Mark Hamill remains one of the most beloved American actors of all time, partly because he played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films, but also because he’s such a genuinely self-deprecating person. Hamill just took his Skywalker charm to a new level; he’s roasting one of his original screen tests from roughly 1976. The result is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming.
This week, as part of a promotion for the charity group Omaze, Hamill is offering fans a chance to have dinner with him before “The Rise of Skywalker” hits theaters. All they have to do is donate to a good cause and they’ll be entered to win. To entice his fans, Hammill shot a short video that’s essentially what having dinner with Mark Hamill would be like. It seems freaking amazing.
“Why did I call him ‘Hans’ instead of ‘Han,'” Mark Hamill laughs as he watches the audition. This anachronism is just one of many interesting tidbits Star Wars die-hards will notice in the dialogue. In fact, the exchange between Hamill and Harrison Ford doesn’t really resemble any particular scene from the finished film, though it could be an early version of the scene in which Han and Luke argue about the best way to rescue Princess Leia from the Death Star.
“When I did this scene, I thought Han Solo was the lead character and I was the sidekick; I thought Harrison Ford was Captain America and I was Bucky!” Hamill says with deadpan honesty. He also points out that George Lucas was barely helpful when it came to figuring out the right tone to strike.
But the person Hamill is the hardest on is himself. “Show a little fire, Luke,” he says as his younger self gets sassy. For those of us who grew up with Luke, and saw ourselves in that character, this video feels like a weird bit of therapy. Because if Luke can laugh at himself this much, what are the rest of us stressed out about?
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In season two of History’s Six, Olivia Munn joins the cast as CIA officer Gina Cline. Walton Goggins returns as Richard “Rip” Taggart, who was dramatically rescued in the last season. Led by Barry Sloans’ Joe “Bear” Graves, the team will hit Eastern Europe (even as far as Chechnya) this season to track down a terror network.
Veterans are hard to please when it comes to depicting military life and veterans onscreen. We demand accuracy. We demand realism. Most of the time, we find ourselves disappointed. History’s Six will not disappoint you.
Suspend your disbelief for a moment, fellow veterans. To be perfectly fair, there’s a lot to like and a lot to overlook when it comes to Six — just like any other show on television. Not everyone is going to be a fan. But there is so much more to like from Six. Even the most discerning veteran will find that Six is better than they expected.
1. The realism is relative — and that’s okay
This is something vets have a hard time getting over. Every veteran knows Hollywood gets a lot wrong about the military. There are some egregious examples out there. Some of those make it look like they don’t even try — looking at you, Basic. There are some in which the producers take a few too many liberties for dramatic license, like Jarhead. Despite solid source material, there were just a few things that would never happen in the Marine Corps.
Last season, the show took on Boko Haram, the Sub-Saharan terror organization that was behind the Chibok School Girls Kidnapping (of “Bring Back Our Girls” infamy). The group continues its kidnapping and terror reign in the country to this day. One the show, the SEAL team’s leader was kidnapped by Boko Haram and they spent the season dealing with the aftermath and rescue of Walton Goggins’ character “Rip.”
This season takes the team to Eastern Europe to track a clandestine jihadist cell led by a mysterious figure known as “Michael.” If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, Eastern Europe is the front line to a new Cold War, where Russian and American intelligence agencies work to take down terrorist organizations like ISIS and a resurgent al-Qaeda. Russian security services have been fighting this battle for years. It was only a matter of time before American special operators got involved.
3. Olivia Munn’s character is a great addition
Look, I actually heard someone say, “SEAL Teams don’t have women.” And they don’t. Not yet. History isn’t depicting a female SEAL — she’s a CIA operative and there are many, many female CIA operatives in the real world. History’s SEAL Team Six is getting their “Maya.”
4. The cast were trained by SEALs
Remember that realism thing we were talking about? You are guaranteed to see some outstanding trigger discipline in the cast of Six. Actors Barry Sloane, Kyle Schmid, Edwin Hodge, Juan Pablo Raba, and the rest of the cast went through their own boot camp run by actual Navy SEALs.
The cast of Saving Private Ryan had to go through Capt. Dale Dye’s bootcamp just once, so you might think the cast of Six would only have to do it once, too. Nope. They’re going for every freaking season.
5. It’s about family
Most shows, at their cores, are about some kind of family. But what Six does well is that infuses the family drama that comes with being in a tight-knit family unit. Some media outlet somewhere said it was like a “soap opera,” but anyone who’s ever been in a large family — or a large military workcenter — knows that routinely going to work with people you live with is a soap opera in itself.
6. Action shows are awesome – when done well
I love a good action movie or TV show. I hate a bad one. There’s nothing worse than watching bad lines being read by some marginal actor only to be rewarded by thirty seconds of action maybe every twenty minutes (if you’re lucky). Go watch a recent Steven Seagal movie on Netflix and tell me I’m wrong.
The action in Six is really well-executed, the cast is pretty great, and the visuals are well-done, too.
Season two just started. You have plenty of time to catch up.
Remember that scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Luke Skywalker and Han Solo brown-bag some forties of Miller High Life at Echo Base on Hoth? Oh, you forgot? I think it’s in my super-secret directors cut. But, anyway, the point is, people in Star Wars usually drink booze when they are in space cantinas, which is mostly true of real life, too. At Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, if you want to drink space booze, you have to do it in Olga’s Cantina. But, soon, if you want to feel the Force-buzz in Florida, you won’t even need to be inside of a bar.
On Aug. 1, 2019, WDW News (Walt Disney World News) broke the news that although two food courts in Galaxy’s Edge were dry at Disneyland, their Disney World counterparts will have alcohol. According to the report from WDW: “Disney has confirmed the presence of alcoholic beverages at both food locations that did not have alcohol at Disneyland. Both Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo and Ronto Roasters will each feature two alcoholic beverages.”
The report also claimed that Disney World will add alcoholic versions of Blue Milk and Green Milk to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which again, did not exist at the Disneyland version of the attraction. And in case you forgot, Blue Milk is what Luke drank at the dinner table in the original Star Wars movie in 1977, and green milk is what Luke drank out of that alien sea cow’s breast in “The Last Jedi.” So, yes, Disney World is now offering you a booze-filled version of something that is basically space-animal breast milk. Let’s try explaining that one to the kids, shall we?
Galaxy’s Edge will open at Disney World in Orlando, Flordia on Aug. 29, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Described variously as everything from “the greatest B-movie ever made” to a masterpiece of horror and suspense, John Carpenter’s The Thing, which debuted on June 25, 1982, is a movie that rightfully stands amongst the likes of Alien and The Terminator as one of the most kick-ass sci-fi movies in history. The thing is, it turns out The Thing was so poorly received when it debuted that it nearly ruined Carpenter’s career.
First, for anyone unfamiliar with the The Thing, the basic plot is that a shape-shifting alien organism from the depths of space crash lands in the middle Antarctica and begins brutally assimilating the denizens of an American research base. Throughout the film, in traditional horror movie fashion, the eponymous Thing slowly kills off the cast while Kurt Russell, sporting the bushiest beard of his career, tries to incinerate it with a flamethrower. Of note is the fact that the film ends on a cliffhanger, showing Russell’s character staring down known hero of this Earth Keith David, as they both sit around waiting to freeze to death and come to the realization that one of them could be the Thing… The fate of neither man is made explicitly clear, leaving what happens next largely up to the interpretation of the audience.
For some reason audiences and critics hated this, with many a scathing review being written criticizing the movie’s nihilistic tone and lack of a satisfying conclusion to the story. This somewhat annoyed director John Carpenter who did actually film a more positive ending after being pressure by the studio, but ultimately cut it because it felt, in his words “cheesy”. As Carpenter would later note of the general reaction to the film’s ending: “The film wasn’t heroic enough, it wasn’t the U.S. Hockey team beating the Russians. That’s what people wanted to see.”
Filming of “The Thing,” 1982.
Not stopping there, perhaps the most baffling criticism levied against the film came courtesy of New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby who described the film’s practical effects as “phony looking“. A bold claim considering the film’s practical effects are still referenced today by experts in the field as being some of the most technically impressive ever seen on the silver screen.
The endless dunking on Carpenter didn’t stop with reviews, though, and the director of the film The Thing was loosely based upon, The Thing from Another World, Christian Nyby would later release a statement saying that the film was terrible. As if that wasn’t a bitter enough pill to swallow, following the bad reviews and exceptionally poor box office returns the film saw (it only managed to bring in million on a budget of million), Universal yanked Carpenter off of his next directing project and then bought out of the rest of his contract so that he wouldn’t make any more movies for them.
John Carpenter’s The Thing original trailer (1982) HQ
Carpenter, as you can imagine, was hurt by the critical mauling the film received, including being particularly stung when Sydney Magazine had a cover story on the movie titled: “Is This the Most Hated Film of All Time?”
Needless to say, Carpenter refused to comment on The Thing publicly for many years. Of course, over the years the critical consensus on the film has shifted dramatically and The Thing is now considered one of the greatest and most influential horror movies ever made. Which begs the question, what gives?
Well, according to Carpenter, one of the key reasons he believes the film flopped was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was released just two weeks before The Thing. Said, Carpenter, “I just don’t think audiences in 1982 wanted to see that. They wanted to see E.T. and The Thing was the opposite of that… I was called ‘a pornographer of violence’… I had no idea it would be received that way… The Thing was just too strong for that time. I knew it was going to be strong, but I didn’t think it would be too strong…”
In the end, he didn’t think audiences were ready for a movie about a shape-shifting alien murder-beast so soon after one about a happy, friendly little alien who likes eating Reese’s Pieces.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
If your battle buddy fought in 17 major battles, saved an entire regiment from a chemical attack, and then pulled everyone out of an artillery barrage before he went back to find the missing and wounded, you’d probably feel pretty good about having him around.
No wonder he was the only dog to ever receive a combat promotion.
Yes, the aforementioned heroic NCO that saved upwards of a thousand American GIs on World War I’s Western Front was a bull terrier mutt named Sgt. Stubby. There was even a movie made about him in 2018, just in time for Stubby’s 100th anniversary of becoming a soldier.
A private in the U.S. Army’s 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division named J. Robert Conroy smuggled Stubby to Europe along with the rest of the American Expeditionary Forces in 1918. Though not specifically trained to fight the Germans, Stubby was like any other soldier. He learned the bugle calls, the drills, and even a sort of pup-salute when called to attention.
Stubby was more than a mascot. His unit fought in four major offensives that are now enshrined in history books as pivotal battles of World War I: Aisne-Marne, Champagne-Marne, Saint-Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. With 17 battles total, Stubby and the 102nd fought for a total of 210 days – more than any other American division during the war.
He was able to sniff out mustard gas before it became a danger to his fellow troops – especially when they were sleeping. He earned his first combat promotion to Private First Class for just such an action. He even had his own gas mask when needed. Not to spoil the ending, but Stubby survived the war. That doesn’t mean he escaped unharmed.
At St. Mihiel, Stubby was wounded by shrapnel after an artillery barrage decimated the 102nd. He wasn’t out of the fight for long. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, he chased down a German spy hiding in nearby bushes and dragged the man back to the American lines. For his effort, his fellow soldiers awarded Stubby the Iron Cross – removed from his captured prisoner’s uniform.
After the war ended, Stubby was a hero. He was invited to the White House many times and met three Presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, and Calvin Coolidge. As a soldier, however, his greatest honor was the gold medal awarded to him and his fellow soldiers from the 102nd from Gen. John J. Pershing himself.
Since Stubby was a stray, no one really knows how old he lived to be. But he died in Conroy’s arms in 1926, a life member of the American Legion, YMCA, and the Red Cross. After he died, his body was preserved by a taxidermist and sent to the Smithsonian Institution. You can see the actual Stubby at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., in uniform – along with all his medals and awards.
Watch the trailer of Stubby’s movie below, or see the whole movie on Hulu Premium.
There is nothing more heart-wrenching to veterans with families than having to explain why daddy hasn’t been the same ever since he returned from the war. A reasonable adult can grasp the idea that war is hell and that it can change a person forever, but an innocent kid — one who was sheltered from such grim concepts by that very veteran — cannot.
A. A. Milne, an English author and veteran of both World Wars, was struggling to explain this harsh reality to his own child when he penned the 1926 children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.
This might help give you a picture of just how awful the Battle of the Somme was. Fellow British Army officer and writer J.R.R. Tolkien fought in the Battle and used it as inspiration for the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
(New Line Cinema)
As a young man, Alan Alexander Milne stood up for King and Country when it was announced that the United Kingdom had entered World War I. He was commissioned as an officer into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals on February 1, 1915. Soon after, he was sent to France to fight in the Battle of the Somme.
The description, “Hell on Earth” is apt, but doesn’t come close to fully describing the carnage of what became the bloodiest battle in human history. More than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed — many of Milne’s closest friends were among the numerous casualties. Bodies were stacked in the flooded-out trenches where other men lived, fought, and died.
On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.
A.A. Milne, his son, Christopher Robin, and Winnie the Pooh.
(Photo by Howard Coster)
Milne returned to his wife, Daphne de Selincourt, and spent many years recovering physically. His light finally came to him on August 21, 1920, when his son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born. He put his writings on hold — it was his therapeutic outlet for handling his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress) — so he could be the best possible father to his baby boy.
One fateful day, he took his son to the London Zoo where they bonded over enjoying a new visitor to the park, a little Canadian Black Bear named Winnipeg (or Winnie for short). Alan was drawn to the bear because it had been a mascot used by the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Despite being one of the most terrifying creatures in the zoo, Winnie was reclusive, often shying away from people.
Alan saw himself in that bear. At the same time, Christopher loved the bear for being cuddly and cute. Understandably, Alan bought his son a teddy — the real-life Winnie the Pooh bear.
It all kind of makes you think about that line Winnie’s says to Christopher, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
(New York Public Library)
The demons of war followed Milne throughout his life. It was noted that when Christopher was little, Alan terrified him when he confused a swarm of buzzing bees with whizzing bullets. The popping of balloons sent him ducking for cover. Milne knew of only one way to explain to his son what was happening — through his writing. A.A. Milne started writing a collection of short stories entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.
It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.
It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.
The books were published on October 14, 1926. As a child, Christopher Robin embraced the connection to his father, but as the books grew in popularity, he would resent being mocked for his namesake character.
Christopher Robin Milne eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and they both served in the Second World War. His father was a Captain in the British Home Guard and he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.
It was only after his service that he grew to accept his father’s stories and embraced his legacy, which endures to this day.
In fact, Christopher Robin, a film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Marc Forster (known for Finding Neverland), is opening this weekend. Be sure to check it out.
When we last saw (the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s) Wanda Maximoff, she was at the funeral of Tony Stark after the Avengers finally defeated Thanos. During Avengers: Infinity War, she was forced to destroy the Mind Stone — killing her lover, Vision, in the process — until Thanos used the Time Stone to undo her actions and tear the Mind Stone from Vision, killing the sentient android himself. Wanda disappeared — along with half the universe — during ‘The Snap’ before being restored in Avengers: Endgame; but sadly, Vision remained among the casualties of the war.
So when Marvel announced that a six-episode series called WandaVision would be added to its Phase 4 lineup, there were questions. Would it take place in the past (a popular Loki theory)? Did Vision somehow survive (like Agent Coulson in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)?
Once the official trailer dropped…well…the questions just keep coming.
WATCH THE OFFICIAL TRAILER HERE:
Set to debut on Disney+ on Jan. 15, 2021, WandaVision appears to take place in an alternate dimension. Star Elizabeth Olsen told the New York Times that the series will explore Wanda as the Scarlet Witch much as she is in the comic books — including addressing the character’s mental health and illness.
The series begins in a 1950s television sitcom where the characters are blissfully unaware of the tragedy that has befallen them. Marvel literally filmed the pilot in front of a studio audience (who signed “very, very strict NDAs,” reported Entertainment Weekly).
“It is even better than it was pitched. It’s even more complicated and fun and interesting and playful than I could have ever imagined this job being,” gushed Olsen. Her co-star Paul Bettany, who plays the titular Vision character, called it “totally bonkers” with a grin.
“Our content is so different from Marvel. It’s like a conversation of American sitcom through the decades with Marvel Film and they’re constantly in dialogue with each other. So it’s really fun!” hinted Olsen.
After a decade of successful films and television series within the MCU, Marvel has earned the right to take some risks. The show will bridge itself to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, according to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. Due for release in March 2022, the sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange promises to feature Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff alongside Benedict Cumberbatch’s zany Dr. Stephen Strange.
The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.
The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.
A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.
Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”
Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.
The F-35 community was not thrilled.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.
“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”
While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.
In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.
“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”
He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”
Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.
The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.
“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.
But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Do you have what it takes to be one of the few, the proud, the danceable? In this classic from a few years back, Marines bust a move when their favorite jam, Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe,’ comes on:
Imagine a Michigan student spending a semester at Ohio State. Or a UT student going to Oklahoma University. Getting sent to a rival should would be intense – and that’s exactly what Army and Navy have been doing for decades.
Every year, juniors at West Point and the Naval Academy switch places, spending an entire semester in enemy territory. Before they go back to their respective institutions, they go through the “prisoner exchange” at the annual Army-Navy Game.
Rivalries exist between all branches of the military – and college students are no different. The Army-Navy rivalry is so intense because it’s so old, but like all those other rivalries, it’s all in good fun. At the end of the day, the Cadets and Mids are still U.S. troops and we all fight on the same team.
That doesn’t mean they don’t get to have fun. The “Prisoner Exchange” is a time-honored tradition – one of many.
As for the differences between the academies, Cadet Tyrus Jones said it’s all about academy culture.
“Life is different because everything is centered around the Navy,” Jones told Army Public Affairs. “It’s a little bit of a different lifestyle and culture between the two services. It has to do with our history and how it’s evolved over the years.”
The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.
Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.
After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.
When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.
We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.
Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.”
Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.
Rebecca Murga is an Army Public Affairs Officer with a passion for storytelling. Since she was commission through ROTC in 2004, documenting the stories of soldiers has become the foundation of her service.
“I became a 25 Alpha [signal officer] but at the time I didn’t realize officers don’t do the things enlisted folks do,” Murga says. “But I happened to be in a unit that didn’t have a lot of video support and they really wanted their story told, so I covered all the communications systems and all the networks in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The experience of meeting soldiers in the field and relaying their lives to viewers changed her career forever.
“I got to meet a lot of soldiers, and I think that’s where I really started to fall in love with telling these stories,” Murga recalls. “I would talk to these people on the ground. They all came from different places and had unique individual stories. I think documenting these stories is important.”
After her time in active duty, she continued serving as a contractor in the CENTCOM theater, deploying in 2011 attached to Combined Forces Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. She supported Navy SEALs and Special Forces and other SOF units doing village stabilization and cultural support. That year was the first time women were embedded with special operators in teams called Cultural Support Teams.
“Ask any Marine that was in Helmand,” Murga says. “When you can’t search a woman because of cultural sensitivities, it becomes a security problem. When you have a woman with you who can pull an Afghan woman from the field to be searched, that’s incredibly important.”
She deployed at a time when the combat exclusion rule for women was still in place. Women were not supposed to be embedded with these combat units, but the operational needs made it necessary.
Murga is now an award-winning filmmaker who has produced work for Fox, ABC, and CBS. Last year, she was one of ten selected for the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women.
“The military actually gave me the courage to pursue something that I love,” she says. “It’s a struggle. It’s definitely not something that you go in to naively. You can only choose it if you absolutely love it.”
Murga’s latest work is Earning the Tab, a three-part digital series about Maj. Lisa Jaster, the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School.
The need for women in forward-deployed combat zones despite the rules against it, coupled with requests from those units, made Murga wonder why the controversy surrounds women graduating from Ranger school.
“It’s a leadership school,” Murga says. “It trains you how to deal with high stress combat situations. A lot of people that go to Ranger school don’t necessarily go to the 75th Ranger Regiment. They’ll get fielded out. Until this past year no women have been allowed to go to leadership schools like that. It goes to how well trained you want your force.”
Graduating from Ranger School does not automatically earn a spot in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th has its own requirements and initiation processes. Murga’s point is especially important, however, because the Army’s plan to integrate women into combat functions starts with putting female officers in combat leadership positions.
“There’s talk about how they expected less from these folks and they weren’t allowed to go to certain schools,” Murga says. “But you can’t send people out to war and limit the amount of training you give. I’m talking about offering training that was not given to women.”
Maj. Jaster is a 37-year-old Army Reserve officer and engineer. She is a West Point graduate, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and she was not eager to be a part of Murga’s series.
“I had to convince her,” Murga says. “It took a lot of convincing. She knew there would be backlash like ‘Oh, you only did this to be famous and you only did this because you wanted a TV show,’ but it’s historic. I suggested we just video tape her around her house, five days before and then you have it and if nothing ever comes of it, then nothing ever comes of it.”
Murga did not film Jaster in training at Fort Benning. Ranger training is closed to external media. The Ranger training footage in Earning the Tab was shot by the U.S. Army’s own combat camera troops. Murga interviewed Jaster before and after the training, with the idea of documenting it because of its historical importance. Murga was just as interested as any one else in the rumors surround Jaster: Did she really earn it? Did the Army lower the standard? Why did she want to go through something so rigorous?
“I wanted to know why this mother of two, who loves fitness, who loves spending time with her family, why she wanted to do this,” Murga recalls. “She gave me the same answer most men I talk to gave me which is ‘I wanted to just prove to myself and see if I can do it.'”
Though she did her best to strip away the politics, Murga still found the same polarization over women in Ranger training, even among her friends.
“The tricky part for me as a filmmaker was to try to tell this story in a way that was just storytelling,” she says. “It really wasn’t taking up a side or political position. It wasn’t examining the idea of women in combat, it was looking at this one school with this one woman and her experience there.”
A video story produced by VA focusing on a veteran boxing training program at Gleason’s Gym – America’s oldest active boxing gym – received an Emmy Award at a ceremony June 22, 2019, in Bethesda, Maryland.
The National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized the segment produced for VA’s “The American Veteran” video series, and honored the series with its second Emmy since the show was relaunched in 2017 after a three-year hiatus.
The recognition was announced at the 61st annual regional Emmy Awards ceremony and was presented in the Health/Science – Program Feature/Segment category. The segment, titled “The American Veteran: Veteran Boxing Training,” was produced, shot and edited by VA’s digital team, which is part of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs (OPIA).
The production team included lead producer/photographer/editor Ben Pekkanen, co-producer Timothy Lawson, executive producer Lyndon Johnson, and VA NY Harbor Healthcare System Adaptive Sports Program’s developer, Jonathan Glasberg.
Historic New York boxing gym opens its doors to Veterans
Located on the banks of the East River in the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighborhood of Brooklyn, Gleason’s Gym is owned and operated by Vietnam veteran Bruce Silverglade. Silverglade, who has owned the gym since 1983, had long been interested in creating a training program for veterans, but wasn’t sure he could do it on his own. “I got a call from the VA hospital in Manhattan, from a fella by the name of Jonathan,” said Silverglade. “He came over to talk to me about a program they had.”
In the following weeks, Silverglade and VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System’s clinical coordinator for prosthetics, Dr. Jonathan Glasberg, developed the framework for the veterans in the Ring boxing training program offered at Gleason’s Gym.
The video is one part of VA’s ongoing effort to engage and reach out to the veteran community directly. The VA digital portfolio includes: more than 150 Facebook pages, most of which belong to individual VA medical centers; the VAntage Point blog; nearly 100 Twitter feeds; Instagram; a Flickr photo library; and a YouTube channel. The department also distributes the “Borne the Battle” podcast.
“The American Veteran” was produced by VA for more than a decade before going on hiatus in 2014. During its active season, the show garnered numerous Telly, CINE and Aurora awards, as well as multiple Emmy awards and nominations.
According to its website, the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences (NATAS) is dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. NATAS recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award; regional Emmys are given in 19 markets across the United States.