The Danish film ‘A War’ is about an officer who had to make a hard decision under fire and the legal charges he faced when he returned home. It’s an unflinching look at military families, the strains of separation during deployment, and the unforgiving nature of commanding troops under fire while wrestling with restrictive rules of engagement.
The film has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and will be released in limited theaters starting February 12.
Barracks life is far from luxurious. A typical room resembles a college dorm, minus functioning amenities, such as hot water. However, this self-reliable Marine proves that he can bring luxury to himself.
In March 2018, the United States Paralympic Team sent 18 U.S. military veterans to PyeongChang, South Korea to compete for Olympic gold. That’s just under a quarter of the whole U.S. team. They competed in alpine skiing, curling, and sled hockey, bringing home more than a couple of gold medals — 36 medals in all.
They represented all branches of the U.S. military and have deployed to all areas of the Earth in support of the United States. According to the New York Times, the games are, in a way, getting back to their military roots. The Paralympic Games started off as the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 which, at the time, were specifically for wounded World War II veterans.
Today, funding for Paralympic athletes is more readily and widely available to aspirants who are also military veterans. Even as the number of returning, wounded veterans gets lower overall, the number of vets on the Team USA roster swells. It’s just more difficult for a non-veteran to get a start, considering the support that comes from the Department of Veterans Affairs and nonprofits like the Semper Fi Fund.
But once on the team, they’re Team USA — all the way. There is no rift between the veterans and non-veterans. This year’s USA Sled Hockey Team featured five Marines and two Army veterans among the 17 members of the team. They took home the gold.
I’m honored and proud to be able to wear our colors and the big ‘USA’ on the front of our jerseys,” says Rico Roman, one of the two Army veterans. “It’s great to be out there with other veterans and to be able to represent our country on the highest level of Paralympic athletics in our sport of sled hockey.
Justin Marshall, who is a non-veteran member of the USA’s Wheelchair Curling Team, says he would never be resentful of the extra funding available to veterans. They’re his teammates.
“Almost every guy in my family served in the military, and I probably would have followed except I had my spinal cord stroke when I was 12,” Marshall told the New York Times. “It helps them so I can’t be mad at them for it. I wish I had that extra funding, but I don’t, so I just try to find another way to take care of that.”
When Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger posthumously received a Medal of Honor for his valor and sacrifice during the Vietnam War, retired Air Force Pararescueman SMSgt John Pighini was at the ceremony.
In March 1966, Pitsenbarger was killed in action after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue Army infantrymen pinned down by the enemy during Operation Abilene during the Vietnam War. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions, but the men he saved never forgot what his sacrifice meant.
After 34 years, his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in a ceremony that took place on Dec. 8, 2000, just in time for Pitsenbarger’s father to accept the medal on his son’s behalf.
Nearly 20 years later, The Last Full Measure tells the story of Pitsenbarger’s heroism and the efforts it took to present him with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States of America.
The film recreates the moving Medal of Honor ceremony. John Pighini was there for that, too, which is how his filmmaking journey began.
This is the true story that inspired The Last Full Measure
“We’d known about the movie for years — it took almost 20 years to get it done. They’d always told us [members of the pararescue community] we could be in the remake of the Medal of Honor ceremony,” Pighini recalled. While there he noticed some military details that weren’t quite correct — so he spoke up and found the director and crew willing to listen and make adjustments.
Director Todd Robinson quickly recognized that Pighini was a valuable resource for his film. Pighini served in Vietnam after graduating from his pararescue training program in November 1966. He would earn a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his rescue missions during the war. He would also serve as the first pararescue superintendent for the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and he now serves as vice president of the Pararescue Association.
So, he knows a thing or two about providing medical aid on the battlefield and combat in Southeast Asia.
Todd Robinson, Jeremy Irvine, August Blanco Rosenstein, John Pighini on set for The Last Full Measure in Thailand, 2017. (Photo by Eddie Rosenstein)
His unique experience made him a particularly helpful resource for creating accuracy for the film. “I taught combat medicine so I was very much in tune with setting up exercises and working with people to ensure everything is done correctly. I was also involved in helicopter operations for so many years,” Pighini stated. He was brought on to film on location with the cast and crew as they shot the Vietnam scenes for the film.
Of course, anyone who has worked on a film knows that it isn’t always possible to be completely accurate. Budget limitations or storytelling choices will often take precedence.
“The important thing was that we told Pits’ story and it resonated with people. There are those who point out that we didn’t have the right helicopter, but there was only one 43 [Kaman HH-43F] and the guy just wouldn’t let it go so we used the Huey [Bell UH-1 Iriquois]. But the movie wasn’t about the Hueys, it was about Pits. It was about going down and saving lives, knowing full well what was coming his way that night. It was about our creed: these things we do that others may live,” Pighini reflected.
When I asked him about the idea of heroism, Pighini grew solemn. “Pararescuemen…it’s in your blood. Like nurses and doctors — when people want to help people, it’s a calling. To me, it was always about saving a life. I didn’t feel like I was being a hero. The guys that gave the last full measure…they’re the heroes.”
The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21
Powerful punches, smooth moves, and acrobatic stunts are just some of the elements that make for an impressive action scene. To amp up a film’s imagery and add intensity, some filmmakers go a little beyond the standard fight and employ one of the most dramatic visual techniques: slow motion.
For years, movie directors have altered the frame rates on their cameras to either slow a sequence down or speed it up, based on how they want to tell a story.
Film historians credit August Musger, an Austrian priest and physicist, with inventing the slow-motion effect back at the beginning of the 1900s and, if you’ve been to the movie theater in the last decade, you’ve seen it employed today.
Now, filmmakers use the art of slow motion to allow audiences to pore over every detail of every frame of an intense sequence, to see the intricacies and beauty of an action in a different light. Sometimes, the technique doesn’t land well with audiences and comes across as trite and overplayed. In rare cases, however, the result is so badass that we end up watching the same few, magical seconds over and over again.
Although The Hurt Locker wasn’t a hit among many service members and veterans, director Kathryn Bigelow captured an epic opening sequence that involved cool camera work and a detailed explosion that ripples outward over a rugged landscape.
Who doesn’t like watching an awesome brawl between well-trained armies? That’s what Zack Snyder thought when he directed the combat-rich classic, 300. Although the film is filled with various slow-motion shots, it was best used when the audience runs alongside King Leonidas as he shreds members of the Persian army like it isn’t sh*t.
When the ultra-controversial action-comedy The Interview premiered in theaters, it drew in curious crowds who wanted to see if the film’s main characters were actually going to assassinate a fictional version of Kim Jong-un.
What we got was a slow-motion death scene so graphic that nobody could’ve predicted it.
A year after Hugh Jackman played Wolverine in X-Men, he played a computer hacker who was willing to break the law to reunite with his daughter. After being recruited to assist in a heist, the quickly goes awry, and filmmaker Dominic Sena gave us an explosion that the Wachowskis would be proud of.
Although this isn’t one of Brad Pitt’s most notable films, it does showcase one of the best up-close assassination scenes ever recorded.
The beautiful scene takes place on a moonlit, rainy night and gives the viewer the chance to watch every mechanical detail of a pistol firing rounds. Viewers watch tiny shards of glass fly through the air and see the wrinkles move on Markie Trattman’s (as played by Ray Liotta) face as he gets killed.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
The official Japanese surrender ceremony took place aboard the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. Here’s some amazing B-roll uncovered by the Naval History and Heritage Command that shows behind-the-scenes stuff like the Japanese delegation coming aboard American warships on their way to the ceremony as well as what it looked like to the hundreds of sailors perched above the main deck when it all went down. The ceremony was a veritable who’s who event with military rock stars of the day like MacArthur, Nimitz, and Halsey in attendance. (There’s no sound on the video, but it’s worth the time.)
As the Chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince McMahon knows a thing or two about leadership, business, and being successful.
So when he offers advice, it’s a good idea to listen. McMahon did just that in a question answer session specifically for veterans in partnership with American Corporate Partners, a mentorship non-profit for vets (Disclosure: This writer went through ACP’s year-long program in 2011).
On how to keep people motivated without stifling their creativity:
“One of my expressions is to ‘treat every day like it’s your first day on the job.’ When you do that, it either confirms what was done yesterday was right—or it gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at something. I always ask our employees not to think traditionally in a non-traditional world.”
On what veterans offer to civilian employers:
“Work ethic, leadership, communication skills and time management, as well as the ability to multi-task and work under pressure are traits I believe veterans can offer any organization. At WWE, we recruit experienced talent from a variety of industries and pride ourselves on promoting from within the company.”
On what veterans should do when they are transitioning out of the military:
“Don’t just be satisfied getting a job. Determine what it is you really want to do and be passionate about it. Be tenacious and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
On how to choose what to do with your life:
“My advice to anyone is to follow your heart and passion, and reach for the brass ring. You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. This may mean working long hours in your current career field and then going into business for yourself in your spare time.
You’ll know when the time is right to make the jump in its entirety, but be totally prepared. You need a well-thought out plan of action. Obtain as much professional advice as you possibly can and don’t let your ego get in the way.”
Case in point comes from this Terminal Boots video of “The World’s Most Motivated Boot.” Deacon, John and Joseph nail how a Marine fresh to the fleet looks, acts and talks.
As the video description reads: “Here is an example of a Marine in the fleet prior to the disgruntlement phase of enlistment. Watch closely, in just six months time, he will shed his cocoon, get a DUI and blossom into a beautiful sh-tbag.”
Two Marine veterans playing “Pokemon Go” in a Los Angeles suburb on Jul. 12 ended up catching an attempted murder suspect instead of a Pikachu.
Javier Soch and Seth Ortega were hunting Pokemon near a museum when they saw a man who appeared to be scaring a woman and her three sons, according to reporting in the Los Angeles Times. The Marines talked to the man, who was agitated but coherent. He asked for cigarettes and shelter and the Marines told him to check the local police station for help.
The Marines kept their eyes on the man as he walked off. “We kept our distance. We didn’t want to alert the guy and escalate the situation,” Soch told reporter Matt Hamilton.
The man interacted with two more families. He continued to act suspiciously but did not do anything illegal — at first.
“[We] walked across the street and the gentleman actually walks up and touches one of the children, one of the boys, his toe, and starts walking his way up to the knee,” Ortega told an ABC affiliate.
The veterans sprung into action. Soch stayed with the family while Ortega sprinted after the man. The man attempted to flee, but he couldn’t get away from the Marine.
He was arrested on suspicion of child annoyance, but the police then learned that the man had a warrant out for attempted murder in Sonoma, California. He will be extradited to face charges there.
September 11, 2001 is a day that will always be remembered for the horrific loss of American life. However, it is also a day that can be remembered for extraordinary courage and heroism. A prime example of this can be seen in the actions of the crew of the USCGC Adak (WPB-1333).
On 9/11, Adak arrived in New York Harbor one hour after the Coast Guard tug Hawser and took over On-Scene Commander responsibilities. Amidst the chaos, Adak coordinated the rescue of civilians from Manhattan. She led a makeshift fleet of military, merchant, city, and private vessels. Thanks to her efforts, 500,000 people were evacuated from Lower Manhattan on that fateful day. In recognition of her service, Adak received the Secretary of Transportation Outstanding Unit Award.
After 9/11, Adak was part of the Coast Guard force that reinforced the Navy in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although the Navy’s ships were too large to maneuver well off the Iraqi coast and in the Northern Persian Gulf, Coast Guard Cutters like Adak were able to navigate the waters with relative ease. She famously provided maritime security for the Navy SEAL attack on the Khor al-Amaya and Mina al Bakr Oil Terminals, preventing Iraqi escape or reinforcement from the sea. The attack marked the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom on March 20, 2003.
Afterwards, Adak was assigned to patrol the Khor Abd Allah Waterway which leads to Iraq’s primary port of Umm Qasr. There, she supported the British and Australian shelling and amphibious assault on the Al-Faw Peninsula. During the landings, an Iraqi PB-90 patrol boat was spotted and destroyed by an AC-130 Spectre gunship. Adak conducted Combat Search and Rescue operations and pulled three hypothermic Iraqis from the water. The men, later identified as warrant officers of the Republican Guard, were the first Iraqi prisoners taken during the operation.
Adak continued to conduct maritime operations throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom. In fact, she has patrolled the Arabian Gulf ever since. However, the Coast Guard has announced its intention to decommission to hero ship. In service since 1989, Adak has reached the end of her service life. Tragically, the Coast Guard has determined that the only ways to dispose of the ship are selling her through a GSA auction or giving her to an allied nation through the Foreign Assistance Act. Her location in the Arabian Gulf makes it too expensive for the Coast Guard to bring her home.
Dissatisfied with abandoning such an important vessel, the USCGC Adak Historical Society has started a petition to bring the ship home. At this point, nothing short of an order from the President of the United States will be enough to save her. The USCGC Adak Historical Society is fighting to preserve the historically important ship as a museum and 9/11 memorial in the United States. As of April 19, the petition has received 3,000 signatures of its 5,000 signature goal.
Actor and former Army Ranger Tim Abell brings a unique approach to his profession where he has worked with some of Hollywood’s finest producers and directors. Abell joined the Army on the Delayed Entry Program while still attending high school. After graduating Abell served 4 years active duty from December 1976 through December 1980 with the elite units of the 2/75th Ranger Bn (now the 75th Ranger Reg) and the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) Caissons. He additionally served 3 years in the reserves while attending the University of Maryland College Park.He became skilled as a horseman through his duty with, “The Old Guard” where he portrayed General Robert E. Lee and President and former Major General Andrew Jackson in dramatic reenactments such as “History of the United States Torch Light Tattoo” and a longer version titlted “The Spirit of America.” He has since acted in films such as “We Were Soldiers”, “Substitute 2: Failure is Not an Option”, and on TV shows including Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Soldier of Fortune”, “JAG”, “Criminal Minds”, “CSI:Miami”, “CSI:NY”, and “Sons of Anarchy.” He continues his work in the industry as an actor, producer and providing voice over work as well.
Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
At the age of 8 his parents divorced. Tim, his sister Debbie and brother Jay chose to stay with their father. Tim’s sister soon married and moved away, and Tim and his brother Jay grew up as “Latch Key kids.” Their Dad worked long hours at the Cadillac dealership while Jay and Tim were given the responsibility of making their own meals, vacuuming, and dusting the house, washing their clothes, and all of the years’ work too. They spent most weekends with their grandparents Pappy & Granny Abell where they learned to cook. Pap Abell , a WWI veteran, also taught them how to catch herring with a bamboo rod and a treble hook, how to pitch good motor parts at the junk yard, how to find and pick wild Blackberries quickly and efficiently so Granny could make us Blackberry pie and how to truly laugh and have a good time!
Abell says he wouldn’t change a thing growing up but, believes kids should have both a Mom and Dad in the growing up if possible… he often wonders what his childhood would’ve been like had his parents stayed together.
Abell became self-sufficient at an early age. While growing up he reluctantly helped his Dad and brother work on cars over the weekend which his Dad called “Shade Tree” work to make extra money. His brother Jay loved helping his Dad work on cars, but Abell’s real passions lie elsewhere. His mind was on building large battlefields with his plastic army men or cleaning his old shotgun and hunting with his buddies in the nearby woods.
Abell does come from a family rich in military service where his grandfather served in World War I and his great, great grandfather was a blacksmith for the 49th Virginia Infantry on the Confederate side in the Civil War. He found even more history on his grandfather’s mother’s side where his great, great grandfather named Jerome Laurence fought for the 65th Volunteers from Pennsylvania, which was a part of the 5th Regiment on the Union side in the Civil War. He has relatives that served even in the Spanish-American War and the Revolutionary War, which Abell describes as “cool.” Surprisingly, his brother tried to talk Abell out of going into the military even with such a rich military history in the family.
Abell’s brother Jay, whom he always idolized, became an outstanding carpenter and gifted woodworker. Abell recalls his father being an awesome father and role model, who taught him responsibility, integrity and respect for his elders.
Abell played trombone and trumpet in elementary school but never really put the time and effort required to learn because he was so much more interested in hunting, shooting, and fishing with his pals and with his hunting mentor his “Uncle Bruce” a former Marine during the Korean War.
In junior high school Abell faced a new reality…. he faced adversity stemming from the racial tensions on the time exacerbated by school bussing. Abell’s hatred of bullies came from that troubled time…. seeing 12-year-old kids beaten, robbed and humiliated and enduring some of the same himself just because of the color of one’s skin made Abell grow up in a different way. It made him learn to fight back and not be a victim, especially when his father told him to deal with it himself. So many life lessons learned from that era… “…you just go screw it I am taking this shit anymore. I am not letting myself get beat up without taking a couple of guys down with me. You know, pay the price….it’s wasn’t just about black and white it’s also about bullies in general. People that are unsavory people that can pick on the weak. I learned that across the board. I took that same experience into the Army.”
He remembers a fellow private in the Army at boot camp that would get picked on because he was, “easy prey.” While at boot camp the private would get bullied and beat up all the time. Abell did not like this kind of behavior. He came across the private being beaten up while in the bathroom at the rifle range complex. He confronted the attackers and told them to stop. He sent the private out of the bathroom and broke up the fight. Later that night the assailants from the bathroom confronted Abell outside of the barracks while he was walking with his fellow soldiers back from the Post Exchange. A fight ensued that was eventually broken up by the drill sergeants. It came to light what was happening among the platoon where the drill sergeants put a stop to it. Abell recalls the volatility of the situations he was in and how racial tensions flared going through entry-level indoctrination in the Army. As new soldiers all the men were still learning their new Army identity and to work as a team regardless of skin color or ethnicity.
Abell during his time in the Army. Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
Abell attributes his desire to become a Ranger from his avid reading habit and loving military biographies where he read a book in his junior year of high school named “The Green Berets” by Robin Moore. The movie starring John Wayne titled “The Green Berets” is based on Moore’s book where Abell loves the film as well. He initially wanted to be a Green Beret where told the Army recruiter the same thing. He wanted to the join the Army to do something he could only do in the Army, “…like be a Special Forces guy.” The recruiter could get him a slot as a Ranger, but not as a Green Beret, so he went with going in the Army to be a Ranger. Abell wanted to be tested as a man and see if could he handle that stress. He says, “…I loved being in the Ranger Battalion.” He describes it as a “wonderful experience” in his life with “camaraderie” and enjoyed the “people he met” where he was “pushed to be his best.”
Robin Moore’s book “The Green Berets.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com.
He still remains close with his pals from that time period and he felt invincible as a young Ranger. Abell believes life is about testing yourself and finding out about what you are made of. He remains grateful of his success and his place in life the older he gets. Words of wisdom he lives by are, “How you perceive a situation influences how you respond to it.” He remains grateful in situations, even those that may seem arduous, which allows him to keep a level head. He goes by a phrase, “…embracing the suck,” when it comes to facing tough times on set or in life.
Abell center of picture (to the left of the African American Ranger in the center) with his Ranger class RC 5-78. Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
And Abell still embraces the Ranger Creed which he had to learn by heart as a Ranger.
The Ranger Creed
Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.
Rangers Lead The Way!!!
What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
What I’m most proud of stems from Gen Abrams and the Abrams Charter. The Abrams Charter stated that the obligation for Rangers is to “Lead the Way” for the entire Army. In the Ranger Bn., the more senior Rangers set the example for the younger Rangers who had just graduated from RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program) to follow. Always leading by example. The new Rangers learned very quickly what was expected of the in order to be a part of this elite group of Soldiers. To live up to the high standards and esprit de corps was not always an easy task. But more importantly the Abrams Charter spoke to those 75th Rangers who would set the example for the soldiers in the big Army after they left the Rangers.
So, when Abell was assigned to the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) Caissons, he knew that he could be an asset as well as a role model to his fellow Old Guard soldiers. He was able to share his Ranger training and experience while being the NCOIC of the Expert Infantry Badge (EIB) Movement Under Direct Fire course at Ft. AP Hill. Abell’s station was a highlight of the EIB training due to the rigorous and realistic training Abell put the Old Guard soldiers through.
Abell (center) in “Sniper: Special Ops.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
Abell is grateful for his life experiences…especially in the Army. He brought discipline over to his Hollywood career. W/O discipline he has seen people fall off into the abyss of drinking, drugs, partying and sex…. some with fatal consequences.
He believes good judgement is vital. Character integrity and leadership are important as well. Abell says as a civilian he always refers to the Ranger Creed in tough times, which helps carry him forward and stay on track.
Abell hosted the “Grateful Nation” tv series on the Outdoor Channel for 10 seasons where he helped tell the story of our returning war veterans…. many of whom needed to find a new Mission & Purpose in life after the military in order to find happiness… if not then it was a slippery slope for many veterans who find it too easy to just take their meds, drink a fifth of booze, play video games and start thinking stupid thoughts…. but Abell found that many veterans who found that new mission and purpose saved their own lives as well as inspiring other veterans to do the same.
Abell (right) while serving with “The Old Guard.” Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
What project did you most enjoy doing while working in Hollywood?
Abell most enjoyed playing USMC Scout/Sniper SSG Benny Ray Riddle in Jerry Bruckheimer’s syndicated tv series “Soldier of Fortune inc.” It was a role where Abell could utilize all of his military and even use some of his old Ranger gear to bring and authenticity to Benny Ray whom was an amalgamation of more than a a few of the hardcore leaders he was led by as a young Ranger.
Abell also loved playing SFC Vic Mosby in the action film “Sniper Special Ops” starring Steven Seagal and Dale Dye, directed and written by his pal and Navy Veteran Fred Olen Ray. This was a role the director had written specifically for Abell who was quite honored by his friends’ trust to carry his film in a starring role.
“ Circus Kane ” was Abells first foray into a feature length horror film directed by Navy Veteran Christopher Ray. Abell underwent 5 plus hours of prosthetics makeup to create Balthazar Kane. Abell felt like he was channeling Rob Zombie in a Circus of Horrors as the Ringmaster! The director allowed Abell to use all of his creative abilities to bring Kane to life on the screen.
And Soldier of God is still one of Abell’s favorite projects that he starred in and helped produce. He plays Rene’ a Knights Templar who is separated from his men after the Battle at The Horne\s of Hattin… Rene becomes a warrior
in search of a war… a warrior questioning his faith. It’s a film with so much beauty yet so much darkness.
Abell in “Soldier of God.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
Abell as “Balthazar Kane” in “Circus Kane.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
Abell (far left) for MOH Dinner and Gala, with Special Agent Tim Clemente, MOH Col. Bruce Crandall, USA and with Matthew Mardsen. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
What was it like working on such projects as We Were Soldiers, Soldiers of Fortune, JAG, NCIS, CSI:NY, CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds and the like?
As Benny Ray Riddle in “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.” Abell played a USMC Scout/Sniper. Abell did extensive research for his character who was the quintessential sniper and Marine. A stoic man who loved his job and was the best at what he did . Navy SEAL Harry Humphries who was the Technical Advisor for SOF series linked Abell up with SEAL Steve Bailey at NSW Coronado for some training. Abell’s SF buddy, Matt Anderson, created Benny Ray’s Sniper Range book that Abell used on the show. It all came down to attention to detail in creating Benny Ray so that if military types watched the series Benny Ray would be believable and authentic to them. Abell recently did a short film called “Father and Sons” with pal Michael Broderick, Vernon Mortenson and Ryan Curtis. All veterans. The film was based on characters from author and Navy SEAL Jack Carr’s books. Abell says, “what is cool is Jack sent me a few of his books and sent a note saying he was a fan of the “Soldier of Fortune, Inc” series especially Benny Ray Riddle who was also a sniper like him! Jack said he and his pals would watch the show to get fired up!” That was a great compliment to hear from a SEAL sniper and operator like Jack Carr…. Abell’s preparation was not in vain.
Tim has played a member of every armed forces branch in film and tv …. he even played a Coast Guard pilot in a commercial. He finds a lot of similarities among military roles and in the research he has done. It is in the little differences between each branch he finds diversity. He supports veterans as a member of VME to help those new to the acting biz.
Abell loved working on “We Were Soldiers.” It was his first big studio film and working with Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott was a dream come true.
Working on JAG was an outstanding experience! Abell loved working with Jon Jackson and Catherine Bell!
Abell said, “Mark Harmon was a real pleasure to watch work and work with…. I’ve learned so much from working with and observing great actors like Joe Mantegna on “Criminal Minds” and Gary Sinise.”
Abell as “Benny Ray Riddle” in Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Soldier of Fortune, Inc” TV show.
Abell in “Angels and Fire.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
Abell has also brought a perspective of maturity over from the Rangers. If he auditions for a part and doesn’t get it, he moves on. He focuses on the positive, processes what he needs to, and refuses to let a rejection be a devastating blow to his career. When in acting classes, he takes notes from the acting teacher, integrates them as needed and moves forward. He won’t argue with the acting teacher over opinions or comments, he takes the note and stays professional. Same as would be done in training where constructive criticism is taken in stride and you improve your performance the next time around. He appreciates honesty and directness in his professional work. While studying acting at the Studio Theater in DC, he most appreciated the feedback from Joy Zinoman, who was one of the professors at the theater. He shies away from talking about his abilities on or off set, where he prefers to assess the situation and quietly lead by example where it counts. He sets a standard like how he did as an NCO in the Rangers in his work in Hollywood.
He overlooks negative reviews where some of the critics have bad things to say about the projects he works on. He keeps complaints to himself and tries to find ways to fix challenges that are ahead. Abell wants to accomplish the mission on set. He still uses his military discipline in preparing for roles and in his work as an actor. He likes to ask the question to young actors on set, “What have you done today to be a better actor?” Where many times the young actors don’t have a coherent or logical reply to the question. Preparation is key to Abell’s success and stems from his upbringing and time in the service. Abell said, “…I take all those things I learned being in the military and being a Ranger. It’s like being prepared, not being a whiner, taking responsibility for myself, having a mission and purpose everyday when I wake up in the morning.”
Abell (center, left) with his fellow castmates on “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.” Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
Abell believes having more writers with military experience are needed to get veteran stories told more in the industry. He relies on his belief that a person may be a veteran, but that does not preclude them to only writing stories on the military. They are an individual with military experience that can write anything they want to write. Writers with military experience have a vast life experience from which to draw upon, some of which may come from having served. Abell references fellow veteran and Army Ranger Brian Hanson’s film “The Black String” which is a horror film without any ties to the military. The film was produced by Grindstone and has been released on VOD and DVD starring Frankie Muniz from “Malcolm in the Middle” fame. Just because a writer is a veteran does not mean they are not capable of writing a story completely independent of the military.
Abell (second from the left) and his squad mates training while serving with the 2nd Ranger Battalion on an artic field operation near the Canadian border. Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
What would you like to do next in your career?
Abell says, “I would love to be on a network or HBO or Showtime series and get to play a character again for three, four or five years where you just get to develop that character over the long haul.” He wants to delve in and build a character with depth. He also looks forward to working on a series again with great people where they make a show that moves people.
He recalls fan mail from across the world for his role on “Soldier of Fortune” where the show affected people’s lives. Abell has received fan mail that would be up to five pages long about how people were inspired by his character to become a sniper in the military in their country. People created a life based on a character Abell portrayed, which surprised him. Playing evil or hard characters are what most actors are remembered for where it is difficult to develop such characters and find redeeming traits to portray on screen in them.
Abell with MOH recipient SFC Leroy Petry, USA.
What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Abell is proud of service to the United States to serve as a Ranger and serve with “The Old Guard.” He is proud of his children and their successes in life as well. He is grateful for having made men out of his boys and for the example they set today. He is proud of being an American as well. Abell says, “…I have been all over the world and this is the greatest country in the world…that we have so many young men and women that are willing to join the military and sign that blank check for their life… I applaud them all.”
…I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains…
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da…
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
— Thin Lizzy,
Whiskey in the Jar
Whiskey is a mountain spirit. After a cold day on the slopes, are you thirsting for a Cosmo? A margarita? Nope. And we’re not even offering rum as an option. In the mountains, you long for an end-of-day bourbon, scotch, or rye to light your insides on fire. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.
…complete me. (
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
In Vail, Colo, there’s another mountain spirit that has to be reckoned with and unlike whiskey, it’s 100 percent military. It’s the legacy of the Army’s venerable 10th Mountain Division, the special alpine tactical force that trained at nearby Camp Hale during WWII.
Spirits, however, are made to blend. It’s tradition and
Now, almost 75 years after 10th Mountain defeated the Germans in Italy, a Vail whiskey distillery is honoring the Division by taking its name. In the tradition of service, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is distinguishing itself as an ardent supporter of area veterans.
Sensing the makings of a 90-proof military food story,
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl made the trek out to the Colorado mountains to meet the founders of the 10th Mountain Whiskey over two fingers of their best bourbon.
The distillery was founded by Christian Avignon, the grandson of an 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment medic, and his friend and fellow Colorado ski obsessive, Ryan Thompson. Together, they made it their mission to honor the 10th, whose veterans are responsible not only for key victories against the Nazis, but also for the establishment and leadership of so many of America’s great mountain institutions.
The Northern Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Sierra Club, the Peace Corps chapter in Nepal, even the famous ski resorts at Vail and Aspen, all count 10th Mountain Division vets among their founding leadership. A storied fighting force inspires a whiskey maker determined to give back. It’s a potent cocktail of tradition, patriotism, and mountaineering that will absolutely warm your insides on a cold day.