Everything they got wrong about the harrier in "True Lies" - We Are The Mighty
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Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

The 1994 movie “True Lies” is a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger action-comedy flick with several memorable scenes, but perhaps none more iconic than Arnold flying in an AV-8B Harrier to (spoiler alert) rescue his daughter from terrorists. That twenty minutes or so of film time involving the Harrier is particularly important for a relatively small community of Marines, Harrier mechanics and pilots, that I happen to be part of.

This may come as a shock to a lot of you: these scenes are riddled with mistakes and inaccuracies. Imagine how betrayed we all felt by the movie that has the bad guy successfully jump a motorcycle from the top of a hotel to land in the pool across the street without a scratch. The movie where Jamie Lee Curtis (Helen Tasker) drops a MAC-10 machine pistol down a flight of stairs, and the gun fires a burst of rounds during every bounce on the steps, dispatching an entire squad of terrorists and leaving the female lead unharmed. The nerve of these Hollywood types to take creative license with the jet we know and love. They went too far!

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
I do, however, like to think that Charlton Heston with an eye patch is exactly what senior CIA agents look like (20th Century Fox)

Alright, the truth is, most of the people I know saw the movie before they even knew what a Harrier was, and even after the fact, the movie is entertaining and good for a chuckle. But on the other hand, picking apart mistakes made by military movies is a favorite past time of all veterans, and we in the Harrier community are no exception. There are some things that stood out to me as immediately wrong, but as I have mentioned, I wasn’t the most knowledgeable Harrier guy on the block, either. I had to put some of these questions to my more qualified friends from those days, and got a lot of help from a current Harrier pilot who asked to remain anonymous. So let’s get to dissecting these discrepancies, one by one.

Harriers are LOUD

The amount of hearing loss alone that would have taken place in this movie is devastating. The “ground noise” of an AV-8B is 140 decibels, which actually falls slightly under that of similarly-sized aircraft like the F/A-18 or F-35, but still well over what it takes to cause permanent hearing damage. When we worked on the flightline and a jet was turning nearby, we were actually supposed to wear double hearing protection in the form of ear plugs and our “cranials” (basically a plastic helmet with earphones). Admittedly, I didn’t always wear both (maybe those class-action lawsuit guys will stop bothering me now that I’ve admitted that publicly), but let’s just say no hearing protection at all would have put a real strain on my marriage considering my wife already gets frustrated with how deaf I am.

However, no hearing protection at all is exactly what we see in multiple scenes. First, the two Harrier pilots land at the end of Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys (1:59:10), where a significant amount of police are seen directing the confused and frightened civilians away from the bridge, and Tom Arnold’s character (Gibb) is instructing them to avoid looking at the flash from the imminent nuclear blast. Presumably, most of these people did not have earplugs handy, but they appear somehow unphased by the two ear-splitting beasts descending upon them.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
“You just lost your eardrums, you want to be blind, too?!” (20th Century Fox)

Within a couple of minutes, Arnold’s character (Harry Tasker) has found out his daughter Dana has been kidnapped, and commandeers one of the Harriers to take matters into his own hands (2:02:10). Once again, plenty of bystanders nearby are mostly unphased by the turning jet only about 50 yards away. One could make the flimsy argument that the police and Gibb have had their hearing ruined by years of service involving firearms, but this seems less likely for Harry’s wife, Helen, who instead uses her hands to cover her mouth in concern.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
(20th Century Fox)

Then, our protagonist (who, by the way, also has no hearing protection) receives a situation report from their man on the inside using a handheld radio (2:06:15). The only problem is, there’s no way that he could hear a single thing on that radio, according to my pilot source. So the critical information he receives about the location of his targets and the ever-important hostage never would have been possible.

The whine of the Pegasus turbofan engine is only faintly heard while Harry instructs a frantic Dana to “Hang on!” or when the boss bad guy, Salim, trains his AK-47 on Harry and demands he take the plane down. Any pilot or maintainer would be happy to tell you that none of this dialogue would be taking place, and while you couldn’t hear it, they would just be screaming something to the effect of, “Oh my God! I think my brain is leaking out of my ears!”

The gun doesn’t work that way

The Harrier’s GAU-12 Equalizer five-barrel Gatling cannon fires a devastating burst of 25mm rounds at a rate of 3,600-4,200 rounds per minute. There’s just one problem: Harriers are only armed with 300 rounds. Sparing you the math lesson on proportions, that’s a total of five seconds, at best, before the Harrier expends all its ammunition. Were the guns fired for longer than five seconds in the movie? Let’s take a look.

Before Harry takes control of one of the jets, both pilots fire a realistic burst of about four seconds at one of the trucks trying to get across the bridge. The second pilot neutralizes the lead vehicle (1:53:10). Nice shooting, sir!

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
(20th Century Fox)

But that’s the last we see of the cannon, right? Nope. Harry’s first move when he gets to the skyscraper is to hover menacingly up to the floor with the bulk of the terrorists, pausing briefly to allow his badassery to soak in while his enemies realize the error of their ways. He then unloads a 12-13 second burst from what would have been an empty gun (2:07:44).

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Inaccuracy kills… (20th Century Fox)

Then three adversaries in a helicopter begin firing upon Harry as he is trying to retrieve his daughter from the crane she is stranded on. He yaws the jet to his right and returns fire with another six or seven-second burst before the helicopter escapes behind another building (2:09:16). This was a fun trip to imagination-land where a Harrier carries an additional 1,000 rounds or so!

To be fair, “True Lies” is far from the first movie to take liberties with a weapon’s capacity, and it won’t be the last. But there’s another problem with these scenes besides the unlimited ammo cheat code: The Harrier’s GAU-12 runs on bleed air from the engine. While the jet is in its trademark hover, that bleed air is prioritized for use by the Reaction Control System (RCS) that keeps the jet from spinning out of control. My pilot source tells me that it would be “theoretically plausible” to squeeze off a few rounds before the gun jammed, if all the conditions (wind, temperature, weight distribution, fuel load) are perfect, but nothing like the firestorm Harry unleashes.

Hovering is incredibly difficult, for both pilot and jet

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)

Making a 20,000-pound aircraft float on air is no simple task. From the pilot’s perspective, hours upon hours of training are necessary to master the skill, without even mentioning all of the time dedicated to conventional flight. Our hero, Harry Tasker, is evidently a former Harrier pilot. His partner, Gibb, conveniently informs us when he says, “Do you realize it has in fact been ten years since you’ve been behind the wheel of one of these things?”

Ten years… Harrier pilots have to train constantly and are required to qualify multiple times per year in various scenarios just to prove they are worthy of the cockpit. But Harry Tasker is one of the government’s top intelligence operatives. We can play along and cast aside that he hasn’t flown in a decade, because he’s basically a superhero capable of retaining skills at a level far above the average human. Fine, I’ll bite.

But unless “True Lies” takes place in the same universe as the “Terminator” franchise, and Harry becomes one with the jet because he is actually another cyborg sent from the future to prevent a nuclear war (wait a minute, that actually almost makes sense), then there are some things that even he couldn’t do. There is a sequence where Harry keeps the jet steady, while he is focused on trying to keep his daughter alive and also fending off a knife attack from Salim (2:10:15). My pilot source, in particular, takes issue with this:

“Hovering is very intensive with control inputs. There’s no way he let’s go of the stick for more than a couple seconds without the jet going into an irrecoverable situation.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
“Look, Dana! No hands!” (20th Century Fox)

This is all before mentioning how taxing maintaining a hover is on the jet. Harry is only in a hover for about five minutes of movie time, which actually is line with the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) flight manual that governs aviation for the Navy and Marine Corps. However, I asked my very helpful pilot about the stresses that would be placed on the jet in this action-packed sequence, and his expert opinion is that the engine would have flamed out at some point.

It would take a dissertation to explore all the different possibilities and permutations, but a brief summary will suffice for our purposes. There are only 90 seconds worth of water in the Harrier. This is both to cool the engine and to improve the aircraft’s performance in a hover, as it creates heavier air for the jet to produce upward thrust. Given the conditions, like increased weight due to ordnance (or children hanging from the nose), and warmer temperatures like you’d expect in Miami, the engine likely wouldn’t have the performance numbers to maintain a hover much longer than that 90-second window.

Then there’s the issue of fuel consumption. The Harrier consumes about 160-170 pounds of fuel per minute while in a hover. Once again accounting for conditions, our pilot says that “best-case scenario” is that Harry’s Harrier (hey, do you think they did that on purpose?) could only have had about 1,200 pounds of fuel remaining in order to be able to take off vertically. It is roughly a 100-mile flight from the end of Seven Mile Bridge to downtown Miami. Considering that time was of the essence in this situation, we can safely assume Harry was at full power and guzzling fuel along the way. Then he is in a hover for five to six minutes during the downtown battle, and all of this coming after a takeoff that is very demanding in itself. The numbers add up to Harry hitting “E” sometime before he safely lands on the street below.

Misunderstandings of the Harrier’s durability

Surprisingly, I’ll start with an instance of the movie actually underestimating the Harrier. The windscreen and canopy of Harry’s aircraft have the structural integrity of a lightbulb when they take a few rounds from an AK-47 (2:08:40), but there are plenty of videos online that show how bulletproof glass will stand up to that. It wouldn’t be in particularly good shape, and you wouldn’t be able to see much through it, but it would still be there.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

That is where the slights of the Harrier ended, though. The average viewer of the movie snickers during Harry’s “rusty” take-off where he very likely would have obliterated his nose landing gear, bouncing it off the road and then running over a police car (2:02:25). Every Harrier maintainer, on the other hand, just grimaced and had flashbacks to conditional/hard landing inspections.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Well, there goes VMA-223’s weekend… (20th Century Fox)

That being said, damage to the nose landing gear wouldn’t have jeopardized Harry’s impromptu mission. After all, Captain William Mahoney landed his Harrier on the USS Bataan in June 2014 without the use of his nose landing gear at all. Catastrophic damage to flight controls, on the other hand, would have given the movie a very different ending.

While Harry puts up his heroic fight to maintain control of the jet, the aircraft backs into another skyscraper, sending the entire aft portion of the aircraft crashing into a high-rise office (2:10:50). Skyscrapers, it turns out, are made of quality steel and glass, not paper mache. Harry pulls the jet back out of the wreckage and it’s no worse for the wear, while Harrier mechs everywhere threw up their hands and said “Oh, c’mon!”

In the aviation community, Harriers or otherwise, we were taught that pebbles and screws can take down an entire aircraft by getting into the intake or jamming up flight controls. It’s called FOD (foreign object debris), and we walk shoulder to shoulder across the flight line at least twice a day hunting for it like a reverse easter egg hunt (because you hope you don’t find anything).

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
“Red rover, red rover, send–” “Shut up, Perkins!” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Hada/Released)

So seeing no noticeable decline in performance after a significant impact with a sturdy building that surely would have caused severe damage to the vertical stablilzer, rudder, and rear RCS (at the very least), is a tough pill to swallow for anyone that got yelled at for forgetting their pen on the flight line.

More fun with weapons

There are a few other minor gripes with the movie’s depiction of the Harrier’s weapons that can’t really be proven or disproven, but still cause raised eyebrows for anyone who can’t just watch the damn movie and enjoy it. One thing my overthinking brain had to challenge was a Cherry Point, NC-based Harrier squadron “on maneuvers” out of Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, as Gibb informs Harry (1:51:50). This part is rare, but not impossible. The two jets armed to the teeth with Mavericks, rockets, Sidewinders and gun pod for a training sortie? Now that’s where I draw the line, and my pilot source confirms:

“Carrying actual AIM-9 (Sidewinders) is super rare. I don’t know any Harrier pilot who has shot a live one… LMAVs are super expensive and rare to shoot as well. For training we typically get maybe one live one a year, if that. If it was a dedicated air to surface sortie, a more plausible loadout would be gun and 2x Mk-82 or GBU-12.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Pictured: The wildest training sortie in Marine Corps history (20th Century Fox)

Fast-forward again to when Harry is about to put an end to the terrorist threat for good. Right before he sends Crimson Jihad’s leader screaming through the air on a missile towards his comrades in the helicopter, he flicks the “Master Arm” switch on. This is a little strange considering he has fired the gun twice in the last few minutes, but maybe he’s just cautious and responsible, and flicked it off after both bursts. If Harry had a motto, it would be “safety first,” right? In fairness, this is the aviation equivalent of every movie bad guy chambering a round in their pistol because it’s cool and intimidating, even though they’d just eject a perfectly good round. Once again, “True Lies” is not the only guilty party on this one.

And finally, there is Salim being attached to the Sidewinder missile itself. The Sidewinder weighs about 190 pounds, and its propulsion system is designed for… 190 pounds. I am not aware of any tests where one was fired with roughly 200 pounds of dead weight attached to it, but it’s at least worth asking how much doubling up its weight and killing its aerodynamics would have on its performance. Where are the Mythbusters these days? I’ve got a job for them.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
“You’re fired… for your lack of understanding of physics” (20th Century Fox)

It’s all in fun

All of this being said, I’ll be the first to recognize some of these criticisms fall into “splitting hairs” territory. The movie is obviously very entertaining, and we Harrier folks still appreciate our fifteen minutes of movie fame from “True Lies” after being overshadowed by F-14s. And yes, veterans are sure to jump all over errors or omissions in military-themed movies, but we’ll also give credit where it’s due. We’re just here to keep you honest, Hollywood. You’re welcome.

This article by Tory Rich originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

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From Vietnam to Star Trek: 10 Questions with Tucker Smallwood

Tucker is a career actor with experience on stage, three times on Broadway, film and TV. He has roles in The Cotton Club, Contact, Traffic, The One and on TV shows such as “The X-Files,” “Space: Above and Beyond,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Star Trek: Enterprise” and many more. He shares about his life growing up, time in the US Army in Vietnam, what it’s like to be wounded in combat and then his life in acting. He is a prominent veteran advocate and has been invited to speak at many different veteran events. His memoir, Return to Eden, has even more of his great life stories and wisdom. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Photo credit IMDB.com

1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?

Certainly. I was the second of four children and the first son. My father was a Lutheran minister who achieved his PhD in English, a professor at Howard University. In 1955, he was a Fulbright Professor at Anatolia College in Greece, where we lived for two years. I learned fluent Greek and studied the violin at the Odeon in Salonica. I spent two years of college in Munich, graduated from University of Maryland with a BA in Speech/TV Production and a minor in German. I then became the first director of color for WBAL in Baltimore and was drafted in July of ’67. My own memoir, Return to Eden, gives a detailed accounting of my early years. Additionally, there are numerous essays on my homepage.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker as a young child. Photo credit Tucker

An essay from Tucker titled “Lady Liberty:”

“I’m thinking tonite, even as I watch our traditions vanish into mist, that I have memories of classic imagery few if any of you will ever know. You see, I sailed from New York to Genoa and back…and to Southampton and back, in the days when most trips to Europe were done by sea rather than by air. I’ve since flown probably 15 or more times…but never with such resonance.

Each time going and coming home, we passed The Statue of Liberty. It was both a sign of departure and a sign that home was near. The first time as a child with my family, it was iconic. The second time as a college student, a fellow passenger bet me on which side we would pass. I took his bet and lost. He was a diplomat and a very decent dude and I enjoyed buying him a beer for our wager.

Point is, Lady Liberty has been a symbol of our unique freedoms during three centuries. For most of you, she is a photograph. But I’ll tell you what. When you’ve been at sea for days and days…and she appears in your view, you know you’re almost back home again.

I miss that simple, perhaps corny symbolism of coming home…to a place where freedom was something uncommon. I’d lived and traveled all over the world…and I’d learned and still remembered how very unique our republic is. It is damn sure worth fighting for.

I pray enough Americans value what I value and will vote in November to restore our singularity in the world.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker with his family. Photo credit Tucker.

2. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?

I was drafted. I had little patience for bullshit and some qualities that were useful. Assertiveness, intelligence, physical endurance, will. My test scores were largely off their charts, with particular language skills. I was offered OCS and accepted. I’d been a Cub and Boy Scout, enjoyed hiking and camping.

During Basic and AIT, I fell in love with the physical challenges. I wasn’t particularly large, but I was rated expert on 10 weapons and was very good with map and compass. The weapons are the M1, M14, M16, M-2, M-60, M1911, M40 (106mm) Recoilless Rifle, M67 (90mm) Recoilless Rifle, and then two more I can’t the last two. My personal weapons were an M2A2 carbine and an M3 “Grease Gun.” I also had an M14 with a starlight scope in addition to my M16. When you wanted to buttstroke someone the M14 was the best. During a Ranger exercise I went 10 days on nine hours of sleep. For a city kid, I enjoyed proving myself physically – particularly to myself.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker polishing his helmet. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker competing against his TAC officer candidates in the PT test. He won all PT tests against his candidates during his entire six month run as a TAC instructor.

I served as a Tactical Officer (TAC), training young Officer Candidates (OC’s). Regarding the Army PT test, I’d offered a weekend pass to any OC who could better my score. In six months, none did. I took great pride in setting the standard. I was not a nice guy; I was a very brutal TAC. The deal was to push men past their limits and see which ones could still function. I hated my own TACs yet I later understood why they were so brutal to me. My father had arranged a posting with Army Media, however I wanted to prove my mettle as a soldier. My graduation orders for Special Forces were pulled; the assignment of Tac Officers had the highest priority in Army training. I trained OCs for six months. The Army needed more junior officers because so many had become casualties in Vietnam.

When I got in country, my CO had been there for two weeks and then two weeks later I became CO. The night I arrived my CO took a small frag in the shoulder and then two weeks later took an AK-47 round in the buttock. There were five commanders in eight months, dead and wounded. I lasted five and half months myself which was a record. It was supposed to be a Major as a CO and a Captain as an XO. I made First Lieutenant a week after I joined the team, so I was a First Lieutenant as a CO.

My initial orders were to be a Liaison Officer to the ARVN airborne because of my Vietnamese language skills. Two weeks before I got there some ring knocker showed up and stole my slot either through a bribe, a buddy or some connection…so he took my slot. So, when I got there, they put me in this new concept, a mobile advising team. It was a five-man crew and I thought it sounded interesting. I loved my people, American and Vietnamese. I loved the work I did and I believed in it, although I did not believe in the war itself. I feel so fortunate that I got to teach my people how to fight and then teach THEM how to defend their village. I feel so fortunate despite my injuries.

When asked after my TAC officer tour I said I want Jump School, Ranger School, Special Warfare School and Vietnamese Language School and I don’t want to work with Americans. I had so many black and Latino NCO’s while a TAC told me what the deal was in Vietnam; they told me about the drugs, lack of discipline and grunts who didn’t want to fight the war. I didn’t want a frag rolled under my tent or a bullet in the back of my head. I am a hard charger; I just want to get the job done. I was going to do my job and wanted to work with people who weren’t going to screw around. I regret I did not get to do Ranger School, did all the other ones though. I am grateful for the experiences…but I wouldn’t do it again.

Afghanistan breaks my heart, to learn that men we were training might turn their weapons on their American advisors. I didn’t worry about that in Vietnam. It is difficult to bear.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker counseling one of his candidates, which was a big part of their training. Photo credit Tucker.

I wasn’t affected by PTSD until 10 years after coming home. Once a year I would a month or so before September 14th every year I would have night sweats and bad dreams. I would wake up shaking and in tears. My 51st anniversary of the day I was pronounced dead is Sept 14th. On that day for the first 15 years once it started occurring, I would be sobbing hopelessly and the next day I would be fine. It was like I shed my skin and was brand new, reborn. It is called “Anniversary Syndrome .” In recent years I have been doing very well. A year ago, on my 50th anniversary I broke down and had to leave an event with my friend and director Oz Scott.

I woke up with a headache but believe Sep 14th this year will be good overall. I have no complaints now or at 25 when they pronounced me dead. I have lived a full life even then.

We hide from our own shit sometimes where we see those faults or issues in others.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker’s shadow box from his service in Vietnam. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker and his men conducting a river crossing in Vietnam. The essay for this picture is entitled BOOTLESS and they had their boots on while crossing. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker with his friend Jack Jolis in Vietnam. Photo Credit Tucker.

A chapter from Tucker’s book RETURN TO EDEN, the chapter is titled “FIRST NIGHT ,”

“Grady, our fearless leader, is searching frantically for his boots as ‘tings’ and ‘thuds’ of incoming AK rounds work their way along the PSP and sandbags of our bunker. For the next few weeks, I sleep in my boots. I leave him muttering curses, crawl out of our hooch and make my way around to our northern flank. I’m the newly arrived X.O. I’ve been here about five hours; I don’t even know everyone’s name yet…but my map is up to date.

They’d erected cyclone fencing to prematurely detonate incoming B-40 rockets – and a good thing, for I’m suddenly knocked to the ground by an explosion. Grady slipped in while I conferred with the Vietnamese commander and cried out, “Think I’m hit…” A flashlight exam reveals a minute frag wound to his upper arm. Without evident irony in his Oklahoma drawl, he pronounces himself fit to continue.

A few hours earlier, we’d spent the evening celebrating my arrival with more than a few Budweisers, chugging contests and numerous toasts. Our five-man advisory team was now up to full strength! After drawing straws for that night’s radio watch, I turned in, expecting a wake-up at 0200 hours.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Sgt. Terry Brand, myself and Dai uy Minh. Photo credit Tucker.

I retreat to our southern flank to assess our defense and as I place a radio call for Tac air, Doc Garcia approaches me with a Hellmann’s jar full of green Dexedrine tablets. “Sir, you want your ups?” I look at him incredulously, surely, he’s kidding. Nope, apparently ‘greenies’ are SOP. I assure him I’ll be alert for the immediate future and he leaves to medicate the rest of my team. Then Sgt. Sparks hunkers down to ask, “Sir, would you like a beer?” Now, I know he’s kidding. Wrong again. I watch him low-crawl 20 feet to the cooler, ignoring the near misses, reach in for a six-pack of Bud and crawl back to pop one and offer it to me. This is his way of telling a young Lt. “Just another day at the office, sir. Rock steady and do what you’re trained to do.”

Charlie is bringing serious pee from three sides – RPG, small arms fire and the occasional mortar round. Looks like he’s got maybe 40-50 VC hoping to overrun this small CP. Before my beer is warm, I’m talking to the Phantom wing commander and negotiating the sequence of his weapons. First off, a canister of napalm from each F-4 illuminates our western flank. I imagine the smell of crispy critters mixed in with the singular scent of burning fuel oil. I’m also connected to the C-130 (Super Spooky) pilot, asking him to put out flares as the Phantoms begin to rake the perimeter with their Vulcan cannons. Spooky can orbit for hours, but the jets will soon break off to re-fuel and reload. And just in case, I’ve also requested a light fire team of Cobra gunships.

As I reflect that it’s good to be king, able to muster such formidable support within minutes, I suddenly notice that I’m “out of body,” a condition I’ve heard of but had never before experienced.

I’m floating perhaps 25 feet above my CP, looking down at myself as I/he switch radio frequencies to speak with different elements of support. This thought occurs to my doppelganger: “Damn, I’m good at this.” Hubris. My out-of-body persona is without any particular emotion but notices the similarity between directing a firefight and directing a live TV show (which I did for a living, before being drafted). I return to normal as suddenly as I’d left and would probably have enjoyed the experience much more had there not been work to do. Incoming has diminished considerably and understandably so, but the Cobras have arrived and deserve their turn, so I have them fly along the far canal bank, strafing with their miniguns. (We found a few parts and several blood trails the next morning, but Charlie religiously took his dead and wounded home, whenever possible.)

Perhaps an hour or so has passed since Grady began looking for his boots. I thank the Cobras and ask Spooky to hang for a bit while I check our casualties. Among the five Americans, we’ve got one wounded. Grady can wait for first light to go get his tetanus shot. But of my 47 Vietnamese soldiers, I’ve got two dead and five more critically wounded. They’re not likely to make it to daybreak, so I ask the Vietnamese com-mander, “Where’s the chopper pad?” There is none. “You’re sh*tting me, right? We have no chopper pad inside our wire?” Nope.

FUBAR. Cursing Grady under my breath, I ask the Dai uy for volunteers to carry the wounded outside our perimeter wire. “Too dangerous.” Probably right about that but we can’t just let them die without an effort. While I radio Bien Hoa for a dust-off, Sgts. Sparks and Brand organize litters and bearers…and under cover of the black delta night, we slip through our rows of concertina wire to the paddy dike behind our CP. Apart from the distant drone of Spooky in orbit, there is dead silence. I can still smell cordite and oily smoke and rice paddy… and myself. Sweat is streaming down my back, curiously cold on so warm a night. My handset crackles, “Rusty Nails, this is Dust-off, on your push, over.”

For the first time tonight, I am scared. Earlier I was too busy for errant thoughts, focused on each task – but now my imagination is running amok. I respond to the chopper, “Dust-off, this is Nails Six. Approach Echo-Whiskey, strobe marks green Lima Zulu.” (God, I hope it’s green!)

And the delta blackness is suddenly illuminated by the strobe light I key and raise into the night. It pulses an unbelievably intense pattern of light, evident for miles. And I wait for that first burst of fire, aimed just beneath the strobes flickering bulls-eye. Which never comes. Dust-off shuffles in, the red delta clay covering all in its wake and settles. We load on our wounded, thank Dust-off and make our way back thru the perimeter wire.

I’m now very tired – where is Doc when I need him? I begin rehearsing my speech to our commander Grady, questioning his decision not to have created a landing pad inside our wire. At first light, our soldiers are busily at work on just that task. And I promise God I will never do anything that stupid again. Yeah, right.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker with his militia in Vietnam. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in Vietnam with his dog JoJo by his side. Photo credit Tucker.

3. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?

Probably my conduct under fire, commanding men at war. (See Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

“Sunday, Bloody Sunday – September 14, 1969

I can remember kneeling, as I reached for my map case to check our position. We should be now within 300 meters of our objective. Then there was a thunderous, shattering explosion…followed by an eerie and absolute silence. “Have I gone deaf?” I wondered. No… for I could now hear an intermittent splattering sound, like someone pissing and stopping…and pissing again. I looked out to notice a thick, red stream, striking leaves some ten feet in front of me – which suddenly stopped, then repeated…and traced its source back to my throat.

My next three thoughts came faster than could be read or spoken. 1. I’m hit. 2. Pulsing means an artery is severed. 3. I’m going to die. If emotions had colors and form, imagine a massive wave – its color crimson, its essence: fear. “My Death Is at Hand .”

This wave surged across my consciousness, engulfed me absolutely, then washed away, immediately followed by the next wave, whose color was green, its essence: serenity. “All Will Be Well” (It is God’s peace, and a blessing. I can only hope I will find it again, when next I face my death.) For the past few months, I’d become convinced of my own invulnerability; I really believed I was somehow different, somehow protected from harm. Why? Because there’d been so many times I might have and perhaps should have been wounded – but was untouched – at least physically. This discovery of my own mortality was rude, abrupt, and absolute.

This peace remained with me, throughout. This peace is singular; it is a unique state of consciousness which often occurs in NDE’s. (Near Death Experiences.) It is one of five – Serenity, Out of Body, Instant Replay of Life, The Light… and an unremembered fifth. (Like naming the 7 Dwarfs, I always forget one.) I wore as a sweatband, my Vietnamese unit’s colors, a bandanna they’d awarded me after my first night with my team, one of our bloodiest encounters. I quickly tied it around my throat as tightly as I could bear and took stock of our situation. Men were dead and bleeding all around me, I could see no one untouched. Two lay in the water, blown off the hummock by the explosion, four lay scattered about, tending to themselves and each other. I carried the radio. I alone spoke English. If shock or unconsciousness took me, none of us would make it home. I quickly checked myself for other wounds, finding blood on my belly and left thigh, but knew they were minor, at least in comparison to my throat, and began keying the handset, hoping to raise an extraction or rescue force. I then realized I could not speak (turns out the frag that severed my right carotid artery had also severed the Vagus nerve, which controls the vocal cords; mine were now paralyzed.) All I knew then was that I could not speak … but discovered that I could whisper. And so, I began whispering into the handset, “Rusty Nails, Rusty Nails, this is Nails 6, over.” “Rusty Nails, this is Nails 6, over.”

No response. I was calling to my team base, praying someone there was monitoring the radio, someone who could then relay a request to the nearest available Dust Off and reaction force. I kept trying, over and over, as I watched these mercenaries, those still able, dealing with their injuries and setting up to repel any assault. Should I change frequencies, try VNAF channels? Would my whispered Vietnamese be understood and trusted, if I did reach someone? I chose to rely on my team not to leave com unattended for very long. As I continued to call, I considered what had happened.

Our mission was obviously compromised. Any VC not responsible for the explosion would soon be drawn to the site…but what was it? Probably not a mortar or artillery round, for I remembered no whistling sound of incoming, prior to the blast, and I saw no crater. Was it a grenade? The explosion seemed too large, (although I’d never before been at ground zero!) A booby trap or mine? And if so, set off by whom? By us? (I still have ghostly memories of having been told by SOMEONE that one of the mercenaries encountered a mine, which he was in the process of disarming, when it detonated.) Or were they still out there? What the hell were they waiting for? We were candy, lunch meat, toast, WIA’s about to become KIA’s…hardly the dangerous, canny team of experienced killers who’d set out some two hours ago on a mission that even today compels me to scratch my head and ask, “What in the world was I doing out there with them? THE F*** WAS I THINKING?”

Sgt. Sparks had said it so often, it’d become a mantra. “Sir, you keep lookin’ for it, you gonna find it.” Sparks was my senior NCO, 3 years in-country, he ‘knew the way’ and he’d surely lost enough young commanders to know the truth. (My team had already lost 5 commanders in 8 months – 2 KIA, 3 WIA.)

On this quiet Sunday morning, following a few weeks of boredom and no good contacts, a six-man PRU team (Provincial Reconnaissance Unit) appeared at my CP and asked to speak with me. They were all mercenaries. PRU’s were an arm of The Phoenix Program, a CIA funded operation, which conducted missions of assassination and counterterrorism; their mission – to neutralize the Viet Cong infrastructure. (I now know how totally compromised, illicit and f***** so many Phoenix operations ended up.)

At the time, I believed PRU’s to be among the most deadly and efficient operatives in a conflict that had become increasingly frustrating; we’d problems differentiating Viet Cong from farmer from sympathizer. Today’s mission: to capture or kill (whichever came first) a VC tax collector, operating centrally within my AO (Area of Operation), at a location relatively accessible… and recent intel suggested he’d be in the neighborhood this afternoon. They wanted my permission to go hunting on my turf.

I’d heard stories…stories about their occasional casual regard for certainty. These men were paid by the body. Their members included two Hoi Chans (ex-VC from the neighborhood, now on our payroll), two Saigon cowboys (sociopaths unfit for regular military service), a Nung (renowned tribal mercenaries), and a Cambodian (never did get his story). Knowing that they might well fail to find their quarry, believing that they might then choose to bag an innocent farmer, collect and present his head or ears for their bounty, I made a fateful decision. Over the months, my team had earned the trust and respect of the villagers we defended. For those insignificant few square kilometers in the Mekong Delta, Gia Dinh Province, Binh Chanh District, I and my team represented safety and justice. (It’s good to be King!) And I was unwilling to let these men betray that trust. Therefore, I must accompany them, insuring anyone they killed in my AO was someone who at least appeared to be deserving of killing. So, I was acting out of perceived responsibility, boredom…and an itch to operate with people I’d been told were among the best at what they did. Evidently, I still had something to prove, at least to myself. Pride goeth before a fall.

There was a brief window of opportunity to rethink my decision, for the Vietnamese Airborne was already at work, conducting a sweep not too distant from the target. Having operated with them in the past, I knew them to light up ANYTHING that moved in their universe. I’d learned to either be with them or in a different area code entirely, while they were out hunting. So, we sat on my deck and smoked for a bit, awaiting word their mission was complete and they’d been lifted out. Word came, soon enough, and after briefing my team and counterpart, the six PRU’s and I set off for the coordinates their intelligence sources had indicated this tax collector could be found. As usual, I left with a PRC-25 radio, M-16 and a basic combat load. This seemed nothing special…though I did change from my normal jungle cammies into a set of tiger fatigues, simply because they were all dressed in tiger – (and red beret, black skin and radio antenna notwithstanding, I generally tried not to draw unnecessary attention…unless we were waterskiing…)

It took us perhaps 2 hours to move from my base across the paddies, and into the thicker nipa palm, then jungle, then delta swamp of marsh, streams, and hummocks. After months of working with the ‘citizen soldiers’ that our conscripted troops essentially were, it was a pleasure to patrol with men who genuinely knew how to move efficiently, quietly, tactically towards their target. Though I can’t remember thinking so, I suspect some part of me was feeling rather self-congratulatory, for here I was, out on patrol with some serious operatives…and belonging, worthy to be among them. As I said, pride goeth before a fall. And then, nearing our objective, we pulled up from the cover of water and reeds, onto a small, dry hummock, to check our position. Without a word, we formed a small perimeter and I reached down for my map case. And the world exploded.

It’s been perhaps 25 minutes, still no response to my calls. My legs are pretty much numb from the thighs down, my arms growing heavy. My bleeding is slowed, but not stopped…how could it be? Others seem to be less vigilant, they too are growing weaker. And still we wait for the killing blow. I continue to whisper, changing my transmission. “Any station, any station, this is Rusty Nails 6. Mayday, Mayday…”

Suddenly a crackle in my handset…more static…and then a response.

“6, this is Nails, over”

“Nails, this is 6. Seven down, request immediate Dust Off near objective, please forward, over”

“6, Copy that, wait, out”

So now we had hope. No longer quite so alone. But still a long way from home free. As I waited, this thought suddenly struck me, “They are waiting for the Medivac chopper to come…to shoot it down, that’s why they haven’t finished us off!” Charlie lived to shoot down Dust Offs, and our pilots were so damn selfless and committed, they would come for us, danger be damned, LZ green OR LZ red, they would come down to get us, God bless them all. They were simply the bravest pilots that we had, bar none. Red Cross on the side of the chopper, Geneva Conventions attesting to their neutrality, Charlie lit them up on sight, Geneva Accords be damned, for he knew that our men fought with more courage, believing we’d be extracted and brought to care. And Charlie was so right. I’d called in numerous Dust Offs over the months, for both American and allied wounded and they always came – under fire, at night, in the rain, whatever. I admired the conduct of so many soldiers, acts both selfless and gallant that I witnessed during my command…but none so consistent and dependable as those men who flew the unarmed choppers that brought the wounded to safety. (I still resist making judgments on a people. After all, Viet Cong were the brothers, sons and fathers of South Vietnamese soldiers…but the fact is, during my command, I called in 20 or more medivac requests, all but one to extract Vietnamese casualties. VNAF pilots were on that same frequency, they had the same mission…but I never once got a VNAF Dust Off at night or under fire. Not one. Only American pilots would brave the danger to take my wounded from harms way.)

My handset crackled again, “6, this is Rusty Nails. Dust Off enroute, has your coordinates and freq, hang on, over.”

“Roger that, Nails. Be advised LZ not secure, request gunship backup, over”

“Copy that 6, wait, out”

And wait we did. It’s already been 45 minutes, perhaps a bit more. Still no sign of Charlie’s presence or intentions, but I remained suspicious. And waited… There is a sound that is to us like no other. It is unmistakable. It means,

“Help is on the way.” Even today, in-country vets still look up, instinctively, whenever we hear that characteristic ‘whop-whop-whop-whop’. It’s the sound of an approaching UH1B. A “Huey .” And I could hear it. Help was on the way.

“Nails 6, this is Dust-off, on your push, over.”

“Dust Off, this is 6. Be advised LZ may be hot, stand by for smoke, on your command, over.”

I beckoned a Hoi Chan to me, pulled a smoke grenade from my pack, gave him instructions, asked if he understood, and he nodded, yes.

“Nails, Dust Off. Pop smoke, over”

I mimed to my Hoi Chan to pull the smoke grenade pin, which he did and tossed it.

“Dust Off, smoke out, over”

“6, Dust Off, we see yellow smoke, over”

“Affirmative, Dust Off, yellow smoke, be alert, LZ is not secure”

“Roger that 6, we have back up, now on approach, over”

And they did have back up, by golly, for I could now hear the sound of several more choppers in the vicinity, among them, two gunships, rolling into orbit… and a slick bearing my District Senior Advisor, as it turned out. Events become rather jumbled in my memories now, as they were even then. I can remember watching the Medivac chopper touch down. And I was suddenly observing all this from above, from on high, perhaps 30 feet away.

For only the second time in my life, I was out of my body, (the first time, my first night with my team, under fire from three directions.) My dispassionate doppelganger noted my physical self below, now numb from the hips south. I continued to observe from two separate perspectives, as dead and wounded were placed on litters and loaded. I remember Maj. Arthur, my superior, the DSA, approaching me (only later wondering how the hell he managed to be part of this extraction). I remember extending my M-16, which he accepted, symbolic of surrendering to him my command of this operation and of my team. And I remember watching from on high, as medics lifted me onto a litter. Suddenly, I lay down there naked as the day I was born. Their scalpels had ripped through my jungle boots and tigers in seconds, as they searched for entry wounds. After an IV of plasma and a shot of morphine, I was blanketed and lifted onto the chopper. As they did, I watched my beret fall off, down into the mud…and then I returned to my body. (That’s a poignant memory, for I loved that beret…and I still wonder if an enemy soldier ever presented it to collect the standing 5000 piastre bounty for my death.)

That’s my last ‘out of body’ memory, from that day til now. Even as the morphine kicked in, I was still sufficiently aware to note the looks that passed between the medics. They were wonderfully professional and efficient, but their shared looks confirmed their skepticism about my survival. I had no opinion, pro or con.

I was and had been at peace for some time. Morphine simply meant ‘no more pain’. I felt like a Hershey Bar, molten on the Tan Son Nhut tarmac… yet my mind remained surprisingly clear. I was grateful I’d remained conscious long enough to get us out. I knew I’d done my best; that I’d acquitted myself honorably as a soldier…and that was enough. I was somehow complete – a perfection and peace I may never again achieve or experience. I accepted that this life had been interesting and was now ending…and quietly promised that if there was another life afterwards; well then, I’d try to do better, next time. The flight to Saigon’s 3rd Field Hospital took as long as it took…my life did not replay before my eyes. I remained conscious, though by now seriously drugged. I vaguely remember triage and more skeptical but caring eyes, a trip by gurney down a loooong tunnel, with bright lights overhead…then an operating room and still more lights…and at some point, all the lights went out.

I now know a great deal more…and in some ways, still nothing. I know that I finally surrendered on the operating table; that my heart finally stopped. I’m told that the surgeons surrendered too, all save Dr. Caesar Cardenas. For whatever reason, he refused to let me go and managed to make my heartbeat again. His surgery, reconnecting my carotid artery was brave (though clots soon formed.) But it was sufficient to keep me alive until some radical vascular work could be done back in The World, at Walter Reed. What I don’t know, and never will know, is what really happened to us out there that Sunday afternoon. There’ll be no biopsy on the chunk of metal that remains inside my neck, 1/4″ from my spinal cord, between C-4 and C-5. A quarter of an inch. That’s the margin between mute/bleeding – or paralyzed/soon to die; one more name on The Wall. I can never know how those six mercenaries fared, how many survived…but I have a strong sense that at this point, I’m the sole living witness to that encounter. Because I wasn’t supposed to be there, I was never debriefed by MACV or CIA or anyone else. Because I had no official connection to PRU’s and CIA; (since in their eyes “I wasn’t there”) none of this happened. I often wonder how this would have been written up, had we all died out there.

My actions, having chosen to be a part of this mission, cost me my command of MAT 36 and disadvantaged my team, until I could be replaced. That I regret. I needed no citations from the CIA or anyone else; what I did that afternoon was simply my job. To acknowledge my conduct would require they admit that I was there. “Xin loi.” (“F*** you, you’re welcome.”) This was not about gallantry or courage. I knew full well by then the standards I’d already accepted for such regard. What I did this day became my own ‘ultimate gut check’, a measure of my commitment to lives entrusted to me. My conduct this day was proof of a man’s will. There is no medical explanation for my having remained conscious and functional for so long, I should have died within minutes. God was there. The purpose given me by those who trained me to be an Infantry commander was there. The motto of the Infantry is “Follow Me.”

During my command, most of my people came under fire. Some were wounded and some died. This is fundamental to an Infantry Leader: “Anyone I take out – I will bring home.” I never violated that trust. And if I am remembered by my soldiers for that alone, that will do.

31 August, 2001″

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker with T.U. Dai, his counterpart and brother in Vietnam. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

The MACV patch. Photo credit Tucker.

Tucker’s experience in the hospital and with his nurse are in the next essay,

“I’m sure I’m not alone in having a thing for nurses. Something about their firm calves in those white stockings and practical shoes and the way their starched blouses…well anyway, I’ve had my share of crushes on nurses. They’re just so damn perfect – comfortable with their bodies, great massages, no issues with scars… Now that I think about it, my second girlfriend was a nurse. (I named my puppy at Tan Nhut after her.)

In the TV series “China Beach ,” Dana Delany created an iconic character, Army Nurse Colleen McMurphy. She was tough, competent, caring, sexy, human…and her emotion was never self-indulgent, always earned. I very much admired her work in that show…and eventually I got to tell her so.

But I digress.

In the wards of 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon, Army officer nurses were stressed beyond belief. They contended daily with an abundance of young broken bodies and shattered spirits. Some of their patients were not going to get any older; some wished for an end to their pain. These women had to find that nurse’s balance between caring for these men yet maintaining some emotional distance. Each found her own formula, but many of them came home as haunted as the men for whom they’d cared.

I have a picture of my nurse from Vietnam but can’t remember her name. I searched in vain for years, wanting to thank her, to tell her how much she’d meant to me, how much they’d all meant to us at that fragile time in our lives.

After about a week at 3rd Field, I was coming along. I’d learned to shower with plastic wrapped around my thigh, to prevent my metal sutures from rusting. I was still losing weight, (still fed intravenously) and still grateful to be around. My veins were all pretty tired and one weary nurse was having a tough time getting my IV properly installed. She failed time after time and I was losing patience, that shit really hurt! A spry, elderly bird colonel appeared beside her, sussed the situation and without a word, relieved her of the needle. In one deft move, she inserted that IV into my challenged veins with certainty, smiled and wheeled away. Ahhhhh. I exchanged a grateful smile with the younger nurse. We were both relieved. She’d been doing her best, and I’d never doubted that but still, it’s nice to find an old pro when you need one.

At the end of my second week, I overheard my doctors debating the removal of my trach. “He’s doing well, he’s fought off infection, maybe we can get him started on soft foods…” “Well, let’s give it a bit more time…” Later that night, I lay there, feeling a bit sorry for myself. There may have been a few tears in my ears, I’m not saying. I’d had nothing to eat or drink for fourteen days. Into the darkness of the ward appeared my very favorite nurse, an anticipatory smile on her face, and holding a small Dixie cup of vanilla ice cream.

She came to the side of my bed, saw that I was awake and lifted a small spoonful of heaven to my lips. That remains the single most intense experience of flavor I’ve ever known. Two more spoonfuls, each sweeter than the last, then she put her finger to her lips to remind me this was our secret and slipped out of the ward. I lay there in the dark, smiling with the memory of our tryst, eternally grateful for that kindness. I hope she knows how much I loved her in that moment.

Dear Tucker,

After reading your chapter about me, I am so back in Vietnam. What an honor to hear from you after so many years. To have a chance to tell you how much I loved you and all the brave young men I took care of is one of my greatest wishes.

You all meant so much to me! I am so blessed to have taken care of such brave young men. I have felt truly honored since that experience. My caring touch, my smile, my compassion, my passion as a nurse to care for your wounds and care for your spirit was truly my mission.

In my 38 years as a nurse, that one year as a nurse in Nam pretty much shaped me in my nursing and my life. I was forever changed. Some good and some not so good. I too suffer from PTSD. I get counseling from time to time. But I have managed to raise two great kids and have been married for 36 years.

Please believe me, it was such an honor to care for you and to help you heal. I am haunted each day about the hundreds of young men I cared for wondering what happened to them. To know you made it makes me feels so warm in my heart. You all are forever imprinted in my heart. Please keep in touch and hopefully we can meet so day soon and I can give you a big hug.

Love Ellen

Your McMurphy!”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker’s nurse Ellen in Vietnam. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in the hospital in Vietnam recovering from his wounds. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker with his friends Michael and Bob at the first American Vietnam Veterans Parade. Photo credit Tucker.

Tucker shares a few neat things that he loves Austin Healey cars and his first car was a GTO he bought off Victory Drive at a car dealership outside of Fort Benning while training for Vietnam. He shares about how fast the car was and how he loved cornering on sharp turns in his Austin Healey.

4. What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?

Punctuality. Dependability. Patience. Moral courage. Professionalism.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker marching in NYC for the first Vietnam Veterans Parade. Photo credit Tucker.

5. What project did you most enjoy doing while working in Hollywood?

Several of the projects below.

Space: Above Beyond will always be my proudest series work. My character was myself, the same values, 25 years after Vietnam. My favorite film experience would be The Cotton Club, particularly the recent re-edit: The Cotton Club Encore. Closely followed by CONTACT, my first major film lead.

I’ve had a very Zelig-like career. I’ve known Chris Walken since the mid-70’s. Morgan Freeman was in my very first play in 1972. Denzel Washington was my understudy in ’78…and Sam Jackson was in that same production. I was in Greg Hines very first play and we remained close friends until his death.

In my first I play I got to act with Morgan Freeman, where I wanted his role, but he got it. The public theater in NY has so many theaters where I got to watch so many great actors and actresses of the 70s and 80s perform. I got to see Christopher Walken on stage, which was wonderful. In the late 1980’s at a benefit for theater in NY, I was able to work on stage with Christopher and Matthew Broderick in a scene from “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel .” I love watching young comedians imitate Chris and then Chris do Chris where he has such a great sense of humor about himself. Deer Hunter is my favorite role of Chris’s.

Tucker’s essay “Familiarity Breeds Contempt ,”

“During the mid-70’s, I lived in New York City and was fortunate enough to appear on all three networks each week. I starred with JoBeth Williams in Jabberwocky, an ABC children’s show; I was ADA Frank Evans on NBC’s soap opera Somerset and the Emmy-nominated host of the CBS news magazine, Channel 2: The People. Combined with dozens of national commercials, I became accustomed to being recognized and greeted on the streets of New York City on a daily basis.

This was hardly movie star, rock star, sports star fame…it was comfortable, rarely threatening, a little like living in the neighborhood in which you’d grown up and being known by just about everyone.

People of color in particular always seemed to know my face and the characters I’d played; there were relatively few Black actors appearing on any regular basis in TV back then. It was pleasant; I thought little of it and went on with my life.

During the 80’s, although I became less successful on-camera, I remained in the daily lives of most Americans as the voice of more than a thousand radio and TV commercials. I still did the occasional play or film, there were a few successes, like THE COTTON CLUB and PRESUMED INNOCENT; but I was beginning to unravel, emotionally.

A subtle and perverse condition called Survivor Guilt encouraged thoughts of ending my life. My subtext had become the sense that I didn’t deserve to be happy, to be successful, to be alive. I struggled in denial for several years, depressed and self-destructive. Eventually people who cared about me persuaded me to ask for help and I was blessed once again.

I was put in touch with Dr. Victor DeFazio, a therapist who’d served in Vietnam before completing his studies in psychology. He accepted only veterans and policemen as patients and for several years before the fall of the Soviet Union, had worked with Russian psychologists to develop therapies for their Afghanzi. These Russian soldiers, returning from an unpopular and unsuccessful guerilla war in Afghanistan, had much in common with troubled Vietnam veterans.

With his help, I began to think more clearly and recovered my appreciation for the blessing of my life. I moved to California in 1991 and began to work more and more in prime time – in dramas, sit-coms, and most successfully, in the genre of science fiction.

I’d never been a very good ‘type’. In the eyes of casting agents, I seemed atypical of contemporary Black men in American life. But they decided perhaps someone like me might exist in the future – and my career was reborn.

Over a six year period, I appeared in some of the highest profile sci-fi shows on television, including The X-Files, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Millennium, Babylon 5, and Space: Above and Beyond, as well as in films like CONTACT and DEEP IMPACT. And a curious synergy between the growing popularity of the Internet; the proliferation of cable and a body of work that now spanned almost thirty years combined to make me, once again, familiar.

Not famous, not even remotely – but somehow, familiar. People I encountered ‘knew’ me, though many had no idea why. Some assumed we worked out at the same gym, or lived in the same neighborhood, or had gone to school together. Others could recite my projects chapter and verse, remembering roles even I’d long forgotten.

As always, it was the working people – bus drivers, stewardesses, baggage handlers, cabbies, policemen that seemed to notice my presence and their greeting was always a positive experience. They were genuinely tickled to encounter me and say hello. It really didn’t matter how far I traveled – India, Romania, Germany, Australia, England, Peru, Vietnam – thanks to the worldwide distribution of our media, I was suddenly recognizable to citizens all over the world.

So, my destiny is to be ‘familiar’. There are worse things; I can live with that. In this age of media addiction, I’ve had my share of fan mail and photo requests, but I’ll tell you what still gives me pause. I recently typed my name into the search engine Google. It came back with more than 261,000 references to web sites and pages discussing my work. Imagine that.

My father, Dr. Osborn T. Smallwood was a Lutheran minister, university English professor, Fulbright scholar, diplomat and civic leader. He is someone I admire and respect as much as anyone on this earth. I typed his name into that same search engine and found two references – a 1999 resolution by Ohio State University honoring his memory and a Stars Stripes article, the photo from which appears at the beginning of this essay.

Whenever I am tempted to feel remotely self-important, I am mindful of an absurd inequity in our culture – there is a lack of regard for genuine accomplishment and an obscene obsession with celebrity.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Tucker in “The X-Files .” Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in “Space: Above Beyond .” Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in “Star Trek: Voyager .” Photo credit Tucker.

6. What was it like working on such projects as The Cotton Club, Presumed Innocent, The X-Files, Seinfeld, Contact, Deep Impact, Star Trek: Enterprise, Curb Your Enthusiasm and your own work of “Return to Eden”?

Working “Seinfeld” was great where everyone was so professional. All of the actors on the show knew just how much humor to add to a scene, where they could make the scene funny as hell.

In “Space: Above Beyond ,” I was able to mentor younger actors. The role was me basically 25 years after Vietnam. The actors confided in me as well. There was a lot of trust and unique. The writers Jim Wong and Glen Morgan wrote the character for me and then wrote characters for me in “X-Files” and “Millennium .” They are like artistic godfathers to me; they are very generous and kind to me. I will always cherish working with them.

I would love the opportunity to work with Clint Eastwood sometime. Never had the chance, but would love to work with him.

Tucker’s essay about his career during the 1970s “Finding a Way ,”

FINDING A WAY

“I’ve really had four acting careers, in retrospect. I was rarely if ever a “good type .” Media perceptions and depictions of Black Americans has evolved markedly during my professional life. It began in 1972. I was then an acting student, under the G.I.Bill and my earnings as a waiter at The Goose and Gherkin. This pub-restaurant existed between two very high-end New York restaurants: Lutece…and The Leopard, less well known but no less elegant. I don’t recall ever having entered either.

But my personality was well suited to be a NY waiter and I enjoyed bantering with my customers. The Goose was on E 50th St, the customers from Madison Ave and the neighborhood. One night I served a table of perhaps eight people. They were animated, enjoying each other’s company. One spoke to me as I cleared their dinner plates. “You’re a hell of a waiter!”

I’d never doubted the largesse to be left to me, my tip…but I took a shot. “I’m even a better actor.” He smiled and said, “I’ll bet you are.” The next day I read for “an under five” character for his soap opera…and was cast.

As we shot, just before I entered, the stage manager told me to respond and say, “That’s correct.” I did…and it meant I got paid rather more money. The next day they read me for a continuing role. Frank Evans. Homicide cop. And then they offered me the role. It meant I would make 0 each day I worked. But there was a problem. Sandy Meisner and The Neighborhood Playhouse didn’t allow their students to accept professional jobs. Viewed it as a distraction, a form of corruption.

So, it came to pass that in a two-week period, I left my studies at The Playhouse…to begin my career. And then, so did Jeff Goldblum…and for a play. Two Gentlemen of Verona. He was 17, a talented actor, singer, musician…It was absurd. It’s 1971. I’m 27, a surviving Vietnam veteran…who decided to become an actor while he recovered at Walter Reed. Jeff – and pretty much everyone I’d recently met had known each wanted to be an actor, a performer, much of their lives.

I began modestly but gained traction. I got an Equity play at the Public Theater. That’s when I first met Morgan. And my theater work earned me a legitimate agent. Marge Fields. And her assistant was MaryJo Slater. I began to book national commercials. I went to Boston with JoBeth Williams. We shot 55 episodes of JABBERWOCKY. ABC later syndicated them nationally. And then I was cast as the host of CBS Channel Two: The People. It was an early news magazine. Apparently, I was good at this. Second season, the producer, writer, director, editor fired me. We were a good team. I was the host and he did everything else! The next week I was nominated for an Emmy for my work on his show. My first Austin-Healey Mk III was purchased from the resulting AFTRA-induced settlement.

More plays and readings. More projects. More commercials. Then came the meeting with Stanley Sobel for a role on SEARCH FOR TOMORROW. A soap opera that had been around since Christ was a corporal. They had never before had an actor of color under contract. Not since 1951. I read a few pages of the scene…and Stanley stopped me. “I don’t need to hear anymore.” He showed me a yellow legal pad with the entire first page filled from top to bottom with appointments. “I don’t want to see anyone else. I want you to do this role.”

It was my turn to sit back. With utter sincerity, I told him, “Stanley, I came today just to meet you, so that you could know me. I can’t take this role. I’ve just committed to Joe Papp, to be a part of the Black-Hispanic Repertory Company. We’re going to perform Coriolanus and Julius Caesar in repertory.”

I remember that Stanley then sat back too. And he said something that was to me seemingly cryptic. “OK. You let me concern myself with that.” And I left. (I should mention that Stanley Sobel, before having joined CBS was Joe Papp’s casting director. As had been Eileen Knight and Mary Colquhoun and Rosemary Tishler, among others.)

So, Stanley and Joe decided to make it possible to do both. The next seven months were among the most challenging months of my life. I handled my business. I did the soap in the morning, caught a character class with Stella in the afternoon and did Shakespeare at The Public Theater at night. I did that from late autumn well into the spring. And THEN, they invited me to participate in Shakespeare In the Park that summer. And I said “No. Thank you…but no.”

I was so burned out. I think Denzel assumed my characters that summer. 😉 With all of the internal drama that accompanied our repertory adventure, I’d been dealing with an entirely different issue on the soap. PG wanted to sign me to a long-term deal. Years. I was resistant. I enjoyed my work, the writing, my fellow stars. Yet I was frustrated by the seeming unwillingness to create my own reality. I existed as Executive Assistant to a mogul. Think Ted Turner, but younger. For a while Lisa and Travis ruled daytime as the resident Princess and Prince. And I was his…Hand. Yeah, that you can understand. 😉

So, when it came time sign a contract, I refused to sign for more than six months. They wanted two years. I had “go to hell” money from commercials. I really didn’t consider the money they offered. I knew I didn’t enjoy existing without my own life on this show. After six months, nothing meaningful changed…and I simply left.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

In the production JULIUS CAESAR. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker with Morgan Freeman on Deep Impact. Photo credit Tucker.

Tucker’s essay on working with Gregory Hines:

“It’s not listed among Greg’s theater credits, THE LAST MINSTREL SHOW, which starred Della Reese and was slated for Broadway. But after out of town runs in Delaware and Philadelphia, we never arrived at our slated opening at the Helen Hayes Theater. (I still have that NY Times full page ad announcing our arrival) So it goes.

Our producers included Colleen Dewhurst and they simply ran out of money, couldn’t get the sets out of Philly. The music and dancing were compelling, and the book engaged the use of blackface in a time of social change in America. My character, Jimmy “Tuskeegee” White questioned the morality of “corking up” to perform our music, believing it to be demeaning to people of color. In the second act, he confronts Black Sally (Della Reese) with his concerns and choses to quit the production.

Greg had been a performer for all of his life…but this was his first dramatic character role. He was brilliant dancer and singer; his instincts were solid, but he’d had little prior training as an actor. (I’ve had the singular pleasure of having tap danced with Gregory Hines and Jeffrey Thompson on a Broadway stage!) 😉 During the run he approached me one afternoon and asked, “Tucker, every night you play that scene…and you break down every night, often on the same word. How do you do that?” I described to him my training with Meisner and with Stella, spoke of “a preparation” and the actors work of creating a character’s history, back story and how that would inform his work, once in performance.

I don’t remember if Greg ever told me who he chose to study with…but I do remember a call late one nite. I was then living in a Tribeca loft. My phone rang and in hushed tones but full of excitement, Greg said, “Tuck! I’m down in the morgue! These guys are showing me how they do what they do!” Jesus, Greg, the morgue? But good on you! Greg was passionate about growing as an artist. And he was now preparing his character for the film WOLFEN. He continued to elevate his game with each performance, his creative instincts always on point.

And speaking of phone calls, months later I returned home one night from a black tie affair…and had this persistent impulse. CALL GREG! Not sure why…but I did; I left him a message. Days later he returned my call. “Tuck, I’m in Napa with Francis Coppola, working on a script. I think there’s something in it for you. I’ll be in touch.” The project involved was The Cotton Club.

Several weeks later in NY, I took a meeting for the project. I walked into a conference room with just two men. Francis Coppola and Robert Evans. I approached the conference table. They looked at me and then they looked at each other…and in unison, they said, “Kid Griffin.” That led to five months of creative joy…with Greg, with Diane Lane, with Laurence Fishburne and with just about every goddamn Hollywood star imaginable. They all visited our set every week and especially every weekend. For the parties! We had the most beautiful women in the world attached to this project…and they all wanted to meet them. 😉

Greg was a dear friend, a singular artist and left us far too soon. Art is short…and life thereafter, far too long.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

“The Last Minstrel Show .” Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in The Cotton Club as “Kid Griffin .” Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

On set of The Cotton Club with Greg, Tucker and friends. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Behind the scenes on The Cotton Club. Photo credit Tucker

Tucker’s great essay on his time with commercial for USAA, aptly titled “USAA ,”

“Long ago and far away (70’s, NYC) I was fortunate enough to shoot more than 100 commercials. Those and V/O are a real boost to a young actors bottom line. And then, somehow, I was just no longer “that guy .” Some of those campaigns wandered into the low 5 figures; it was all found money and was padding my pension.

Skip ahead 40 years. Haven’t even had a commercial agent in fifteen years. I hear buzz about a USAA campaign. I’ve been their client since 1968 as a young Lt. I doubted they’d ever cast me, tho My face is too well known. So I kept passing. They called again, said “bring some old photos from the war.” This meet was close by in Sherman Oaks and I had the time, so I stopped by.

The session was run by Dan Bell. Small world. Back in the late 70’s I was visiting patients in NY VA Hospitals with the Veterans Bedside Network. I decided to produce a two character play I’d found about two vets in a foxhole in Vietnam: one black, one white. Very funny, very dark. I got a grant and reached out to Dan, now back in LA. We’d met on an earlier theater piece in NY and I knew he’d be surfer dude perfect. I created a mobile set, sandbags, sound effects, uniforms. Dan flew in and we had a ball performing this dark little one act at the five NY area hospitals. Still have it on tape.

So, we meet, catch up, Dan puts me on tape. I go home and forget about it. A week later, there’s a call. They want to BOOK me. This turns into a whole campaign of multiple spots, lifts, print work….Long story short, that one visit led to a healthy SIX figure payout. You just never know. Btw, all this took place 8 years ago.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker appearing in the USAA commercial. Photo credit IMDB.com.

7. What was your experience in working with Francis Ford Coppola and Robert Zemeckis?

I very much enjoyed working with Bob. I was told that I was the first person he ever cast from a video as we had not met in person yet. I had only sent in an audition on tape. Later, Bob and Steve Starkey, producer on the film pulled me aside at the premiere and told me that they had wanted to honor the work that I did for the film, so they made me a lead in it. It was my first big time lead. It was a movie that my parents saw and could share with their friends. It was kind and special for him Bob to do that for me. Other favorites include Francis of course and Alan Pakula.

I worked on Presumed Innocent with Alan Pakula. I enjoyed spending time and working with Harrison Ford and Raul Julia. My testimony scene with Raul Julia had to be cut to make time for the two hour edit. It was some of the best work I have done, and it tore my heart out having it cut. Raul was just wonderful to act with.

It was wonderful working Jodie Foster in Contact. I admire her so much. Jerry Griffin was great to spend time with since he’d been the mission commander at NASA during the moon missions.

I love the Cotton Club: Encore cut and am grateful for Francis releasing that where so many performers got their life back on screen, where some of them are no longer with us. So many of them are gone. Some of them had done so much and were not in the theatrical release of the film, but now they are back. I am so happy for their families and those that are still alive to see themselves on screen in the film. I love the reality he gave me back. I got my screen life back to where my role in the film was to keep things cool at the Cotton Club.

We had initially improved the film on a green screen where Francis had all of these state-of-the-art things such as cameras and effects. Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne did an improv in front of the green screen where you would have paid to watch that improv. The scene is in the movie based on their improv. I saw it and the work was just so delicate and fine. Fred and I used to race everyday while in makeup in doing crossword puzzle for the NY Times. Working with Fred Gwynne on the film was great. He was a very intelligent man; had attended Harvard!

The mob was very, very present on the film. We had been shooting the movie for about five or six weeks and the mob was messing with Francis, so he just left and went to England. The mob was trying to withhold money or something. They resolved their differences and Francis then came back from England to resume filming. I remember another instance where Francis was on set embracing two smaller men. Francis is a bear of a man. The two men he was embracing were Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. He was their mentor. It was a scene I will never forget.

For all those years I knew the footage existed that became the encore version of the film. I thought the mob had the footage. Francis was a hired gun on this film. The encore version absolutely flows. I have pictures of being on set where Greg’s daughter Daria and Francis daughter Sophia are running around the set as kids. Tom Waits was my roommate for five months on the shooting of the film. Tom is a trip. On set we were all doing improv’s, even with Nic Cage that got intense. Some people on set were startled by how profane our improvs got.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in Contact with James Woods and Matthew McConaughey. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in “Star Trek: Enterprise .” Photo credit Tucker.

Tucker’s essay on his work in Contact, “Contact: Dispatches from the Front ,”

“As usual, I am the bell cow…the point man…as usual, I am doing more work than most and receiving less for it than many. As usual, I am doing it, simply because I love the work…and it’s a good thing, for there is much of it to do. I have perhaps 90% of all the live dialogue…and this is my fourth day of twelve and more hour days…and tomorrow and the following tomorrow’s promise nothing different….no polite chat, this…it is an intense, ‘Mission Impossible’ sequence.

I am the Mission Director. I command…amidst the sea of principals, atmosphere, Jodie Foster video playback and crew. This is no knock on her, she’s generous and hardworking and this is her 64th day…and my 4th. The intricate set of a launch command aboard ship is three-tiered, with perhaps fifteen video monitors and dozens of computer screens everywhere, depicting data, Jodie (Ellie) in the POD (pre-recorded) and ‘live’ cutaway shots of the MACHINE, with blue screen in the background….To ‘dance’ to a pre-recorded master and fit your action between her running cues is a daunting task…add to the degree of difficulty, NEW lines written for us AFTER her master was shot, scripts that do not remotely accurately reflect what she is saying at any given time, and a severely challenged video crew, manfully trying to cue up and playback three separate signals while a camera dollies, pans, zooms, tilts and whips amongst the multiple players, many themselves in motion and you have an inkling, but only an inkling of what I’ve been handling since last Wednesday…

Ain’t complaining, happy to be on board…proud of my ability to ‘block’ as well as ‘go long’ …and I am grateful finally to be receiving words of appreciation from my director for my focus and professionalism. I got it from the first day from the crew and cast…but had begun to feel like ‘the mule’, who is hitched up and expected to pull till he is released at dusk – and I will, just because I do it for my OWN sense of professionalism. But like anyone, I appreciate a pat at the end of the day…and hadn’t received it from he who should have most valued my contribution…

Perhaps because on the first night of shooting, after 8 hours of shooting scenes which involved a NOD FROM ME (and I did it, over and over, never big, never too small, always in the scene), we entered the master set to ‘rehearse and read thru’ the entire launch sequence….and James Woods arrived…I love Jimmy’s work, he’s easily one of my favorite actors, focused, intense, witty…and ON. Since he had NO lines in the work that would require his presence for the next week, he proceeded to take over the rehearsal, arranging business, focus and directions that had little to do with what was to be shot and was in fact undercutting and distorting the reality of my character. After about twenty minutes of this, something happened. Amidst perhaps 60 extras, as many crew and the entire cast of principles present, I stepped forward and WENT OFF…

Without particular anger or personal animus, but in my inimitable way, I told them who the Mission Director was (God) to whom he answered (no one) and that while he might be fired or relieved of duty, as long as I was that Director, I would decide when and if the mission were to be aborted or launched. That’s why I was hired for the launch, that’s my JOB, outranked undoubtedly by many present, but as far as this launch was concerned, I make the decisions…

This took about five minutes, perhaps…there was a silence, perhaps 30 seconds…and then Bob stepped in and redirected our efforts, rather along the lines I’d suggested, James continuing to contribute but acknowledging my point of view…and we went home. That night, I reflected upon the possible folly of my ‘forwardness’ – ‘what had I done!!?’ ‘I’ll never eat lunch in this town again’…but knew I could have done nothing else. Personally, I’d defer in a heartbeat to these major players, but I am absolutely fearless in defense of my character. The next day, and even leaving that night, people came up to me discreetly – crew, cast, to express admiration for my ‘speech’…but more importantly, I learned from key crew, that’s what Jimmy DOES…”He sucks the air out of any room he’s in….(the casting director came up to me at lunch and playfully noted she had “heard about the ‘to-do’ Jimmy and I’d had the night before…and Bob probably admires you for standing up to him.”

Maybe so….but Bob also may have made a mental note that he had a potential ‘loose cannon’ on his hands….which didn’t make my frequent requests for MY NEEDS in handling the demanding pre-recorded track any more welcome or easier…but he seems to have come to realize that I am exclusively focused on ‘the work’ and only want to make it the best it can be in the way he wants it to be….and each day its’ getting better, for he sees my ideas are good and knows I’m thinking right along with him…and it’s becoming fun…but it’s still very hard work…

CONTACT II

Today, February 14, I wrapped my work on the film CONTACT…I experienced such an outpouring of love and affection during my work and particularly as I left, it seems somehow appropriate that it was Valentine’s Day. Earlier in the day, the producer, Steve Starkey had an embossed denim shirt with the film’s logo embroidered on it, left in my trailer. When I thanked him for the cherished memento, he said, “We thank you… for just being Tucker”

My character, the Mission and Test Director, was such a lovely marriage of their vision for the film’s leader of the launch sequences and my own sensibilities as prior military, forceful, articulate, authoritative and comfortable in the driver’s seat. I had been cast, solely from my audition on tape, purportedly the first actor ever so cast by Bob Zemekis, who normally insists upon meeting with each of his actors in person. The technical demands of working in both sequences with a pre-recorded video track were daunting, but I relished the challenge. And because I needed no attention to the persona of the character (he WAS me), I could devote all my energies(and a good thing!) to being in sync with what had already been established and had to be served (first, Jody Foster’s ELLIE on tape, later Tom Skerritt’s DRUMLIN and others, also pre-taped)…

The days were long and exhausting and that fatigue fed into the next, but tired as I was each morning as I arose, I knew that the core crew and cast had been at this since SEPTEMBER!…and that alone demanded MY energy to keep THEIRS up. If there was a difficulty for me, it was that my character was CERTAIN, never tentative, always definite….I could never allow myself the luxury to ‘feel’ my way… and since he was constantly being re- written, it required all of my gifts to keep him ‘on top of everything’, even as the fatigue, the re-writes, the technical video demands continually upped the ante and challenge. I accepted and met the challenge…and was rewarded with their respect. When it was announced this evening that I had completed my work, the entire room, a huge one, filled with people, cast, crew, more than 70, many of whom I had come to know and care for, rose as one and applauded, for an embarrassingly long time. When I quieted them for an instant and told them, “It is always an honor to serve with an elite unit…I salute all of you.” And meant every word; working with such a group of professionals spoils an actor for what lies ahead with lesser cohorts. I left, accepting the thanks, handshakes and hugs from my director Bob, my producer Steve, my ever-so- respected STAR, Jody who surprised and filled my heart with pride when she rose to take me in her arms…the 1st AD, Bruce, Bobby, my camera man, and just ALL of them….

This was their 89th day of shooting (and that doesn’t include weekends and days off). It was Valentine’s Day, it was 9PM and we started at 7:30 AM, they wanted to go have a drink and celebrate with their loved one, but more work remained to be done. Yet they took a moment to let me know that my contribution had been valued and appreciated…and I will hold onto that memory for many a day, for it came from people who work with the best in our field, every day of their professional lives. I know how special each one is in this business…and they told me I am a peer…and that’s all I ever wanted, all I ever aspired to, as an actor. My heart is very full.

Yesterday, I had given a copy of my CD, INCARNATION, to the father and son who ran our craft services. A very gracious and accomplished Black man, John played music of all sorts, all tasteful, in his trailer…and I hoped to repay his kindness of cappuccinos by sharing some of my music…he played it, through the day, yesterday, as cast and crew stopped by for a snack or special coffee…and people continuously came up to me and expressed interest in the music, ‘how could they buy it?’, was that really me singing?…my audio man, Earl, expressed a desire to have a copy (and I’d had a ‘feeling’ I’d wanted to give him one, somehow I KNEW he loved blues). So today, I brought him one, too. And HE played it, quietly, just off the sound stage…and people continued to ask about the music and express their affection and admiration for the songs…so I let those who were computer-literate know that they could put my name into their search- engines and find my homepage and instruction for buying the CD…and last night printed out the mailing addy for those who don’t play on the internet…..but it was fun to share the music with so many…and perhaps that contributed to the universal embrace I experienced from them all…an actor, and professional, yes…but someone with a few more facets than might have first been seen….

We’ll see how many cards Clark receives in the weeks to come, requesting a copy of the music.”

8. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?

You have to show up. You have to know your profession and be willing to do the work. The joy in each comes not from attention or honors but from fulfilling personal values of that which constitutes excellence.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker in Edinburgh, UK. Photo credit Tucker.

9. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

Find and write good stories. There is surely no shortage.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker with Mayor Bloomberg. Photo credit Tucker.

10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?

Surviving critical injuries to learn a new profession. Then succeeding in every aspect in which I was allowed to compete. Soaps, commercials, voice-overs, theater, film, comedy, drama, public affairs, children’s TV.

I do have great concern for our military members and veterans currently serving. I feel some service members need to stand up for what is right and look at what orders are being given and by who. Some Generals need to do the right thing as well and stand up

We need to have good leadership to help us fight global warming and support the environment.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker marching in a later “Welcome Home” parade for Vietnam veterans in NYC where he is a member of the chapter. Photo credit Tucker.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Tucker speaking on behalf of veterans. Photo credit Tucker.

Tucker’s essay “Mahalia”

MAHALIA

For whatever reasons, on this Christmas Day I’m remembering an Easter Sunday years ago. I recently heard a spiritual, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and flashed back to the late ’70s, when I was performing in MAHALIA, a musical play based on her life. In the first act, I was a member of the choir and other supporting characters; in the second act, I was Minnis, her third husband. Minnis was a jazz pianist, a charmer and a philanderer.

When preparing the character, I struggled to find that emotional connection between him and Mahalia. She was obviously wealthy and renowned, but hardly an object of physical desire.

I thought back to a preview performance I’d seen years before, of a musical called SOON. The cast included Barry Bostwick, Peter Allen and Richard Gere. During that performance, an actress appeared on stage and ascended a staircase to a single spot-lit balcony. She was rather short, rather stout and not particularly attractive. Then she began to sing. And in that moment, she became the most beautiful, the most desirable, the most compelling woman in the universe. In a theater seating hundreds, she sang to me. Each member of the audience had that same experience; her voice, her music, her message was received individually. Her name was Nell Carter.

That memory explained why Minnis loved Mahalia, loved her on every level. Her art, her majestic gift transcended mere physical attractiveness and made her all things desirable. And during the run of this musical (written by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet) each night my character Minnis fell in love with Mahalia, who was performed by the incomparable Esther Marrow, herself a Mahalia protégé.

I was then living in NYC and our performances were in Stamford, Connecticut, which meant a daily drive or train ride to the theater. I’d arranged the rental of a station wagon and a number of the cast shared that drive each day. It was a time of fellowship, jokes, bickering; the animated energy generated by a theatrical troupe.

Today was Easter Sunday. I then lived on Central Park West and I had my pre-show rituals. My day would begin with a walk along the park to buy the Sunday Times, while reflecting upon last night’s performance and my intentions for today’s matinee and evening show. The morning was warm and sunny, the work was going well, and I was looking forward to really nailing my featured love song to Mahalia today.

There’d been some drama in the past regarding my inclination to venture from the notes written and to improvise. I’m not a Broadway baritone, not even really a singer in the true sense of the word. (You’d be surprised how being shot through the throat affects your voice.) But I am musical and a fairly interesting actor. So each show, I walked that fine line of fulfilling the intentions of the composer and fulfilling my own need to express the truth of my character. I’d tell them, “Well, Esther improvises…” And they’d then tell me, “Well, yeah…but she’s ESTHER MARROW!”

As I approached the newsstand on the corner of CPW and 100th St, I noticed two young men exiting the park and running across the street toward me. One wore a red windbreaker. They seemed Hispanic – or is Latino more correct these days? As they reached my side of the street and stopped ten feet away, one cried out to me, “You killed him. You killed him.” The other drew a revolver from his waist, cocked it and aimed it at my chest.

Time stopped, as it does in such moments. One takes in everything. Everything. The smells, the light, the sounds are all super-heightened, the ultimate Kodachrome. I wondered, in abstract, whimsical dispassion, “Does he mean Jesus? It is Easter Sunday…” And then he pulled the trigger.

Imagine standing inside a wind tunnel, yet within the eye of a hurricane. Everything about us roared and swirled, but this microcosm was absolute stillness and silence. There was a click. The sound of a hammer striking…what? A faulty cartridge? A damaged firing pin? An empty chamber? Only God knows and He ain’t talkin’. His friend said, “Man, man, man – you f*****’ up!” In those instances, I’d taken perhaps one step towards them, perhaps two…and have no idea what I intended.

They proceeded to wheel about, race back across CPW and disappear into the park. I stood there for some moments. There was no one around. No one. I collected myself, entered the corner newsstand, bought my Sunday New York Times and walked back to my home. There, I called the police and told them what had happened. They eventually came by; I gave a report and they left to search for the pair. They told me, “You were menaced.” Curious, the subtle difference between menaced and murdered…just an unreliable weapon.

In subsequent years, when I recounted this experience, friends (knowing something of my temperament and history) asked, “So, what’d you do then? Did you take his gun and pistol-whip him and beat the snot out of them?” I’d tell them that life is seldom like a movie. That I simply stood there, remembering close calls in Vietnam, grateful that this encounter had ended so well.

After an hour or so I picked up the rental car, met my cast members and began the drive to Stamford. I don’t remember discussing the morning’s events – not sure why.

During Act One, as we began to sing, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” I suddenly broke down in tears – just lost it, right there on stage in front of everyone. I was led backstage by someone; and there sobbed and sobbed, inconsolably. There was a discussion…could I continue, could I regroup?

They covered for me til the end of the first act and during the intermission, I got my own act together. Act Two proceeded without incident…and I seem to recall I sang my solo rather well that day.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Cast notables include Esther Marrow, Nat Adderly, Jenifer Lewis and Keith David. 25 DECEMBER 2002

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here is how the Army-Navy game became so huge

The Army-Navy game is a big deal. That said, over the course of this 120-year rivalry, it’s been important for different reasons.


Through World War II, Army and Navy were two college-football powerhouses, able to hold their own against the likes of Rutgers and Norte Dame. Both Army and Navy have won National Championships, but that hasn’t happened for either team since 1946 and 1926, respectively. Currently, across the 117 meetings of these two teams, Navy leads the series 60-50-7, thanks, in part, to a 14-year winning streak that ended with Army’s 21-17 win in 2016.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
A play from scrimmage during the 2002 Army-Navy game. Navy won, 58-12, after an incident where Army cadets stole the Navy’s mascot. (US Navy photo)

Times have changed: Today, Army and Navy aren’t regular contenders for the national championship. But even if these teams aren’t competing for a national title, the Army-Navy game, which has been played routinely since 1890, is still a big deal. In fact, it’s the only game played the weekend after conference championships.

Why is this game so fervently followed? There are a number of reasons outside of exciting football, two of which are unique to this match-up. First, while many Division-I college players eye professional football after graduation, those going to military academies are to fulfill a five-year service obligation. The fact is that most professional teams selecting players in the seven-round NFL draft don’t have the luxury of waiting for that service obligation to end.

Although this hasn’t stopped some of the greats in the past, including Roger Staubach, Phil McConkey, and Joe Cardona, it’s not very likely today. That means that the men on the field are playing purely for the love of the sport, not for a contract down the line.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Dallas Cowboys Hall-of-Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who threw 153 TDs in a career that began after service in the United States Navy. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Second, what sets the Army-Navy game apart from other college football matches is the fact that the players in this game, at some point in the next four years, will be defending our country. Each year, first-class cadets and midshipmen storm Lincoln Field in Philadelphia, ready and willing to play for pride, while they’re just months away from joining a military still fighting a global war on terror.

All will serve bravely and, unfortunately, some of them may even make the ultimate sacrifice. In July 2010, former Army quarterback Chase Prasnicki was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. The Army-Navy game is just as much a celebration of the brave, young service members that defend our home as it is a celebration of sport. That is why the Army-Navy game is such a big deal.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is the bizarre story of a team of Army Rangers who robbed a Washington bank

“Ranger Games,” by former Seattleite Ben Blum, is something of a genre mashup, part journalism and part family memoir.


The journalistic part pieces together, in high definition, the brazen 2007 robbery of a South Tacoma bank by a group of Army Rangers from Fort Lewis. The robbery, Rick Anderson’s coverage of which for Seattle Weekly gets brief mention (“Soldiers of Fortune,” Nov. 29, 2007), is a stranger-than-fiction tale in which a possibly psychopathic Army specialist convinces a “cherry” private and a small group of others that their training makes them well-suited to take out a bank.

As Blum describes it, the robbery sounds like something that would have been fun to watch were you not facing the barrel of one of the AK-47s the robbers hoisted: Rangers vaulting over barriers, calling out precise time checks, and then respectfully thanking everyone when it was done, all within 2 minutes. Astoundingly, the elite soldiers’ dexterous robbery was undone when they drove away, with security cameras watching, in one of their own cars with the license plates in full view. Arrests were made within a day.

None of these details are spoilers, by the way; so rich is this book that the facts of the robbery are dealt with quickly in the first few pages.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Stills from the bank-surveillance video. Images courtesy of FBI.

Which brings us to the family memoir part of the book: Blum’s insight into this piece of local history is sharpened by the fact that his cousin was one of the robbers—or the get-away driver, to be precise. Pfc. Alex Blum’s Audi with Colorado plates was the team’s undoing, and a large portion of Ranger Games is devoted to Ben Blum trying to figure out how Alex wound up involved in such a fiasco. As described by the author, the Blum family is an all-American sort, which is not necessarily a flattering look: they are wealthy, white, apathetic toward the Iraq War Alex would soon be fighting in, and sitting ducks for the looming housing crisis.

Blum’s portrait of his cousin is unsparing, peppered with quotes that make you kind of hate him. “I play a tough guy on the exterior, but a kid gives me a card, I hang it in my office. He signed it himself, in his little retard writing,” Blum quotes his cousin at one point in full bro mode.

Indeed, it is Ben Blum’s love-hate relationship with his cousin that is the driving tension of the book. The central question is how willing a participant in the robbery Alex was. Through breezy explanations of Ranger culture and prisoner psychology, Blum builds a plausible case that Alex was completely at the mercy of his military chain of command, and so when a superior told him to drive to a bank with a bunch of guns in the back seat he had no choice but to follow orders.

This theory was endorsed by none other than Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who orchestrated the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971. At one point, Zimbardo and Alex appeared on the Dr. Phil show to explain how it all worked in Alex’s brain. “So what you’re telling me,” Dr. Phil says at one point, speaking for the entire world, “is that you did not know that you were involved in an armed. Robbery. Of a bank.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Dr. Phil McGraw. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Blum shares Dr. Phil’s skepticism. The author is careful to note the holes in this explanation, and as the book progresses those holes grow and shrink. The book reaches its climax when Blum has an 8-hour interview in a federal penitentiary with Luke Elliott Sommer, the ranger who orchestrated the heist. Blum contemplates whether Sommer is a psychopath—with the help of a clinician from Washington’s McNeal Island—to uncertain results.

What’s clear is the guy is highly manipulative and fucking nuts, a dangerous combo if there ever was one. He was prone to forcing subordinates to do “suicide checks” at Fort Lewis, which entailed giving soldiers a gun and demanding they hold it to their head and pull the trigger, to prove loyalty and trust. Blum writes that he could empathize with those who obeyed the crazy orders.

“At the distance of a small table from Elliott, there was a strange double quality to my consciousness,” Blum says in describing falling into Sommer’s trap, “one half telling myself I could see right through him, the other half helplessly interacting on his terms.”

More than anything else this is a book about uncertainty: Uncertainty in one’s consciousness, in one’s family lore, in Dr. Phil, in what we can call free-will. Uncertainty in why the robbers didn’t cover up the Audi’s license plate.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 small changes that would have made these military movies better

We love movies! That’s exactly why studios spend millions of dollars making them. As long our eyes are glued to the silver screen, they’ll continue to put out blockbuster after blockbuster. Some film moments, however, don’t land well with the audience.


No movie is without flaws.

Even though we watch and rewatch these films, most of us would like to see some moments altered. Here’s what would’ve better satisfied our tastes.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*

Related: 5 mistakes newbies make right after boot camp

1. Don’t let the terrorist win

If you watched 2017’s The Wall through to the end, you got an intense representation of what it’s like during a sniper duel. But, at the end of the movie, (spoiler alert) the good guy’s extraction helicopter gets shot down by the bad guy’s perfectly placed round.

Don’t get us wrong, we can appreciate a good plot twist, but watching a terrorist win out just isn’t any fun.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Isaac (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) takes cover behind a brick wall as he comes up with a plan to defeat his enemy. (Image from Roadside Attractions’ The Wall)

2. Don’t pull on the daisy chain wires

Not only is this dangerous, but it’s totally unpredictable. This tense sequence in The Hurt Locker would have been more believable had the EOD tech not pulled on all the cords for purely cinematic reasons.

3. Get some freakin’ haircuts

We get that troops on the ground who engage the enemy sometimes don’t have time to get a haircut. We’ve been deployed, we know how it goes.  That said, Joker and the rest of the Marines in Full Metal Jacket seemed to have haircut amenities where they were stationed before being sent into Hue.

A good military haircut goes a long way.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Joker (middle) looks depressed as he waits on the base barber to show the f*ck up. (Image from Warner Bros’ Full Metal Jacket)

 

4. Trim down the love storyline a little and get to the action

We’re looking at you, Pearl Harbor.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

As much as we want to see Kate Beckinsale as often as possible, we also want some awesome explosions — and sooner. (Image from Buena Vista Pictures’ Pearl Harbor)

5. Get a clean shave

Last Flag Flying puts the true meaning of military brotherhood, even years after service, on display. But let’s consider getting a good, clean shave before donning a set of Marine Dress Blues for a funeral.

Also read: 5 things you didn’t know about Sgt. Elias’s death scene in ‘Platoon’

6. Save Mellish — or at least try to!

During the last firefight in Saving Private Ryan, Private Mellish engages a German in hand-to-hand combat in a small room. He yells out for help, but eventually succumbs. But, right outside the room where Mellish meets his doom sits Cpl. Timothy Upham on the staircase, crying his eyes out as his buddy is stabbed to death.

We wanted to see a little more physical effort from Upham. We’re okay with Mellish dying if the plot demands it, but holy sh*t, we can’t bare to watch Cpl. Upham idly cry.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Iranian state TV used a photo of an actor from ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ to spread a wild theory that a senior CIA official was killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan

Iran’s state TV broadcast a photo of an actor from”Zero Dark Thirty” to illustrate a claim that the CIA officer that inspired the character had been killed.


On Monday, the US military confirmed an E-11A surveillance plane crashed in Ghanzi, eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban, who control the region, say several top CIA operatives were killed, and have since denied access to the crash site.

One of those CIA operatives was Michael D’Andrea, state TV said, according to BBC Monitoring, which first reported the claims made on Iranian TV.

Iranian TV did not provide any evidence for its claim that D’Andrea was killed Monday.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

But instead of airing a photograph of the real D’Andrea, Iran’s Channel One chose to show the face of Fredric Lehne, a US actor who played a character inspired by D’Andrea in the 2012 movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” The movie is a dramatization of the US assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.It is not know if the choice of photo was an error, or a last resort due to a lack of available photographs of D’Andrea.


Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

The network also said D’Andrea “had a key role in killing Iranian general Qasem Soleiman,” according to BBC Monitoring.

The movie details the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The real D’Andrea is the head of the CIA’s activities concerning Iran, according to The New York Times.

The CIA declined to comment on Iranian TV reports when contacted by Business Insider.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How to forge your own blade like Rambo

In honor of the release of Rambo: Last Blood, Lionsgate invited me out to Adam’s Forge in Los Angeles SO THAT I COULD LITERALLY BEND STEEL TO MY VERY WILL. A group of us had the chance to forge knives out of railroad spikes, much like Sylvester Stallone does in the film.

It. Was. Awesome.

If you’ve never had the chance to do something like this, then my friend I beg of you, get thee to a forge. It’ll make you feel alive.


Rambo: Last Blood (2019 Movie) New Trailer— Sylvester Stallone

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Rambo: Last Blood Trailer

Almost four decades after he drew first blood, Sylvester Stallone is back as one of the greatest action heroes of all time, John Rambo. Now, Rambo must confront his past and unearth his ruthless combat skills to exact revenge in a final mission. A deadly journey of vengeance, RAMBO: LAST BLOOD marks the last chapter of the legendary series.

“A hammer can be used to build or destroy,” observed Aram, the artist in residence at Adam’s Forge — and our lead instructor for the day.

He started out with safety information (“Assume everything is hot. The forge can be up to 2200 degrees and the steel doesn’t have to be glowing to burn you…”) and then, without any delay, he was thrusting his spike in the fire.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

“I don’t want you to worry about how sexy it is until the end.” Well, I am worried about it, Aram. I want mine to be sexy.

Lionsgate Image

When the steel is at critical temperature, it’s ready to be shaped and forged with the hammer. Aram demonstrated this, making it look exceptionally easy, but as you might imagine, it’s actually pretty challenging. The metal cools rather quickly, so we had about enough time to strike 16-20 times in quick succession per side, rotating the blade every 8-10 strikes.

Then there’s the issue of hitting the target, which takes practice. I found at first that I was able to strike with force OR precision — but rarely with both. Eventually I began to get the hang of it, until I learned that I was twisting my blade.

Sharpen, straighten, pound, heat.

Aram and guest instructor Al were there to supervise and teach us about the science behind the blacksmith trade.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Lionsgate Image

I discovered that if my tongs were too deep in the forge, their metal began to expand, loosening the grip on my blade. A quick dip in a bucket of water helped cool them down enough to begin again.

Once we’d begun to sharpen and shape the blade, it was time to work the handle, twisting it in a vice and hammering it into a curve. Here we were able to make artistic choices, which stressed me out because, again, I wanted my blade to be sexy.

Once we were satisfied with the shape of our weapon, it was time to temper it.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Lionsgate Image

First we brought the blade to critical temperature, which we were able to test not just by visually seeing that the thing was glowing hot, but by the fact that it was demagnetized. Then we removed it from the forge and let it cool until the magnetic quality returned. The molecular alignment of the metal was literally changing during this process.

Then we brought the knife to critical temperature once more before quickly “quenching” it.

According to Aram, different cultures had different recipes to quench their metal, which rapidly hardens and cools it. We could safely handle the blade after less than a minute of quenching.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

From there it was time to sharpen the knife on the grindstone, shave off and smooth down excess steel, and then apply a light layer of WD-40 to prevent rust.

At the end of four hours, we’d each forged our own blade. It was seriously bad ass. I felt like Iron Man.

Tony Stark Builds Mark 1 – First Suit Up Scene – Iron Man (2008) – Movie CLIP HD

www.youtube.com

Here’s my biggest takeaway about blacksmithing: it’s got the meditative quality of crafting with your hands combined with the power that comes from working with weapons. If you like going to the gun range, grab some buddies and go forge your own freaking dagger. It’s just cool.

I’m excited to share this with other veterans because it’s been proven how therapeutic it is to work with your hands, to create. I wouldn’t exactly tell a macho guy to go take a painting class (although…maybe?) but I’d recommend this in a heartbeat.

It felt powerful. It was hot and challenging and violent and contained.

And then I walked away with a bitchin’ new blade to call my own.

HUGE SHOUTOUT to Lionsgate, who does so many cool events for veterans, for this opportunity. Don’t forget to check out Rambo: Last Blood, out on Digital and coming to 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD on Dec. 17.

Articles

5 heroic movie acts a military officer would never do

Hollywood loves to use the military in its movies. You can’t blame Tinsel Town because they’re awesome. But on occasion, film directors and screenwriters tend not to identify the fine line between theatrical and practical.


Americans thrive on celebrating the actions of a war hero that saves the day (in slow motion of course) with the perfect Hans Zimmer underscore playing over the calibrated speakers. It’s emotionally driving.

Veterans can see through the bulls*** and know when our favorite characters go a little too far. So check out these heroic movie acts that an officer would never do (probably).

1.  Rhodey finds Tony

In Jon Favreau’s 2008 “Ironman” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped by a terrorist group and forced to build one of his deadly signature missiles the “Jericho.” Instead, the brilliant engineer creates the Mark 1 suit, defeats the first act villain and escapes.

 

Then, Rhodey (Terrance Howard) just so happens to show up finding Tony walking out and about in what appears to be a very large desolate area after spending three months in captivity. That’s quite a lot of missions he’d have to fly to save his missing bestie. With the odds that this was his first search and rescue mission, he should buy a lottery ticket.

2. Leave no man behind

Owen Wilson stars as a jokester Naval aviator who gets shot down and must fight to stay alive as he’s pursued by some pretty bad boys in Bosnia. Then, Rear Adm. Reigart, played Lex Luthor (I mean  Gene Hackman) risks everything — including his command — to fly out and rescue one of his men in “Behind Enemy Lines.”

That’s what we call heroic.

3. “You can’t handle the truth!”

Audiences love courtroom dramas and that’s why Hollywood continues to produce them.

In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit “A Few Good Men,”  Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) go toe-to-toe in the climatic third act of discovering the truth of who ordered the “code red.”

Let’s face it – real or not, it’s a freakin’ awesome scene!

4.  Engage – Engage!

2005’s “Rules of Engagement” stars Samuel L. Jackson playing Terry Childers, a Marine colonel who after successfully evacuating an American ambassador and his family in Yemen from an invading crowd orders his men to turn their sights on the invaders to end the fight — which contained women and children.

 

Also read: 35 technical errors in ‘Rules of Engagement’

5. Buzzing the tower

Tom Cruise plays Maverick in Tony Scott‘s “Topgun,” which was a hugely successful film in 1986 and helped sell tons of aviator sunglass. Admit it, you bought a pair.

After an epic battle with a Topgun instructor named Jester (played by Michael Ironside), Maverick gets a hair up his a** and decides to buzz the air control tower.

 

A pilot could totally lose his flight status for this prank.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Army combat vet streams new psychological thriller ‘The Gatekeeper’

Army veteran and USC School of Cinematic Arts Alumni Jordan Michael Martinez has released his 20-minute short film The Gatekeeper on Valorous TV. A psychological thriller that artistically and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide, The Gatekeeper stars combat-veteran Christopher Loverro (U.S. Army) and U.S. Navy vet Jennifer Marshall (Stranger Things, Mysteries Decoded).

“There’s a proliferation of post-traumatic stress disorder themed films being produced that I feel do not adequately capture the true essence and the reality of the situation facing the soldier who is returning from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Martinez explained. “In fact, advocating for an environment that offers a culture within and out of the military for positive mental health is a much more positive attitude than just merely labeling it as a PTSD problem. I really wanted to present the bigger picture of what many career soldiers and returning combat veterans go through.”

Watch the Trailer

https://vimeo.com/372506708

The film depicts the aftermath of a soldier’s actions in combat, taking particular care to explore relationships between an Army First Sergeant (Loverro) and his wife (Marshall), who begs him not to go back overseas.

“If you really want to help veterans you need to go beyond ‘thank you for your service,’” Jennifer Marshall shared. Telling their stories is a great way to start. Martinez hired veterans in front of and behind the camera. “I want to make a difference and start a conversation. I think The Gatekeeper can save veteran and civilian lives.”

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Army veteran Christopher Loverro in The Gatekeeper.

There have been more veteran suicides since 9/11 than combat-related fatalities. Suicide and symptoms of trauma remain significant threats to military veteran’s lives and quality of living. The veteran community is rising up to bring awareness to the need for healing after returning home from military service. 

“If you have PTSD or have been affected by an event, you are not weak. Getting help is not a sign of weakness,” urged Loverro, who champions veteran health and recovery. 

If anyone reading this is in crisis, please know that there is a hotline you can call for support: 1-800-273-8255 (or anyone in need can send a text message to 838255).

And for anyone else who wants to join in on the conversation or support veterans as they tell their stories, you can watch The Gatekeeper here on Valorous TV.

MIGHTY MOVIES

3 pieces of military tech from ‘The Mandalorian’ that we’re already working on

It’s now safe to say that Disney+ has a bonafide hit on its hands with their new Star Wars series, “The Mandalorian,” and it’s pretty easy to see why. The gritty worlds depicted in the series are ripe with believable characters, well shot and choreographed action sequences, and of course, an adorable (and highly meme-able) character just begging to become a hit toy this Christmas. I’ll admit, as the sort of guy that tends to prefer Kirk over Solo, I wasn’t all that excited ahead of time about “The Mandalorian,” but three episodes in, it’s safe to say that I’m a convert.

What won me over? Well, I’m a sucker for a space western (I am, after all, a card carrying Browncoat), but it’s not just the “shootout at the OK Corral” vibe of the show that gets me; it’s also the weapons tech. Star Wars may take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but the technology depicted in the franchise has always been more about the future than the past, and much like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The Mandalorian” is choke full of technology that may seem at home in the 24th century, but is actually on the verge of becoming a reality right here and now.

While I’ll try my best to avoid them, here’s fair warning: spoilers ahead.


What sort of tech is that? Well there’s…

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

(Disney)

Weapons that can see through walls

In episode 3 of “The Mandalorian,” Mando is doing a bit of reconnaissance on a building he may want to blow his way into (trying my best to avoid spoilers here), so he shoulders his breach-loading doom-rifle and syncs it with his helmet, using the rifle to help him see the heat signatures of people through the walls of the building. This sort of gear would certainly come in handy for galactic bounty hunters, but is also finding its way into use with first responders and the U.S. military already.

Systems like Lumineye will soon allow soldiers to use a handheld device to identify targets and locate potential threats on the other side of an opaque barrier using wall penetrating radar.

Lumineye Through Wall Sensing Demo

www.youtube.com

This system won’t work from a few hundred yards away like Mando’s, but his setup seems to be FLIR based rather than using radar technology. As FLIR themselves point out, most walls are actually too thick or well insulated to allow the detection of heat signatures, putting Mando’s version a bit further into the realm of science fiction… unless those walls are made out of some really thin space dirt or something.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

(Disney)

Jet Packs that actually work

Boba Fett, the character that’s arguably responsible for the existence of “The Mandalorian” (despite never actually doing anything cool in any of the movies) may have become a pop-culture icon thanks to nothing more than a kickass helmet and a jet pack, which made it sort of disappointing when the protagonist of this new series was shown hoofing it everywhere. By the end of episode 3, we do get to see some jet-pack-packing Mandalorians take to the sky in one hell of an action sequence, proving that there’s more to being able to fly than just falling in a Sarlacc pit.

While not quite the same in practice, British Royal Marine-turned-inventor Richard Browning has been raking in headlines for a few years now with his own jet pack suit that often draws comparisons to Iron Man (the first installment of which was helmed by John Favreau — the same guy that created “The Mandalorian”). Recently, Browning made a pretty damn cool looking flight off of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Take on Gravity Jet suit demo with HMS Queen Elizabeth

www.youtube.com

Granted, the “Gravity Jet Suit” isn’t just a pack you wear on your back like you see in “The Mandalorian,” so Browning doesn’t have two free hands to dual-wield pistols… but dual wielding is a pretty dumb thing to do in a fight anyway. Instead, Browning and co. developed an M16 mount for the jetpack that, honestly, comes with its own problems.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

(Disney)

A grappling cable that works

Mando uses his grappling cable for a number of things, from climbing moving vehicles to killing bad guys, and while the U.S. military isn’t quite ready to start spearing dudes with grappling hooks in the field, they have already begun fielding machines that assist in climbing (or reverse-repelling) up walls. These systems aren’t quite small enough to be wrist-mounted like Mando’s, but are pretty damn effective when it comes to climbing. I had a chance to try out a version of this technology at Shot Show a few years ago, but I didn’t look quite as cool as the Mandalorian when I did it.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

(Alex Hollings)

A system similar to this one has already found its way into SOCOM’s inventory, and the exact system I used has since been contracted to the Chinese government for their special operators.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY MOVIES

Air Force Thunderbirds will buzz Hollywood for ‘Captain Marvel’ premiere

On March 4, 2019, the long-awaited U.S. premiere of Captain Marvel will take place in Hollywood, California — but it’s going to have a little more shock and awe than a normal film because the Thunderbirds will be sending a formation of six F-16 Fighting Falcons Vipers for a flyover.

“This flyover is a unique moment to honor the men and women serving in the Armed Forces who are represented in Captain Marvel,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, the Thunderbirds Commander/Leader. “Being part of this event is a tremendous opportunity, and we look forward to demonstrating the pride, precision, and professionalism of the 660,000 total force Airmen of the U.S. Air Force over the city of Los Angeles.”


Captain Marvel ‘Combat Training’ Featurette with Brie Larson

www.youtube.com

Watch Brie Larson train with real Air Force pilots

“Thing thing that I found so unique about this character was that sense of humor mixed with total capability in whatever challenge comes her way, which I realized after going to the Air Force base is really what Air Force pilots are like,” said Brie Larson, the titular star of the film.

Captain Marvel is the first solo-female Marvel Cinematic Universe feature-length film, so there is a lot of symbolic meaning built into this release, but the film is also Marvel’s 21st feature in this canon of storytelling and the penultimate story of “Phase Three,” a timeline that began over a decade ago with the 2008 release of Iron Man.

This film will tell the story of Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who becomes one of the most powerful beings in the universe, and, as fans (and comic book readers) speculate, perhaps the best hope for defeating Thanos in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.

More: Air Force veteran’s honest reaction to Captain Marvel trailer

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BeHYSKxA4mk/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Don on Instagram: “Awesome time today showing the F15C to @brielarson and telling her the history, can’t wait for @captainmarvelmovie to come out!! @marvel…”

www.instagram.com

During production, the Thunderbirds hosted Larson as well as director Anna Boden for Air Force immersion and an F-16 flight at Nellis Air Force Base. The team also advised on the film to help with authenticity and accuracy.

The Captain Marvel flyover will include six high-performance fighter aircraft flying less than three fee from each other in precise information. It’s not something that the residents of Hollywood see every day, but it’s the kind of sight (and sound) that’s hard to forget.

This kind of immersion bridges the civilian-military divide. Just as Top Gun inspired a generation of aviators, Captain Marvel is going to have effects on military recruitment that will change our generation.

Also read: How Brie Larson is getting ready to be a USAF pilot turned superhero

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Take a second to admire the precision BECAUSE IT’S CRAZY.

The Thunderbirds welcome and encourage viewers to tag the team on social media in photos and videos of their formation with the hashtags #AFThunderbirds, #CaptainMarvel, and #AirForce – but we want to see them, too. Tag #WeAreTheMighty so we can check out your pics — we’ll be sharing our favorites.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Pre-order your ‘Baby Yoda’ toy now while you still can

Hasbro finally announced that they are making holiday spring wishes come true with ‘Baby Yoda’ toys.

Well, not Baby Yoda, because obviously that character isn’t Yoda, but he doesn’t have a name or a species yet and “The Child” isn’t as much fun to say.

So if the Baby Yoda Funko Pop didn’t do it for you or your children or your husband, then check out these collectibles:


Baby Yoda Talking Plush – Official Teaser

www.youtube.com

Baby Yoda Talking Plush – Official Teaser

BAHAHAHAHA watch that video with the sound on.

So far, this plush is the only physical toy we’ve seen but the other mock-ups look pretty cute.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Don’t forget to use Amazon Smile.

The Child Talking Plush

This little guy comes with 10 sound effects, as seen in the video above, and is soft and cuddly, which honestly makes sense because we all want to just cuddle the sh** out of the Yoda Baby.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

The Black Series

The Black Series will feature other characters from The Mandalorian so you can collect them all! Each sold separately.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

6.5-inch Posable Action Figure

You can make this little guy raise his teeny tiny little arm and use the Force! Don’t pretend like you won’t.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

These guys all seem to be really into his whole “eat a live frog” phase…

For the Bounty Collection, you can be just like our Mandalorian and collect the baby! Isn’t that fun? These little 2.2-inch Yoda Babies come in three 2-packs “to choose from.” None in the bassinet, though. Interesting.

Um. One of those poses is called “don’t leave” — talk about manipulation.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”

Funko

Oh, and don’t forget the obligatory Funko Pop! version.

So, which of these are your favorites?

Articles

How this WWI veteran became Metallica’s ‘One’

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was the first and only surviving Canadian quadruple amputee of the First World War.


Born in Pennsylvania, Christian settled in Manitoba before enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces almost a year and a half before U.S. involvement. It was in the Canada’s most celebrated victory at Vimy Ridge that Christian sustained his injuries, resulting in the loss of all four of his limbs.

Prince Edward VIII (who would later become King Edward VIII) visited Christian at the Toronto hospital and wrote about him in what would become a long string of inspiration that became Metallica’s One.

Everything they got wrong about the harrier in “True Lies”
Image via Sharon Williams and the Military Museums of Calgary

Metallica is one of the most beloved bands by U.S. troops and they have fully embraced the troops in return. They have invited veterans and their families on stage and they’ve also been “honored” by the use of their music in Guantanamo Bay.

But it’s in their music that they show their support for the troops, using the “plight of the warrior” as a reoccurring theme. None of their songs (or their music videos) capture this more than 1988’s One.

Related: 7 killer songs that use Morse code

The song takes inspiration from the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” written by Dalton Trumbo. The music video uses many clips from the same 1971 film, which was also written and directed by the novel’s author, Trumbo.

(MetallicaTV | Youtube)

“Johnny Got His Gun” is about a World War I soldier, Joe “Johnny” Bonham, who suffers severe injuries. After losing all four limbs and most of his senses in combat, Johnny reflects on his life, as memories are all he has left.  The film and novel are remembered for the ending where, after many years of insanity of being trapped, Johnny wishes only for death.

Having read Prince Edward VIII’s letter, Trumbo used the story as the inspiration for what would be his best selling novel.

Johnny may have been a fictional character, but Curley was the real soldier. And very much unlike Johnny, Curley loved life despite all that was thrown at him.

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Article via The Winnipeg Evening Tribute

Ethelbert “Curley” Christian never lost any of his senses, unlike his fictional counterpart, and remained in high spirits through out his life.

His cheer was noticed by the then Prince of Wales, who wrote about the joyous veteran. Christian fell in love with his caretaker, a Jamaican volunteer aide named Clep MacPherson. The two would marry shortly after. Their love — and her nursing skills — would spark the Canadian Veterans Affairs to enact the Chapter 5 – Attendance Allowance, one of the first in its kind.

Years later, Christian would meet King Edward VII at the dedication to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. He described to the Toronto Star their second encounter: “Just as he was passing he paused and pointed to me, saying, ‘Hello, I remember you. I met you in Toronto 18 years ago,’ as he broke through the double line of guards.”

After many years of a happy marriage and raising a son, Douglas Christian, Curley Christian passed away on the 15th of March, 1954. His legacy still carries on through both his advancement of Canadian Veterans Affairs and being the true inspiration for one of the most iconic power ballads.

Rock on, Curley. Rock on.

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