How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing

In the final episodes of the Mandalorian Season 2, the writer dives deep into the inner conflict Din Djarin “The Mandalorian” feels when he is confronted by meeting Mandalorians outside of his sect, who don’t follow the extreme code of rules that he has been taught from a very early age. While we see these interactions early in the series, this exchange is perfectly illustrated through the rest of the season, as the Mandalorian tries to rescue baby Grogu from the hands of Moff Gideon.

In Episode 15: The Believer, as the Mandalorian and Mayfield make their way to the Imperial base, Mayfield points out how he and the Mandalorian are alike.

 “Seems to me like your rules start to change when you get desperate. I mean, look at ya. You said you couldn’t take your helmet off, and now you got a stormtrooper one on, so what’s the rule? Is it, you can’t take off your Mando helmet or you can’t show your face? ‘Cause, there is a difference. Look I’m just sayin’, we are all the same. Everybody’s got their line they don’t cross until things get messy. As far as I’m concerned, if you can make it through your day and still sleep at night, you’re doing better than most.”

As a veteran who has gone to war, this line in particular, stuck out. So much of who I was and what I believed about the world changed during my deployment overseas. In a way, I was lucky on my deployment: I saw a small amount of combat and come home with everyone who arrived in Afghanistan with me.

But the dynamics inside the wire (on the base) were not so calm. Why physically I wasn’t hurt, emotionally my shift toward being part of a team and trusting others was shattered. It was a weird circumstance because at the same time the lies and distrust were happening on the base. I then had to leave the base and go on missions off base while relying on the same people who were working hard to manipulate and undermine who I was. 

It isn’t something we talk about enough as veterans. So many people believe the only danger of going to war is when you leave the base and go and fight. But besides the incoming rockets that make living on base not safe, so many of us have had to deal with the hurt and pain that happened to us by our fellow soldiers: the people who are supposed to protect us.

As I transitioned out of the military, three years after coming home from my deployment, I was part of the Transition Assistant Program and we took part in mock interviews. In my interview, the interviewee asked me if I liked to work alone or in a team. I said alone. When he dug into why, I said I didn’t trust people. His initial reaction was to explain to the people in the room with me how that answer could lead to being destroyed in an interview. But when he followed up with questions and began to understand what happened to me during my deployment, his tone changed. And after the interview session was over and we were dismissed, he came up to me and apologized for how I was treated on my deployment … and gave me personal advice on how to answer questions he had asked in a civilian interview I may face in the future.

He was a veteran and understood the deep betrayal that can happen when you are in a situation where your life could end. It is something that we need to talk about more. But even as a writer it is a topic I steer away from — just putting the words on paper makes me pause to re-read, and then stop again to ensure the deep hurt is ready to be shared with the world.

I even wonder how this truly relates to The Mandalorian. How did those final episodes bring up something in me that reminded me of the pain I have kept hidden? I think it is the inner conflict and struggle that was portrayed so well.

What do you do in life when everything you have been led to believe is questioned or unhinged? What do you do when your training fails you? And you learn that even when you follow the rules and are in a “safe” place, you are still at risk for everything falling apart.

This is one of the questions I believe so many veterans face, along with others like, Why did I live and my friend die? Why didn’t I go on the mission where everything went wrong? Why did I decide to leave the office right before a rocket destroyed it?

Deep inner conflict. Often hidden from the discussion. And things we live with inside of us wondering how this can be. How do I move forward now?

I think to move forward we have to be brave and tell our stories in a safe place. I found healing through a 12-step program where I could talk openly about the deep pain and not be expected to provide answers of how this made me feel. Instead, bringing the pain inside of me to light helped it not trap me in the pain I had hidden in the darkness for so long. Speaking it out loud allowed me to move forward. To find hope and to be able to start trusting people again.

There is healing and hope after struggling through the pain of war. But we first have to be brave and bring that pain out of the darkness and into the light. 

Articles

Coast Guard food specialists will make you want to switch branches

Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Arianna Gunn is relentless. Yes, that’s a rating in the Coast Guard. And it’s no joke to the men and women who work that job. The Coast Guard, like any force in history, runs on its stomach.

Gunn’s drive to serve fresh, delicious, inventive, bar-raising gourmet meals to the crew members of her Coast Guard Cutter, Cochito, powers that vessel as surely as the twin diesels in its engine room. As it conducts long patrols of U.S. coastal waters, searching, rescuing and advancing the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, Gunn’s role in maintaining operational morale cannot be overstated.


Like Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl learned when he joined the Cochito on patrol, as far as ship’s cooks go, FS2 Gunn is in a class of her own.

She’s not a recipe follower so much as a recipe pioneer. She gathers her ingredients at local markets and farm stands. She joyfully invents dishes working in a galley the size of a closet. She defines the rhythm of the Cochito’s days at sea by the anticipation and delivery of each of her remarkable meals.

“There are times during this job, during a search and rescue case off shore, we don’t sleep, it’s too rough to eat, it’s almost unbearable. And coming back into calmer waters, looking forward to that amazing home cooked meal, that just brings everybody together,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, Coast Guard Cutter Cochito.

We could wax on about the culinary virtuosity of FS2 Gunn, but instead, we’ll hit you with some optics as an appetizer.

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing
Yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing
Oh yeah… (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing
Uncle Jesse would say “Have mercy.” (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing
The Chef herself in her uncanny galley. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This is the food Japanese chefs invented after their nation surrendered to the Allies

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Suffering Bastard’ is the cocktail that beat the Nazis in Egypt

When considering the origins of legendary cocktails, it’s doubtful that Egypt is the first place to spring into anyone’s mind. Like many culinary innovations made during World War II, “The Suffering Bastard” is a concoction birthed from a world of limited supplies in which everyone had to make do with whatever they could get their hands on – and it shows.


The Suffering Bastard is a legendary beverage, created by a legendary barman, in time and place where new legends were born every day. The unlikely mixture is said to have turned the tides of the war against Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps in Egypt. True or not, it succeeded in its original mission: curing the hangovers of British troops so they could push Rommel back to Tunisia.

In 1941, World War II was not going well for the British Empire. Even though the previous year saw British and Imperial troops capture more than 100,000 Italian Axis troops in North Africa, Hitler soon sent in his vaunted Afrika Corps to bolster Axis forces in the region.

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel with staff in North Africa, 1942.

(Bundeswehr Archives)

Crack German troops led by capable tank strategist and Field Marshal, Erwin Rommel, the British experienced a number of defeats in the early months of 1941. They were pushed out of Libya and the lines were within 150 miles of the Egyptian capital of Cairo. His goal was to capture the Suez Canal and cut the British Empire in two.

During the Battle of El-Alamein, Rommel was quoted as saying “I’ll be drinking champagne in the master suite at Shepheard’s soon,” referring to the world-famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. Inside the hotel was the well-known Long Bar and behind that bar was bartender, Joe Scialom, whose stories could rival anyone’s, from Ernest Hemingway to Ian Fleming.

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing

Scialom behind the Long Bar in Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel.

Scialom was a Jewish Egyptian with Italian roots. Born in Egypt, he was a trained chemist who worked in Sudan in his formative years but soon found he enjoyed applying the principles of chemistry to making drinks. The chemist-turned-barman who spoke eight languages would eventually travel the world over, to Cairo, Havana, London, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, and Manhattan, drinking alongside folks like Winston Churchill and Conrad Hilton. Much of that would come later, however. In 1941, he was the barkeep at the Long Bar and he was faced with a unique problem.

The war made it very difficult to get good liquor in Egypt. British officers resorted to drinking liquor that wasn’t made of such high quality and soon began complaining about terrible hangovers. In an effort to do his part for the British, Scialom set out to make a drink that would give them the effect they wanted while curing their inevitable hangovers. He used an unlikely combination of bourbon and gin along with added lime, ginger ale, and bitters to create a drink that did the job perfectly.

Many variations on the original recipe exist, to include ingredients like pineapple syrup and rum, but the original Suffering Bastard used bourbon and gin as its base.

The Recipe:

  • Equal parts Bourbon, Gin, and Lime Juice
  • A dash of Angostura bitters
  • Top off with ginger beer

His creation was so successful in fact, in 1942, he received a telegram from the British front lines asking for eight gallons of the cocktail to be brought to the front at El-Alamein. Scialom filled any container he could find with Suffering Bastard and shipped it off to the war.

The first Battle of El Alamein in 1942 resulted in a stalemate. The Axis supply lines from Libya were stretched out to their breaking point and Rommel could not press on to Alexandria. Before the second Battle of El Alamein, the ranking British general, Claude Auchinleck, was replaced. His spot eventually taken by one General Bernard Montgomery. The next time the two sides met at El Alamein, Montgomery was in command and British hangovers were a thing of the past. Monty and the British Empire troops turned Rommel away and pushed him westward toward an eventual defeat.

Articles

11 movies every soldier needs to see

Whether it inspired them to enlist, or kept them entertained while serving downrange, there are certain movies that all soldiers know and love.

Super quotable lines, great stories, or intense combat scenes are just some of the reasons why we picked the following nine films as “must-watch” for soldiers.


These are our picks:

1. To Hell and Back (1955)

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

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

2. The Longest Day (1962)

Plot: The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view.

Reason to watch: “The Longest Day” is an epic film, and one of IMDB’s 100 greatest war films. It also stars John Wayne, need we say more? Although it’s not perfect, the film gives insight into the incredible events of Operation Overlord, from all sides of the battle.

3. Patton (1970)

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

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

4. Glory (1989)

Plot: Robert Gould Shaw leads the US Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices of both his own Union army and the Confederates.

Reason to watch: Matthew Broderick plays Col. Robert Gould Shaw in this real-life tale of the first company of all-black soldiers in the Civil War. The film, which won three Oscars, also has memorable performances from Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman. It explores themes that all soldiers can learn from: Courage, honor, and doing the right thing, even if it’s the unpopular decision.

5. Hamburger Hill (1987)

Plot: A very realistic interpretation of one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

Reason to watch: Somewhat overshadowed by Oliver Stone’s “Platoon,” this film follows the lives of one squad of Airborne soldiers during a battle to take Hill 937 in Vietnam — an unremarkable piece of real estate that became known as “Hamburger Hill” after casualties mounted in multiple assaults. The film realistically depicts soldiers at war in Vietnam, the dynamic between soldiers in battle, and the heroism some soldiers display in such extreme circumstances.

6. The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Plot: A U.S. Army Major is assigned a dozen convicted murderers to train and lead them into a mass assassination mission of German officers in World War II.

Reason to watch: Another classic World War II film, “The Dirty Dozen” hosted an incredible cast of stars: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, and many more. Unlike other World War II flicks that often followed real-life events, this movie had an interesting premise: An Army major recruits 12 felons for a suicide mission behind enemy lines, and if they succeed, they will have their sentences reduced.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE-m6zUNKH0

7. A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Plot: A historical telling of the failed attempt to capture several bridges on a road to Germany in World War II, in a campaign called Operation Market-Garden.

Reason to watch: The film recounts the unsuccessful allied Operation Market Garden, which was the largest airborne operation at the time during World War II. Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan (who also wrote “The Longest Day”), the film is loaded with big-name stars. Though the film is a bit long (nearly 3 hours), it shows an allied battle that unfortunately did not end with “the good guys winning.”

8. Black Hawk Down (2001)

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

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

9. Saving Private Ryan

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

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

10. Platoon (1986)

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

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3Wih7Q0DVs

11. We Were Soldiers (2002)

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

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

ALSO CHECK OUT: 9 movies every Marine needs to watch

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why the music collection at Guantanamo is a hipster’s dream

Everyone knows Cuba is a bastion of great music — but most people probably don’t consider Guantanamo Bay when they’re thinking of all that great Cuban sound. They definitely don’t think of the Navy base for having a good time rockin’ in Fidel’s backyard — which happens to be the slogan of the radio station on base.

The truth is, there’s an amazing collection of music in that remote corner of the island — and the Navy takes full advantage by playing all of the greatest hits by the original artists.

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing
Part of Radio GTMO’s collection.

Radio GTMO houses an amazing collection of some 22,000 pieces of music — some on reel-to-reel tape and many others on vinyl — including a reel-to-reel of the Beatles anthology. The collection is valued at over $2 million and is carefully cataloged in alphabetical order on a series of index cards.


“I believe this is one of the largest, if not the largest, collection in the Armed Services Network,” Kelly Wirfel, base spokeswoman, told Military Times.

Though the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo has been in operation since 1903 (it’s the oldest overseas U.S. Navy installation), Radio GTMO has only been in operation since 1940. Unfortunately, Cubans outside of the base don’t get to hear the Classic Rock and Top 40 songs played by Radio Gitmo — the transmission signal stops at the base’s gate (Cubans get music and news from outside Cuba via another U.S. government entity — Radio Marti, run by the same folks who create Voice of America News).

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing
Radio GTMO personality, DJ Stacks, Petty Officer 3rd Class Heidi McCormick, pieces together her classic rock radio program, Jan. 10. McCormick is one of four DJs at the station who put together a total 21 local shows for the Guantanamo Bay community.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Benjamin Cossel)

The radio station will still broadcast even its oldest vinyl records, even though Adrian Cronauer (a former Air Force DJ played by Robin Williams in the film Good Morning, Vietnam) says they belong in a museum. So, how did such a stash end up in a remote corner of Cuba? The reason for it is that the station never sent its analog collection back to the Armed Forces Network when it was all recalled in the 1990s in an effort to go digital.

Among the station’s other rare offerings are live performances by Chuck Berry, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, and John Coltrane — among many, many others. It’s the third largest collection of music on any military base and the pearls of its collection rivals even the Library of Congress.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Dark Troopers in the Mandalorian were darker than you think

The second season of The Mandalorian brought much content out of the Star Wars franchise Legends and into the new Canon. From Boba Fett’s return to the Krait Dragon, season 2 was a Star Wars fan’s dream come true. Included in the revival of Star Wars past were the Empire’s deadly dark troopers. More than just a commentary on the color of their armor, dark troopers were among the most feared of the Empire’s tools of war. While a garrison of them seemed more than a match for Mando and his allies (but not a Skywalker in a hallway), there’s an aspect of dark troopers that was touched on that made them darker than you may think.

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing
Clone Troopers were bred for combat (Lucasfilm)

The Clone Wars that led to the rise of the Empire saw the Grand Army of the Republic’s clone troopers pitted against the Confederacy of Independent Systems’ droid army. Whereas the droids could be more easily mass-produced and overwhelm their enemy with superior numbers, the clones were more creative and genetically-based on the legendary bounty hunter Jango Fett. However, the clones had to be modified with an age accelerator that doubled their growth rate in order to meet the manning needs of the GAR. As a result, clones reached the end of their combat life more quickly than a regular person. Anyone in the military will tell you that time in the service already adds additional years of wear and tear on the body. For the clones, three years of constant and intense combat on top of their age acceleration took a heavy toll.

When the Empire rose from the ashes of the Republic, the fate of the ageing clone troopers came into question. The vulnerability of a genetically-pure army was made apparent during the Clone Wars and the Empire needed to cut spending across the military to fund the Death Star. Rather than continue to clone and raise their army from birth, the Empire returned to more traditional recruitment and training to fill the ranks. However, these new recruits could hardly match the lethality and professionalism of the clones that came before them. “Since the Empire has redirected the clone trooper program to other pursuits and stepped up recruiting inferior humans from the Outer Rim, the operational effectiveness of this army has declined significantly,” noted Clone Commander Cody. Cody was a Clone War veteran and one of the best-trained clones that the Republic had produced. His years of experience made him, and other clones like him, a valuable asset to train the new recruits. However, there was one other program that could make use of the clones’ combat experiences.

While the bodies of the clone veterans were deteriorating past their combat usefulness, their minds were full of tactical, operational, and strategic knowledge that could still be useful to the Empire. This idea led to the creation of the Dark Trooper Program. Using much of the same cyborg technology used to transform Darth Vader into a cyborg after his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar, the Empire began transforming clone troopers into cyborg dark troopers. The process involved integrating the trooper’s brain and nervous system with a mechanical exoskeleton that could perform even better than a clone in his prime. With over 70% of their bodies replaced with enhanced cybernetics, the clones were able to return to combat deadlier deadlier than ever. Equipped with more heavy weaponry than a regular human could carry, the dark troopers were also fitted with jump packs that allowed them to transit the battlefield quickly. Like Vader, the clones were more machine than man; their bodies discarded and their minds now sealed in durasteel.

In the finale of The Mandalorian Season 2, the evolution of the dark troopers is revealed. When Mando asks how many troopers are armed in the dark trooper suits aboard Moff Gidedon’s cruiser, he gets an answer that he doesn’t like. “These are third-generation design. They are no longer suits,” Doctor Pershing explained. “The human inside was the final weakness to be solved. They’re droids.” Though the fate of the cyborg dark troopers is not revealed, it’s unlikely that the Empire gave them a severance package and a gold watch so that they could retire peacefully on Naboo. Despite their loyal service to the Republic as clone troopers and their sacrifice to continue serving the Empire as cyborg dark troopers, it’s likely that they were attritted out of service or simply discarded like other obsolete military equipment. Whatever the case, the gruesome fate of the clones who were turned into dark troopers is yet another tragic story from the galaxy far, far away.

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.”

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing

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.

How the Mandalorian helped a veteran connect with healing

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.


Humor

7 female TV detectives who’d make badass drill instructors

Marine drill instructors go through some intense training to earn the military occupational specialty of 0911. With various tasks they have to complete on a daily basis, DIs have to be mentally and physically stronger than of those they train — consistently being on top of their game at all times and never letting anyone spot their flaws or weaknesses.


Despite what is typically a male-dominated world, no doubt these powerful female television characters could make badass drill instructors if they wanted to.

Related: 5 epic military movie mistakes

1. Olivia Benson (Law and Order – SVU)

Played by Mariska Hargitay, this strong female lead has the ability to look deep into your soul and break you down from the inside out — a natural talent that can’t be taught.

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(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

2. Catherine Willows (C.S.I)

Played by Marg Helgenberger, this super smart detective takes pride in her ability to take down the bad guys with her attention to detail and exceptional investigative skills. Her focus on the most minute details would be perfect for finding flaws in someone’s uniform on inspection day.

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(Source: CBS / Screenshot)

3. Brenda Leigh Johnson (The Closer)

Played by Kyra Sedgwick, this determined leader of the major crimes division of the LAPD has no issue offending her peers to get the job done — a perfect trait for a DI.

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Always leading from the front. (Source TNT / Screenshot)

4. Jane Tennison (Prime Suspect)

Played by Helen Mirren, this brilliant sleuth is one the first female chief inspectors of London’s Metro Police Service who looks to drive herself up in the rank structure. She’s highly moto!

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She means business and is in regs (Source: ITV)

5. Lydia Adams (Southland)

Played by Regina King, after years of working in some intense police situations, Adams’ passion for justice and her strong personality would have landed her in the right spot to scream at recruits to cover down and get in-line.

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Armed and ready for action (Source: TNT)

6. Jane Rizzoli (Rizzoli Isles)

Played by Angie Harmon, a homicide detective who is known for her raspy voice and quick decision-making skills, Rizzoli would be perfect for playing f*ck-f*ck games with future Marines.

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She even knows proper trigger-finger placement before she’s prepared to fire. Outstanding! (Source: TNT )

7. Rosa Diaz (Brooklyn 9-9)

Played by Stephanie Beatriz, this detective is known for her stoic attitude and hard-hitting nature. Her strong physical stature allows her to bring down the hardened criminals in the rough streets of Brooklyn, making her a perfect candidate to shape up those recruits that will stand on the famous yellow footprints of MCRD.

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Diaz takes no sh*t from anyone. (Source: FOX / Screenshot)

Also Read: 7 ways to prove your spouse is really a spy

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the best ‘Schoolhouse Rock!’ songs by the jazz legend and veteran who just died

Bob Dorough was a prolific bebop and jazz musician whose popularity and talent earned him spots as a sideman alongside the likes of John Zorn and Miles Davis. But the talented jazzman got his start in music as a pianist, clarinetist, saxophonist, and arranger for the U.S. Army’s Special Services Band toward the end of World War II.

He died in Pennsylvania on April 23, 2018, at age 94, NPR reports.


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(Photo by Brian McMillen)

Though his jazz career blossomed after the war, what became his life’s work didn’t start until 1973, when he was first asked to take the musical reins of a show that was to “set the multiplication tables to music.” Thus began the decades-long, beloved show Schoolhouse Rock! A program that educated and entertained generations of American kids.

Dorough didn’t sing all the songs performed on Schoolhouse Rock!, but he did have a hand in the music and lyrics, either in whole or in part, for every iteration of the show. Multiplication Rock, Grammar Rock, America Rock, Science Rock, Money Rock, and Earth Rock are just a few of his best.

5. “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote To College”

“I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College” was the Schoolhouse Rock! way of explaining the Electoral College system. The song’s music and lyrics were written by George R. Newall and Bob Dorough and it was performed by Jack Sheldon (of “I’m Just A Bill” fame) and Bob Dorough.

4. “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

“The Shot Heard Round the World” first aired in 1975 and is part of Schoolhouse Rock!’s telling of the American Revolution, from Paul Revere’s ride to the shots fired at Lexington. Bob Dorough was responsible for the music, lyrics, and vocals in this gem.

3. “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here”

Dorough also did the lyrics, music, and vocals for this 1974 primer on the use of English adverbs. It was with this number that Sheldon and Lynn Ahrens became regulars to the series alongside Dorough.

2. “Conjunction Junction”

Jack Sheldon, Terry Morel, and Mary Sue Berry did the vocals on this catchy Dorough song about the many grammatical uses of conjunctions. To this day, Sheldon’s memorable voice plays in many of our minds when we think back to the rules of conjunction.

1. “Three Is A Magic Number”

Three Is A Magic Number” was the pilot for the entire Schoolhouse Rock! series. It first aired in February 1973 and led to Bob Dorough’s decades-long career of educating children like nobody else could.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Watch bunnies prepare for war in new ‘Watership Down’ trailer

The BBC released the first trailer for mini-series Watership Down, based on the 1972 Richard Adams novel, and it looks pretty intense. This group of rabbits in Southern England is up against the entire world. When Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) starts having visions of his home being destroyed, all of the rabbits go on a journey to find someplace new to live. It’s terribly dangerous, though. Humans, dogs, foxes, birds, and other rabbits are trying to kill them.


This book was made into an animated movie in 1978, which looked like it was made for kids. It was not and infamously scarred a generation of young children. There’s a lot of brutal death in the novel and it’s a little similar to Lord of the Rings, so don’t be fooled by the adorable rabbits.

Watership Down: Trailer – BBC

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The voice cast for this mini-series is stacked. Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite) and James McAvoy (Glass) lead the cast as brother rabbits. John Boyega (The Last Jedi), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Ben Kingsley (The Jungle Book), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) also lend their voices to characters in Watership Down. Sam Smith recorded the song “Fire on Fire” for the film as well.

Watership Down‘s story will be told in four parts. It’s going to be released on the BBC in the United Kingdom on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, 2018, and it’ll come to Netflix on the Dec. 23, 2018. That’s just in time for the holidays, but remember the movie is probably not suitable for young children — unless they can handle a lot of animal death.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Christopher Lee: Film Legend and World War II Hero

Christopher Lee cemented himself as an icon of the silver screen. During his long and prestigious acting career he was in hundreds of films. His most notable roles were Dracula and later the Wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. However, long before his acting career began, Lee had a lesser known, but just as impressive, career in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the British Army during World War II.


Lee enlisted in the RAF in 1940. He worked as an intelligence officer and specialized in decoding German cyphers. In 1943 Lee was seconded to the Army in an officer swap scheme. After this swap he served with the Gurkhas of the 8th Indian Infantry Division during the Battle of Monte Cassino.

There is little known about much of Lee’s time in service, as his records remain classified and he was “reluctant” to discuss anything to do with his service. Between the time he enlisted in the RAF and he was seconded to the Army, Lee was attached to the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), which was the precursor to the Special Air Service (SAS). When pressed about his time serving with the SAS Lee said, “I was attached to the SAS from time to time, but we are forbidden – former, present, or future – to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read into that what they like.”

After his time with the LRDG, Lee was assigned to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). During his time with the SOE, he conducted espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in the Axis occupied Europe. During his final few months of service Lee, who was fluent in several languages including French and German, was tasked with tracking down Nazi war criminals alongside the Central Registry of War Criminals.

When Lee described his time with the organization he stated, “We were given dossiers of what they’d done, and told to find them, interrogate them as much as we could and hand them over to the appropriate authority.” Lee retired from the RAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant. Post retirement he was decorated for battlefield bravery by the Czech, Yugoslav, British, and Polish governments.

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Flying Officer C. F. C. Lee in Vatican City, 1944, soon after the Liberation of Rome. (Wikimedia Commons.)

Not long after his retirement from the RAF, Lee began his film career. It wasn’t long before he proved himself as a true legend of the film industry. This legendary icon of the silver screen, Sir Christopher Lee, passed away in June of 2015 after a lengthy battle with heart problems. His loss was greatly mourned by those who knew him, and those who loved him through his prolific work on screen.

Sir Christopher Lee will always be remembered for his iconic roles in major motion pictures, it can be said that he was one of, if not the, most prolific actors in motion picture history. However, the life he led before his film career is one that should be remembered and celebrated as well. Though details remain unknown and classified, and he never truly spoke of them, his service during World War II was nothing short of heroic. The world will never know what men like Christopher Lee did during the war, but they are heroes nonetheless.

In an interview with a somewhat eager reporter, Lee showed his cheeky yet firm stance on the discussion of his time with the SAS during the war. He leaned forward and whispered to the reporter, “Can you keep a secret?” The interviewer replied with an excited, “Yes!” Lee smiled and leaned back in his chair as he replied, “So can I.”


Articles

Meet television’s most hunted former Navy SEAL

Joel Lambert spent ten years as a Navy SEAL and is now the star of the Discovery Channel’s “Lone Target” (called “Manhunt” outside the U.S.)


“In China, it’s called ‘Capture the Special Master,’ and that’s awesome,” Lambert says.

“Lone Target” pits Lambert and his survival and evasion skills against some of the world’s best trackers, from Maori warriors in New Zealand to the U.S. Army’s Phantom Recon unit in the Arizona deserts. He is inserted into the “Hunter Force Unit’s” area of control and must reach a designated extraction point within a certain amount of time.

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“SERE [survival, evasion, resistance, escape] was something I enjoyed as a SEAL,” Lambert says. “The field craft, SERE, heavy weapons and explosives were the kind of things I gravitated towards and did a lot of training in.”

Before he trained with the Navy, Lambert actually did some acting.

“I had a background in commercials,” Lambert says. “I never thought this would ever be part of my life again. A friend of mine said he was putting a show together, looking for special operations guys with tracking and survival background. I went out there and saw they had guys from [the British] Special Air Service, Recon Marines, all these guys with specific skills sets. I thought, okay maybe this is more than just a guy trying to cobble together a pilot.”

He was right. “Lone Target” is a hit for the Discovery Channel. And what Lambert did next would change his life.

“I ran into the desert, built some booby traps, talked about tracking and tactics, the psychology of being hunted or hunting,” he says. “They offered me the gig and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ My ego is at stake. I’m going to be wearing that trident on my chest whether I talk about it or not. I’m going to be representing all my brothers. It was a huge risk.”

“Those are exactly the reasons why I had to do it,” he laughs. “It was the most amazing experience.”

Lambert was caught three time out of six in the first season and only once the second.

“It’s a very hard thing, especially doing it in daytime so we can film and I have a camera guy with me,” he says. “All the things that are necessary to making the show handicap me, not the hunter force. At first I thought it was just unfair, but the more I thought about it, I was like, ‘You know what? It makes it even better because when I do get away because then I’ve really pulled some shit off.'”

A show with insurmountable odds each week is the perfect fit for a guy who joined the military just to be a SEAL. When he was ten years old his father introduced him to a friend who had just finished BUDS, and the young lad was taken with the stories about how challenging it was both physically and mentally.  That feeling stuck with him until he focused on getting in peak shape at age 22.

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Basic Underwater Demolition/Seals students swim 100 meters with bound hands and feet as part of their first-phase swimming test. The test is used as a tool to examine how comfortable each student feels underwater. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shauntae Hinkle)

“I moved into this crackerbox studio apartment and started doing nothing but training because I wasn’t sure I had it in me physically,” Lambert says. “I woke up five in the morning, out there running five miles in boots, doing hundreds of push ups. I think it was a little over a year that I really dedicated everything in my life to training for BUDS.”

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SEAL qualification training (SQT) students from Class 268 perform buddy carries between stations during a 36-round shooting test at Camp Pendleton. SQT is a six-month training course that all SEAL candidates must complete before being assigned to a SEAL team. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)

But not everyone can be the subject of their own Discovery Channel show, so Lambert has a little advice for those whose military specialty doesn’t exactly have a civilian counterpart.

“I see these guys like Team Rubicon, they’re moving from swinging the sword to building the city,” he says. “Ryan Zinke, Montana Congressman, he’s moving from kicking in doors to leading and serving. Just because you’re not toting a weapon anymore doesn’t mean your path has ended. It’s there, you just keep moving forward.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Breaking: Air Force veteran and host of Inside the Actors Studio, James Lipton, dead at 93

James Lipton, best known for his role in creating and producing Inside the Actors Studio died earlier today from bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan. His wife, Kedaki Turner, told TMZ, “There are so many James Lipton stories but I’m sure he would like to be remembered as someone who loved what he did and had tremendous respect for all the people he worked with.”


While Lipton was known for his conversational style with countless actors during the show’s run from 1994 through his retirement as host in 2018, less is known about his early life. Lipton was born in Detroit on Sept. 19, 1926 to Betty and Louis Lipton. His mother was a teacher and librarian and his father was a columnist and did graphic design for The Jewish Daily Forward. Following high school, Lipton enlisted in the Air Force during World War II.
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In an interview with AOPA Pilot, Lipton said, “I always wanted to fly.” Unable to afford lessons he joined the military and qualified as an aviation candidate. When peace broke out—like any performer Lipton doesn’t want to reveal his age, but we’re guessing it was sometime after World War II—pilots were suddenly required to sign on for four years. “I didn’t want to spend the next four years doing that,” he said, so he mustered out and moved to New York to study law. Being in law school he couldn’t afford not to work, so to pay for law school he worked as an actor.

While his career may have had a slow start in the acting business, Lipton went from unknown to iconic with the launch of his project Inside the Actors Studio.

“James Lipton was a titan of the film and entertainment industry and had a profound influence on so many,” Frances Berwick, president of NBCU Lifestyle Networks and home to Bravo, said in a statement on Monday. “I had the pleasure of working with Jim for 20 years on Bravo’s first original series, his pride and joy Inside the Actors Studio. We all enjoyed and respected his fierce passion, contributions to the craft, comprehensive research and his ability to bring the most intimate interviews ever conducted with A-list actors across generations. Bravo and NBCUniversal send our deepest condolences to Jim’s wife, Kedakai, and all of his family.”

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Inside the Actors studio was incredibly popular, with such A-list guests as Ben Affleck, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, James Cameron; after 22 seasons the list goes on and on. Lipton was always prepared for his interviews and humbled by the show’s continued success.

According to The Daily Mail, one of Lipton’s favorite moments in the show’s history was when a former student returned as a guest.

‘What I’ve waited for is that one of my graduated students has achieved so much that he walks out and sits down on that chair next to me,’ Lipton said.

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‘It happened when Bradley Cooper walked out on that stage. We looked at each other and burst into tears. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.’

As Lipton told THR‘s Scott Feinberg in June 2016: “If you had put a gun to my head and said, ‘I will pull the trigger unless you predict that in 23 years, Inside the Actors Studio will be viewed in 94 million homes in America on Bravo and in 125 countries around the world, that it will have received 16 Emmy nominations, making it the fifth-most-nominated series in the history of television, that it will have received an Emmy Award for outstanding informational series and that you will have received the Critics’ Choice Award for best reality series host — predict it or die,’ I would have said, ‘Pull the trigger.'”

Rest in peace, Sir.