The 16 best military movies of all time - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The 16 best military movies of all time

From realistic portrayals of combat to comedic satire of thermonuclear warfare, some military-themed movies are a cut above the rest.


Since WATM is headquartered in Hollywood, California and run by military veterans, it makes sense that we would put together a ranking of the best military movies of all time. Whether they include great stories, very quotable lines, intense combat (or all of the above), these 16 movies are what we’d pick as the best military movies.

16. Jarhead (2005)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.

15. Catch-22 (1970)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: B-25 navigator stationed in North Africa during World War II wrestles with the tragedy, irony, and hypocrisy that surrounds him as the minimum mission requirement continues to rise.

Reason to watch: Early SNL alum Buck Henry adapted Joseph Heller’s classic WW2 novel for an American public that was at odds over the Vietnam War, evidence that it took nearly a decade and a half for the themes to resonate. In spite of the fact that parts of the story are over-the-top, the movie (and even more so the book) are prescriptive. Anyone who’s ever spent any time around the Air Force will recognize the personalities: Careerist buffoons, obtuse general officers, opportunistic (albeit very entrepreneurial) junior officers as well as the folks who are just trying to get the job done without going crazy are all here.

14. Tigerland (2000)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: A group of recruits go through Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana’s infamous Tigerland, last stop before Vietnam for tens of thousands of young men in 1971.

Reason to watch: Colin Farrell gives a wonderful performance as Pvt. Roland Bozz, a misfit draftee soldier who spends most of his Army career getting into trouble. Set during the Vietnam war in 1971, the film is unique in that it never takes the viewer to Vietnam. Instead, the plot follows along with the training of young soldiers before they go overseas, and offers realistic portrayals of soldiers from Bozz, to the idealistic Pvt. Paxton (played by Matthew Davis), to the brutal instructor of Staff Sgt. Thomas (played by James McDonald).

13. Taking Chance (2009)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.

Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.

12. A Few Good Men (1992)

Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.

Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).

11. Patton (1970)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.

Reason to watch: George C. Scott gives a masterful portrayal of the controversial Army general during World War II. The opening speech alone is worth watching, with Patton giving a rousing speech to troops that opens with the line, “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

10. To Hell and Back (1955)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: The true WWII story of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. history. Based on the autobiography of Audie Murphy who stars as himself in the film.

Reason to watch: Instead of settling for actors trying to recreate battlefield heroics, why not watch the real-life soldier do it? That’s what you’ll see in “To Hell and Back,” the film that follows the life of Audie Murphy, the most-decorated soldier of World War II. Murphy stars as himself in this film, which kicked off a 21-year acting career after his Army service.

9. Das Boot (1981)

Plot: The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.

Reason to watch: Nominated for six Oscars, Wolfgang Petersen’s masterpiece film gives a rare look at the fight from the other side during World War II. Tasked with fighting the “Battle of the Atlantic,” the life of a German U-Boat crew is shown in depth here, with an especially brilliant portrayal of the ship’s captain by Jurgen Prochnow.

8. Platoon (1986)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: A young recruit in Vietnam faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man.

Reason to watch: Told from the perspective of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), “Platoon” gives an inside look at what it was like for a grunt on the ground in Vietnam. Besides showing infantry life and all its hardships, the film also boasts incredible performances from Willem Dafoe as Sgt. Elias, and Tom Berenger as Staff Sgt. Barnes. It’s also worth noting that this film had an extra level of realism to it, with its director (Oliver Stone) and military technical advisor (Dale Dye) both having served in Vietnam.

7. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Plot: A young soldier faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.

Reason to watch: Based on the classic book by Erich Maria Remarque, this masterpiece explores the extreme stress, discomfort, and horrors of war that soldiers faced fighting in the trenches of World War I. The film is on many “best film” lists, especially considering its realistic portrayal of warfare. In perhaps the most chilling scene of the movie, the main character of Paul stabs a French soldier, only to find himself trapped in the same hole with him as he dies.

“Why do they never tell us that you are just poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying, and the same agony,” he says. “Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”

6. Flags of our Fathers (2006)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.

Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).

5. Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.

Reason to watch: While Director Stanley Kubrick offers a hilarious and brutal satire of Cold War tensions, he also provides plenty of insight into political and military leaders and their thinking at the time. This one was years ahead of its time, and it also has some great B-52 crew coordination scenes.

“Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink water?”

4. Black Hawk Down (2001)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.

Reason to watch: Based on the book by journalist Mark Bowden (which is an absolute must-read), “Black Hawk Down” details the failed attempt to capture a Somali warlord — an operation that should have lasted 15 minutes — that unfortunately does not go according to plan. After two helicopters are shot down, soldiers are shown reacting and adapting to the changing events, often in heroic fashion. From depicting soldiers preparing for a mission, how they respond to irregular warfare, and the actions of Medal of Honor recipients Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, this film is a must-see.

3. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.

2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Plot: Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.

Reason to watch: Just the first ten minutes with the film’s incredible depiction of the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944 make this a must-watch. After this sequence, however, there is plenty to stick around for: Tom Hanks wonderful portrayal of Capt. Miller, the banter of soldiers as they search the French countryside, and the heroic “last stand” at a bridge the troops need to keep the Germans away from.

1. We Were Soldiers (2002)

The 16 best military movies of all time

Plot: The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War and the soldiers on both sides that fought it.

Reason to watch: Mel Gibson brilliantly portrays then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore as he leads his unit in the first major battle of the Vietnam war. But there are so many great performances in this film (based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young”) which opens by saying that “every damn Hollywood movie got it wrong.” From the portrayal of the gruff combat veteran Sgt. Maj. Plumley and pilot and Medal of Honor recipient Bruce Crandall, to the hardship endured at home by the Army wives, this film gets it right.

NOW CHECK OUT: 9 military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

Articles

3 at defense firm admit defrauding US by $6M on Humvee parts

Two brothers who formerly owned a Pennsylvania defense contractor and their former chief financial officer have pleaded guilty in a $6 million scheme to overcharge the U.S. Defense Department for Humvee window kits.


The Butler-based contractor, Ibis Tek LLC, removed the former co-owners, Thomas Buckner, 68, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 66, of Lyndora, in January along with former CFO Harry Kramer, 52, of Pittsburgh.

The three pleaded guilty on May 31st in Pittsburgh to charges of major fraud against the government and income tax evasion for filing returns that didn’t include the illegal income, and other irregularities. The Buckners will be sentenced Oct. 10 and each faces a likely prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, while Kramer will be sentenced Oct. 18 and faces a likely sentence of 24 to 30 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen told the judge.

The 16 best military movies of all time
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa Cleveland

“Ibis Tek was not and will not be charged” in the scheme, Cohen said. The company released a statement when the criminal charges were announced in March, saying, “Our company was cleared in the related investigation which dates back to activities eight years ago and we, the over 250 employees of the new Ibis Tek, continue forward on our mission, which is to proudly serve the warfighter and our various government customers.”

The Buckners have agreed to repay more than $6 million to the government, and have already repaid nearly $900,000 in income tax losses, according to their attorneys who spoke in court, but declined comment after May 31st’s proceedings. Thomas Buckner has agreed to forfeit $5,085,709 to cover his share of the losses and has already paid $1 million of that debt, defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said. John Buckner will repay the government $1 million.

Additionally, Thomas Buckner has already repaid more than $423,000 in federal income tax losses, and John Buckner has repaid nearly $457,000, their attorneys said.

The target of the fraud was the Warren, Michigan-based U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, an arm of the Defense Department which procures military vehicles from contractors.

The 16 best military movies of all time
DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalia Murillo

The brothers scammed the government by purchasing emergency escape window kits for $20 each from a Chinese firm, but selling them to TACOM through a shell company they created called Alloy America, Cohen said. Alloy America was located at Ibis Tek’s address and “served little purpose other than to commit this fraud,” Cohen said. Kramer kept the books for Ibis Tek and Alloy America, Cohen said.

The Buckners and Kramer not only passed on the bogus $70-per-frame cost to TACOM, they also sold scrap aluminum relating to the manufacture of the frames, but kept the money. The Buckners and Kramer were supposed to credit the scrap revenue to TACOM as a way of helping the government agency control costs, Cohen said.

Kramer was charged because he helped the Buckners by filing false tax returns that understated Ibis Tek’s income in 2009 and 2010. The Buckner brothers’ personal tax returns for those years also understated their income because they owned the company 50-50 at the time, Cohen said.

Ibis Tek was sold in February to investors who say the new company had nothing to do with the scam.

Articles

If a nuclear bomb explodes nearby, this is why you shouldn’t get into a car


  • Nuclear blasts create fallout, which can harm you with large doses of radiation.
  • Cars offer little protection from fallout.
  • A surer way to survive in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion is to go indoors, stay put, and listen to the radio.

The first thing you’d see if a nuclear bomb exploded nearby is a flood of light so bright, you may think the sun blew up.

Wincing from temporary blindness, you’d scan the horizon and see an orange fireball. The gurgling flames would rise and darken into purple-hued column of black smoke, which would turn in on itself. As a toadstool-like mushroom took shape, the deafening shock front of the blast would rip through the area — and possibly knock you off your feet.

Congratulations! In this hypothetical scenario, you’ve just survived a nuclear blast with an energy output of about 10 kilotons (20 million pounds) of TNT. That’s roughly 66% of energy released by either atom bomb dropped on Japan in 1945.

This scenario may sound far-fetched, but more than 14,900 nuclear weapons exist in the world, and kiloton-class nukes (like the one we just described) are now proliferating in favor of larger weapons. In fact, a 10-kiloton-or-less nuclear detonation by a terrorist is the first of 15 disaster scenarios that the US government has planned for.

No one could fault you for panicking after the sight and roarof a nuclear blast. But there is one thing you should never do, according to Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and radiation expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“Don’t get in your car,” he tells Business Insider — don’t try to drive, and don’t assume that the glass and metal of a vehicle can protect you.

Why vehicles and nuclear survival don’t mix

The 16 best military movies of all time
Not where you want to be.

Avoiding driving after a nuclear blast is wise because streets would probably be full of erratic drivers, accidents, and debris. But Buddemeier says there’s another important reason to ditch the car: a fearsome after-effect of nuclear blasts called fallout.

Fallout is a complex mixture of fission products, or radioisotopes, that are created by splitting atoms. Many of the fission products decay rapidly and emit gamma radiation, an invisible yet highly energetic form of light. Exposure to too much of this radiation in a short time can damage the body’s cells and its ability to fix itself — a condition called acute radiation sickness.

“It also affects the immune system and the your ability to fight infections,” Buddemeier says.

Only very dense and thick materials, like many feet of dirt or inches of lead, can reliably stop the fallout.

“The fireball from a 10-kiloton explosion is so hot, it actually shoots up into the atmosphere at over 100 miles per hour,” Buddemeier says. “These fission products mix in with the dirt and debris that’s drawn up into the atmosphere from the fireball.”

Trapped in sand, dirt, cement, metal, and anything else in the immediate blast area, the gamma-shooting fission products can fly more than five miles into the air. The larger pieces drop back down, while lighter particles can be carried by the wind before raining over distant areas.

The 16 best military movies of all time
A simulation of nuclear fallout conditions over Washington DC at different times of the year. | Bruce Buddemeier/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

“Close in to the [blast] site, they may be a bit larger than golf-ball-size, but really what we’re talking about are things like salt- or sand-size particles,” Buddemeier says. “It’s the penetrating gamma radiation coming off of those particles that’s the hazard.”

Which brings us back to why a car is a terrible place to take shelter.

“Modern vehicles are made of glass and very light metals, and they offer almost no protection,” he says. “You’re just going to sit on a road some place [and be exposed].”

Buddemeier says he’s asked people what their knee-jerk response to a nuclear blast might be. It wasn’t comforting.

“There was actually a lot of folks who had this notion — and it may be a Hollywood notion — of ‘oh, jump in the car and try to skedaddle out of town if you see a mushroom cloud.'” he says.

However, fallout is carried by high-altitude winds that are “often booking along at 100 miles per hour,” he says, and “often not going in the same direction as the ground-level winds. So your ability to know where the fallout’s gonna go, and outrun it, are… Well, it’s very unlikely.”

What you should do instead of driving

The 16 best military movies of all time
The protection factor that various buildings, and locations within them, offer from the radioactive fallout of a nuclear blast. The higher the number, the greater the protection. | Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Your best shot at survival after a nuclear disaster is to get into some sort of “robust structure” as quickly as possible and stay there, Buddemeier says. He’s a fan of the mantra “go in, stay in, tune in”.

“Get inside … and get to the center of that building. If you happen to have access to below-ground areas, getting below-ground is great,” he says. “Stay in: 12 to 24 hours.”

The reason to wait is that levels of gamma and other radiation fall off exponentially after a nuclear blast as “hot” radioisotopes decay into more stable atoms and pose less of a danger. This slowly shrinks the dangerous fallout zone — the area where high-altitude winds have dropped fission products. (Instead of staying put, however, a recent study also suggested that moving to a stronger shelter or basement may not be a bad idea if you first ducked into a flimsy one.)

The 16 best military movies of all time
The dangerous fallout zone (dark purple) shrinks quickly, while the much less dangerous hot zone (faint purple) grows for about 24 hours before shrinking back. Bruce Buddemeier. | Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

“Try to use whatever communication tools you have,” he says. He added that a hand-cranked radio is a good object to keep at work and home, since emergency providers, in addition to broadcasting instructions, will be tracking the fallout cloud and trying to broadcast where any safe corridors for escape are located.

There is only one exception to the “no cars” rule, says Buddemeier: If you’re in a parking garage with your car, the concrete might act as a shield. In that case, you could stay there and listen to a radio inside your car.

If everyone followed these guidelines after nuclear blast, he says, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved.

Articles

6 ‘first-world problem’ complaints about military life

Quality of life has come a long way since soldiers fought to avoid trench foot in World War I. But that doesn’t mean the 21st Century military isn’t without significant issues. Here are a few of them:


1. ‘Why can’t we get the proper proteins!?’

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: Reddit.com/Ryanbuddy04

This writer sacrifices his breakfast meats for a measly extra egg, but the DFAC is too stingy to give it to him. And he’s not the only one having issues. Other redditors jumped in as well.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

2. ‘Brown underwear and green socks are lame, free immunizations suck.’

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

This post is too long to share here, but a reddit user wanted to let the world know what he hated about the Army as he got out and included, among 80 other items, the free underwear and socks the Army issued him. Granted, they’re ugly, but no one wears the brown underwear after basic and the green socks are only worn in garrison. Other targets of Ballsteintheimpailer‘s wrath include cadences, anyone who outranks him, and free medical.

3. ‘Barracks soldiers should be able to drink like married soldiers.’

A male soldier,roman_fyseek, hadn’t been at Fort Drum long when he was caught passed out drunk in a bed with a female soldier. Word of his infractions climbed the chain, and he found himself in front of the battalion commander. The intrepid soldier told the commander that it’s crap that he can’t get blackout drunk with another soldier but married soldiers can pass out with their wives.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

Shockingly, this supposedly worked. The battalion commander elevated it to the base commander. The base commander talked to the soldier, increased the alcohol limits in the barracks, and allowed troops to decorate their own rooms.

4. ‘Buying magazines and paying into charity are for suckers.’

No, the unit isn’t supposed to force members to order magazines; and yes, troops can refuse to pay into charitable funds. Unit commands usually “highly encourage” charitable contributions, unit t-shirt purchases, and purchase of a reading list. IG_complaint (actual username) was having none of it and took to reddit to request help.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

Other users recommended he lodge a complaint with the inspector general, though it seems like he probably knew that was an option already.

5. ‘The Oath of Enlistment is offensive and unconstitutional so Congress is a domestic enemy.’

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

Publius1775 really, really wants religion struck from the face of the earth, starting with the words, “So help me God,” in the Oath of Enlistment. He’s so passionate about it that he declared Congress a domestic enemy of the state.

His complaint comes a little late since the Air Force was the only service that still required the words, “So help me God,” and they dropped the requirement ten days after this man mailed his letter to the president, the service secretaries, and the Department of Defense inspector general. (The two events were probably not connected.)

6. ‘Military bases suck, mostly because of mosquitoes.’

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: reddit screenshot

When these service members got together to complain about bases, the mosquitoes came up a surprising number of times. Fort Polk got the worst complaints despite the fact that they have a Waffle House. Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico; Twentynine Palms, California; and Fort Knox, Kentucky were all drug through the mud as well.

NOW: The 7 funniest Yelp reviews for military bases

AND: 9 Recipes to make your MREs actually taste delicious

Articles

How the legendary U-2 spy plane landed on an aircraft carrier

The famed U-2 “Dragon Lady” reconnaissance and spy aircraft is an icon of the Cold War still in service today. It’s crewed by some of America’s most elite pilots, and even then the finicky plane is typically landed on a large runway with the assistance of a “chase car” that coaches the pilot to the ground.


The 16 best military movies of all time
A U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane comes in for a landing. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Aaron Oelrich)

The U-2 has wheels aligned like bicycle tires and an 80-ft. wingspan, forcing pilots to carefully guide the plane down the runway just to keep from accidentally banging the tips into the asphalt and ruining the plane.

That’s why it’s so crazy that a group of Air Force and CIA pilots and crew tested the U-2G, a modified version of the spy plane, and certified the Dragon Lady onboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.

After CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet airspace during a flight from Pakistan to Norway, it became harder for the State Department to convince allies to allow U-2s to be based in their countries.

To get around the sudden restriction in land bases willing and capable of handling the planes, the CIA decided to test the possibility of deploying the U-2s on Navy aircraft carriers.

The 16 best military movies of all time
(GIF: YouTube/Military Videos)

The USS Ranger was selected for the top-secret tests which went surprisingly well, but the only declassified mission of a U-2G launched from a carrier took place in the South Pacific where two Dragon Ladies flew from California to Hawaii to the USS Ranger.

The Ranger delivered the U-2s to a launching point, and the planes sampled the air around the test site to learn more about French nuclear efforts.

See more touch-and-go landings from the USS Ranger trials in the video above.

Articles

11 of the most ‘moto’ military reenlistment photos

From under the sea to thousands of feet above the earth, here are 11 photos of Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors re-upping in style:


This Marine, Lt. Col. Brian Ehrlich (left) reenlisting Sgt. Aron D. Jarvi (right) under the sea at Maeda Point, Okinawa, Japan:

The 16 best military movies of all time
(Photo: Lance Cpl. Robert J. Maurer/USMC)

Also Read: The 9 Most Badass Unit Mottos In The Marine Corps 

These soldiers from the 7th Sustainment Brigade, Airborne Corps, reenlisting at the South Pole. (Seriously, how often does anyone get to go to the South Pole?)

The 16 best military movies of all time

This badass re-enlistment photo of Staff Sgt. Andrew Petrulis, which is fitting because he’s an Air Force EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) craftsman:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: DVIDS

These soldiers prove their efficiency by taking a few minutes to reenlist while in transit aboard an Air Force C-17:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: US Army

The soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division reenlisting in front of the Swords of Qādisīyah in Baghdad, Iraq:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: Staff Sgt. James Selesnick/ US Army

These sailors taking their oath at Ground Zero, ten years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst/ US Navy

This 23-year-old Marine, Cpl. Gareth Hawkins, who demanded to reenlist while being medically evacuated after suffering serious injuries caused by an improvised explosive:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: USMC

Here’s an excerpt from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit about Hawkins’ reenlistment:

The Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. Kevin Gonzalez, along with the Career Retention Specialist Staff Sgt. Chandrash Malapaka, and several others crammed into the tiny room for the ceremony.

“We’re going to do the short version of this,” said the Executive Officer.

Raising his right hand, Hawkins took the oath of enlistment by 1st Lt. Warren A. Frank, his platoon commander. With no time for the usual formalities of backslaps and handshakes, Hawkins was immediately carried out via litter and evacuated.

This damage control sailor who loves his job so much that he re-upped in full gear while being deployed to the Red Sea aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95):

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Meshel/ US Navy

These soldiers taking their oath at CenturyLink Field before a Seahawks football game against the Baltimore Ravens:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: US Army

This Belgian Malinois, Sgt. 1st Class Freida, who reenlisted with her human partner:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: DVIDS

And this PAO serving with the U.S. Navy’s “Leap Frogs” who jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to take her reenlistment oath thousands of feet above Earth:

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: James Woods/ US Navy

NOW: These Are The US Army’s Top Five Photos Of 2014

AND: 39 Awesome Photos Of Life In The US Marine Corps Infantry

Articles

US officials want to deploy 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan

President Donald Trump’s senior advisers said they have proposed sending additional troops to Afghanistan to weaken the Taliban in an effort to bring about negotiations.


In order to send the reinforcements, Trump must approve the recommendation by his senior military and foreign policy advisers aimed at breaking a military deadlock in the war that began in 2001, U.S. officials told The New York Times. The proposed additional troops would work together with a greater number of Afghan forces and operate more closely to the front lines.

The new strategy, which is supported by top Cabinet officials, would give the Pentagon the authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and to carry out airstrikes against Taliban militants.

The 16 best military movies of all time
A couple hug before the last group of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers deploy for Afghanistan at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sunday. The Raptor Brigade has deployed about 800 Soldiers in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel with U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

U.S. officials told The Washington Post the new plan expands the U.S. military role in Afghanistan to stem an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban to force it back to the negotiating table with the Afghan government.

The recommendation was created after a review of the 15-year war — America’s longest — conducted by the Department of Defense, the Department of State, U.S. intelligence agencies and other government agencies.

In Afghanistan, there are 13,000 international troops — 8,400 from the United States — assisting the Afghan security forces, mainly in training and advising roles, but U.S. troops also carry out counter-terrorism operations.

The proposed plan would send an additional 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces. The U.S. government would request NATO nations to send thousands of troops. The final number of how many U.S. troops would be sent depends on how many troops NATO allies are willing to send.

Trump is expected to make a decision before the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

The Taliban frequently launches attacks, generally targeting Afghan troops, international troops and government officials. In April, the Taliban launched an attack in which it killed more than 140 soldiers stationed at Camp Shaheen, which serves as a headquarters of the Afghan National Army.

Articles

That time a Marine in WWII was found clutching a sword around 13 dead Japanese soldiers

It was in August 1942 that Private 1st Class Edward Ahrens would cement his place in the halls of Marine bad*sses when he singlehandedly took on an entire group of Japanese soldiers who were trying to flank his unit.


Ahrens, a Marine assigned to Alpha Co. of the 1st Raider Battalion, was in the second assault wave hitting the beaches of Tulagi on Aug. 7, 1942. After pushing off the beach along with Charlie Co., Alpha set up a defensive line that night, according to War History Online.

Then the Japanese fiercely counter-attacked. Fortunately, Alpha Co. had Ahrens protecting its right flank.

“I came across a foxhole occupied by Private First Class Ahrens, a small man of about 140 pounds,” said Maj. Lew Walt, of what he saw the next morning. “He was slumped in one corner of the foxhole covered with blood from head to foot. In the foxhole with him were two dead Japs, a lieutenant and a sergeant. There were eleven more dead Japs on the ground in front of his position. In his hands he clutched the dead officer’s sword.”

Ahrens had successfully thwarted an enemy attack that would have opened a huge gap in the defensive line. As he lay dying, according to Walt, Ahrens whispered to him: “The idiot tried to come over me last night-I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.”

He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, which reads:

“Private First Class Ahrens, with utter disregard for his own personal safety, single-handed engaged in hand-to-hand combat a group of the enemy attempting to infiltrate the rear of the battalion.

Although mortally wounded, he succeeded in killing the officer in command of the hostile unit and two other Japanese, thereby breaking up the attack. His great personal valor and indomitable fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.”

Articles

7 kids who joined (even commanded) military units for a day

Make-A-Wish Foundation sets up special experiences for kids diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While kids can wish for forts in their backyard, shopping sprees, or trips to Disney, some choose to get in the dirt and mud with the U.S. military. These 7 kids used their wishes to join (and in a couple of cases command) military units.


1. Evan takes command of Naval Air Station Fallon.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Pablo Jara Meza

When Evan was offered a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he wished to become a Top Gun fighter pilot. The commander of Naval Air Station Fallon welcomed Evan into his office and had an instructor escort him around the school. Evan was then able to attend a Top Gun graduation ceremony where he received an honorary certificate. His escort, Major Chip Berke, told a Marine Corps journalist, “There were so many volunteers to help escort Evan and his family, but I was fortunate to get the job. Evan tells me that I work for him. He even asked to be taken back to ‘his office’ a few times after leaving Base Admiral Mat Moffit’s desk.

2. Jorge makes brigadier general in minutes.

Jorge’s Wish from Michael Kroh on Vimeo.

Jorge was promoted to brigadier general for the day soon after arriving at Camp Pendleton, California to meet Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations – West. While in command, he rode in assault vehicles, attended a Marine Corps boxing lesson, and supervised an amphibious assault demonstration held in his honor.

3. Ian Field packs a 20-year career into two days.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: US Army

The Army’s 1st Infantry Division learned Ian Field wanted to be a soldier for his wish and their 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team set up a two-day event for Ian to climb from private to command sergeant major April 14-15, 2011. He began by enlisting in the Army and being promoted to private first class. He then fired weapons, trained with grenades, shot artillery, rode in a helicopter, drove a tank, and rescued an injured comrade. As a final event, now-Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field led his squad during a ceremony commemorating their time together.

4. Carl “pilots” his plane right into the ocean.

Carl, an avid history buff, asked to be a World War II pilot for the day. Specifically, a pilot on the run after being downed. The Air Force trained him in survival skills before he flew to Hawaii. Soldiers and Marines welcomed him at the Hawaii airport with 1940’s military vehicles and gave him a tour of military museums and installations on the islands. Then, he was flown in a Navy bi-plane to a remote beach where he had to cut himself out of a parachute, find his gear, and lead his dad to safety. While they were setting up their position, a pair of Navy SEALs swam in and Carl led their assault on an enemy camp.

5. Andrew becomes a Marine, sailor, soldier, and airman in one day.

Andrew toured multiple bases and served with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps in a single day for his wish. First, he visited March Air Reserve Base and toured a C-17 in a custom flight suit and helmet and saw a Predator drone and F-16 up close. Then he headed to the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton where he became an honorary sergeant major. The Navy showed him some of their inflatable boats and let him fire weapons on a computerized shooting range before the Army showed him around their vehicles.

6. Riley learns the Ranger’s Creed in time for graduation.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Photo: US Army Army Capt. Jeremiah Cordovano

Riley Woina chose to be a Ranger for a day and practiced jumping out of planes with them before witnessing an actual airborne parachute drop with the 6th Ranger Battalion at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. During airborne training, a Ranger pulled Woina’s reserve parachute for him and accidentally gave the boy a black eye, but Woina decided to continue with training. He also assisted the Ranger candidates in clearing a room and was able to fire off some blank rounds from an M4 and M249. At Ranger graduation, he recited the Ranger Creed from memory.

Riley gave an interview to the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office where he discussed why he chose to be a Ranger for his wish, available here.

7. Jacob makes a World War II movie to honor the military.

Jacob Angel wished to be a World War II soldier in a movie depicting the exploits of World War II heroes. In the film, embedded above, he has to take a hill and fly the American flag over it.

Articles

These are the 12 characters in every war movie

With 100 years of war films combined with the infamously derivative nature of Hollywood, there were bound to be a few archetypical characters popping up here and there (and everywhere). As a result, any given war movie will have at least one of these guys:


1. The Recruit

Young, green, and completely new to war and death, the Recruit is a little naive but ready to tackle any challenges thrown at him. He or she will either lose his or her innocence or die. (Oops, spoiler alert).

The 16 best military movies of all time
Or not.

If the story starts in basic training, the movie will see a number of characters grow and evolve into some of the other character types.

The 16 best military movies of all time

It doesn’t have to just be a basic trainee, though. There are many stages of military training where a service member can show how green he or she may be. The longer they remain naive, however, the more likely they won’t make it to the end of the movie, because it makes their death more tragic and that is a great catalyst for the main character.

2. The Cocky Pilot

Everyone knows this guy before he even shows up. He knows his bird, he knows his job, and he knows the skies. So does everyone else. He might be a loose cannon, a renegade… a Maverick?

The 16 best military movies of all time

Sometimes the other pilots don’t entirely trust him; his leadership questions his judgement. He might be too good. You may not trust him at first either, but he’ll surprise you. He probably rides a motorcycle.

The 16 best military movies of all time
. . . or a Taun-Taun.

3. The Drill Sergeant

Where would the platoon be without training? Who turns the recruit into the Dependable NCO (more on that later)? The Drill Sergeant of course. the most famous example being R. Lee Ermey’s Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket, his lines are, at some point in their career, quoted incessantly by everyone who ever served ever.

You don’t see much of the Drill Sergeant lately, but if there’s a story that covers a character’s entire service or requires a group of raw recruits to congeal as a unit, they have to start somewhere. It’s usually basic training.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MCXpQQ4KEg

If you civilians are wondering why someone who is supposed to be scaring the undisciplined crap out of recruits to train them to be the best American fighting forces on the planet is depicted as being so funny, it’s because the drill instructors are funny. We just aren’t allowed to laugh until at least a year later.

4. The Crazy Officer/NCO

He could be a war junkie or he could be literally insane. The truth is, there’s a screw (or two) loose up there somewhere and unfortunately, everyone in his chain of command will still act on his orders. Because the Drill Sergeant trained us to.

If the Crazy Officer gets too crazy, you can be prepared for his downfall being central to either the main plot or one of the rising actions as the story goes along. If you hate him and he doesn’t really add anything to the unit like the Drill Sergeant does, chances are good he’s gonna die or just be removed in some way. Captain America in Generation Kill is also a good example of the Crazy Officer, but one the most memorable is Col. Kilgore from Apocalypse Now.

The 16 best military movies of all time
You know what that smell is, reader.

5. The Dependable NCO

This is the guy you want leading you into battle… because he will lead you out of it. You will not only learn how to fight this war, but you’ll learn why you’re fighting it and why it matters to your country. He will probably save your ass at some point. He is 100 percent good, following the laws of war and protecting his men and civilians. This earns him some enemies among his own but he is still one bad ass good guy. Sgt. Elias in Platoon is a good example of the Dependable NCO.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90B5REGHc0w

Unfortunately, your emotional attachment to him means his days are probably numbered. He might be too good for the enemy to kill, so he will likely be killed by either friendly fire or in some sort of fragging incident. You will want to save him and so will many of his men… but they probably can’t. There are a few notable survivors, however.

The 16 best military movies of all time

6. The Dependable Officer

A true leader, he is also undeniably human. Where the Dependable NCO knows the score in every situation, the Dependable Officer struggles with the morality of every decision he or she makes and weighs it against what his gut tells him. When it comes time to be decisive, he nails it. You would never know how long he or she thought about it. This is why his troops trust him. He also regularly pulls his people out of harm’s way.

The Dependable Officer sympathizes with the people he or she leads, but takes the fallout of the decision on and doesn’t let themselves get too carried away. No matter what, they will always do the right thing until they can’t go on.

The 16 best military movies of all time

He is often an old school officer, never fraternizing, but knows his men well. The Dependable Officer may talk to other officers about his thoughts, but he will only reveal himself as a real person to his men if/when necessary.

Like the Dependable NCO, the Dependable Officer’s fate isn’t always sealed. For unknown reasons, The Dependable Officer actually has a much higher survival rate than the NCO.

7. The Gruff NCO

The saltiest of the salty, the grizzled, old Gruff NCO has been there and done that and survived. You don’t have to like him, and he doesn’t care if you do or not, but you will respect him. Chances are good he will make it to the end credits and teach you about life along the way.

8. The Incompetent Officer (or NCO)

The Incompetent Officer seems like he’s in the unit way too long. How can it not be clear to everyone how bad this person is at his job? The truth is we need this person to commit egregious acts of stupidity and inability for far too long, right up until the critical moment, because from his removal or comeuppance, a true leader will emerge.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Captain Sobel is kinda sad when you read about the real person. It’s still okay to make fun of David Schwimmer though.

If the true leader doesn’t emerge, then the incompetent one is used either as an example of what the worst case scenario for an officer could be, or to contrast with the really good people in the outfit, to make them look even better, like Captain America did to contrast Lieutenant Fick’s leadership in Generation Kill.

9. The Jokester

Usually the best part of that particular movie, the Jokester is the comic relief for a film or one of the central characters. They’re usually up against a person or system that is so unfunny and rigid so as to be like… an Army or something.

Still, their behavior doesn’t make them unlikeable, at least not on screen. Chances are good, however, in real like you would probably want to blanket party this person every night. But this isn’t real life, and watching mudwrestling with Ziskey and Ox seems like a great time.

The 16 best military movies of all time

The Jokester doesn’t have to be an outright party animal. Joker in Full Metal Jacket may have been a Jokester, but he was actually still a good troop who did his job, even as a rifleman, despite his personal feelings about the war. Remember, Joker is the one who shot the Vietcong sniper at point blank range.

10. The True Leader

He emerges when he’s needed most. He handles every situation he’s in like an expert, even when he’s not. He wears a brave face for his men, but even so, the men know he cares for real. More often than not, when the True Leader shows up in a war film or show, the character is based on a real person.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Dick Winters: Reel Life vs. Real Life

The True Leader would have to be based on a real person who was a true leader, because if he were fictional, no one watching would ever be able to believe he did the things he did.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Benjamin O. Davis: Reel Life vs. Real Life

11. The Sniper

This one is pretty self- explanatory. The Sniper isn’t in every movie, but when he’s there, he’s the guardian of the troops on the ground, the eyes in the sky, and the avenging angel of death who gets sh*t done when no one else can.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MF40oKgQ9Jg

One thing is for certain: it really is awesome to watch sniper scenes.

12. The Veteran’s Veteran

Maybe he’s trained in a bunch of stuff the average troop will never see or even read about. Maybe we’re better off not knowing guys like this exist. Some of them are so awesome in battle, they don’t need a quick reaction force, close air support, or even a gun.

No matter how operator they may be, what makes them The Veteran’s Veteran is what they do for their fellow warfighter. Their feelings are usually captured in a meaningful speech during or after the battle.

Articles

This is why the M1911 was America’s favorite pistol

From the punitive expedition to Mexico before World War I to the mountains of Korea, American service members relied on one iconic pistol above any other, the Colt M1911. In fact, some special operators still carry modified and reworked versions of the same sidearm today.


The famous pistol came, like many of the best weapons, from an urgent battlefield necessity. Soldiers and Marines fighting the Spanish in the Phillippines during the Spanish-American War ended up in combat with a rebel group that had been active in the islands for years, the Moro.

The 16 best military movies of all time
A U.S. Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s maritime raid force fires an M1911 .45-caliber pistol at a range in Jordan June 9, 2013. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

The Moro fighters were known as fanatics and used opiates to keep going even if they were hit. The troops engaged in combat with them found out quickly that their pistols, .38-caliber weapons, often needed a few hits to bring down a fighter. This gave attacking Moro fighters time to get an extra couple knife swings or trigger pulls in before they were killed.

Soldiers reached back to their last sidearm, the Colt Model 1873 Revolver which fired a .45-caliber round. The .45 got the job done, and the Army put out a call for a modern weapon that fired it, preferably with semi-automatic technology and smokeless powder.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Army psychological operations soldiers train with the M1911 pistol in 1945. (Photo: U.S. Army)

After a long competition, the winner was a Colt pistol from famed designer John Browning. It was a semi-automatic weapon that fired the desired .45-caliber cartridge packed with smokeless powder, allowing troops to defend themselves with lots of firepower on demand without giving away their position.

The Army designated the weapon the M1911 for the year it was adopted and got it out to the field. The gun got a trial with the Punitive Expedition to Mexico in 1916 where it performed admirably, but it cemented its place in troops’ hearts in 1917 when the American Doughboys carried it with them to Europe.

In World War I, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps carried the weapon. Army Cpl. Alvin C. York was part of an attack through German lines to destroy or capture some enemy machine guns. The initial attack was successful but everything went sideways and York was the highest ranking of the survivors.

The 16 best military movies of all time
Army Sgt. Alvin C. York was awarded the Medal of Honor for killing dozens of Germans and capturing 132 of them as a corporal after an American assault was partially broken up. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In a famous move, York managed to kill many of the Germans and capture 132 of them nearly on his own. During the engagement, he killed six Germans in six shots with his M1911 and it was that pistol that he pointed at the German commander’s head when he demanded and received their surrender.

Army Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., another Medal of Honor recipient, used the pistol after he was shot down in an attempt to fight off the German infantry trying to take him prisoner. While Luke was eventually killed, he took seven of the infantrymen with him.

Love for the M1911 spread to America’s allies. Great Britain, for instance, bought the guns for the Navy and the Flying Corps. In World War II, the Colt M1911 was once again the pistol of choice and Americans were lucky enough to get it as standard issue.

The 16 best military movies of all time
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua W. Brown)

Through Korea and Vietnam, the M1911 was the standard sidearm and a favorite of troops who cited its stopping power, ergonomics, and reliability.

But the weapon’s .45-caliber ammunition made it less operable with NATO allies and when the U.S. encouraged standardizing weapons and ammo across the alliance, it was sent to the chopping block. In 1992, the military branches transitioned to the Beretta M9 and its smaller 9mm ammunition.

But some M1911s are still floating around as special operations units reworked the M1911A1 variant introduced in 1926, allowing them to use the .45-caliber ammunition.

In fact, the Marine Corps ordered 12,000 new M45A1s from Colt. The M45A1 is basically a modernized M1911 that, of course, fires the .45-caliber round. But the 1911’s days might be numbered as Marine special operations troops are scheduled to ditch their .45s and pick up Glocks over the next several years.

Lists

Notable athletes who served in the military

Athletes who were military heroes represent some of the bravest men and women to ever play professional sports. These Americans gave up the fame and fortune that would have come with being a professional athlete to serve their country. Many sacrificed more than that, giving up their lives on the front lines of World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq.


The military hero athletes on this list undoubtably include many names you know as sports stars first and soldiers second or vice versa, but each has a story behind their service in the United States Armed Forces.

For some, that story includes leaving professional sports at the peak of their career to serve their country during wartime, such as legendary baseball player Bob Feller, boxer Joe Louis and baseball great Joe DiMaggio. These athletes can be considered military heroes.

Others, such as basketball star David Robinson and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Art Donovan, their military service came before their professional sports careers as they were fortunate enough to return from battle healthy enough to continue.

Sadly, many were not so lucky. In one of the more recent cases, up and coming Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman left the NFL shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to become a U.S. Army Ranger. Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed in action in April 2004.

These notable athletes who served in the military may not have all been the best of their respective sports and may not have all been decorated soldiers but each of these fine men and women should be thanked for their service nonetheless.

Athletes Who Are Military Heroes

More from Ranker:

This article originally appeared at Ranker. Copyright 2015. Like Ranker on Facebook.

Articles

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.


“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”

He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.

“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

The 16 best military movies of all time
VA photo

Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.

“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”

Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.

“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”

Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.

What is retinitis pigmentosa?

“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”

In 2014, the National Eye Institute generally estimated that the rare disorder affected roughly 1 in 4,000 people in the U.S. and worldwide.** This genetic condition results from a mutation in more than 100 genes and can present in individuals without family history of the disorder. It usually develops gradually either early or later in life and eventually causes significant visual impairment, according to Gregori. In severe cases, the disorder can cause a complete loss of vision, forcing people like Catalan to find ways to cope and emotionally adjust to life with the condition.

Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.

“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”

The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.

“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.

Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.

The 16 best military movies of all time
VA photo

Moving to Florida

In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.

“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”

Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.

In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.

One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time

When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.

“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”

Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.

“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.

It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present

Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.

“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”

“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”

Catalan’s progress

Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.

“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.

The 16 best military movies of all time
VA photo

At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.

During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.

“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”

About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System

The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.

According to the Second Sight website, more than 200 patients worldwide have now received the prosthesis. To learn more about the Argus II, visit the Second Sight Medical Products Inc. website.