6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

In the early days of comic strips, they were often more political cartoon than art enjoyed by adults and kids. This was until Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson released the very first comic book, 1935’s New Fun, under his new company, National Allied Publications.  Through a series of mergers and buyouts, this company would eventually evolve into the comic giant, DC Comics. Before this, however, Wheeler-Nicholson served in the U.S. Army and was widely known as the “youngest major in the Army” at 27.


Just as many of the Marvel superheroes have pulled inspiration from Stan Lee’s time in the Army, many DC heroes followed Wheeler-Nicholson.

Related: 7 Marvel superheroes that served in the Army

Here are six DC heroes that served in the Army. Not all of them have superpowers, but then again, neither does Batman.

6. Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex‘s story begins in the Civil War where he was a southerner fighting for the Confederacy. His conscience held him back from fighting abolitionists, with whom he agreed philosophically, and he eventually surrendered his forces.

Tried for treason and exiled to the Wild West, Hex would later be branded with the mark of the demon and be forced to walk the west as a supernatural bounty hunter. At some point, he’d also travel time (because comic logic) and fight alongside other superheroes.

 

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

He also fought alongside Yosemite Sam. Yeah, the Looney Toons’ Yosemite Sam. (Image via DC Comics)

5. Deathstroke (Slade Wilson)

DC’s greatest and deadliest assassin, Deathstroke, cut his teeth in the Special Forces before he was experimented on, giving him super-human strength, agility, senses, and healing. It’s a very similar storyline to Marvel’s Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, even though Deathstroke came out 10 years earlier.

Contrary to how he’s portrayed in many mediums, he’s actually a completely neutral agent, only interested in fighting heroes for a price. His strict moral code prevents him from hurting innocents and he’s even been known to fight on the side of good when the price is right.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
He’s also one of the few who can go toe-to-toe with everyone in the Justice League. (Image via DC Comics)

4. John Diggle

A more recent addition to DC comic continuity is John Diggle. Originally created for the CW show, Arrow, his character is a bodyguard and close friend to the eponymous Green Arrow. Fans immediately loved the character as he helped Oliver Queen deal with his tragic yet over-the-top comic backstory by sharing his time with Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Though not originally a comic book character, he was given a life in print when DC rebooted many of their series as part of the “New 52.” His comic-book origin story follows his on-screen past very closely.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
DC is really cool with making badassery a superpower. (The CW’s Arrow)

3. Wonder Woman (Diana Prince of Themyscira)

Diana Prince has had a long military career. In more recent storylines, she’s portrayed as an Air Force Intelligence Officer, but she’s most recognized for her WWII-era stories as an Army nurse where she first took the name, “Diana Prince,” to enlist.

At the time, the Amazonian Princess didn’t take kindly to being relegated to being the secretary when she was literally the strongest member of the Justice Society of America (Superman and Batman hadn’t joined at this point). So, she up and left to fight in WWII where she met the sometimes-Army, sometimes-Air Force, sometimes-Navy SEAL, Steve Trevor, as fans would recognize from the 2017 film.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Sassy comebacks is another one of her superpowers. (Image via DC Comics)

2. Sgt. Franklin Rock

One of the more surreal storylines in DC Comics’ history is that of Sgt. Rock. Very rarely did these comics ever deal with over-the-top action and silly, convoluted plots. Simply put, Sgt. Rock was just the story of the average soldiers of Easy Company during WWII, serving their country.

Sgt. Rock and his men were the musings of Army veteran, writer, and, eventually, executive editor, Robert Kanigher. Many events that happen during his run of Sgt. Rock are based on his real-life battles. After other writers took over his character, things took on a more outrageous, comic-book feel. Even Sgt. Rock’s service number — 409966 — is said to have belonged to Kanigher.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Write what you know, am I right? (Image via DC Comics)

1. Superman (very briefly)

That’s right, every other branch: The Man of Steel himself served in the U.S. Army. Unfortunately, it only lasted for one cross-over issue and because of time travel (because comic logic).

Very long story short, Superman brought a bomb that was going to destroy modern-day Paris into space, but it flung him back in time to WWII where he met with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company (which was very grounded in reality until this point). The blast gave him amnesia (because comic logic) and he assumes the identity of Corporal Steel to fight with the Americans. They stumble upon a Nazi program to create “Ubermensch” soldiers and Superman, realizing Ubermensch roughly means “super men” in German, regains his memory and remembers he has powers.

Superman beats all the fake Nazi copies of him and, to preserve his identity, fakes his own death before heading back to the future (because comic logic).

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Nobody ever said comic books weren’t weird sometimes. (Image via DC Comics)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?

Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.

Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?

Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.

Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.

With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.

By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.

Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.

Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”

Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.

Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.

Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.

The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.

After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is available for purchase or streaming through Amazon.


Articles

6 military veterans who played in the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is where the stakes are highest in the world of professional football.


But for some who have played in that big game, they have staked far more than whether or not they help hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy — they’ve served in the military, signing “a blank check to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including my life,” to paraphrase a popular quote.

Here are some of the more famous names (and not-so-famous) names who served in the military and played in the Super Bowl:

1. Hall of Fame OLB Kevin Greene

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Former NFL linebacker Kevin Greene is greeted by Senior Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, 506th Air Expeditionary Group Personnel In Support of Contingency Operations superintendent, in the dining facility Feb. 2. Mr. Greene is traveling to military bases in Iraq to show support and increase the morale for U.S. service members. Throughout his career, he played for the Las Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. (USAF Photo)

While Greene is not well known, he is one of the NFL’s all-time great pass rushers, and played in Super Bowl XXX with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also served in the Alabama Army National Guard, according to a 1986 article in the Poughkeepsie Journal, getting paratrooper wings and also at times commanding a tank platoon.

In the 2017 season, he will coach linebackers for the New York Jets.

According to NFL.com, Greene totaled 160 sacks and five interceptions over 15 seasons.

2. New England Patriots LS Joe Cardona

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
New England Patriots long snapper and Navy officer Joe Cardona. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Cardona will be playing in Super Bowl LI with the New England Patriots, serving as a long snapper. He did the same with the U.S. Naval Academy’s football team – starting as a freshman and for all four years.

A 2015 DoD feature on military-NFL ties reports he serves on active duty, and has assignments with the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport and with the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000).

3. Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who threw for 153 TDs in a career that came after service in the United States Navy that included a tour in Vietnam. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Prior to Pat Tillman, Roger Staubach was probably the most famous person who had his feet in both the military and National Football League. He played 11 years in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys, throwing 153 TD passes according to NFL.com. He played in four Super Bowls, winning Super Bowls VI and XII.

He served four years in the Navy, including a tour in Vietnam.

4. Retired WR Phil McConkey

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
(YouTube screenshot)

Perhaps best known for his Super Bowl XXI heroics as a member of the New York Giants, including a 6-yard TD catch, McConkey wasn’t drafted by an NFL team when he graduated from the Naval Academy.

His naval service included time as a helicopter pilot, but he decided to go for his dream of playing pro football. A 2013 Buffalo News article revealed that it was a family connection to New England Patriots coach Bill Belicheck (whose father was an assistant coach at the Naval Academy) that launched McConkey’s NFL career.

A 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash didn’t hurt, either. Over his six-season professional football career, NFL.com notes that McConkey had 67 receptions for 1,113 yards and two TDs for the Giants, Chargers, Cardinals, and one other team.

5. Retired DT Chad Hennings

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Chad Hennings, a 1988 graduate of the Air Force Academy, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame on May 16, 2006. He was considered one of college football’s great defensive linemen of his era, a unanimous first-team All-America selection in 1987 who received the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman. As a pro, he embarked on a nine-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys that brought him three Super Bowl titles. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Though Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, he also was very well known as an Air Force pilot flying the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane, according to GoAirForceFalcons.com. According to NFL.com, Hennings had 27.5 sacks over his nine-season NFL career.

6. Retired RB Rocky Bleier

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Vietnam Veteran and former Pittsburgh Steeler Rocky Bleier poses with Capt. Doug Larsen who tries on Bleier’s four Super Bowl rings at the North Dakota National Guard’s 2009 Safety Conference in Bismarck Jan 24. (US Army photo)

Rocky Bleier was overshadowed in the Steelers’ backfield that won four Super Bowls by NFL Hall of Fame legends Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.

One reason may have been the fact that in December, 1968, he was drafted by the Army and volunteered to serve in Vietnam. According to a 1969 AP report printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bleier was wounded on Aug. 20 of that year — shot in the thigh and hit by grenade fragments, losing part of his right foot.

According to NFL.com, Bleier only played six games in 1971 after missing all of 1970. He would rush for 3,865 yards and 23 TDs, while catching 136 passes for 1,294 yards and two more TDs.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why ‘War Dog’ is a testament to our wounded canine warriors

When we think of war heroes, what comes to mind is the vigilant soldier, coastie, airman, sailor, or Marine, dutifully keeping his/her post, always on guard. What we don’t realize is our four-legged friends – the ones we bring into war with us – can also be war heroes. In the new HBO documentary War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend, the voices of our canine warriors and their close relationship with their handlers is brought to the forefront.


It quickly becomes clear these dogs are not just dogs — they are trusted companions, soldiers, friends, and family to their human counterparts. The separation between animal and man is completely shattered because both souls face the same hardship, the same war. They also share the effects of those wars and the aftermath of traumatic situations.

Highlighted in the documentary are stories of three canine heroes — Layka, Mika, and Pepper — along with an intimate look into the lives of their handlers, who battle to be reunited with their canine partners after they come home from war.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Layka lost a leg (and nearly two) while deployed.

Among the three stories is that of Army Ranger John Dixon and his canine partner Mika. We see the struggle that both of them experience when Dixon gets wounded in battle and then gets permanently separated from Mika. The heartbreak is real when Mika won’t even go back to work, due to the separation and traumatic events that occurred while her partner was injured.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
U.S. Army Ranger John Dixon and his working dog, Mika.

It’s hard to watch, especially when such trauma, sadness, and real life stories are being conveyed. But these stories need to be told — not only for our human heroes but for our canine heroes who cannot speak for themselves. War Dog reveals the cost of war from a different angle while allowing an unfiltered look into the lives of our military personnel, both human and animal.

War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend is directed and produced by Deborah Scranton and executive produced by Channing Tatum. You can catch it on HBO, or HBO apps HBOGo and HBONow.

Articles

6 military video games used to train troops on the battlefield

Usually, any mention of “computer-based training” leads to more groans from troops than any GI Party ever could. Not so for these military video games. These games are more like those marathon weekends playing “GoldenEye 64” during the junior high years. Bring out the military equivalent of Funyuns and Mountain Dew (Sunflower seeds and Rip-Its?) and settle in to become the best U.S. troop that ever roamed virtual Earth.

Multi-purpose Arcade Combat Simulator (Super Nintendo)

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Bring it on, Duck Hunt.


Developed by the U.S. Army and one of the most prolific developers of Super Nintendo (SNES) games, the Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator (MACS) used a light gun to rate how well a soldier shoots. MACS also aided in learning to zero a rifle and other basic aspects of marksmanship. The light gun isn’t the standard issue SNES weapon, it’s a replica of Jäger AP-74, which is itself styled after the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.

Virtual Reality Combat Training

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

The VIRTSIM System, created by Raytheon, is an immersive, open space, VR training ground. The basketball court-sized game pad keeps track of a soldier’s movements through the use of a rubber pad and a weapon-mounted controller. The limitations of the game and the environment allow for the troops to train on responses to incoming fire of different kinds, but they can’t jump for cover and they will never be as tired in the training simulator as they might be after days of dismounted patrols in the real world. The system’s benefit is that it is a way to train for scenarios that the Army cannot recreate and allows for troops to familiarize themselves with the weapons and equipment they’ll carry in a real-world situation.

Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox)

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Even video games couldn’t get desert flak vests.

In 2004, game producer THQ and The U.S. Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies dropped “Full Spectrum Warrior.” Recognizing that millennials coming into the military since 2000 grew up playing video games, the Army’s Science and Tech community created this first attempt at leveraging video games for training purposes. There were two versions of “Full Spectrum Warrior,” the one released to the public, and the one used as a training tool. The Army’s version is unlocked via a static code (HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE) on the code input screen. The player issues orders and directions to virtual fire teams and squad members, over whom he does not directly control. Another version of the game, called “Full Spectrum Command,” would be introduced later for company-level commanders.

Tactical Iraqi (PC)

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

The “Tactical Iraqi Language and Culture Training System” brought scenario-based PC gameplay to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before their Surge deployment to Iraq in 2007. The game was developed to teach Iraqi situational language and gestures as well as cultural nuances in a virtual world that could be applied to real-world deployments. It brought Marines face-to-face with Iraqis during simulated missions. The game reduced several months of cultural training to 80 hours of computer-based training.

America’s Army (PC, Xbox)

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
The 55th Signal Co. is there, just not in the frame.

“America’s Army” is not just a game, it’s a series of games. The U.S. Army developed and published this first-person shooter to provide a virtual soldier experience that was “engaging, informative, and entertaining.” Since its initial inception on PC in 2002, it has grown to include iterations on Xbox, Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile apps. The platform has also extended to other government training platforms to further train troops. The latest iteration, “America’s Army: Real Heroes” featured specific, real-world soldiers who have distinguished themselves in combat. The series has won dozens of awards, including Best Action Game of E3 by GameSpy and Best First Person Shooter from Wargamer.

Virtual Battlespace 2

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

“Virtual Battlespace 2” (or VBS2) gives instructors the ability to create custom battlefield simulations that engage the players (read: soldiers) from multiple viewpoints. Like “Full Spectrum Warrior,” it also gives soldiers the ability to issue orders to squad members. As of 2012, the game was still being used for Basic Combat Training scenarios. It teaches land nav, combat scenarios, and platoon-level group strategies. The biggest advantage of using VBS2 is that new soldiers learn from their mistakes more easily and faster, with fewer consequences than say, getting lost in the woods in a land nav exercise.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 supporting characters you’d want in your squad

War movies are known for their big explosions, epic firefights, and fearless heroes who save the day against an overwhelming, opposing force.


The main characters receive 99.9% of the credit for winning battles, leaving very little recognition for others in the squad, who efficiently executed the orders given to them while under insane pressure.

This article pays homage to those supporting troops.

Related: 7 reasons why you’d want ‘Pvt. Pyle’ in your infantry squad

These are the five supporting characters you’d want in your squad.

5. Rhah (Platoon)

Although we don’t get much of his backstory, as soon as he takes the screen, we know Rhah is someone the troops can trust. Hell, he’s the one who tells us just how hardcore Sgt. Barnes can be.

Rhah is tough enough to survive the film’s final firefight, holding just his rifle and that barbed-wire rod thingy. He even manages to victoriously celebrate with a loud grunt as he sees his pal, Chris Taylor, evacuated alive from the war zone.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
One of our favorite war movie characters, Rhah. (Image from Orion Pictures)

4. Hoot (Black Hawk Down)

Considered the real hero of the film, Hoot believes bringing home all your men is the most critical aspect of any mission. He heroically dismounts his vehicle in the middle of a rescue mission, knowing that moving into the overrun city on foot is the most productive way to save his allies.

Never once does the audience suspect he has any fear in his heart, nor would he ever lost his cool during a firefight. For those reasons, we’d want him in our squad.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Oh! Let’s not forget that his trigger finger is his safety. (Image from Columbia Pictures)

3. Tania Chernova (Enemy at the Gates)

Women have played a huge part in fighting their nations’ wars. That being said, they’ve gone uncredited for many outstanding military achievements in combat roles for a long time now.

Many people don’t know that Chernova was a real Soviet troop who effectively targeted her German enemies. Reportedly, she had 40 confirmed kills during her time serving in World War II. We’d love to bring Chernova’s sniping skills into our squad as we continue to fight the War on Terror.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Tania Chernova, a talented sniper. (Image from Paramount Pictures)

2. Animal Mother (Full Metal Jacket)

Animal Mother is one of our all-time favorite war movie characters, as he has no problem busting out his M60 during a firefight. This big Marine is known for running into the face of danger for his brothers without hesitation.

For that reason alone, we’d want him in our squad.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

Also Read: 6 things you’d never hear a Marine recruiter say

1. Pvt. Jackson (Saving Private Ryan)

Who doesn’t want a talented sniper with a heart of gold in their squad? This praying man and talented shot nailed another German sniper right through his scope while it was raining cats and dogs.

Not only could he successfully aim under extreme pressure, but he also took orders like a champ as he ran out in the open, on his own and with little covering fire, to set up a small, strategic shooting post on D-Day.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Pvt. Jackson as he shoots down his German enemies from a bell tower in Saving Private Ryan. (Image from DreamWorks)

Can you think of any others? Let us know.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 things you didn’t know about ‘Full Metal Jacket’

1987’s Full Metal Jacket was much more than just a 2-hour, enrapturing story directed by the late Stanley Kubrick; it’s considered one of the greatest war movies ever recorded on film. It showcases the journey of a recruit as he makes his way through basic training and is thrust onto the dangerous, combative pit known as Vietnam in the late 1960s.


Although Full Metal Jacket has its fair share of inaccuracies, there are plenty of stories behind the stories that most film fans aren’t familiar with — until now.

Related: 5 things you didn’t know about deadly flamethrowers

1. How Pvt. Pyle came about

Before landing the role, talented actor Vincent D’Onofrio was working as a bouncer at one of the Hard Rock Cafes when he ran into Matthew Modine. Modine told D’Onofrio about his role in Kubrick’s new film and how there just happened to be a part available for him. 

After D’Onofrio earned the part of “Pyle,” the young actor had to put on some weight to play the clumsy recruit. So, that’s just what D’Onofrio did. He ended up putting on 80 pounds of fat for the role. 

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
(Warner Brothers’ Full Metal Jacket)

2. The role of Gunny Hartman was recast

Initially, the door gunner (Tim Colceri), who liked to kill women and children with his M60 from high above, was supposed to play the famous role of the Gunny Hartman. Kubrick had originally called on Marine veteran R. Lee Ermey to be the film’s technical advisor.

Once Ermey showed up to teach the group of young actors the basics of being a U.S. Marine, he ended up earning the role — and the rest is cinematic history.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
(Warner Brothers’ Full Metal Jacket)

3. R. Lee Ermey came up with his legendary insults on the spot

Once Ermey stepped into his polished shoes, his days of serving in the Corps flooded right back — and so did the way he spoke to the recruits he trained while serving a drill instructor at Parris Island.

“It looks like to me, the best part of you ran down the crack of your momma’s ass and ended up as a brown stain on the mattress.” — Gunny Hartman/R. Lee Ermey

4. The Vietnam set was 10 minutes from Kubrick’s East London home.

Filming a Vietnam war movie in London sounded off at the time. However, Kubrick wanted to shoot the war scenes in an abandoned gasworks in Beckton, London. The location had French architecture similar that of Hue City in the late 1960s. The film’s production design crew had palm trees flown in to decorate the area.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
(Warner Brothers’ Full Metal Jacket)

Also Read: 6 times Gunny Hartman was guilty of hazing

5. There was a bad wreck on a location scout

While searching for a place to film a scene, Kubrick, his wife, and R. Lee Ermey were driving in a brand-new SUV.

Kubrick was known for having a one-track mind and drove the SUV off the road and into a ditch while talking about the scene he wanted to film. After the accident, Kubrick climbed out of the vehicle and moved to the roof of the vehicle, all while continuing to discuss the scene.

6. It took a long, long time to film

Since Kubrick was known for being an absolute perfectionist. Many of the crew members were hired for an 18-week shoot — but they stayed a lot longer than that.

The film took approximately 14-months to shoot. Seeing as it’s one of the most iconic films in history, we’d say it was worth it.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Stanley Kubrick (right) discusses a scene with Matthew Modine (center). (Warner Brothers)

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 simple things movies get wrong about clearing houses

Hollywood works hard to produce great movies, there’s no doubt about that. Plenty of industry professionals are working around the clock, 7 days per week, to provide top-shelf entertainment to the masses. And while (most) studios try their best to depict military tactics as accurately as possible, they often fall short. One area in particular where they always seem to get things wrong is urban combat — specifically, the most fundamental component: clearing buildings.

Now, don’t get us wrong — there are plenty of movies that nail it perfectly (typically the ones with a good military adviser, hint hint) but we’ve seen plenty of mistakes make it all the way to the silver screen. After all, there’s a reason I’m writing this article.

Here are some of the most basic rules that get broken consistently in movies.


6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

If you’ve got someone watching your back, no worries.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanie A Wolf)

Never enter a room alone

It’s the cardinal rule of military operations in urban terrain (or, MOUT): You should never, under any circumstances, enter a room by yourself. At minimum, you need to bring one other person with you. If you enter a room alone, you could get cut down by an enemy and there’d be nobody to back you up.

Time and time again, we’ll see brazen heroes kick down doors solo — even when they’ve got teammates available.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

Drop your gun, enemy drops you.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)

Keep your gun up

Keep your gun up; keep your guard up. If a building hasn’t been cleared yet (we’ll get to that in a minute), your gun should remain ready to go. If you drop it in an unclear house, you could be caught off guard at the wrong moment — and it could mean the end of you.

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen characters walk through houses with their muzzles pointed at the dirt.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

You better yell like someone’s life depends on it.

Communicate everything

Everything you see, everything you hear, and everything in between needs to be communicated or repeated. No one can see every space of the room, so it’s your job to tell everyone else what you see. This way, if you find enemies, everyone in your unit knows immediately.

We’ve seen plenty of shows and movies that feature silent warriors that rely on hand signals. In fact, one of the only times we’ve seen it done right was in Sons of Anarchy. In the second episode of the third season, the Sons close in on the location of the leader of a rival gang. As they move through the house, they communicate every little thing loudly and clearly. Leave it to the lawless to abide by the rules of war.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

Make sure to maintain muzzle awareness as well.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)

Move your muzzle with your eyes

If you turn your head, your gun goes with it. If your gun isn’t locked with your eyes, you’ll need an extra second to get it there if things go south. Needless to say, your enemy doesn’t want to give you that extra second.

Characters in movies are always looking around without their gun, even when the character is supposed to be some Special Ops badass.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

You never know when an enemy is hiding in a corner or under a table.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Garrett White)

Check every space

A building can only be declared “clear” when every space has been observed. If a building has a basement, attic, or both — you better check ’em. Drawers, cabinets, closets, shelves, holes in the walls — it all gets inspected. If it doesn’t, that one drawer you decided was okay could have a f*cking bomb in it.

Funnily enough, in movies, when a character doesn’t follow this rule, they’ll often been made an example for the rest of the squad.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why Rogue One’s Saw Gerrera was basically bin Laden

In last year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, they finally sealed the thermal exhaust port sized plot hole of how to destroy the First Death Star without “many Bothans” dying.


Jyn Erso, a former criminal turned rebel soldier, leads her team in the Battle of Scarif where they capture the blueprints — and vulnerabilities — of the Death Star, which helps Luke Skywalker eventually destroy the moon-sized weapon. Before she goes on that mission she’s given another: hunt down and locate Saw Gerrera for Capt. Andor to kill.

Makes sense in the logic of the series. The group labelled “The Rebel Alliance” is a ragtag group comprised of many different rebel groups to restore the Galactic Republic. Gerrera was an extremist who gave the Rebellion a bad name and needed to be removed so they could claim morale superiority over defeat the Empire and the Dark Side.

However, in Saw Gerrera’s final moments, he isn’t given the “good riddance” treatment as with most villain deaths — he has a sweet farewell. Nothing about his character was deserving of that moment.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
It’s more than likely because they had a great actor in Forest Whitaker and didn’t want to waste a good thing.

Comparing him to all of the heinous and messed up things done by the real world Osama bin Laden isn’t too far of a stretch.

Related: This is why General Kenobi was basically General Grant

He was so wicked even the Rebels didn’t like him

The Rebels aren’t exactly without blood on their hands. Remember, they were willing to blow up a Death Star — and everyone on it — three times.

Gerrera isn’t just a one-off character in the Star Wars canon. He’s appeared in novels, cartoons, and comics as well. In the novel “Rebel Rising,” Saw proves that he’s willing to do just about anything to achieve his ends — including gunning down thousands of innocent lives to get to just a few Imperials.

The Mujahideen did the same thing happened to Osama after the Soviet-Afghan War.

(YouTube, MovieClips)

He used child soldiers

It’s very subtly talked about and most people gloss over it, but the book mentions that he trained Jyn Erso from a young age. She mentions the reason she left was because she couldn’t handle the fighting at age 16.

This is not unlike how the Taliban uses child soldiers to fight and plant IEDs. The Taliban knows that Americans and our NATO allies would hesitate before pulling the trigger on a child. So they use kids.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

Just this scene in Rogue One

To set the scene: a group of soldiers are patrolling through an occupied desert city. Some on foot, others in the vehicle. An insurgent grenade is tossed in the crowded street, taking out a few. The insurgents pull weapons out of their robes and start gunning down the soldiers.

It’s true the soldiers cause collateral damage, but the insurgents intentionally kill innocent to get to the soldiers. The insurgents are not afraid to blow themselves up to kill a soldier or two.

Which am I talking about? The real life fight in Afghanistan or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?

(YouTube, Orlok425)

My heart keeps going out to the Stormtroopers more and more.

Related: 6 reasons why it would suck to be a Stormtrooper in Star Wars

MIGHTY MOVIES

A fanboy just made this ‘John Wick video’ with Nerf guns and it’s awesome

By any measure, the latest installment of the John Wick franchise is a hit. With a $30 million opening and about $158 million in global box office as of mid-March, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is riding high.


The flick is packed with action, badassery and edge-of-your-seat thrills. But what really stands out about the movie — and what might give it its 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating — is the Delta Force-esque gunplay.

The leaked video of “John Wick: Chapter 2” lead man Keanu Reeves punching some paper with tactical training guru Taran Butler in the lead up to the release of the film only helped illustrate how Wick’s got a little Ninja in his blood.

So how do you make the job harder for the assassin of assassins? Ditch the irons and replace them with Nerfs — then see how he does.

Well a YouTube team attempted just that, providing a stand in for Wick and bedecking him with an arsenal of foam and plastic. And what this Nerf John Wick was able to accomplish against 14 assassins will blow your mind.

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How R. Lee Ermey’s Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.


Ronald Lee Ermey, like many of us, was a mischievous kid and teenager. At the age of 17, the judge gave him a choice that would forever change him: Juvenile Detention or military service. The Corps did him right and he did right by the Corps, eventually becoming a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and deploying to Vietnam with the Marine Wing Support Group 17.

 

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps)

 

After being medically retired for injuries incurred during service, Ermey attended the University of Manilla to study drama where he met his future wife, Nila Ermey. He also had his first taste of Hollywood with a bit role in the Sidney J. Furie film The Boys from Company C, which was a precursor to and inspiration for Full Metal Jacket where he would also be cast as a Drill Instructor.

His acumen capturing the warrior on film led him to be called directly on set for Apocalypse Now.

Frances Ford Coppola had filmed his Vietnam War-era epic not too far from Ermey’s university in The Philippines. Ermey became the technical advisor to the man who directed The Godfather; Ermey let Coppola know how things were actually done in Vietnam.

He also scored his next acting role as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him helicopter pilot during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene.

 

Once you see it’s him, you’ll recognize his voice on the intercom through the scene.

He would continue to act in other films that fit his range, like a Jaws knock-off called Up from the Depths and a sappy Vietnam War romance film called Purple Hearts. Neither would go down as cinematic masterpieces — but it was his passion. He kept busy until he was offered to be the technical advisor for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

For the non-cinema buffs who are unaware of Kubrick’s directing style, he wasn’t the easiest man to work with. The script had to be followed to a “T” and improv was strictly forbidden. The infamous scene in The Shining where Wendy frantically swings a baseball bat at Jack took 127 takes to get right — that was the level of perfection Kubrick worked with.

 

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
Needless to say, his sets can be intense. (Warner Bros.)

None of that threw Ermey. The story goes that while filming, Ermey had worked extensively with the original Gunny Hartman, portrayed by Tim Colceri. Ermey had written 150 pages of insults that would naturally flow out of a Drill Instructor’s mouth — and nearly none of them were used. The few that were chosen came across as weak and nonthreatening.

Ermey did what every good Devil Dog would do in a situation like this. He bulldogged Colceri (would eventually be recast as the door gunner who screams “Get some!“) off camera. He barked insults at the scared actors while channeling his real Drill Instructor past. And he did everything off the cuff.

Kubrick was so impressed he kept Ermey as Gunny Hartman, despite being contrary to every directing technique he used.

Ermey would be nominated at the 1988 Golden Globes for his role of Gunny Hartman and would become a main stay in pop culture icon and the first impression many have of military life.


Feature image: Warner Bros.

Articles

‘Transpecos’ offers a gritty, detailed look inside the world of Border Patrol agents

“Transpecos,” winner of the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award, deals with what happens to a Border Patrol agent when he gets dragged to the other side by a drug cartel. It’s an impressive directorial debut from independent filmmaker Greg Kwedar.


6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

Kwedar, whose work includes commercials, documentaries, and short films, took six years to make “Transpecos.” To research the film, he worked with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency that’s reluctant to share its methods – for good reason.  Their mission isn’t just keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, they’re also fighting a massive, brutal enemy with unlimited funding and firepower, and no rules.

“Transpecos” is the story of three Border Patrol agents, a rookie named Davis (played by Johnny Simmons), a seasoned professional, Flores (Gabriel Luna), and salty veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.). They man a remote checkpoint somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. When one stop goes from routine to nightmarish, all three end up fighting for their lives.

“There’s this famous Western line: ‘silver or lead?,'” says Greg Kwedar, the director who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley. “Money’s not a vulnerability for everyone. They [Border Patrol] have higher standards to live by. The leverage can be their own personal safety or that of their family. If an agent can rise above that then the cartel might say, “Who do you care about? We’ll use them.”

That’s exactly what happens in the film. Drug cartels use an agent’s family to force him to allow shipments of cocaine across the border. The Border Patrol agents find themselves torn between duty and family, between fulfilling their mission and protecting their own.

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

To get access to the real Border Patrol agents Kwedar and his team went out into the desert and got lost (or pretended to be) in the hopes of finding agents who were on the job — a highly unorthodox and potentially dangerous process.

“Once they realized we weren’t antagonistic, that we really wanted to know more about them and their work, they really opened up to us,” Kwedar says. “They invited us into their world and from that we found real friendships, running the gamut from grabbing a beer in a one-stoplight town to sitting down with their families at dinner.”

The characters – Davis, Flores, and Hobbs – are the heart of the film. The Border Patrol depicted in “Transpecos” could just as well be any military checkpoint or remote combat outpost anywhere in the world. It’s hot and desolate. The guys manning the checkpoint can be just as bored as any troops on deployment at any given time. They even have to go out on foot patrols.

“It was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on some of those days,” says Johnny Simmons, who portrays the green Agent Davis. “Our boots were melting, we were covered in sweat at the end of the day when we took off our Kevlar. My brother is a Marine and working on this film brought me a little closer to what it must be like for him … only he and so many others do it every day.”

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

The credit for this realism goes to the film’s technical advisor, Sam Sadler. Sadler is a retired Border Patrol agent who joined the service at age 17. Before he retired, he was the second in command at Deming Station, New Mexico, the area where “Transpecos” was filmed. He rode ATVs; he rode horseback. He tracked people through the desert by their footprints, the way Native American tribes used to – a practice still in use by agents today. By the end of his 25 years on the border, Sadler was the go-to guy.

“[Kwedar and Sadler] gave us a great roadmap to the script,” said Clifton Collins, Jr., who plays the experienced, by-the-book Agent Hobbs. “They took us off the leash in regards to the research and I really brought a lot of that to the table.”

At heart, Kwedar made the film for Border Patrol agents and their families. Sadler taught the actors the protocol and search methods to make sure they got the details right.

“These guys are so isolated, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Gabriel Luna, who plays Agent Flores, said. “Working on this film really cleared up my view of the Border Patrol. These men and women are just regular people. They’re human, they’re doing this job day in and day out, and it’s such an incredible thing.”

6 DC comic heroes who served in the Army

“Transpecos” is now available nationwide on demand and digital including Comcast, DirecTV and iTunes. It will be released on DVD September 27, 2016.

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