Croaker, Virginia is America’s version of Easter Island. In the grassy field that belongs to a farmer named Howard Hankins sit the crumbling heads of 43 U.S. presidents.
The heads are eighteen- to twenty-feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.
Before the 24/7 news cycle and instant access courtesy of the Internet, the American public got a lot of its information from newsreels shown in cinemas across the country. Here is the story behind five of Hollywood’s most iconic film directors who made those productions happen.
During boot camp, Marine recruits must endure and complete a 54-hour training event under intense mental and physical distress known as the “Crucible”.
This training event includes marching over 45-miles and negotiating several obstacles that require problem-solving strategies that usher in the concept of teamwork to complete each combat-related mission.
Every moment of the training event is highly structured and preplanned in advanced while under strict Marine drill instructor supervision.
“The Crucible means being sleep deprived, hungry, and digging deep to push forward,” Marine veteran Bryant Tomayo recalls. “[After the completion] it’s the proudest moment for all recruits. It symbolizes the transformation from civilian to Marine.”
Recruits are only allowed eight total hours of sleep during the 54-hour event and two-and-a-half MREs — which they are expected to ration themselves.
Since chowtime is continuous in the field, food management becomes essential; each Marine must space out their meal intake for added energy to push forward when the time is needed.
After the Crucible comes to a close, the recruits will exit from the field at 0400 and proudly march back to their training grounds where they will receive the beloved Eagle, Globe, and Anchor in a ceremony from the same drill instructors that made their lives hell for the past three months.
This is the moment where the drill instructors finally call the recruits a Marine for the first time.
Check out the Marines‘ video below to see the craziness that is the “Crucible” for yourself.
Marines, YoutubeWhat are some of your Crucible stories? Comment below.
Hughes sat down with WATM’s Blake Stilwell and discussed the inspiration behind the film and what he hopes to achieve with it.
‘Day One’ is inspired by a Hughes’ experiences in Afghanistan. The film depicts a new translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit on patrol. As she quickly discovers, her job will bring up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.
The rulers of the Islamic world in the 1200s were not born into aristocracy or priesthood, as was the custom in Europe. They were an army of former slaves. Trained in combat and Sunni Islam from a young age, these “Mamluks” (from the Arabic for “property”) soon grew so vast in number that they wrested control of the Empire from the Abbasid Caliphs — one of very few times in history.
During the Crusades, it was Mamluks who met the Crusaders as they attempted to retake the Holy Land for Christendom. But the most important imprint the Mamluks have on history is a single battle that took place in modern-day Israel that meant the difference between centuries of rule and utter annihilation.
In the 13th Century, a wave of destruction flowed across Asia and into Europe. The Mongols, an amalgamation of far-east tribes and clans from the Mongolian Plateau, united their people, reorganized their armies, and began to expand their controlled territory.
The Mongols began to expand under Genghis Khan, and that expansion continued long after his death. For over 100 years, the Mongol armies swept South and West, demanding immediate surrender and destroying and slaughtering those who didn’t submit.
They didn’t suffer a real defeat until more than 60 years into the conquest at the Battle of Ain Jalut, near the Sea of Galilee — at the hands of the Mamluks.
The Mongols’ loss at Ain Jalut shattered the image of Mongol invincibility and slowed their advance so much they actually had to retreat from the Levant. The Mamluk victory kept the Mongols from taking Cairo and sweeping into Africa.
The Mamluks continued to rule the Islamic world for centuries, where they were subsumed by the emerging Ottoman Empire — though they remained influential in the Empire for centuries afterward, even fighting both Napoleon and U.S. Marines (but losing to both).
Journalist Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors and writer for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, (among others) now brings us Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home.
The book’s quick description says it’s “the true story of two decorated combat veterans linked by tragedy, who come home from the Middle East and find a new way to save their comrades and heal their country.” But this book is more than that.
Charlie Mike tells the story of Jake Wood of Team Rubicon and Eric Greitens of The Mission Continues along with those who assisted them and helped build these monumental veterans’ service organizations.
“Service” is the key word in this book, and in the cases of Wood and Greitens, the service is from the veterans. Charlie Mike, as the name implies (Charlie Mike is military speak for “Continue the Mission”) is as much about the needs of communities around veterans as it is about veterans. Like a The Mission Continues fellows says, these are challenges, not charities.
Eric Greitens is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, and Navy SEAL whose SEAL service was (unofficially) cut short after exposing fellow SEALs drug use on an exercise in Thailand. He was inspired after visiting injured Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to found an organization which would help veterans heal themselves by continuing to serve, even if they could no longer serve in the military. He founded The Mission Continues with the help of Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL whose story is also covered in the book. The Mission Continues gives fellowships to veteran to help “redeploy” them into their communities.
Jake Wood and William McNulty are two former U.S. Marines who were frustrated with the way disaster relief organizations handled enlisting volunteers in the aftermath of the 201o Haiti Earthquake. They decided to just go and do whatever they could, and with a little help and guidance from Jesuits on the ground in Haiti, doctors they met along the way, and their good friend Clay Hunt, they did just that. Their efforts there became the model for Team Rubicon, an non-profit organization that uses the skills and work ethic of American veterans and teams them with experienced first responders to deploy emergency teams to disaster areas. Wood was one of The Mission Continues first fellows.
These organizations, their founders, and the veterans who staff them are prime examples of the attitude of the post-9/11 community of American veterans. The tales of their lives and how these organizations came to be are ones of integrity, personal sacrifice, tragedy, and brotherhood. Their stories are inspiring, and their legacy is already legendary. They represent the newest greatest generation.
Joe Klein does justice to these amazing stories, and that makes Charlie Mike one of the best military books of the year.
Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.
But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.
Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”
The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.
Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.
“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.
Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.
But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.
Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.
They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.
Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”
“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”
They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.
“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”
Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.
While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.
With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.
Operation Encore is different.
“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.
Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.
“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.
After World War II ended, the fighting forces had to figure out what to do with surplus military goods. Ships were scrapped or sunk, vehicles were sold at auction, and surpluses were sent to warehouses or auctioned out to resellers.
The Navy had a large supply of sodium that it had to get rid of. During the war, sodium was used to assist in the liquid-cooling process of large engines, in the manufacture of rocket fuel, and to purify molten metals like the steel used for Navy ships.
While most people think of sodium as something to worry about in their daily diets, it is actually a dangerous and explosive element when it’s not bonded with something else. That being the case, the Navy decided to get rid of it by dumping it into lakes.
The chemical reaction between the sodium and the water releases a lot of hydrogen gas and heat. (You may remember hydrogen gas from the Hindenburg disaster.) The gas is then detonated by the heat of the reaction, causing a massive explosion.
The EA-6B Prowler is a long-range, all-weather aircraft with advanced electronic countermeasures capability. The high-tech plane provides an umbrella of protection for strike aircraft, ground troops and ships by jamming enemy radar, electronic data links and communications.
The twin-engine, mid-wing configured aircraft has a side-by-side cockpit arrangement, and weapons systems including the AN/ALQ-218 (V)2 Tactical Jamming Receiver, ALQ-99 tactical jamming pod, USQ-113 communications jammer and AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). The Marine Corps will fly the aircraft until its 2019 sundown.
The Navy completed its transition to the EA-18G GROWLER aircraft in 2015.
On April 11th, 1966, three companies of the 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Mud Soldiers,” were pinned down by Viet Cong forces outside of Cam My, Vietnam. Pararescuemen of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron were dispatched to evacuate the wounded. The battle raged and the soldiers were taking a heavy beating.
As if an angel were descending from the heavens, Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger, lowered onto the battlefield to tend to the wounded. When given the opportunity to fly back to base, he elected to stay and care for the men he didn’t even know that remained in harm’s way.
He did all he could to save his fellow troops before paying the ultimate price. Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice ensured at least nine men made it home. It took him 34 years to be recognized fully for his incredible actions.
The Last Full Measurefaithfully and honestly retells this story — and it’s something that our military community must see and support.
In the aftermath of the battle, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Air Force Cross. However, his fellow PJs and the Mud Soldiers he fought with continued to advocate for the award to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that he was finally bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor for giving, what President Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address, his last full measure of devotion.
Keep an eye out for Jeremy Irvine. His portrayal of William Pitsenbarger will catapult him far in Hollywood.
Written and directed by Todd Robinson, The Last Full Measure follows Scott Huffman, a jaded Pentagon lawyer (played by Sebastian Stan) as he is tasked with upgrading Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor at the behest of Pitsenbarger’s fellow pararescueman veteran (played by William Hunt) and father (portrayed by Christopher Plummer).
The story unfolds as Huffman pieces together the gallantry of Pitsenbarger by interviewing the soldiers who had been saved back in Vietnam. Samuel L. Jackson, the late Peter Fonda, Ed Harris, and John Savage each portray the Mud Soldiers and give fantastic performances as they crawl through painful memories. The audience watches the fateful day in Vietnam through flashbacks as the veterans recall being saved by Pitsenbarger (portrayed by Jeremy Irvine).
Pictured left to right: Kimberly Breyer, producer of Last Full Measure, Sidney Sherman, and Kimberly’s husband Sean Breyer
(Photo by Eric Milzarski)
Kimberly Breyer, the niece of William Pitsenbarger, was in attendance of the world premiere of The Last Full Measure. She told We Are The Mighty,
“This film means people get to hear the very important true stories of my uncle Billy Pitsenbarger, Frank, Alice, and all the people who fought with him. We want as many people who possibly can so these stories keep being told and retold.”
She also noted how true-to-life Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of her grandfather, Frank Pitsenbarger, felt. “When we saw it, especially my grandma Alice, the hair went up on the back of her neck and she started to cry. He makes me miss Frank so much. We’re very grateful to him for how beautifully he portrayed our grandfather on screen and how hard everyone worked for so many years to get this project to come together because it’s so unique in so many ways.”
(Photo by Eric Milzarski)
The production covers two key time periods, from the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Pentagon. The star-studded cast filmed in the United States and Thailand to portray the retelling of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice. The film stays away from typical action movie tropes and instead dives deep into the psyche of the troops who returned home. It gives an accurate depiction of what goes on behind-the-scenes when a Medal of Honor is to be awarded. The film helps us understand the excruciating lengths (and sheer volume of bureaucratic red tape) that stands between valor and recognition — and leaves you wondering how many heroes haven’t been given the credit they deserve.
Dale Dye, USMC veteran who served in the Vietnam War and military advisor for many of the greatest war films, played a large role in ensuring the film was as accurate as possible. It’s all the perfectly-captured, little moments that help set the stage.
Dye tells We Are The Mighty, “This is a film that goes directly to my heart and soul. And the reason is because it talks about the selfless nature of veterans and the dedication we have towards each other. This is a story of veterans who go to extraordinary lengths to get recognition for one of their own. And that’s the nature of every combat veteran.”
The writer and director of the film, Todd Robinson, tells We Are The Mighty, “The military was very bullish about this film. It promotes a career field called pararescue, which promotes saving lives. So it wasn’t hard for them to get behind this film.“
The Last Full Measure is a beautiful film that is rare in Hollywood. It’s not an action-packed film made with set pieces for the trailers. It’s not an overly played-out drama that uses war as backdrop. It’s the real-life story of a man who gave his all for his fellow troops and those men fighting tooth-and-nail to get him the honor he deserved.
I can’t recommend this film enough for every veteran, active duty troop, their family, and anyone who’s life has been touched by the actions of these brave men and women.
Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield — taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re in the crosshairs.
With many legendary snipers in the history books, Hollywood loves to make movies about the single-shot heroes who man the ranks of America’s martial might.
One of our guilty pleasures is seeing the good guys duke it out with the enemy — either in close hand-to-hand combat or from far off positions with surprise direct head shots from precision shooters.
So check out the Hollywood sniper shots that we often rewind, rewatch and relive the awesomeness time and time again.
1. The 2,100-yards-out
With so many badass moments we saw in the movie “American Sniper,” one single sniper shot stands out the most. This Clint Eastwood-directed war tribute features an epic duel — sniper vs. sniper — between Bradley Cooper’s legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and his insurgent nemesis.
2. One shot, one kill, no exceptions
Hitting a moving target at distance is crazy complicated. But under the guidance of a Marine sniper — some of the best in the business — you’ll be able to get the confirmed kill as shown in 1993’s “Sniper” directed by Luis Liosa.
3. Right through the eye
Steven Spielberg knows how to tell an effective story, and he did just that directing 1998’s critically-acclaimed “Saving Private Ryan.”
After showing the world how American troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, he successfully captured the moment of when Pvt. Jackson (played by Barry Pepper) takes out a German sniper with a perfectly aimed round right through his scope.
4. Female VC Sniper
In most cases, it’s not okay to cheer for the villain, but as Stanley Kubrick showed us in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket,” female snipers can be just as efficient and deadly as the men.
This death shocked viewers as one of our beloved characters made a simple mistake — and paid the price.
5. Pop shot and catch
Sniping is sometimes a team effort – just ask the real Navy SEALs who filled the roles of 2012’s “Act of Valor” who killed the enemy while barely making a sound.
6. 5 Rounds = 5 targets
A sniper’s greatest tool is his power of concealment. Russian-born sharpshooter Vasili Zaytsev (played by Jude Law) used that knowledge as he whacked five unsuspecting Germans in 2001’s “Enemy at the Gates.”
Video games are known for over-the-top weaponry. In the universe of games, a seemingly tiny blonde dude can easily swing around the giant Buster Sword (see: Final Fantasy VII) and a kid with a mask is given free reign to swing around a ridiculously shaped, dual-bladed sword (see: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).
In real life, getting your hands on these incredible weapons is a much more painstaking endeavor than simply showing up at a store and dropping a few rupees or a couple hundred gil. Tony Swatton of Burbank, California’s Sword and Stone and the crew over at Baltimore Knife and Sword take pride in forging authentic, legitimate versions of pop-culture’s finest weaponry. Together, they formed the web series, Man at Arms: Reforged, which you can find on YouTube.
Let’s set the bar extremely high right off the bat with a look at their work on a Warhammer 40K Chainsword:
Swatton is a self-taught blacksmith who got his start working on Steven Spielberg’s Hook and has been creating weapons and armor for film and television ever since. His work can also be seen on the official World of Warcraft channel in a series called Azeroth Armory.
The show expanded to Maryland and added Baltimore’s Knife and Sword crew at the start of the second season. Since then, the channel has achieved internet stardom by bringing the viewers along for the ride as they create some of the most interesting weapons from film, television, and gaming. Behind each weapon is a very long, methodical process. Each weapon takes as long as 200 hours to forge, which is distilled down into a single 10-minute video segment.
They’re also not afraid to take on historical recreations, such as a 400-year old Chinese Dandao:
Each project requires a unique approach but, in general, they employ plasma cutting to get the desired shape out of steel, mold the intricate details out of clay for a bronze cast, spend days perfecting every minute detail, and then finally assemble, sharpen, and test their new weapon.
They create content based off of YouTube comments, so if you can think of an awesome weapon that isn’t in their nearly 150-video-long catalog, leave a suggestion!