What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life turns 74 this year and watching it is a Christmas tradition in my home. The film hearkens to a bygone era where characters from the Greatest Generation grow up before our eyes. We feel their joy, sorrow and redemption on a personal level. It’s funny, sad and triumphant all at once. Having served three combat tours, this film now holds an important place in my heart. What it teaches today’s veterans makes it more than just a holiday film.

How many realize that the discouraged character of George Bailey is played by a real life war hero? In 1941, Jimmy Stewart received an Academy Award for Best Actor, but weeks later he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. With his significant civilian flying experience and degree, he was soon commissioned as a pilot, performing publicity and flight instruction duties. Stewart was not satisfied, and eventually fought his way into an assignment flying B-24 Liberator bombers, rising to Chief of Staff for the 2nd Combat Wing, 8th Air Force. On one of his 20 bombing missions over Nazi Europe his unit lost 13 planes and 130 men to enemy fighters and anti-aircraft guns. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. But the horrors he witnessed had made him “flak happy,” crushing him mentally. Reluctantly, Stewart was sent home to recover.

When he returned from the war he was haunted by what he had experienced in combat. Fearing that his Hollywood career might be over, he returned to California looking for work. Fresh young actors were taking roles that previously would have been Stewart’s for the picking. The stress of war made the 37 year old look more like he was 50, dashing his hopes of being a leading man again. Jimmy knew he had to do something. At first he wanted to do a comedy, as he felt there was enough sorrow in the world at the time. Eventually, director Frank Capra convinced him to play the lead role of George Bailey.  

Filming the classic movie was arduous, with a visibly changed Stewart struggling tremendously with Post Traumatic Stress. It was obvious to the cast and crew that Stewart was drawing heavily from the anguish and fear he felt flying over Nazi Germany. That’s what makes his performance so meaningful. A near-suicidal George Bailey was really Jimmy Stewart trying desperately to come to grips with the nightmare of World War 2. Watch the film again and see the raw emotion on full display. As Stewart prays desperately at Martini’s bar for help from God, you see a man absolutely broken. Those on the set were understandably shocked at what was happening. Stewart was unleashing a torrent of emotion, baring his very soul for all to see. It’s as pure a performance as you’ll find in cinema. This was the role that likely saved the actor’s career and perhaps set him on the path to true recovery.

Stewart’s career was back on track. He had reclaimed his place as America’s leading man. Serving his country was in his blood though. He refused to allow his tough wartime experience to define him. Stewart pushed through his pain. In something never seen in today’s entertainment industry, Stewart even continued serving in the Air Force Reserve. He flew his last bombing mission in Vietnam and retired as a Brigadier General in 1968. He re-defined himself as an actor and never forgot the importance of selfless service. It was his willingness to embrace the tragedies in his life that transformed him, and it is an example for today’s veterans to follow.

I once saw a young patient dying in front of me as the medics removed him from my MEDEVAC helicopter. It seemed like he was staring through me. After that moment, I couldn’t speak to anyone for some time. It was like I was outside of my body, watching myself experience something over which I had no control. I thought I was weak. Eventually I talked it out with my buddy. Writing my book also helped me. Since then I have realized that I wasn’t weak. I didn’t have a “disorder.” I faced something abnormal and I wasn’t alone. 

There’s an awful lot of George Baileys in this country. They answered the call. They sacrificed their own dreams for others. They defended the disheartened and led from the front. They and their families have given up so much but now they question if their sacrifices were all for nothing. Some are on that snowy bridge next to George Bailey right now, staring into that icy river, that permanent solution to a temporary problem.

If you’re struggling with PTS, stay the course. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. It’s the situation you were in that was wrong. What’s wrong isn’t how you dealt with life and death situations or how you handled the loss of friends. What you did and what you saw was not normal. You aren’t the problem. You are a hero for having survived the trauma. 

Now is the time for you to confront it and then use the experience for good. The clouds will part — I promise you. You are not broken. Reach out to the friends who were there with you and talk. You might think that it’s just to help you, but I believe it might help them too; they just might have been too scared to reach out themselves. 

So… be there this Christmas for an old friend. Call one old buddy this week and just talk. 

“Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” – Clarence

MIGHTY MOVIES

Wojtek, the 400-pound artillery bear, will get his own movie

Wojtek endeared himself to members of a Polish army unit in 1942 when he alerted them to the presence of a spy in their camp.

The Polish soldiers, who were released by Russia after the German invasion in 1941, were passing through the Middle East on their way back to Europe. Picking up new members on such a trip wouldn’t be unusual, but Wojtek’s case was a little different, because he was a bear.


Wojtek, whose mother is thought to have been shot by hunters, was bought by Polish soldiers while they were in Iran and eventually joined what would become the Polish II Corps’ 22nd artillery supply company in 1942.

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He continued with them through Iraq and into Egypt.

To board a ship to Europe in 1943, Wojtek needed to be a soldier, so the Poles formally enlisted him as a private — with his own pay book and serial number.

Wojtek, who eventually weighed well over 400 pounds, also got double rations.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

The badge of the 22nd Artillery Support Company of the 2nd Polish Corps.

“He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly,” Wojciech Narebski, a Polish soldier who spent three years alongside Wojtek during the war, told the BBC in 2011.

They also shared a name — Wojtek is a diminutive form of the name Wojciech, which means “happy warrior.”

Now Wojtek’s story is being documented in an animation feature by Iain Harvey, an animator and the executive producer of the 1982 adaptation of Raymond Brigg’s children’s story “The Snowman,” which was nominated for an Oscar and is still shown every year at Christmas on British television.

The bear smoked, drank, and wrestled with soldiers

When he was told about Wojtek, Harvey thought the story was “pure fantasy,” he told the Times of London this week. “It’s fantastic to have a piece of magic that’s real.”

Wojtek, who eventually rose to the rank of corporal, became a mascot for his unit.

Soldiers would box and wrestle with the bear, who was also fond of smoking and drinking. “For him one bottle was nothing,” Narebski told the BBC. “He was weighing [440 pounds]. He didn’t get drunk.”

He was trained not to be a threat to people and was “very quiet, very peaceful,” Narebski said. But he didn’t get along with another bear and a monkey that were also adopted by the soldiers.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

Wojtek was a source of good cheer for the unit, Narebski told the BBC. “For people who are far from families, far from their home country, from a psychological viewpoint, it was very important.”

But he was more than good company during the fighting in Italy.

A British soldier at the Battle of Monte Cassino said he was surprised to see the six-foot bear hauling artillery shells to resupply Allied forces. The company’s patch also featured Wojtek carrying a shell.

Filmmakers released a documentary about Wojtek in 2011. Harvey’s project, “A Bear Named Wojtek,” has secured funding from Poland, but he is still seeking a British partner, telling The Times that he would contact Channel 4 and the BBC as well as companies like Netflix.

Harvey’s project is being set up for release on the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 2020.

According to The Times, it will take 30 animators roughly a year to produce the 30-minute film, hand-drawing each scene on a tablet.

Narebski last saw Wojtek in April 1945, before the Battle of Bologna in Italy.

Once his unit was demobilized in Scotland, the bear was resettled at the Edinburgh Zoo.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

A monument to Wojtek in Krakow.

Former members of his unit often visited him at the zoo, where he lived until his death in 1963 at age 21.

Narebski returned to Poland but had trouble keeping in touch with his former comrades — both human and bear — because of restrictions put in place by the Polish government.

He never forgot about Wojtek, however.

“It was very pleasant for me to think about him,” Narebski told the BBC. “I felt like he was my older brother.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ trailer is a love letter to the original for sure

The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick has got that lovin’ feeling, if by lovin’ feeling you mean hot shot pilots, motorcycles, beach volleyball, a military funeral, and Harold Faltermeyer’s killer music.

Here’s the official synopsis:

“After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. When he finds himself training a detachment of Top Gun graduates for a specialized mission the likes of which no living pilot has ever seen, Maverick encounters Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), call sign: “Rooster,” the son of Maverick’s late friend and Radar Intercept Officer Lt. Nick Bradshaw, aka “Goose”.

Facing an uncertain future and confronting the ghosts of his past, Maverick is drawn into a confrontation with his own deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who will be chosen to fly it.”

Top Gun: Maverick (2020) – New Trailer – Paramount Pictures

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Watch the trailer — Top Gun: Maverick 

The music, I swear.

Directed by Oblivion’s Joe Kosinski, the film also stars Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Glen Powell, and Val Kilmer AKA “Iceman.”

The Top Gun pilots have upgraded their airframes (aviation has come a long way since 1986) from the F-14 Tomcat to the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

But that doesn’t meant the Tomcat doesn’t make an appearance…

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

Here’s a little visual recognition test for you.

If you look at the very last shot of the original trailer (the middle image above), you can see a solo jet flying over the snowy landscape. Based on the angle of the vertical tails (more parallel than V-shaped) and the distance between the exhaust nozzles, that’s no F/A-18.

Could be a Tomcat, though. Fan theories would call it an Iranian Tomcat, to be more precise. Will the big bad in Maverick be Iran? We’ll find out June 26, 2020.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
MIGHTY MOVIES

4 things you didn’t know about the epic film ‘Apocalypse Now’

In 1979, film-making legend Francis Ford Coppola released one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, Apocalypse Now. The story follows Capt. Willard (as played by Martin Sheen), a man tasked with the dangerous mission of traveling deep into the jungles of Cambodia to assassinate a rogue colonel who military intelligence believes has gone insane.


Immediately, the film captivated audiences around the globe. In fact, you can still find screenings of this film in movie theaters throughout the country today. It’s a masterclass in stunning scenery and epic metaphor.

Although this film holds a well-documented place in cinematic history, there are a few things you probably didn’t know about the Vietnam-era classic.

No major movie studio wanted to produce the film

At the time, movie studios were still bitter about the realities of the Vietnam War. Because of this, George Lucas (who worked on the early stages of the film’s development) and John Millius took the script to several studios and were repeatedly turned down.

As a result, the film was put on indefinite hold. Coppola, in the interim, went on to direct a couple of small movies you may have heard of — The Godfather, parts I and II.

After that overwhelming success, Coppola decided to produce his passion project without the help of studios, putting up million of his own money.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

A rare film print of Harvey Keitel sharing a laugh with Robert Duvall.

(MGM)

Coppola fired his leading man

Originally, talented actor Harvey Keitel was cast to play the role of Capt. Willard. But, soon after filming started, he was fired and replaced with Martin Sheen, who had his own reservations about taking on the role.

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Brando wanted some big bucks to play the role of Kurtz

Coppola convinced Marlon Brando to play the iconic role, one that would become one of his most famous characters. However, Brando wanted a million dollars per week to play the insane colonel. After the production agreed to his request, he was scheduled for three weeks of work. Coppola handed over one million smackeroos as an advance.

After a few weeks of shooting, production began running late. Brando’s people threatened to drop out and keep the million-dollar advance due to rescheduling.

Coppola wasn’t happy but, eventually, everything worked out. The acclaimed director got his villain to deliver an epic performance.

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The helicopters that were used in filming were constantly being called away to fight the rebels

At the time of shooting, the Phillipines was in the midst of a rebellion. The pilots that were used during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene kept getting ordered away to fight against rebel forces that were reportedly just 10 miles away from Coppola’s production.

Maybe they really did smell napalm that morning.

Articles

This female vet tells the story of amazing women in Ranger training

Rebecca Murga is an Army Public Affairs Officer with a passion for storytelling. Since she was commission through ROTC in 2004, documenting the stories of soldiers has become the foundation of her service.


What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

“I became a 25 Alpha [signal officer] but at the time I didn’t realize officers don’t do the things enlisted folks do,” Murga says. “But I happened to be in a unit that didn’t have a lot of video support and they really wanted their story told, so I covered all the communications systems and all the networks in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The experience of meeting soldiers in the field and relaying their lives to viewers changed her career forever.

“I got to meet a lot of soldiers, and I think that’s where I really started to fall in love with telling these stories,” Murga recalls. “I would talk to these people on the ground. They all came from different places and had unique individual stories. I think documenting these stories is important.”

After her time in active duty, she continued serving as a contractor in the CENTCOM theater, deploying in 2011 attached to Combined Forces Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. She supported Navy SEALs and Special Forces and other SOF units doing village stabilization and cultural support. That year was the first time women were embedded with special operators in teams called Cultural Support Teams.

“Ask any Marine that was in Helmand,” Murga says. “When you can’t search a woman because of cultural sensitivities, it becomes a security problem. When you have a woman with you who can pull an Afghan woman from the field to be searched, that’s incredibly important.”

She deployed at a time when the combat exclusion rule for women was still in place. Women were not supposed to be embedded with these combat units, but the operational needs made it necessary.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

Murga is now an award-winning filmmaker who has produced work for Fox, ABC, and CBS. Last year, she was one of ten selected for the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women.

“The military actually gave me the courage to pursue something that I love,” she says. “It’s a struggle. It’s definitely not something that you go in to naively. You can only choose it if you absolutely love it.”

Murga’s latest work is Earning the Tab, a three-part digital series about Maj. Lisa Jaster, the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

The need for women in forward-deployed combat zones despite the rules against it, coupled with requests from those units, made Murga wonder why the controversy surrounds women graduating from Ranger school.

“It’s a leadership school,” Murga says. “It trains you how to deal with high stress combat situations. A lot of people that go to Ranger school don’t necessarily go to the 75th Ranger Regiment. They’ll get fielded out. Until this past year no women have been allowed to go to leadership schools like that. It goes to how well trained you want your force.”

Graduating from Ranger School does not automatically earn a spot in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th has its own requirements and initiation processes. Murga’s point is especially important, however, because the Army’s plan to integrate women into combat functions starts with putting female officers in combat leadership positions.

“There’s talk about how they expected less from these folks and they weren’t allowed to go to certain schools,” Murga says. “But you can’t send people out to war and limit the amount of training you give. I’m talking about offering training that was not given to women.”

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
Maj. Lisa A. Jaster carries a fellow soldier during the Darby Queen obstacle course at the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo)

Maj. Jaster is a 37-year-old Army Reserve officer and engineer. She is a West Point graduate, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and she was not eager to be a part of Murga’s series.

“I had to convince her,” Murga says. “It took a lot of convincing. She knew there would be backlash like ‘Oh, you only did this to be famous and you only did this because you wanted a TV show,’ but it’s historic. I suggested we just video tape her around her house, five days before and then you have it and if nothing ever comes of it, then nothing ever comes of it.”

Murga did not film Jaster in training at Fort Benning. Ranger training is closed to external media. The Ranger training footage in Earning the Tab was shot by the U.S. Army’s own combat camera troops. Murga interviewed Jaster before and after the training, with the idea of documenting it because of its historical importance. Murga was just as interested as any one else in the rumors surround Jaster: Did she really earn it? Did the Army lower the standard? Why did she want to go through something so rigorous?

“I wanted to know why this mother of two, who loves fitness, who loves spending time with her family, why she wanted to do this,” Murga recalls. “She gave me the same answer most men I talk to gave me which is ‘I wanted to just prove to myself and see if I can do it.'”

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, right, pins the Ranger tab on his wife, U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Lisa Jaster, after she became the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army’s elite Ranger School, Oct. 16, 2015, in Fort Benning, Ga. She joins just two other women, Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, in gaining a coveted Ranger tab. (U.S. Army Reserve)

Though she did her best to strip away the politics, Murga still found the same polarization over women in Ranger training, even among her friends.

“The tricky part for me as a filmmaker was to try to tell this story in a way that was just storytelling,” she says. “It really wasn’t taking up a side or political position. It wasn’t examining the idea of women in combat, it was looking at this one school with this one woman and her experience there.”

 

Watch Earning the Tab Part I and Part II at We Are The Mighty.

 

Articles

This Vietnam War veteran will make you feel all the feelings

Army veteran Tucker Smallwood is truly one of the good ones.


He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
(Image courtesy of Tucker Smallwood)

Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.

We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.

“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”

He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.

Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:

You can also listen to Smallwood’s Battle Mix right here:
MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Winnie the Pooh’ was created by a vet explaining war to his boy

There is nothing more heart-wrenching to veterans with families than having to explain why daddy hasn’t been the same ever since he returned from the war. A reasonable adult can grasp the idea that war is hell and that it can change a person forever, but an innocent kid — one who was sheltered from such grim concepts by that very veteran — cannot.

A. A. Milne, an English author and veteran of both World Wars, was struggling to explain this harsh reality to his own child when he penned the 1926 children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.


What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

This might help give you a picture of just how awful the Battle of the Somme was. Fellow British Army officer and writer J.R.R. Tolkien fought in the Battle and used it as inspiration for the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

(New Line Cinema)

As a young man, Alan Alexander Milne stood up for King and Country when it was announced that the United Kingdom had entered World War I. He was commissioned as an officer into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals on February 1, 1915. Soon after, he was sent to France to fight in the Battle of the Somme.

The description, “Hell on Earth” is apt, but doesn’t come close to fully describing the carnage of what became the bloodiest battle in human history. More than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed — many of Milne’s closest friends were among the numerous casualties. Bodies were stacked in the flooded-out trenches where other men lived, fought, and died.

On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

A.A. Milne, his son, Christopher Robin, and Winnie the Pooh.

(Photo by Howard Coster)

Milne returned to his wife, Daphne de Selincourt, and spent many years recovering physically. His light finally came to him on August 21, 1920, when his son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born. He put his writings on hold — it was his therapeutic outlet for handling his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress) — so he could be the best possible father to his baby boy.

One fateful day, he took his son to the London Zoo where they bonded over enjoying a new visitor to the park, a little Canadian Black Bear named Winnipeg (or Winnie for short). Alan was drawn to the bear because it had been a mascot used by the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Despite being one of the most terrifying creatures in the zoo, Winnie was reclusive, often shying away from people.

Alan saw himself in that bear. At the same time, Christopher loved the bear for being cuddly and cute. Understandably, Alan bought his son a teddy — the real-life Winnie the Pooh bear.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

It all kind of makes you think about that line Winnie’s says to Christopher, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

(New York Public Library)

The demons of war followed Milne throughout his life. It was noted that when Christopher was little, Alan terrified him when he confused a swarm of buzzing bees with whizzing bullets. The popping of balloons sent him ducking for cover. Milne knew of only one way to explain to his son what was happening — through his writing. A.A. Milne started writing a collection of short stories entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.

It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.

It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.

The books were published on October 14, 1926. As a child, Christopher Robin embraced the connection to his father, but as the books grew in popularity, he would resent being mocked for his namesake character.

Christopher Robin Milne eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and they both served in the Second World War. His father was a Captain in the British Home Guard and he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.

It was only after his service that he grew to accept his father’s stories and embraced his legacy, which endures to this day.

In fact, Christopher Robin, a film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Marc Forster (known for Finding Neverland), is opening this weekend. Be sure to check it out.


MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine’s epic journey from service to ‘LOST’ to ‘Jack Ryan’

Graham Roland always knew he wanted to be a writer. The problem out of high school was that he didn’t really know what he was going to write about. The answer would come when he joined the United States Marine Corps in November of 2000, becoming a Forward Observer. After nearly a year of training, he reported to his reserve unit.

Two months later, the 9/11 attacks occurred. For the next three years, he experienced a series of false alarms before finally deploying to Fallujah in 2005. He experienced what many service members do when transitioning out of the military, and certainly when returning home from a combat deployment: culture shock and heightened anxiousness, though he didn’t recognize it at the time.

Instead, he jumped right into film school — a fortuitous decision.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZwEBHc_PBw
PRISON BREAK Trailer (FOX Series – 2017)

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Prison Break

Thanks to the mentorship of one of his professors, Robert Engels, Roland was encouraged to write a television script. In 2006, television was just beginning to morph into the epic storytelling platform it is today. With shows on the air like Dexter, The Sopranos, The Shield, Deadwood, and of course LOST, television was becoming a new beast for dramatic writing.

Roland’s script was strong enough to land him management with Gotham Group and a job as a staff writer for the final season of Prison Break in 2008.

For anyone unfamiliar with the writing industry, landing a high-caliber manager and a staff writing position are both extremely coveted and competitive accomplishments. Roland didn’t take the opportunity lightly.

“To this day, that was the longest single writing contract I’ve ever had. That was more my film school than actual film school,” he recalled. The showrunner, Matt Olmstead, made the effort to mentor his young writers, offering them the chance to write a script. It was up to them to excel.

Needless to say, Roland did.

Lost Trailer (First Season)

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LOST

After the series finale of Prison Break, Roland’s writing landed him another epic show: LOST. By joining the writers’ room in its final season, Roland was able to enter as a fan first, which he described as intimidating.

“It wasn’t just a phenomenon for everyone else; I was also a huge fan so it was also a very important show for me. When I came on board, it was like a peek behind the curtain. It’s a process of people going to work every day, only now I was writing these characters that I had loved,” he shared.

Roland’s role was a unique one because he was joining the team as a fan; he literally got to help share what he wanted to see based on watching the first five seasons along with the rest of us.

“I don’t know that there will ever be another LOST. There will never be another show that so many people watch live and then talk about it. Game of Thrones did it but so few people watch shows in real time. Especially now when there are hundreds of shows to watch, it’s rare for people to care enough to watch it live. TV is evolving.”

Fringe Trailer 1

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FRINGE

From LOST, Roland transitioned into another Bad Robot enterprise: Fringe. There, he was not only a writer — he received his first producer credit as well. He worked on seasons 3-5 of Fringe, which he described as the most imaginative writers’ room of his career.

“For me, this was the job where I actually got my confidence. I’m still learning to this day, but on my first two shows I really still felt like a student.” It was on Fringe that he had bosses who encouraged him to produce episodes, to go to set, and to take ownership of creative responsibilities. He was able to expand and grow in an environment where he was trusted and valued.

The Returned – Trailer

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“A Dark Chapter”

After the stream of successes, Roland experienced a few creative set-backs. In 2013, he was brought on to Almost Human to work on the show midway through the first season, which would ultimately also be the last. The show was cancelled after its first season.

“Sadly, by the time we were cancelled, we had just started to figure out what the show should be,” he reminisced.

Not one to sit still for long, Roland reunited with LOST’s Carlton Cuse to create The Returned, an experiment for AE that would prove to be a great experience for Roland as a producer, if not a success for a network built on an audience accustomed to reality television.

Though The Returned would also be cancelled after its first season, his working relationship with Cuse, however, was just beginning.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 1 – Official Trailer | Prime Video

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Jack Ryan

In 2015, Roland took an open writing assignment from Paramount, who was looking for someone to bring a fresh take to the iconic character of Jack Ryan. They liked his take, but they were wary of hiring him as a first-time showrunner (“rightly so,” Roland generously stated).

So he teamed up with Carlton Cuse.

Together, they created the first two seasons for release on Amazon. It was an entirely new experience for Roland. By then, HBO and Netflix had significantly raised the bar for the production value of television, which Amazon was eager to reproduce. The first season took nearly three years to create, expanding over five continents.

“I will always be grateful for the opportunity it gave me to travel all over the world and make a TV show. I’m proud of how ambitious we were,” he said, looking back on the experience.

After the first two seasons, Roland decided to step aside and explore something closer to his own roots.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

Graham Roland and director Morten Tyldum on the set of ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’ in Marrakech.

(Image courtesy of Graham Roland)

HBO and beyond

“The things I’m working on now are all things I’m really passionate about. Not that I wasn’t passionate about my previous jobs, but Jack Ryan has afforded me the opportunity to pick and choose what I want to work on,” he shared. One of the things he’s working on next is a show for HBO based on the Navajo Nation in the 1970s, which gives Roland a chance to reconnect with and explore his own Native American heritage.

Another project he has in the works is a film about the cartels in the 90s.

When I asked him for how his military service has informed his career, he shared that there’s a misconception that the military community isn’t necessarily artistic. “But that’s not correct,” he affirmed. “There are a lot of people with an artistic drive who ended up serving. If you get out of the military and you want to work in this industry, whether as an actor, writer, or director, the door is open to you.”

Roland is a mentor for the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Workshop, which helps veterans develop screenplays and pilots. SAG-AFTRA has also been holding classes for military veterans as well.

“When I first started working, I didn’t know any other veterans. I felt behind, but I learned that the industry is now starting to recognize that veterans carry professionalism, tact, and leadership skills with them from their service. To get anything made, it takes intense collaboration, which the military does well.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

The incredible true story behind the upcoming Korean War movie ‘Devotion’

Hollywood has been abuzz since it was announced that Joe Jonas will be making his big-screen debut in the upcoming Korean War movie, Devotion. Jonas follows his younger brother’s appearance in 2019’s Midway. Other cast members include Glen Powell (also appearing in Top Gun: Maverick), Jonathan Majors and Christina Jackson, who will be playing lead roles in the movie. Devotion tells the story of two naval aviators from very different worlds who were brought together by friendship and tragedy.

Ens. Jesse Brown, expected to be portrayed by Majors, was born into an African-American sharecropping family in Depression-era Mississippi. Working in the fields, he developed a love of flight after seeing local pilots fly overhead. Working toward his goal of flying, Brown graduated salutatorian of his high school and enrolled at Ohio State University. Despite working two jobs to pay for school, he maintained top grades in his classes. During his second year, he enlisted in the Navy Reserves and became a midshipman in the school’s NROTC program to participate in the V-5 Aviation Cadet Training Program.

devotion movie tells the story of jesse brown

In March 1947, Brown began his Naval Flight Officer training. He also married his girlfriend, Daisy Nix, in secret. Naval cadets were prohibited from marrying during training under threat of immediate dismissal. Despite this and racism from at least one instructor and several classmates, Brown completed his flight training in August 1947. He then trained to fly carrier-based aircraft and became the first African-American naval aviator to earn the coveted wings of gold in October 1948. After breaking this color barrier, he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) flying the Vought F4U Corsair. By the time the Korean War broke out, Brown established a reputation in the squadron as a capable pilot and section leader.

In contrast to Brown’s upbringing, Thomas Hudner Jr., expected to be portrayed by Powell, had a privileged youth. The son of a grocery chain store owner, Hudner attended the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Inspired to join the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he entered the Naval Academy in 1943 and graduated in 1946. He attended Annapolis with future Admirals Marvin Becker, James Stockdale and Stansfield Turner, along with future President Jimmy Carter.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
Hudner in 1950 (U.S. Navy)

Although he initially served as a surface officer, Hudner was drawn by the challenge of aviation. After completing basic and advanced flight training, he earned his own wings of gold in August 1949. After a brief posting in Lebanon, he was also assigned to VF-32. It was there that he met and befriended Brown.

By the Korean War, the WWII-era Corsair was quickly becoming antiquated as a fighter. The new breed of jet fighters were faster and more lethal. However, piston planes the Corsair could deliver heavy ordnance in close air support roles better than their jet counterparts. Brown and Hudner flew these missions with the other members of VF-32 in Korea. Following the Chinese intervention in November 1950, VF-32 flew daily missions to support the encircled Marines at the Chosin Reservoir.

At 1338hrs on December 4, 1950, six planes from VF-32 took off the the USS Leyte. Known as Iroquois Flight, the group consisted of squadron XO Lt. Cdr. Dick Cevoli, Lt. George Hudson, Lt. JG Bill Koenig, Ens. Ralph McQueen, Lt. JG Thomas Hudner Jr., and Ens. Jesse Brown. On this flight, Hudner and Brown flew as wingmen. Hunting for Chinese troops, Iroquois Flight flew just 700 feet off the ground. At 1440hrs, Koenig radioed that Brown appeared to be trailing fuel.

The fuel line of Brown’s Corsair was ruptured by unseen ground fire. Fuel pressure dropping, Brown started to lose control of his aircraft. He dropped his external fuel tanks and rockets in preparation for a crash landing. Despite landing in the snow, the Corsair broke up so violently upon impact that the rest of the flight thought Brown to be dead. His leg pinned under the fuselage, Brown waved to his fellow aviators for help.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
Devotion depicts Brown’s crashed Corsair and Hudner’s soon-to-be-crashed Corsair (Matt Hall)

15 miles behind enemy lines in 15°F weather on the side of a mountain, Brown’s chances of survival were slim. Iroquois Flight put out a mayday call as the patrolled the area for any threats to their downed comrade. However, the crashed Corsair started to smoke from a fire near its internal fuel tanks. Seeing his wingman in trouble, Hudner intentionally crash-landed his own Corsair near Brown’s crashsite to rescue his trapped friend. He attempted to douse the flames with snow and tried in vain to pull Brown from the wreck. At around 1500hrs, rescue helicopter pilot Lt. Charles Ward arrived and joined Hudner’s efforts to free Brown. Despite the use of a fire extinguisher and an axe, the Corsair continued to burn as Brown remained trapped inside.

Fading in an out of consciousness, Brown, suggested that the two men amputate his pinned leg. Before the suggestion could be acted on, Brown fell completely unconscious. His last known words were to Hudner. “Tell Daisy I love her,” Brown said. Unable to fly in the dark, Ward was forced to fly his helicopter back to base before nightfall with Hudner, leaving Brown behind. He is believed to have died of exposure and his injuries shortly thereafter.

Despite Hudner’s pleas, the Navy prohibited further efforts to recover Brown’s body for fear of enemy ambushes. To prevent Brown’s body from falling into enemy hands, the crash site was bombed with napalm. The pilots forced to carry out the mission reportedly recited the Lord’s prayer as they watched their fellow aviator be consumed by the flames. Ens. Jesse Brown was the first African-American naval aviator killed in action.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
Hudner and Daisy Brown meet at the White House (Public Domain)

Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart. For his efforts to save his wingman, Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor. Both men have had naval vessels named for them. A book and painting, both titled Devotion, capture the bravery and loyalty displayed that 4th of December. The upcoming movie retains this title and will finally bring the incredible story to the big screen. Devotion is currently in pre-production with no release date.

Articles

10 awesome military movies on Netflix you might be blocked from viewing while deployed

Netflix subscribers on a trip outside the U.S. are sometimes surprised to find their accounts are blocked while overseas, primarily due to licensing issues. Some content is only licensed to the streaming service for viewers inside the United States (or is restricted in certain countries). And, by the way, Netflix is known to add users who circumvent the site’s security to blacklists.


In 2015, Netflix announced it would block Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which allow viewers from overseas to view the site and its contents as if they were in the United States. This week, the site announced it would start a heavy crackdown on those users.  Here are a few of the military/war movies those subscribers won’t be able to watch:

Restrepo

This is Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s war documentary masterpiece featuring the U.S. Army’s Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. The film (and the outpost defended in the film) is named after Pvt. 1st. Class Juan Sebastián Restrepo, a medic killed earlier in the deployment. Four years later, Junger would make another film, Korengal, which would pick up where Restrepo left off. Korengal is also on Netflix.

Top Gun

Here’s a military movie that requires no introduction and no explanation outside of a volleyball scene. This is a flick that probably guaranteed the Navy wouldn’t have to put any money into recruiting pilots for the rest of eternity. If the United States ever falls as a civilization, archeologists in future millennia are going to wonder where they can sign up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAfbp3YX9F0

The Civil War

The documentary series and style that allowed Ken Burns to turn a blowup and motion effect into a career is on Netflix in its’ entirety. Also on the streaming service is Burns’ epic-scaled but fairly “meh” World War II documentary in the same vein, called The War.

Comedy Warriors

Five wounded post-9/11 veterans have the opportunity to explore their experiences through humor. The film follows them and their work with professional comedians Zach Galifianakis, Lewis Black, Bob Saget, and B.J. Novak, who help them write and perform their own personal stand-up routines. One vet refers to the Iraq War as “a pretty aggressive study abroad program.”

Cartel Land

This is a film about vigilante groups fighting drug cartels in the Mexican Drug Wars. The most shocking part of Cartel Land is that its a documentary, and you can see the characters and events unfold as they did in the real world. It garnered a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently nominated for an Academy Award. It will also probably inspire Bundy clan copycats to take to the Arizona desert to “help” the U.S. Border Patrol keep ‘Murica free of invaders.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkYBbBK0qoM

Forrest Gump

No one really needs an introduction to Forrest Gump. People still quote this movie to death in lame jokes and it’s now more than a decade old. It makes this list because of Gump’s Army service in Vietnam and Gary Sinise’s epic portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor.

The Unknown Known

How do you feel about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld? Master documentarian Errol Morris’s 2014 film will either infuriate you or soften your feelings toward the lifelong government official with the most punchable face.

Beasts of No Nation

Netflix made a foray into conflict films this year with its critical hit Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a warlord recruiting child soldiers to fight in a civil war in Liberia. The government of a West African country falls as the warlords forces attack a village under international protection. A young boy named Agu flees after his father is shot and is captured by the NDF rebel guerillas. Do not watch this film with kids, teenagers, anyone with emotions, or anyone who expects to not be traumatized.

Team America: World Police

Few movies are as epic as Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America. If you’re a post-9/11 military veteran and haven’t seen this film, you must have been in such a secret squirrel MOS that the military kept you under a rock.

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

Ravenous

Less of a military movie and more of a horror movie in a military setting, Ravenous feature Guy Pearce visiting a remote U.S. Army outpost in post-Civil War California, a base full of the worst Blue Falcons of all time. Also featuring the worst trailer ever made for a decent film. Seriously, it looks like a fan trailer.

Bonus: TV Shows

Army Wives

Perfect viewing for anyone who ever wanted to pretend Catherine Bell was like the typical military spouse. I think the Army missed an opportunity here. There was never a better recruiting tool.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

 

M*A*S*H

This is what we who grew up watching this show always hoped a real deployment would be like. If U.S. troops were allowed to build liquor distilleries in their barracks, we’d all become amateur engineers. Sadly, deployments are nothing like this

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

Archer

Five seasons of everyone who matters’ favorite secret agent for hire lives on Netflix, with the sixth season coming (phrasing!).

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life

Related: 5 real-world covert operations in FX’s “Archer”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out eerie new ‘Westworld’ trailer

In a new teaser video released by HBO, several major events and the fictional world’s timeline is revealed.

The timeline indicates that a “divergence” happened in Hong Kong in June 2019, marked by political unrest and then followed by the impeachment of the President of the United States.


These real-life events are then followed by a fictional vision of the world’s future, with “ecological collapse” in 2020 and the assassination of the President-elect of the United States in 2024.

Westworld | Season 3 – Date Announce | 2020 (HBO)

www.youtube.com

The timeline escalates, with an unidentified narrator speaking about a “system” that was initiated in 2039.

But that system underwent it’s own “critical divergence” in 2058 — which is likely when Dolores and the other “Westworld” hosts gained consciousness, took over the park, and infiltrated the outside world.

“Westworld” returns with an eight-episode season on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This classic Disney and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ mashup is great

It’s definitely not canon, but this video of Gunnery Sgt. Donald Duck ripping into new recruits from the Disney Universe is hilarious, featuring Goofy trying to pull off a satisfactory war face as Pluto attempts to keep a straight face and the Duck rips into them both. Full Metal Jacket has never been so whimsical.



Xavier Avalos

www.facebook.com

In the clip, made with a little audio engineering and one of the best scenes from Full Metal Jacket, Goofy, Pluto, and Mickey join the Marine Corps and run right into one of the angriest characters from classic Disney, Donald Duck, now a gunnery sergeant and drill instructor in the “beloved corps.”

Duck had a long and storied military career by the time the Vietnam War rolled around, jumping behind enemy lines and attacking Japanese camps during World War II. But, oddly enough, Pluto served in the same war. He was a private in the Army during World War II, assigned to guard artillery emplacements against attacks by saboteurs and chipmunks.

He wasn’t particularly great at it, so maybe that’s why, two decades later, he’s just a recruit in Marine Corps basic.

Or, you know, alternate theory: The Full Metal Jacket mashup is just a fun joke on the internet and not actually part of the characters’ storylines. Since it’s clearly not sanctioned by Disney and features Donald Duck letting out a string of profanities and a few colorful suggestions, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say this isn’t canon.

Still pretty funny, though.

Avalos has some other good Full Metal Jacket mashups in his Facebook feed, but I still think the best Full Metal Jacket mashup came from YouTuber Tyler P. who put the movie’s audio over Santa’s workshop from the old claymation Christmas movies.

Full Metal Jacket and the late, great R. Lee Ermey are the gifts that keep on giving. The movie and the man have taught us life lessons, made us laugh out loud, and even had leading roles in our favorite video games.

MIGHTY GAMING

This gaming charity sends troops the greatest care packages

There’s nothing in this world that makes a deployed troop happier than opening a care package from the folks back home. Some of momma’s cookies, hygiene stuff, and little sentimental things are always appreciated. But everyone gets hyped the moment the MWR gets some new video games.


One of the unspoken realities of deployment life is, between missions, there’s almost nothing to do. Boredom causes complacency — and complacency is cause for concern. This is where Operation Supply Drop comes in.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
When this is all you have between missions – video games are a life saver.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar)

Since 2010, Operation Supply Drop has impacted 471 deployed units, supporting over 361,271 troops. The care packages include some of the top video games that troops miss while overseas, consoles to play them on, peripherals to enjoy them, and some coffee to help work gaming into their schedule.

Glenn D. Banton, Sr. CEO & Executive Director of Operation Supply Drop, tells We Are The Mighty “Being able to provide a positive impact and morale boost to our troops at this scale is a huge driver for OSD. What really keeps us going is that many of these men and women then become active members in our community programs when redeploying back home. OSD provides relevant services to the military community during service, through transition, and into civilian life.”

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
And as a leader, it’s always great to know exactly where your troops are… playing video games at the MWR.
(Photo by Maj. Erik Johnson)

While this is their most well-known program, it’s only about half of their mission statement. They’re also making great things happen in a program they call Respawn, through which they supply injured troops at military medical centers around the world with video games. There have been many studies conducted on the physical and mental health benefits of playing video games. Mentally-challenging and thought-provoking games have been instrumental in assisting those who sustain traumatic brain injuries.

What vets can learn from It’s a Wonderful Life
Video games are one of the most effective, and most positively received, rehabilitation tools at Fort Sam Houston.
(Photo by Mr. Steven Galvan)

Other amazing programs run through Operation Supply Drop include Heroic Forces, which provides one-on-one professional development support to troops leaving the service; Thank You Deployments, where the community nominates fellow veterans for VIP events, like attending the E3 Expo or meeting sports legends; and an awesome, recent addition in Games to Grunts, which gives free game codes to veterans. There’s no catch: Just sign in with a verified account from ID.me and you get some pretty sweet games.

Insurgency is a lot of fun, but the one I’ve personally been hooked on is Party Hard.