Tae Kwan Do. 

“My military experience played an important part in instilling in me a sense of character and discipline,” he continues. “These qualities have served me throughout my life. This and the self-confidence that if I set my mind to completing a task and commit to it, I can overcome any obstacles I face.”

Rewarding work

“Being involved with the veteran community and our active military has been one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences of my life.”

Today, Norris uses his celebrity as a vehicle to give back to the military community. “Being involved with the veteran community and our active military has been one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences of my life,” he reflects. “The men and women I have met and continue to meet in these encounters truly are America’s treasure. Spending time with them continues to enrich my life.”

Of the many challenges veterans face in America today, many name readjusting to civilian life as the most significant. “Military discharge can feel like the breakup of a family,” Chuck explains. “Leaving the comradery and structure of military life and feeling out of place and alone, uncertain of what the future holds, can be one of the most difficult parts of this transition.”

Community support

There are many types of short and long-term volunteer opportunities available to help support our nation’s service men and women, but Chuck urges that a dose of kindness can go a long way.

“Communities play an important part in helping dispel these feelings by making our veterans feel not apart from civilian life, but a welcomed part of it — not to be viewed as the veteran, but as a neighbor. To integrate them into the community and get them involved as much as possible.”

His advice for soldiers leaving the military and transitioning to civilian life? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Don’t lose touch with the care and treatment to which you are entitled once you integrate back into civilian life,” Chuck urges.

A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration revealed that only 50 percent of returning vets who require mental health treatment will receive these services. “If you are struggling,” says Norris, “know that there are people and resources out there that can help.”