The Punisher is one of Marvel fans’ all-time favorite antiheroes, giving the corrupt and twisted what they have coming to them. When The Punisher first showed up in comics, Frank Castle was more of a run-and-gun crazy lunatic. But as Castle evolved, so did The Punisher’s tactics.
Early iterations of the character fell into some common Hollywood traps, though.
The film Punisher War Zone was almost near-complete adaptation of The Punisher comics. The film employed crazy, off-the-wall action and run-and-gun tactics — we all know the famous image of Punisher and his two uzis. Though the movie captured The Punisher’s persona, it fell short of its military fans’ expectations.
In 2004’s The Punisher, we saw a more tactical side of Frank Castle. Using a bow to take out opponent after opponent was far more interesting than shooting up a room full of bad guys. This idea kept up with how a special operator would actually work: swiftly, silently, and deadly.
This brings us to the Netflix original series, The Punisher. After watching Daredevil for two seasons, I was so excited The Punisher was getting his own show. Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of Frank Castle was masterful. He clearly knows that many fans of The Punisher are those with ties to the military.
In this first season, we see a modern Punisher setting up improvised explosive devices, placing weapons all around his place of residency, and using shoot-and-move tactics. There is a saying, “movement without shooting is suicide, shooting without movement is a waste of ammo.” How Frank Castle moves with each weapon embodies this expression, showing a level of detail that films typically only mimic.
When Frank Castle explained that he’d rather have a knife than a pistol in certain situations, it had some very sound tactical advice behind it — and made for some really intense action sequences.
The new The Punisher series on Netflix is a good show to binge watch. They took the time to get the tactical concepts right — something refreshing to finally see on-screen.
The major downfall, however, comes when Frank barks and yells. In combat, information is key, so noise discipline is necessary. Barking and loosing a war cry works in some cases, but not every time.
So far, Netflix has done a great job of not making Frank Castle feel so “Hollywood,” making many Marine fans of The Punisher quite happy and ready to move on to the next season.
Military movies traditionally focus the lens on the troops fighting overseas while skipping the story of the families at home.
Here are 6 movie scenes that remind viewers how hard the lives of military spouses and children can be:
1. “We Were Soldiers” – Notification of next of kin
Families of deployed service members live with the dread of a casualty notification officer showing up. Families from the Vietnam War and earlier conflicts had the same fear, but it was embodied in taxi drivers who delivered dreaded telegrams. In “We Were Soldiers,” Julia Moore almost loses it when a cabbie walks to her door. Luckily he’s not there for her, just directions to another house.
2. “A War” – Family members are never the only priority
Service members have to juggle the needs of the nation with the needs of their family. In this clip from the Oscar-nominated “A War,” the commander’s wife argues for her husband to say whatever it takes to avoid jail time after an errant airstrike. For Claus Pederson, the commander, the necessity of supporting his family’s needs has to be balanced with the needs of his troops.
3. “American Sniper” – The family never knows when the service member is safe, except when they know they aren’t
Troops usually know whether the current danger level is high or low. They get updated on local threats, know when they’re safe behind walls or in the most dangerous part of the battlefield, and are watching out for enemies.
For family members, the threat is always real and they never know if their soldier is in relative safety or outside the wire. The only exception is when they’re actively speaking to their loved one, in which case every background noise is terrifying.
4. “The Hurt Locker” – The soldier who comes home may not be the one who left
“Hurt Locker” was Oscar gold but hated-on by vets (for good reason). But it got some parts of the military experience right. In this scene, explosive ordnance disposal technician William James is playing with his son while talking through his own scars from deployment. The family will often want to help, but troops may want to talk only rarely or not at all.
For James, the best course of action was apparently to talk to the only family member who can’t possibly understand.
5. “American Sniper” – PTSD can be a tough problem for military families
While most movies overplay the symptoms of PTSD, “American Sniper” earned a lot of credit for portraying a vet afflicted by the disorder as mostly just stuck in their own thoughts, rather than showing them as a caricature of violence.
American Sniper had other good scenes about vets struggling with normal relations at home, including this one from a barbecue and the scene in a mechanic’s shop.
6. “Independence Day” – Military families face national crises without a head of household
While “Independence Day” is hardly a gritty war movie, it contains one scene that reflects a dark reality for military families. When Will Smith’s Capt. Steven Hiller learns that aliens have arrived on earth, he immediately heads to base to get ready for a fight.
When the U.S. was attacked on 9/11, most Americans were reeling from the surprise attack and military families had to recover while their loved ones went to bases to get ready for deployment. President George W. Bush even said in his speech for all Americans with a uniform to get it ready.
You wouldn’t think a heist movie set during the Iraq War would provide a particularly accurate look at military life. But while the 1999 movie “Three Kings” has a lot of problems, it gets a surprising number of Army-life details right.
Here are seven times the filmmakers nailed it:
1. Troops waste key resources by having a water bottle fight in the middle of the desert:
Yes, the ceasefire ending the war had just been announced, but this is still bad resource management.
2. An American officer communicates with Iraqis by speaking at the exact same time as his interpreter:
We’re sure the Iraqi soldiers who can understand English are glad that you’re yelling it over the guy speaking Arabic. And your troops are probably enjoying the two loud audio streams washing over them all day.
3. A group of soldiers finds a secret document in a guy’s butt and it immediately falls to the junior soldier to pull it out:
This is literally the only time that it makes sense for a specialist to pull rank.
4. A Special Forces major is trying to get the story of what happened with the secret butt map and everyone on the base tells him a different rumor:
Seriously, when did you ever get the truth on your first try from a base rumor mill?
5. A junior enlisted soldier is given the chance to ask questions about an upcoming, risky mission and he wastes it:
Yeah, the Special Forces selections process is the most important thing to learn about before you conduct a four-man raid against an Iraqi bunker filled with gold.
6. A guy clearing his first bunker tries some stupid stuff that he saw in a movie and immediately regrets it:
You shot a deadbolt. The deadbolt is still in the door. Your shoulder is not as strong as the iron holding that door in place. Moron.
7. When the group’s escape is ruined because the junior guy can’t find his gas mask that is supposed to be strapped to his leg.
Notice that while he doesn’t have his mask — which is essential to surviving the gas weapons that have already been used in this war — strapped to his person, but his survival knife is easily accessible. Because he’ll definitely need that knife.
8. A blue falcon immediately dimes out the group to the senior brass, even though no one has asked him a question:
Seriously, Private Falcon, no one asked you. Just stand there quietly.
A military caregiver is a family member, friend or acquaintance who provides care and assistance for a military servicemember over a wide range of physical and mental illnesses and injuries.
Sky Blossom salutes the children and millennials who are “going to school, holding down jobs, and living out their youth while at the same time looking after a veteran family member with serious medical conditions.
Journalist and director Richard Lui has firsthand experience as a caretaker. When his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he had to learn how to balance caregiving for his father while working full-time.
WATCH THE TRAILER:
“I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to keep my job or not,” he said. According to AARP, Lui’s boss was a long-distance caregiver, too, and allowed him to provide care for his father during the week and maintain his job as a national news anchor on the weekends.
While adapting to his new role was challenging, Lui attests that it brought his family closer together and inspired the concept for Sky Blossom.
According to data from an AARP report, there are 24.5 million children and millennials who care for the nation’s disabled veterans and other adults. Lui’s film shares their experiences with an uplifting message — and a compelling one. Sky Blossom is on Variety’s short list of documentary features predicted to receive an Academy Award nomination.
The phrase “sky blossom” was used to describe paratroopers rushing to the aid of wounded troops, making it a fitting title for the caregivers who aid their wounded veterans, many of them silently. This film, especially if it does earn some award nominations, will open America’s eyes to the families, friends, and loved ones who support the troops in a very intimate and oftentimes all-encompassing way.
The production followed five families over the course of three years, documenting the teens and 20-somethings as they grew up “and grew into their roles as caregivers,” shared Lui.
“The interviews with each of the families were so honest and raw, unlike anything I’ve seen in my 25-year long career as a journalist,” said Lui in a statement. “I left each interview inspired by the courage of these teens and 20-somethings.”
The film premiered on Veteran’s Day 2020 at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and audiences can expect to see it distributed more widely in 2021.
World War I, The Seminal Catastrophe of the 20th Century, hasn’t spawned nearly as many films as did the Second World War that was to follow only 20 years later. For every Warhorse, Lawrence of Arabia, and All Quiet on the Western Front, there are troves of iconic films like Schindler’s List, Dunkirk, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, etc…
Perhaps this is related to the good versus evil rationale on which WWII was fought, whereas WWI had a much more nuanced and convoluted reason for its existence, i.e. a series of binding treaties that exploded into a global war.
In the newest WWI film, 1917, the overarching causes behind why the soldiers are in trenches become irrelevant thanks to an expertly-crafted, human story that envelops the viewer with a common principle found in all wars and in the films that depict it; you fight for the soldiers next to you. Along with sharp performances and thoughtful writing, the filmmakers enlist a technique as difficult to achieve as it is powerful in its reception; a simulated single camera shot following the action from mission-start to mission-finish.
The film’s use of one continuous shot (or perhaps a few hundred stitched-together shots) is designed for one specific reason; to put the audience in the shoes of two young British soldiers, tasked with carrying an urgent message of life or death to the frontlines. Effectively nullifying the safety blanket of the traditional editor where multiple shots can be combined into a film, 1917’s continuous shot leaves very little room for error with the director, cinematographer, and other crew on set. In military terms, to make this film a blockbuster, Director Sam Mendez took a chance with a 0 million sniper shot, and he nailed it.
When Mendez and cinematographer Roger Deakins (both Oscar winners) decided to craft 1917 using only one shot and rely on the edit only to mask or stitch the various sequences together, they set out to bring the audience into the world of frontline war-fighting. There are no breaks. There are no pauses between frames or shots or scenes to give your brain time to catch up. The viewer is embedded with these men from mission-start to mission-finish and thus given a proximity not often afforded to audiences. The result is a visceral and captivating glimpse into the heartbreakingly painful agonies of war; especially a war as devastating as WWI. Yet, in doing so, it also provides the audience with a heightened sense of triumph as the young soldiers conquer insurmountable odds.
Whereas the creative choice of using one shot adds elemental gravitas and depth to 1917, it’s execution also proves the filmmakers’ dedication to this story. Due to the complexity and continuous nature of the one-shot format, the planning of every shot, performance, movement, light, wardrobe detail, effect, etc. called for the utmost military precision.
Employing the preparation, foresight, ingenuity, and assiduousness needed to lead an army into battle, Mendez and his lieutenants triumphed.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died in 2015, age disputed but well into at least his 80s. His death sparked a number of stories about his life, travels, and interactions with foreign heads of state. One such “interaction” was with Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
While still a Crown Prince, Abdullah visited the Queen’s castle in Scotland, Balmoral, in 2003 and she offered him a tour of the place. When the cars were brought around and Abdullah got in the front passenger seat, the Queen herself hopped into the driver’s seat.
Turns out the Queen knows a thing or two about bombing around in a motor vehicle. The now 91-year-old monarch served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.
Not only did the Queen get into the driver’s seat — she didn’t even hesitate before turning the car on and rolling out. And as an Army driver during a war, she knew how to roll along Scotland’s winding roads.
Movies are outstanding. They allow for a short break from reality and fill us with hope and pride as we watch protagonists followthrough on their journeys, but suspension of belief is a fickle thing.
If a film explains the rules of its universe or, at the very least, remains consistent, then the viewer can stay in the story. When these rules are egregiously broken, it’s hard for the audience to remain engaged through the gawking and scoffing.
The Matrix is a perfect example of a film that explains why characters survive outrageous situations. However, not all films are The Matrix. Some movies stay grounded in reality until the very moment the protagonist needs to accomplish something fantastic, then all bets are off — and so is our attention.
The following four characters are guilty of convenient miracles.
Windtalkers is a beautiful idea for a film; immortalizing the very real heroism of World War II Marine Navajo code talkers is absolutely a worthy idea. However, John Woo directing Nick Cage in the lead role is a recipe for some over-the-top scenes. In film’s opening, Corporal Joe Enders (Nick Cage) sustains a blast from an enemy grenade while holding a position somewhere in the Solomon Islands. There’s no way he survives that in real life.
The real cause of death? A grenade to the everything.
2. Specialist John Grimes – Black Hawk Down
Black Hawk Down is another military biopic, but it takes way less creative license. At one point, John Grimes (Ewan McGregor) steps out from cover to successfully take out a mounted .50 cal, but the celebration is short-lived when an RPG is accurately fired at him. Instead of being blown to bits, we discover Grimes covered in dirt, ears ringing.
The real cause of death? RPG to the body.
3. Major William Cage – Edge of Tomorrow
This one is particularly hard to forgive since the entire film centers around showing this character die unceremoniously at every potentially lethal moment. However, when Cage (Tom Cruise) can no longer restart his day after death, he suddenly becomes a superhuman.
Our hero crashes a huge aircraft into a fortified area packed with all kinds of explosions all while under heavy enemy pursuit — and he gets nothing more than a small bruise to show for it.
Platoon is a masterclass in war movies, and it’s written and directed by a veteran with informed combat experience. At one point in the movie, Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) goes off on his own to disrupt the enemy and, on his way back, is met by his fellow, Sergeant Barnes.
Elias is happy to see a friendly face until he realizes Barnes intends to kill him. Elias takes three rounds to the chest but is later seen running out of the jungle, away from the North Vietnamese.
The real cause of death? Three sunken chest wounds.
Consider the values that military service instills. Honor. Purpose. Prestige. Service members wake up with a daily mission to embody those values and while on active duty, they are provided the means and the circumstances to do so.
But when they leave the service, does the drive to live by military values diminish? Veterans across the country will assure you, it does not. That’s why the transition back to civilian life is such a hot topic. Finding a new outlet for warrior values is a bear that every veteran has to wrestle and tame.
So what if there was a school whose founding mission was to teach returning veterans the skills necessary to put those values to work? As it turns out, that school exists. It’s the Culinary Institute of America and it was founded to teach returning WWII vets the fighting arts of gourmet cooking.
The troops, lined up for inspection. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl visited Hyde Park, NY, to get a first hand taste of daily operations at CIA.
It sure beats latrine duty. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
What he found there was an atmosphere of rigor, discipline, and sky high expectations — in other words, a culinary boot camp. And why not? A busy kitchen is its own kind of battlefield and cooks are the troops who serve there. At CIA, students, including notable veterans, learn what it takes to become a new generation of American chefs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During his time in the Corps, Hackman was demoted three times for leaving his post without proper authorization.
After Hackman had been discharged, the San Bernardino native went on to study journalism and TV production at the University of Illinois. By 30, he had broken into a successful acting career and would be nominated for five Academy Awards and winning two for his roles in “The French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”
Hackman is credited with approximately 100 film and TV roles and is currently retired from acting.
And for the military chef, the job is a lot more than just filling bellies with fighting fuel.
Cooking for the Armed Forces concerns the Art of Building Morale. And if an army marches on its’ stomach, then it follows that an Army chef operating at the highest level — who’s able to create culinary magic under the demands of budget, field deployment, and operational extremity — can have a huge individual impact on the health of the mission.
That holds true for every branch, in every situation, from boot camp to battlefield.
Searching for inspired military cooking and meeting the chefs responsible is the central mission of Go90’s series Meals Ready To Eat. And host August Dannehl, a Navy veteran and chef, has a nose for this type of story. For his first foray, he paid a visit to Fort Lee, Virginia to reconnoiter some of the U.S. Armed Forces’ top chefs, who’d gathered there for the annual Military Culinary Arts Competition and Training Event.
Modeled after the World Culinary Olympics and sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation, the 40-year-old event is a bubbling cauldron of ideas, inspiration, and good old-fashioned inter-service rivalry. But at its heart, the event, like Dannehl’s series, seeks to champion the importance of culinary artistry to the overall operational effectiveness of the military.
A new Disney+ series is a throwback to an aspirational time in U.S. history that proved ordinary humans can achieve extraordinary feats.
“The Right Stuff” takes viewers back to America’s space race against the Soviet Union, with the U.S. placing its hopes on the capabilities of seven astronauts — all military test pilots. Two men at the center of the Mercury Seven are Maj. John Glenn (played by Patrick J. Adams), a revered Marine test pilot and committed family man, and Lt. Cmdr. Alan Shepard (played by Jake McDorman), one of the best test pilots in Navy history, according to a press release.
McDorman is no stranger to high-profile military characters. He previously played Navy SEAL Ryan Job in “American Sniper.” Though McDorman wasn’t looking for crossover in the two roles, he says there are parallels.
“What I got out of reading “The Right Stuff” and also reading “American Sniper” … was this relationship to fear. I mean these are people who have a very unique relationship to fear as far as any average person, like myself, could understand. To be able to act efficiently and make smart, calculated decisions under circumstances that would have any of the rest of us acting impulsively or recklessly or too reactionary is certainly a parallel,” he said.
“The Right Stuff” explores how the astronauts’ lives were put on full display, in a manner described as America’s first reality TV show — including with “government-backed PR and publicity” to elevate the Mercury Seven, McDorman says. He adds that a joy and a fear exist when portraying a real person from history.
“When you feel that real presence of people that knew this person, loved this person, along with the public perception of a person — you know it both can breathe down your neck but it can also really inspire you, because it’s just this great responsibility to have. And honestly, it really doesn’t change my approach to the work too much, and I think if you let it, it can just spin you out and kind of sabotage you. So, I kind of use it as just another layer of excitement to view into the research process,” he said.
McDorman and his fellow cast members had a wealth of research to lean on for the pre-production process, he says, but Alan Shepard was also a private man — he was among the astronauts that didn’t write his own book. The other component of McDorman’s preparation for the role entailed in-person experiences.
“As far as the physical training part of it [the role], none of us did as much as we wished we could have — there was probably an astronaut bucket list that we all have,” he said. “We didn’t get to do the most exciting parts of astronaut training physically but educationally, by far, we did. We shot in Coco Beach, we shot in Florida where all of this stuff happened. We got to meet real astronauts at Kennedy Space Center and tour the entire facility; we got invited to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing … and just kind of soak in this environment firsthand before we started.”
“The Right Stuff” takes viewers back to a unified time in history when Americans rallied behind a common goal of developing a space program. McDorman recommends adding it to the must-watch list for the intersection to strides made this year.
“I’d say directly, the historical aspect is fascinating and if you really want a bookend with this year, the first manned SpaceX launch that happened in 2020, and now this show coming out months later, which is the inception of the American space program. You really get to see the start and finish and scope of that entire timeline with this show. It’s a story that even though it’s a famous book and was adapted to an Academy Award-winning movie, I still think for a lot of people — myself being one of those people at first — it’s relatively untold. I think most people my age, and especially people younger, are familiar with Apollo 11 — Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, those guys — so learning about two space programs before Apollo, starting with Mercury and learning how the whole space program came to be and how far behind the Russians we were, you know we were reacting to them successfully putting satellites in orbit,” he said.
The Disney+ series also examines the astronauts’ families, who became instant celebrities. Among those under the microscope was Louise Shepard (played by Shannon Lucio), a wife and mother who refuses to let her husband’s [Alan Shepard] transgressions affect her home.
Lucio said she was attracted to the project because the story takes a deeper, clear-eyed look at this cast of characters who came together to try to do something that was dangerous and unheard of at that time. But the private nature of the Shepard family made getting inside of Louise’s head more difficult, Lucio added.
There is an effort by show creators to put the roles of the wives at the forefront, especially because Lucio points out these families were forced to present a “perfect Americana life to the public” while grappling with the realities of their lives privately.
“The show really focuses primarily on three astronauts: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and Gordo Cooper, and then it also puts a good focus on their wives — and really what each wife was struggling with during this chaotic time when the spotlight was really on them. It does focus, not just on how they were there for their men to support them through this, but what was personally going on for them,” Lucio said.
Shannon Lucio as “Louise” and Jake McDorman as “Alan”
The couple’s relationship, as an example, was complex because it was born out of love, but “Alan was a known philanderer, almost from the moment they were married and throughout most of his life,” Lucio says. Still, Louise remained by his side so that the family could remain whole and he could continue being Alan Shepard.
Lucio says “The Right Stuff” offers an opportune message for current matters facing the nation.
“The story is an inspiring one because it takes these people who are deeply-flawed, but very ambitious and also noble and honorable, in some respects, and it throws them together and they’re all jockeying for this position to be the first. But at the end of the day they realize this is so much bigger than them. This is for America. This is for humanity. This is for trying to push what we are capable of further, and I think that right now, especially with what’s going on and how divisive our country in particular is in this moment, coming together and accomplishing something that is unthinkable is a story I feel needs to be shared and watched right now, for the sake of our souls,” Lucio said.
Other members of the cast include Patrick J. Adams as “Major John Glenn,” Colin O’Donoghue as “Captain Gordon Cooper,” Eloise Mumford as “Trudy Cooper,” James Lafferty as “Captain Scott Carpenter,” Nora Zehetner as “Annie Glenn,” Eric Laden as “Chris Kraft, Jr.,” Patrick Fischler as “Bob Gilruth,” Aaron Staton as “Wally Schirra,” Michael Trotter as “Virgil “Gus” Grissom,” Micah Stock as “Deke Slayton,” and Josh Cooke as “Loudon Wainwright, Jr.”
The eight-episode series premiered on Oct. 9 and is available for streaming on Disney+.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran James LaPorta is “nervous as hell” for season four of the critically-acclaimed NBC drama This is Us because for him, the story couldn’t be more personal.
An infantry Marine with multiple Afghanistan deployments, LaPorta understands the impact of war. He also has some strong opinions about Hollywood’s depiction of it, which he shared for Newsweek when This is Us explored the Vietnam War during season three.
“While Hollywood has improved upon its depiction of military veterans in recent years, the majority of characters produced are still one dimensional. Usually, the audience is delivered a stereotype of either the incredibly heroic service member or the tragically broken veteran who is unable to function. In reality, these are plot vehicles for lazy writing that garner cheap emotional responses and that can contribute to the civilian-military divide that is already occurring,” he wrote.
Many in the military community agree and are quick to condemn military stories in film and television, but it was the Vietnam storyline that first caught LaPorta’s attention. In his opinion, This is Us had figured out the right way to tell veterans’ stories — though he couldn’t have predicted that he would sign on to be part of the team that would tackle the war in Afghanistan.
A war that, in LaPorta’s own words, is “being forgotten even as it’s being fought.”
LaPorta, already a fan of This is Us, was impressed by the Vietnam storyline and its depiction of how our veterans of that war were treated when they came home. LaPorta reached out to This is Us creator Dan Fogleman, who told Newsweek that the story was “not just about combat in war—[it was] about what veterans, and in particular, veterans of that generation, kept from their families, from significant others. Things they may have even kept from themselves at certain times.”
Fogleman invited LaPorta to visit the set and talk with the staff writers, which lead to LaPorta’s involvement on the show. He was hired as a military advisor for season four, which introduces the character of Cassidy Sharp (played by Jennifer Morrison), a soldier who struggles to return home from Afghanistan.
The story comes with pressure to “get it right.” LaPorta didn’t want to depict another military caricature, but the balance between telling an entertaining story and showing what it’s truly like for veterans is a tricky one. For LaPorta, it’s not only personal in that he shares his own experiences, but he also wove the stories of people he served with into this season.
Late post from last night’s @NBCThisisUs premiere. Actor Rich Paul is also a @USMC veteran. His character is Sgt. Lasher, which is also an homage to another #Marine I served with in Afghanistan. Lance Cpl Jeremy Lasher was killed in combat on July 23, 2009
LaPorta not only provided guidance about uniforms and weapons, but he was intent on getting every detail right, down to the proper tourniquets for the military units or the red dye in the beards of Afghan locals. He wanted it to be visually authentic at a minimum.
But he took his role as military advisor further by truly bridging the divide between the military and civilians in the cast and crew. One of the more meaningful ways he did this was by making and gifting memorial bracelets to honor the memories of fallen service members.
Among those who received bracelets were Fogleman and Morrison, the writing team, Executive Producer and Director Ken Olin, and Milo Ventimiglia, who plays a Vietnam War veteran in the show (and whose father was an actual Vietnam War veteran).
It was quite powerful and important to us my friend. Our North Star for her story this season. #ThisIsUshttps://twitter.com/JimLaPorta/status/1176714723280244736 …
When I asked what he was most excited about with this season’s story, LaPorta mentioned that female veterans in particular are underrepresented on-screen. “We’ve seen my story before, in terms of the male infantryman. We’ve seen it. But we haven’t really seen what women go through,” he insisted.
While Cassidy Sharp isn’t based on Kent or any one veteran in particular, she is a character who is serving in a combat zone, which many Americans are surprised to discover is the reality of post-9/11 wars. Female service members are risking their lives every day and their experience is unique.
“As we’re making this storyline, there are actually people fighting these wars,” LaPorta shared. “It’s something I’ll never forget, and I wanted to give the memorial bracelets so the cast and crew can remember that fact, too. It was a way to thank them for telling this story.”
This is not how we expected Cassidy to cross paths with the Pearsons…pic.twitter.com/dVtxFAVwws