The Arts

Those selected in this category have been successful in the art and entertainment sectors. From producing and directing movies that portray the lives of veterans and military service members, to developing programs that allow veterans to enhance their skills and talents, these individuals have pushed the envelope in the industry and have made headway for up and coming veteran artists, actors and entertainers.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman’s voice is one known to us all as he talked us through the creation and magnificence of the universe. At the ripe old age of 18 years old, Mr. Freeman enlisted in the United States Air Force where he served as a mechanic for four years. In the late 1950s, he moved to Los Angeles looking to make his acting dreams come true where he was able to take classes in acting, singing, and dancing at L.A. City College. In his own words, “L.A. was a brick wall and [he] bounced all the way to New York” where he landed his first stage role.

An actor, producer, narrator, and director, he is one of the most celebrated and revered talents in the entertainment industry. However, his contributions to society are not limited to stage and screen as Mr. Freeman has coordinated fundraising efforts for survivors of Hurricanes Ivana and Emily, serves on the Board of Directors for Earth Biofuels. He also founded the Grenada Relief Fund, now known as “Plan!t Now,” to help victims of natural disasters, and his diverse philanthropic profile is further rounded out by his patronage of Artists for a New South Africa, and the Campaign for Female Education.

Benari Poulten

Benari Poulten currently lives in NYC and is a comedian and writer. He is a writer/producer for FS1’s Garbage Time with Katie Nolan and is a former senior producer and contributor for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central. He tours both nationally and internationally as a stand-up with the G.I.’s of Comedy.  In addition to having been a performer on Lizz Winstead’s weekly satire “Wake Up World,” Poulten routinely discusses global affairs as a co-host on the podcast, “Where The F**k Are We?”  Poulten is a veteran of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and is a Master Sergeant in the United States Army Reserve.

Dani Figueroa


Danielle “Dani” Figueroa is a musician who currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia.  She joined the Army Reserves in 2004 as an 88M “Heavy Vehicle Operator” and deployed for a year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During her tour, Dani aided in the transportation of ammunition and ordnance into Iraq from Kuwait and also served as a dispatch. In 2006 Dani switched to the Marine Corps on an open contract and was assigned the MOS 0111 “Administrative Specialist.” In 2010, Dani served another 12-month tour—this time in Afghanistan—as a driver and team lead on two security details.  She medically retired from the military in 2014, a result of injuries sustained during her final deployment. Dani is currently a full-time student pursuing art therapy through the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation Program. The catalyst to this was having completed a fellowship in expressive art therapy under the guidance and tutelage of The Mission Continues and The 296 Project. Music and art provide an outlet that keeps Dani connected and accountable:  to other veterans and to the present moment. Dani loves connecting with others through music. It is her greatest passion.

Watch her play original song, “Rewind,” HERE.

Taylor Swift

Burning up the country and pop music charts since 2006, Taylor Swift is a name known worldwide. An accomplished singer, songwriter, and musician we can all hum more than one of her catchy tunes. What is most noteworthy about Ms Swift, beside her obvious musical talents, is what she has done for our veterans and their families off-stage. From most recently holding a private concert for a 96 year old WWI veteran at his home, to crashing the wedding of an Army combat officer, to personally calling the family of a fallen Marine. It is for her continued, humble and genuine service to the military and veteran community that HillVets recognizes her today. 

J.D. Vance

J.D. Vance enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served overseas in Iraq.  Vance grew up in Ohio and Kentucky, and graduated from both Ohio State University and Yale Law School after his military service.  Vance is the author of New York Times Bestseller, Hillbilly Elegy, a personal story related to family and a culture.  Vance’s book examines the struggles associated with the white working class in the United States in which true stories are told from Vance’s personal experience growing up.

Maximilian Uriarte (Terminal Lance)

Maximilian Uriarte, creator of the immensely popular comic strip “Terminal Lance,” is a storyboard artist and animator.  “Terminal Lance” is a satirical piece depicting life in the United States Marine Corps featured in the Marine Corps Times. The strip was inspired by his experience as an infantryman. It was during his second tour in Iraq that his artistic talents were discovered and he was transferred to combat camera where he traveled the region capturing the Marines experience on film and in ink.  Maximilian also published The White Donkey, the world’s first graphic novel about the Iraq war.  Having recently completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Animation, Maximilian is looking to build his portfolio and expand his professional repertoire.

Sebastian Junger

Five time New York Time best selling author Sebastian Junger took the veteran world by storm last year with his latest book, “Tribe.” To describe Sebastian Junger as a writer is an understatement and does not aptly describe the breadth of the art he that he creates. The child of two artists and a student of Anthropology, in which he earned a Bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University, he immerses himself in the world about which he writes becoming more than an outside observer, but a true character in the story.

He also widely known for writing and co-directing two documentary films, “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” which highlight the realities faced by servicemembers in our recent wars. Many have highlighted “Restrepo” as the film of our generation of warrior.