10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall - We Are The Mighty
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10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.

WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.


WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?

We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.

My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..

We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615

As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.

We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.

They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.

WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?

I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov

WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?

I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.

WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?

I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?

There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.

Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.

Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.

Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”

When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.

When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.

I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?

“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.

I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.

“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.

Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.

“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.

Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.

My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are you most proud of in your life and career?

I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.


MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has been beaten from its caliphate to caves

At one time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlled a self-proclaimed caliphate that stretched from Syria to Iraq, but now that force in Iraq has been degraded so much that the remnants are hiding in caves, deep wadis, and tunnels in the desert and hills of western Iraq’s austere terrain, the commander of Task Force Rifles told Pentagon reporters Dec. 11, 2018.

Army Col. Jonathan C. Byrom, who also serves as deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, spoke via video teleconference from Baghdad.

Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are conducting continuous clearance operations against these small pockets, the colonel said.


Checkpoints along the Iraq-Syria border have now been reopened, and Iraq’s border guard and security forces are operating along that border to prevent ISIS from crossing, he said. That includes “intense cross-border fires” by Iraqi and coalition forces in consultation and coordination with Syrian Democratic Forces, he added.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command fire 120mm mortars in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve operations Sept. 18, 2018. CJTF-OIR is the military arm of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)

Iraqi security forces are large-scale clearance operations and are hunting ISIS leadership and trying to take out the terrorist group’s media, propaganda, and financial capabilities, Byrom said.

Assistance from U.S., coalition forces

U.S. and coalition forces are advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi forces, he said, support that includes providing them with joint fires, intelligence, aerial surveillance, and training, along with some equipment. “It’s a good partnership” that’s preventing a resurgence of ISIS and continues to degrade their numbers and effectiveness, the colonel said.

Byrom emphasized that the Iraqis are conducting their own missions and making the decisions. “They are effectively targeting ISIS and regularly conducting operations that disrupt ISIS and preventing their resurgence,” he said.

Asked how many ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, Byrom said he doesn’t focus on the number. “What we’re really focused on is the capability and whether they can translate this capability into destabilizing or resurging,” he explained.

The good news story, he said, is that ISIS attacks “are not having that much of an impact on the population.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mastermind of USS Cole attack confirmed dead in airstrike

The US military has killed the terrorist mastermind believed to have orchestrated the deadly USS Cole bombing eighteen years ago, the president revealed Jan. 6, 2019, confirming earlier reports.

Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi, an al-Qaeda operative on the FBI’s most wanted list, was killed during a strike in Yemen’s Ma’rib Governorate, a US official told CNN. He was struck while driving alone. The US says there was no collateral damage.


10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi.

(FBI photo)

That Al-Badawi was the target of Jan 1, 2019’s airstrike was confirmed by Voice of America, citing a defense official. As of Jan. 4, 2019, US forces were reportedly still assessing the results of the strike.

President Donald Trump confirmed Jan 6, 2019 that the US military successfully eliminated Al-Badawi.

The bombing of the USS Cole, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, occurred while the warship was refueling at Yemen’s Aden harbor. On Oct. 12, 2000, suicide bombers in a small boat filled with explosives attacked the ship, killing 17 US sailors and wounding another 39 people.

Al-Badawi had been picked up by Yemeni authorities multiple times since the bombing; however, he repeatedly managed to escape justice.

After being arrested in December 2000, he escaped in 2003. He was apprehended a second time in 2004, but he managed to escape again two years later.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2003 and charged with 50 counts of terrorism-related offenses. The FBI has been offering a reward of up to million for information that would lead to his arrest.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

6 military love stories that are better than movies

Dear John is great movie, but how many times can you watch it? Instead, soak up some real-life military love stories. From the Revolutionary War to a WWII couple that reunited in 2016, these stories will give you a little hope that love is alive and well.

The stories of the GI Brides

During World War II, many of the American soldiers, or GIs, who were stationed overseas didn’t return alone. Many of them fell in love with young European women who followed them back to the States to live an entirely new life.

These women, known as the GI Brides, were walking into unknown territory, saying goodbye to their homeland and culture for love. Their marriages weren’t all perfect, but their stories go to show just how far people will go for their partners.

One book, “GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love”, explores the stories of four GI Brides to share how love and war shaped their lives. 

2. The Civil War soldier who would have died without his wife.

Frank and Arabella Barlow were married on April 20th, 1861. Frank enlisted in the Union Army the very same day. He quickly became an accomplished soldier while Arabella became a nurse. She visited him when she could, but danger often kept them apart. Then came the Battle of Gettysburg. During the conflict, Frank was shot multiple times in the back and side. 

A Confederate general, General John Brown Gordon, found him barely alive on the field and took pity on him, offering him some water. Frank told Gordon that his wife, a nurse, was volunteering nearby, and asked if he would pass along a message to her. Despite fighting on opposite sides of the war, Gordon found Arabella and escorted her past enemy lines to her dying husband. She, however, had no intentions of allowing him to die. 

She was able to treat his wounds and nurse him back to health, and they remained happily married until she herself succumbed to typhus just a few months later. Tragic as it was, there’s a silver lining. Frank Barlow and John Gordon reunited years later and struck up an unexpected friendship, which lasted until Barlow passed away in 1896. It just goes to show that respect and kindness can cross surprising divides.  

3. A vet from America’s first war had the world’s longest marriage 

One of the oldest ever vets fought in the Revolutionary War and lived all the way through the conclusion of the Civil War- he lived a remarkable 109 years! His name was Daniel Bakeman, and his marriage is one of the oldest marriages on record. He and his wife Susan married when they were essentially children, around the ages of 12 and 14. 

Despite enduring 10 years of war, multiple house fires, and many moves, they raised eight happy children together and remained married until Susan died at 105. Lasting through two major wars and 91 years, their love lasted longer than most lives! 

4. This couple who were reunited after being separated by war for 11 years.

An American man named Woodford McClellan met his future wife, Irina, in Russia in 1972. He was just a tourist and was planning on returning back to the states right after his vacation, but he was instantly taken with her. He was able to acquire a visa, and by 1975 the couple was married. Sadly, his visa was only temporary. A few months after they said their vows, he was forced to return to the US.

One would think that a legal marriage would make it simple for the couple to reconnect, but Russia’s harsh policies during the Cold War made it impossible. He wasn’t permitted to visit her in Russia, and she wasn’t allowed to move to America. Plenty of people would have given up and moved on, but they waited it out. After 11 years, she was finally given permission to emigrate and resume her life with her long lost love. She even wrote a book about it after.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall
Irina’s book is now out of print, but you can still find used copies if you’re dying to read it.

5. Possibly the most surprising military love story, one couple reconnected after 70 years because of a Google search. 

During World War II, an American soldier named Norwood Thomas was stationed in London. He fell in love with a local named Joyce, and they proceeded to send love letters to each other for the rest of the war. Still, they were young and war proved to be chaotic. Norwood joined the 101st Airborne when they parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, and after that, he went home. 

Meanwhile, Joyce moved to Australia. The two didn’t speak for years and moved on with their lives. They each married someone else, but they never forgot each other. Eventually, Norwood lost his wife and Joyce separated from her husband. Out of curiosity, she looked up her old flame and found him on the internet. They began chatting over Skype and soon realized they still had feelings after 70 long years. They launched a GoFundMe to help them raise the money to meet in person. The campaign was a success, and Norwood flew to meet Joyce in Australia on Valentine’s Day. 

6. Last but not least, a different kind of military love story; that of a man and his dog. 

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall
The story was made into a book by Damien Lewis in 2015, available on Amazon.

Not all kinds of love stories are romantic. Some are about brotherhood. After an Airman named Robert Bozdech was shot down, he came across a tiny, orphaned German Shepherd puppy. He escaped with the pup and named him Ant. Over the course of WWII, the pair became inseparable. They saved each other’s lives countless times, and Ant was eventually awarded the Dickin Medal for his remarkable loyalty. 

The moral of this story? Love conquers all, even war. But if you’re single on Valentine’s Day, don’t sweat it. Just adopt a dog.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens to arm secret submarine with nuclear ‘doomsday device’

Russia will deploy what’s been described as the deadliest nuclear weapon ever aboard mysterious submarines by 2020, Russian state media said, citing a Russian defense-industry source.

The “Poseidon” nuclear-powered torpedo — reputed to carry a 100 megaton nuclear warhead and meant to erupt underwater for maximum effect — will reportedly deploy aboard the Project 09852 sub Belgorod, which is a converted nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub expected to go on combat duty in 2020.


The Russian state news agency TASS said the new Belgorod subs could carry six of the Poseidon nuclear torpedoes, which are sometimes described as drones.

But Russia will reportedly not operate the mysterious submarine alongside its regular armed forces or other nuclear-powered subs. The Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research will run the ship, according to H.I. Sutton, who said the Belgorod would conduct covert missions with a smaller submarine in tow.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Silhouette of soviet Oscar-II class guided-missile submarine, or Project 949A, “Antey.”

“Russia operates a small number of very small, nuclear-powered submarines that are capable of diving in excess of several thousand meters,” Andrew Metrick, a research associate in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in 2016.

“It’s probably the most shadowy part of the Russian undersea apparatus,” he added.

The new Belgorod submarine is “not operated by their navy. It’s operated by a separate branch of their ministry of defense,” Metrick said.

In addition to six Poseidon torpedoes that experts say could wipe out almost all life on earth, Metrick and Sutton speculated the Belgorod could carry a smaller sub that could dive deeper to cut undersea cables and dramatically disrupt international communications and national economies.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo seen on Russian television in 2015.

Unstoppable 3rd-strike vengeance weapon

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially announced the Poseidon in a March 1, 2018, speech, in which he said US defenses could not stop it. Of course, the US has no defenses against any full-scale Russian nuclear attack, but in the case of undersea defenses, the US appears not to have even explored this avenue.

In that speech, Putin confirmed the existence of the Poseidon, which has horrified experts since images of it first leaked in 2015.

The US and other countries field nuclear-powered submarines capable of firing nuclear missiles, but the Poseidon represents a unique danger to life on earth. Most nuclear weapons seek to minimize radioactive fallout and simply destroy military targets. Russia took the opposite approach with the Poseidon.

The weapon is said to use a warhead, perhaps the strongest ever, designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea, and render them uninhabitable for decades.

In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.

Russia has also repeatedly threatened the US and Europe with the weapon, which it said it could park off a coast and detonate at a time of its choosing.

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

(Screenshot/YouTube via Russian Defense Ministry)

Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, previously told Business Insider that rather than a first- or second-strike weapon, he sees Russia’s new torpedo as a “third-strike vengeance weapon” designed to shatter NATO.

While a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would cause incredible death and destruction, and plunge much of the world into the dark ages, a stealthy submarine designed to launch six “doomsday” devices would be the most deadly weapon in human history and pose a direct threat to life on earth.

The inclusion of a mini-sub, which experts speculate could destroy vital undersea cables and is operated by a shadowy branch of Russia’s military, suggests another clandestine purpose for this weapon.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why it was so important to make ‘The Last Full Measure’

In 1999, writer/director Todd Robinson was at Kirtland Air Force Base to attend a PJ graduation ceremony. In attendance was William F. Pitsenbarger, the father of Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, a PJ who was killed in action on April 11, 1966, when he volunteered to stay behind with the soldiers of the Big Red One during Operation Abilene.

During his speech, Mr. Pitsenbarger lamented the things his son, who died at the age of 21, would never do: fall in love and have a son of his own, and in doing so, understand his father’s love for him.

“I was floored,” recalled Robinson, “I remembered my own father’s fear for me during the Vietnam War and I thought about my own son.” He reflected on the brutality of the draft during the Vietnam War and what the experience was like for the veterans who were called to serve — and their families they left behind.

Robinson didn’t know if he wanted to make a war film until that moment. He became committed to the veterans. “If I could make a small contribution by looking into what the personal experiences were like for these men, it would be the least I could do,” he shared.

“I began to interview the veterans of that battle. Their stories were just so tragic, brutal, moving, unrequited…and they were looking for purpose: it was so important to them to see that this man’s valor was recognized before his father passed.”

He spent the next 20 years creating The Last Full Measure, a powerful retelling of the courageous acts of Airman 1st Class Pitsenbarger and the men who fought for his Medal of Honor.
The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21

youtu.be

The Last Full Measure is best described as a military movie made by a director who “gets it” — who understands that war is chaotic and that the complexities of PTSD for combat veterans require a conversation from our society as a whole.

One of the biggest takeaways he gained about the military community through the making and screening of this film was the notion of “service greater than self,” Robinson told WATM. Screening the film for veterans across the country, Robinson saw the spirit of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice reflected in the men and women in uniform today. When it comes down to the wire, service members are there for the person at their side.

He also noticed that the film triggered a real need to have a conversation about the wellness of veterans — especially combat vets.

“We, as civilians, the people who benefit from the service of these people, don’t understand what they’ve been through. We don’t always embrace our own complicity in sending service members overseas. If you’re a taxpayer or voter, whether you agree with the policy or not, you’re responsible. We’re also responsible for bringing them home. They need to be given more attention than just a pat on the head, a business-class trip home, and some medication from the VA. We need to embrace our military community when they come home. We need to employ them. And we need to say, ‘You’re not alone,'” Robinson affirmed.

Robinson felt like he owed something back and this film was part of what he could give. Of course, it came with many challenges. In his own words, “Making a movie is organized chaos.” Robinson and his producing partner Signey Sherman, noticed a uniform error in one scene and a folded flag that was coming undone in another. They spent ,000 out of pocket to correct the errors in post-production. “It just looked disrespectful to me,” Robinson lamented.

Somehow a bootleg copy was released overseas containing the original errors and viewers complained. “Those kinds of things pop up. I suppose the real challenge is trying to explain to an audience, without feeling too sensitive, that a film is an impression of a story. My job was to identify the metaphor of the story and what we could say about the men who fought in Operation Abilene. It always came back to service before self.”

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Todd Robinson and Ed Harris filming The Last Full Measure, 2017. (Photo by Jackson Davis)

To help accomplish that goal, Robinson hired veterans on and off camera. In the Medal of Honor ceremony scene, real PJs wear their maroon berets while veterans of Charlie Company fill the audience. There that day was retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant John Pighini, a decorated Vietnam War-era PJ and active member of the Pararescue community.

After that scene, Pighini came on-board as a technical advisor for the shoot on location in Thailand, where Robinson and his cast and crew had six days to shoot the entirety of the Vietnam scenes for the film — no small undertaking.

He had a crew of 300 with battle scenes featuring helicopters and explosions. There was no luxury of time. He gives credit to his editor, Richard Nord, and the expertise of his cast and crew. At the end of the day, the film, decades in the making, wasn’t done for financial profit or gain.

“We made this film for our veteran community. We tried to reflect back and let them know that people see them and we want to be part of the solution to whatever problems they face when they come home.”


The Last Full Measure is available now on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital from Lionsgate and features several special features such as a “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” featurette and “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” featurette.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Motivational Bible verses for your recruit at basic training

Regardless of what branch your recruit is in, basic training can be mentally and physically tough. Here are some inspirational bible verses, with motivational graphics, for you to send your recruit at basic training to help uplift their spirits and keep them motivated to graduate.

Basic training is never easy, recruits will be mentally and physically demanding. Your recruit will need your support and motivation to help keep their spirits high.

Save or screenshot our bible verse graphics to include in your next Sandboxx Letter.

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With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!

2 Samuel 22:30, 33, 47
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So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41: 10
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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11
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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27
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Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Peter 5:7
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I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13
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When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4
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The Lord is my strength and my shield; my hear trust in Him, and He helps me.

Psalm 28:7
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For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

Psalm 91:11
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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9
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I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

Learn more about how Sandboxx Letters are delivered to basic training and get started sending letters today.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine pilot bought a Harrier jet to keep flying after retirement

Some senior citizens retire to Florida. Marine Lt. Col. Art Nalls retired to the cockpit of his privately-owned AV-8B Harrier “jump jet.”


Once a naval aviator and test pilot experienced in roughly 65 different types of aircraft, Nalls made a fortune in the real estate development business after he left the service. But he never forgot his love of flying or the first aircraft he flew in the Marine Corps — the Harrier.

 

BroBible writes:

After attending an air show and rediscovering his passion for flight, Art purchased a Russian Yak 3 (Yakovlev Yak-3), only to soon realize that the enormous Soviet Star on the plane wasn’t exactly attracting the eyeballs at airshows. What the people wanted to see were our nation’s greatest planes. He noticed that the biggest star at any airshow was the Harrier Jump Jet, so beginning in 2010 Art Nalls began his quest to own one himself. Everything finally came together after discussing the possibility of owning one with the FAA (and receiving approval), and then finding a British Harrier Jump Jet for sale after Great Britain took them out of commission.

Although the video doesn’t mention the price he paid, the going rate for a Harrier is around $1.5 million. Then of course there’s the insane price of gas, which Nalls makes up by performing at air shows.

Check out this awesome video from AARP:


Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

MIGHTY MOVIES

These American military bases are right out of ‘Game of Thrones’

The HBO series “Game of Thrones” (or GoT for short) is based in the mythical world of Westeros and Essos, continents of the Known World. Westeros is where most of the storylines in the show take place. The continent of Westeros is broken down into Seven Kingdoms made up of nine regions: The North, The Iron Islands, The Riverlands, The Vale of Arryn, The Westerlands, The Reach, The Stormlands, The Crownlands (King’s Landing), and Dorne.


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The Known World… in Game of Thrones, anyway.

Essos is located east of Westeros and separated by the Narrow Sea. Each location has its own unique geography and culture.

Many U.S. military bases, located both domestically and overseas, have similarities to the fantasy world of GoT. Here is a list of military bases that could parallel them: 

Fort Drum, NY (Castle Black and The North)

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A 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) Soldier uses snowshoes to charge up a hill during a portion of the Mountain Winter Challenge competition, held Jan. 28-30, 2014, at Fort Drum, N.Y. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Pena)

Just like The North in GoT, the winters at Fort Drum are cold and harsh. Along with the large amounts of snow each year, Fort Drum, home of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division, is located near the Canadian border.

For those familiar with the show, Castle Black, located on the Wall, is the headquarters of the Night’s Watch, a military order charged to guard the Wall that separates Westeros from creatures who are Beyond the Wall such as the White Walkers. Although we hope our Canadian neighbors don’t turn into mythological undead ice creatures anytime soon, one thing is for sure with the North and Fort Drum: “Winter is coming.”

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan (The Vale of Arryn)   

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A C-17 Globemaster III takes off into the mountains Oct. 23, 2014, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Since 2006, the annual airfield traffic count has increased from 143,705 to 333,610 as the support for Operation Enduring Freedom nears its end. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez)

The Vale of Arryn is home to the Mountains of the Moon, a large mountain range with some of the tallest peaks in all of Westeros. Bagram Air Base is located surrounded by impressive snow-capped mountains ranging as high as 25,000 feet.

In GoT, the Mountains of the Moon are also home to mountain clans who reject and resist the House Arryn (the governing body in Vale). Sounds familiar. 

Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska (The Riverlands)  

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(U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger)

The Riverlands is a fertile region known as the Kingdom of the rivers and the hills. It’s located in the center of the continent.

Offutt Air Force Base, home to the 55th Wing, is sandwiched between the Missouri and Platte Rivers in the rolling hills of southeastern Nebraska. The base is smack dab in the middle of the Continental U.S. Both regions may be prone to flooding.

The Pentagon (King’s Landing)

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King’s Landing is the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, and the site of the Iron Throne, where the King sits. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the Department of Defense, and it probably has some very impressive office chairs. Both places wield great power and can at times be ruthless. Just seems logical.

Fort Knox, KY (The Westerlands)  

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Westerlands is rich in gold with mountain ranges and home to the port of Lannisport. Although Fort Knox does not have the exact geographic characteristics of The Westerlands, Knox does have plenty of gold being the home of the Knox US Bullion Depository used to store the U.S. gold reserves.

West Point (Old Town)

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Old Town located in a region called the Reach is the oldest city in the Seven Kingdoms. West Point is the oldest active military installation founded in 1802, and home to the U.S. Military Academy, the nation’s oldest military service academy.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (The Iron Islands)

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The Iron Islands is a group of seven rocky islands off the Western coast of Westeros. Despite being the smallest region in the Seven Kingdoms, the people of the islands enjoy great mobility due to their ships and superb naval skills.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is located in Hawaii and is the only U.S. state comprised of islands just like The Iron Islands. The base is a strategic location for operations in the Pacific theater and serves as shore side support to surface ships and submarines for the U.S. Navy Fleet. 

National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA (Dorne)  

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New York Army National Guard Soldiers prepare to enter a mock village Oct. 9, 2011, during training at the National Training Center. (U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg)

Dorne is a vast desert land isolated from the rest of Westeros. The NTC, located in the Mojave Desert, is much like Dorne because it is very far from large populated areas.

Military personnel who rotate through NTC feel they are in the middle of nowhere, much like the people of Dorne they feel isolated from the Seven Kingdoms.

Camp Pendleton, California (Vaes Dothrak)

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U.S. Marines dangle from a UH-1Y Huey helicopter at Camp Margarita on Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 11, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Grant T. Walker

 

Located in the Essos continent, Vaes Dothrak is a warm land ruled by a fierce tribe of warriors called the Dothraki. Camp Pendleton, located near San Diego, is home to the famed I Marine Expeditionary Force. Both forces need to rely on a great fleet to cross large bodies of water.

Join the discussion at WATM’s Facebook page to add any ones we left off this list.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

 

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

See the letter General Eisenhower prepared in case D-Day failed

During World War II, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were responsible for leading their nations to victory and jointly planned strategies for the cooperation and eventual success of the Allied armed forces. Roosevelt and Churchill had already agreed early in the war that Germany must be stopped first if success was to be attained in the Pacific. They were repeatedly urged by Stalin to open a “second front” that would alleviate the enormous pressure that Germany’s military was exerting on Russia. Large amounts of Soviet territory had been seized by the Germans, and the Soviet population had suffered terrible casualties from the relentless drive towards Moscow. Roosevelt and Churchill promised to invade Europe, but they could not deliver on their promise until many hurdles were overcome.


Initially, the United States had far too few soldiers in England for the Allies to mount a successful cross-channel operation. Additionally, invading Europe from more than one point would make it harder for Hitler to resupply and reinforce his divisions. In July 1942 Churchill and Roosevelt decided on the goal of occupying North Africa as a springboard to a European invasion from the south.

In addition to the troops, supplies, ships, and planes were also gathered. One photograph shows some of the equipment that was stockpiled in this manner. Countless details about weather, topography, and the German forces in France had to be learned before Overlord could be launched in 1944. In November American and British forces under the command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower landed at three ports in French Morocco and Algeria. This surprise seizure of Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers came less than a week after the decisive British victory at El Alamein. The stage was set for the expulsion of the Germans from Tunisia in May 1943, the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy later that summer, and the main assault on France the following year.

Because of this success, Eisenhower was named commander of all Allied forces in Europe in 1943. When in February 1944 he was ordered to invade the continent, planning for “Operation Overlord” had been under way for about a year. Hundreds of thousands of troops from the United States, Great Britain, France,Canada, and other nations were assembled in southern England and intensively trained for the complicated amphibious action against Normandy.

Stockpiled Military Equipment in England (National Archives)

General Eisenhower’s experience and the Allied troops’ preparations were finally put to the test on the morning of June 6, 1944. An invasion force of 4,000 ships, 11,000 planes, and nearly three million soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors was assembled in England for the assault. Eisenhower’s doubts about success in the face of a highly-defended and well-prepared enemy led him to consider what would happen if the invasion of Normandy failed. If the Allies did not secure a strong foothold on D-Day, they would be ordered into a full retreat, and he would be forced to make public the message he drafted for such an occasion. View a large version of the letter here.

Eisenhower D-day retreat message (National Archives)

Here’s what it says: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

As the attack began, Allied troops did confront formidable obstacles. Germany had thousands of soldiers dug into bunkers, defended by artillery, mines, tangled barbed wire, machine guns, and other hazards to prevent landing craft from coming ashore. Document 3 featured with this lesson shows some of the ferocity of the attack they faced. About 4,900 U.S. troops were killed on D-Day, but by the end of the day 155,000 Allied troops were ashore and in control of 80 square miles of the French coast. Eisenhower’s letter was not needed, because D-Day was a success, opening Europe to the Allies and a German surrender less than a year later.

This article originally appeared on National Archives. Follow @USNatArchives on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to skydive with the Army Golden Knights

There’s skydiving, and then there’s Army skydiving.

Their origins began in the Cold War when the Soviet Union was dominating the emerging skydiving sport. In 1959, 19 Airborne soldiers began competing at the international level, and by 1961 they were known as the Golden Knights.

Since then, the Knights have conducted more than 16,000 shows around the world, and team members have broken 348 world records.

And sometimes if you’re very lucky, you can strap one on like a backpack and jump out of a plane with him.

Here’s how:


Shannon Corbeil

youtu.be

Watch what it’s like to jump with the Golden Knights

The Golden Knights are comprised of a few different teams: the demonstration teams perform at over 100 events per year (and if you haven’t seen them in action, run don’t walk — they’re remarkable) while the tandem team jumps with fellow soldiers, heads of state, celebrities, people of influence, members of the military community, and, well, military pin-ups as it turns out.

The Knights reached out to Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets, and while she declined (for now, Gina — but I am determined to get you up in the air!!), she did ask if she could send some of her more daring ambassadors. If you’re not familiar with Pin-Ups for Vets, it’s a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and military families.

Enter U.S. Army vet Erikka Davis, U.S. Marine Megan Martine, and me (U.S. Air Force vet — hello!).

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Erikka Davis (U.S. Army), Megan Martine (U.S. Marine Corps), Shannon Corbeil (U.S. Air Force)

After a fun meet-and-greet with our fellow guests, who included people like an A.P. Bio Teacher, a Vice Principal, a firefighter, some Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, and a stand-up comic, we set our alarms for an early wake-up and set out for our adventure. This is where I got to meet Sgt. 1st Class Chris “Ace” Acevedo, who would be my jump instructor.

And who apparently is also a legend.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B20UzKiA7_b/ expand=1]Shannon Corbeil on Instagram: “Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?) I might be a little biased but he’s my favorite jump instructor! ?…”

www.instagram.com

Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?)

Ace’s Army career included service as a Cavalry Scout and an Air Defensive Artilleryman in countries like Iraq and South Korea before he joined the Golden Knights. Over the past eleven years, he has served on both the Black and Gold demonstration teams, competition teams, and now the tandem team. He will also be representing the Army on the 2020 U.S. Parachute Team in the 2020 World Championships. I asked him what he had to do to make the team:

“Freefall at 300 mph.”

Oh. Is that all?

For comparison, during our freefall, we’d be descending at about 120 mph. So, yeah, the guy is fast.

He’s also got about 6000 jumps under his belt, which gave me a lot of comfort when confronted with this view:

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Just imagine kneeling here and then…tumbling out. Because it was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

It’s nice to know that if I somehow fell out of the plane without a parachute, my instructor could just…come catch me.

Because as you can see in the video above, when the students load up in the plane, we don’t have chutes. We strap in mid-flight, get a refresher from the morning’s instruction (hold chest straps, keep your eyes on your videographer, arch arch arch, two taps on the shoulder means you can release your hands, two taps on your hips means arch more, etc.), then shuffle to the door.

From there, it became a practice in trust. Walking to the edge of an open plane door without using my hands went against every instinct in my body — but I knew that Ace literally had my back.

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Can you find the C-17?

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

In 2003, I completed five unassisted jumps with the U.S. Air Force Freefall program, which meant I was responsible for pulling my own chute after a 10-second freefall. But with the Golden Knights, my job just was to “relax, arch, and have fun.”

Right before we took off, my videographer Sgt. 1st Class Rich Sloan told me that safety was the priority, but if we were stable then he’d reach his hand out to me, and we’d spin SO I WAS DETERMINED TO BE THE MOST STABLE POSSIBLE IN THE UNIVERSE.

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“And we’re the three best friends that anyone could have…”

(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

In the video above, you can see what that spin looked like. You can also see from my reaction that it was thrilling.

During our descent, Ace pointed out a C-17 flying beneath us, maintained his checklist, and kept us alive – all of which I’m extremely thankful for. Then after what felt like 10 seconds but was actually a good 45 seconds, with a sharp salute he pulled our chute.

It went by so fast it surprised me, so I made a giphy of the moment BECAUSE MY LEGS KICK OUT AND IT’S HILARIOUS.

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Weeeeeeeeeeee!

We had a good chute and did some spins under the canopy while Ace endured what I can only describe as me doing a breathless double rainbow guy impression (“Oh my godddddd! Oh my god this is amaaaaaazing!”) before he steered us to the landing zone and brought us gently and lovingly to the earth from whence we came.

For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For Ace, it could have just been another one of 300 tandem jumps — but that’s not how he sees it. He still remembers his first jumps and the thrill of that experience, so he likes to share that feeling with others.

Talking with him after, I asked what some of his favorite parts of the job are. “Gold Star Families are pretty special. It helps them with their healing process, so that’s a big deal to me. I just want to help them through the day — for many of them, it helps them feel close to the person they lost.”

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Feather-soft landing, I’m not even kidding.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)

All I can say about the program is that if you get the invitation to jump with the Golden Knights, take it. They are so professional, so precise, and so skilled at what they do. I had no problem trusting this team with my life. I’m still incredulous that they even provide this kind of experience to people.

I asked Ace why they do it, and he said it’s so our country can get to know her soldiers.

“This is us. This is what an American soldier looks like. This is my Army story.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII veteran returns to France for first time since D-Day

On June 6, 1944, Onofrio “No-No” Zicari stormed Omaha Beach in one of the deadliest battles of World War II: D-Day. The 21-year-old New York native survived the sniper fire and artillery bombardment, enduring what he would later remember as one of the most harrowing memories of his life. The experience was so traumatic, it would give him nightmares for the remainder of his life. But at the suggestion of his caretaker and with the support of charitable donations, the 96-year-old Las Vegas resident is making his first trip back to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

“Maybe this will bring me some closure,” Zicari said. “So that’s why I’m going. Maybe there is something there that will help me put this all behind me. I’m 96 years old, how much longer can it go, you know?” he laughed. “Maybe I’ll see the beach.”


Zicari was offered the opportunity by Forever Young Senior Veterans, a nonprofit that organizes trips for veterans of U.S. wars, granting them an opportunity to return to the places they fought. Before he would accept the invitation, which includes joining a group of surviving World War II veterans to travel to several sites in Normandy, Zicari had one stipulation — he needed his caretaker and family friend Diane Fazendin to accompany him. “If she wasn’t going, then I wasn’t going,” he said. A GoFundMe set up for Zicari raised ,222, with nearly half of that coming from a donation from the Italian-American Club. With that amount, Fazendin can accompany Zicari throughout his journey, which begins June 3 and runs through June 10, 2019.

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Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (left) mans a machine gun position.

However, the logistics of travel hasn’t been the only thing keeping the D-Day veteran from returning to France. The trauma of that day left Zicari with PTSD that continues to this day. “I was having nightmares, in fact, I just had one the other night. This all brings back a lot of memories for me,” he said.

To face those beaches again, Zicari found encouragement through his PTSD support group at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. The group of World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veterans meets every Friday, and enjoys camaraderie in addition to the peer support. “They’ve really helped me,” he said. “It was a huge relief for me when I found this group. It wasn’t until I moved to Nevada 30 years ago that I enrolled at this VA. Another Vet told me about the PTSD support groups at the VA. So I said, ‘alright, I’ll go.’ I was relieved when I was talking to the other veterans. They understood my feelings. And I’ve stayed right there with them for nearly 30 years.” When Zicari joined the group, there were six other World War II veterans who regularly attended the meetings. “Now it’s just me,” he said.

Zicari was drafted into the Army at the age of 19, where he trained to become a supply soldier. After training for months for desert warfare in preparation for deployment to Northern Africa, he soon found himself in Scotland and Wales, preparing for a completely different kind of warfare. His company began practicing for amphibious landings in preparation for the inevitable invasion of continental Europe in what would eventually come to be known as Operation Overlord. “We knew we would have to go, but we didn’t know when,” Zicari said. That day, June 6, 1944, would soon arrive. Despite months of preparation of training, nothing could prepare him for what would come. “The night before, we were joking around. We didn’t know what to expect. We were all gung ho. Until we landed, then it stopped.”

The next morning, Zicari’s unit arrived in Normandy in preparation to land on Omaha Beach – the most heavily defended area of five sectors allied infantry and armored divisions would land on during the D-Day invasion. “We were the fifth or sixth wave to hit Omaha Beach,” he said. “Our landing craft was knocked out, it took a couple of direct hits and killed a couple of sailors that were on board. The boat got grounded on a reef. After it beached, we had to get off and landed in the water and almost drowned. I was the ammo man for a machine gun crew, and I carried two boxes of ammo, another guy carried two barrels, one carried a magazine, one carried the tri-pod, it was the five of us. Our gunner lost the barrels. He didn’t want to drown, so he just dropped them. I had the ammo, and I said, ‘what am I going to do with this ammo?’ So, I let go of the ammo.”

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Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (right) poses for a photo with Mickey Rooney (middle) and fellow soldiers.

Once Zicari finally got his head above water, he was struck by the chaos that laid in front of him. “We didn’t know where we were,” he said. “All we kept hearing was ‘gotta go inland, gotta go inland! Can’t go back!’ But we got pinned down there for quite a long time. We saw a lot of dead soldiers. It was havoc. I can’t explain what war is. We were all gung ho before we landed, but once we saw what was going on, I said ‘I want to go home.’ A lot of prayers were said on that day, believe me.”

Zicari was able to join up with the remainder of his outfit, but struggled to shake loose many of the horrors around him. “I was in shock. I was numb. I didn’t know what to do. Everybody was lost. I got pinned down by a pillbox, and we had shells landing all over. I got up and went alongside a landing craft that was beached. I looked over and I see this redheaded soldier, and he was sitting on his helmet. He got hit bad. He looked at me and just started to laugh, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home.’ Whether he made it home or not, I don’t know. But that stuck with me.”

After several hours of intense fighting, Zicari was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the knee. Although the wound was relatively light, medics recommended he seek immediate care. “They wanted to send me back to the hospital ship, but I told them no. I didn’t want to lose my outfit.” Zicari said. “They might send me to the infantry, and I didn’t want to go to the infantry, that’s for sure.”

When the intensity of the battle had died down, and the Germans were pushed back from their positions on the beachhead, Zicari and his unit had the task of bringing the ammunition and supplies onto the beaches. While the initial intensity of the fighting had decreased, they still faced occasional artillery and sniper fire. But the worst job was soon to come. “On the third day, we had to go back and pick up the bodies and equipment on the beaches,” he said. “After that, I never went back again. It was too sad.”

After Normandy, Zicari continued fighting across France, even making it to Belgium and relieving the 101st Airborne following the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne and surrounding Ardennes Forest. But it was June 6 that would shape his memories of the war; memories that he hopes to put to rest 75 years later.

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Onofrio “No-No” Zicari (middle) with his PTSD peer support group.

Following the war, Zicari moved to California with his wife, where they raised six children. His family became close friends with their neighbors, Fazendin and her husband. Even after the Zicaris moved to Nevada, they kept in touch. “We’ve been friends for many years,” said Fazendin, who currently lives in Florida and has acted as Zicari’s caretaker for a recent cruise and other short trips. This will be her first time traveling to Europe, and the furthest the two will travel together.

Zicari lives independently in his Las Vegas home, near much of his family. Even though he doesn’t own a cell phone or watch, he stays sharp by doing four crossword puzzles each day and completing woodworking projects. His garage is adorned with massive birdhouses and wooden trains that he has perfected over the years. He gets his socializing by meeting with his fellow veterans at the VA. His PTSD peer support group even meets up for a holiday meal at the Medical Center cafeteria. And it was with their encouragement, the help of his caretaker, and financial support of charitable donations that Zicari will finally be able to make his return to Omaha Beach in June 2019.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A big change is coming to the GI Bill transfer benefit

For the longest time, the GI Bill was one of the most effective recruiting incentives. Even for recruits who had no intention of using some of the many perks, the ability to pass it on to their spouses or children was a huge factor in deciding whether or not to enlist. For some U.S. troops, that benefit is at an end.

A new policy reported by Military Times shows that the Pentagon sees the transferability benefit as a recruiting tool and that those military members with more than 16 years of service are closer to retirement than they are to being a recruit. As a result, the Department of Defense will place a cap on transferring those benefits, clearly believing the possibility of retirement at 20 years is a much better retention incentive than giving a free education to military children.


10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall
Kinda like that but with one giant asterisk.
(National Archives)

The current policy states that any member with six years’ time in service can transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children as long as they serve another four years. That will not change. Members with 10 years of service also received transferability benefits even if they were unable to extend their service for any reason. That provision will also go away – unless the member was forced out due to force-shaping policies.

“The fact that nobody was consulted about this is alarming,” Paul Frost, a retired Navy captain who serves as MOAA’s program director for financial and benefits education, told Stars & Stripes. “What else is being discussed on the changes of this bill, which is one of the key benefits that a service member gets?”

Current service members will have until that year to decide their course of action. The new Forever GI Bill does not affect this new policy and all transfer requests must still be made while the service member is on active duty.

“As a matter of principle, The American Legion is against the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” said American Legion spokesperson Joe Plenzler. “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the full use of this earned benefit.”

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