Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a Marine Corps legend and one of the most lethal snipers in history. His incredible true-life war stories are the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. In this episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast we talk about his sniper duels, that time he crawled two miles to kill a Vietnamese general, and more. Don’t miss this episode of a real American badass.
For over a decade, actor Stephen Lang has performed a one-man show based on the real-life stories of eight Medal of Honor recipients. The play has taken him to U.S. military bases and ships around the world performing for the troops and even before the people he portrays. Recently, footage from his performances was stitched together for the film “Beyond Glory.”
For this episode of the We Are The Mighty Podcast we invited Lang to discuss “Beyond Glory” and three Medal of Honor stories from the film.
Lang is an acclaimed stage, TV and film actor; you may know him for his role as Ike in “Tombstone” or as Miles Quaritch, the badass Marine colonel with the scars across his face in the movie “Avatar.” Lang began his career in theater. Broadway roles include his Tony-nominated performance as Lou in “The Speed of Darkness,” Happy in the Dustin Hoffman revival of “Death of a Salesman,” Colonel Jessep in ”A Few Good Men,” and Mike Tallman alongside Quentin Tarantino and Marisa Tomei in “Wait Until Dark.”
Selected links and show notes from the episode:
[01:40] Lewis Millett’s Medal of Honor story – Millett was an Army officer who received the Medal of Honor during the Korean War for leading the last major American bayonet charge.
[05:40] Discussion with Lang about Lewis Millett.
[08:05] Discussion with Lang about James Bond Stockdale.
[10:55] James Bond Stockdale’s Medal of Honor story – Admiral Stockdale was the highest-ranking naval officer held prisoner during the Vietnam War. He received the Medal of Honor for his leadership among the prisoners and work to galvanize the resistance to their captors.
[20:40] Lang’s experience performing for the troops
[22:05] Preparing for a “Beyond Glory” performance.
[26:05] From Navy warships to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Lang discusses the unique locations he has performed for the troops.
[28:15] Lang’s drunken experience with Marines during a performance in Bahrain.
[31:15] Common questions from the troops after a “Beyond Glory” performance.
[34:15] Meeting the Medal of Honor recipients Lang portrays in his show.
[36:30] Lang’s painting versus photograph analogy of his performance.
[39:15] Lang’s recognition by the Medal of Honor Society.
[40:50] Avatar sequel and other projects Lang is currently working on.
[45:00] Nick Bacon’s Medal of Honor story – Bacon was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat during the Vietnam War.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Chase, Tim, and O.V. discuss what role we’d like to serve in during any war.
Many veterans today are so intrigued by military history, they’ve considered what war they feel like they missed out on. Although when (hypothetically) given the opportunity to change from their real life MOS to whatever occupation they wanted, the podcast crew surprisingly decided to stick to their original area of expertise.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. speak with Mitch Burrow, a funny burly-guy who went from being a Marine to becoming a stand-up comedian.
When we join the military all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we have sort of an idea of what we want to do with our lives — but we change our minds dozens of times before landing a career that we hopefully love.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
So why did Mitch decide to jump on stage and be a comedian after getting out of the Marines?
“I love stand up comedy, so I was like you know what? If this is working at a party or a social group, let me try it on stage,” Mitch humorously recalls. “So I drove down to San Diego to the Comedy Store in La Jolla and had three shots of tequila, and I drank a couple of Budweisers then I got on stage. I’ve been told it went pretty good.”
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we speak with poet, activist, filmmaker, actor, and Navy SEAL veteran of 22 years, Mikal Vega.
Vega joined the Navy at 17, entered the EOD profession for roughly nine-years, and deployed multiple times around the world in support of SEAL teams. After working with SEALs, he decided that’s what he wanted to do with the rest of his career.
At 28, Vega earned a spot on SEAL teams and added a few more tours of duty to his already impressive resume.
After being honorable discharged in 2012, Vega started a non-profit called Vital Warrior, providing Kundalini Yoga for veterans, first responders, and active duty service members.
But, this wasn’t enough for the motivated sailor.
Vega went on to express his creative side by entering the world of film and television and now serves as a military advisor on the hit NBC military-drama, The Brave.
The Brave — “Stealth” Episode 108 —Pictured: (l-r) Noah Mills as Sergeant Joseph “McG” McGuire, Natacha Karam as Sergeant Jasmine “Jaz” Khan, Mike Vogel as Captain Adam Dalton, Hadi Tabbal as Agent Amir Al-Raisani, Demetrius Grosse as CPO Ezekiel “Preach” Carter (Photo by Lewis Jacobs via NBC)
As veterans, we have a surplus of talent and creativity that we can draw from stemming from our unique military service and experiences.
Like many combat vets who are fans of narrative filmmaking, Vega uses his in-depth training to bring the realism of combat tactics to the screen.
The Brave cast — Pictured: (l-r) Tate Ellington, Demetrius Grosse, Anne Heche, Dean Georgaris, Executive Producer/Co-Showrunner/Creator; Mike Vogel, Sophia Pernas, Hadi Tabbal, Natacha Karam, Noah Mills, Mikal Vega, Technical Advisor. (Photo by Paul Drinkwater via NBC)
NBC’s The Brave focuses on a group of elite Special Operatives who embark on the most challenging and dangerous missions around the world to save the innocent lives behind enemy lines.
During his service, Vega held many positions, such as a SEAL Platoon Leading Chief Petty Officer, Personal Security Detail Shift Leader, U.S. Navy SEAL Combatives Instructor, U.S. Navy SEAL Demolitions Instructor, and Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician.
He’s earned many awards, including the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during Operation Iraqi Freedom, two Bronze Stars with combat valor, the Army Achievement Medal for Operation Joint Guardian Kosovo, and the Navy Achievement Medal.
Vega’s qualifications include, but are not limited to, Navy SEAL, Senior EOD Technician (Bomb Squad), Breacher RSO, HRST Master, free-fall parachutist, U.S. Secret Service, Presidential Security Detail Operations, combat leadership, precision driver, dynamic firearms, SCUBA and closed-circuit diving supervisor, Cold Weather Environment Survival, demolitions instructor, and martial artist.
Following his lifelong passion for acting, he used his career successes to fund Vital Warrior, a system that increases performance and resiliency through non-pharmaceutical stress mitigation techniques that can help veterans and their families recover from wartime trauma.
He was recently elected as president of AK Waters Productions and has acted in film and television productions that include Transformers 3 and Hawaii Five-O among others. Vega lives in Los Angeles with his wife, daughter, and son.
But it doesn’t stop there, there’s added pressure from the other officers higher in the chain. When Chase Millsap a veteran officer of both the Army and Marine Corps infantry got to his first unit, he received a warning call from the other Os.
“There wasn’t even like a welcome to the unit,” said Millsap. “It was like, ‘you are a liability, you are going to screw this up for the rest of us. If you think you have a question, don’t ask it.’ ”
It was a well timed warning and every new officer needs that grounding advice. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure coming out of the infantry officers course and these guys are ready to fight — “they are gung-ho,” according to Millsap.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast Tim and I ask Millsap everything we ever wanted to know about Grunt officers.
Here are 10 questions we asked:
How do you get into the Naval Academy? How do you get your congressman to vouch for you?
What are some popular tattoos with grunt officers? Do you guys also get moto tattoos?
What kinds of nicknames do officers give each other?
Do experienced officers mess with new officers? Do you haze each other? Spill the dirt.
How did you know when you’ve earned the respect from the men you lead?
There’s a lot of death in the military; that’s what happens in wars — people kill each other. Whether it’s by partaking in the fighting or as a result of collateral damage, it is inevitable.
According to popular myth — mostly what we’ve watched during all those Halloween specials — people become ghosts by suffering a violent or unfair death. By this reasoning, bases and battlefields are gold mines for spooky military ghost stories.
Join us for a ghostly episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast where we explore the lost souls and vengeful spirits roaming military bases and battlefields in the afterlife.
Bryan Anderson is an Iraq War veteran turned model, actor, motivational speaker, book author, and more. He achieved all of these noteworthy accomplishments while dealing with life as a triple amputee.
Bryan enlisted in the Army in early 2001 and shipped out to his duty station on September 11, 2001. He served two tours in Iraq as an MP (Military Police) Sergeant before being injured by an IED that resulted in the loss of both legs and his left hand. He was awarded a Purple Heart and spent over a year rehabilitating at Walter Reed Hospital.
Bryan’s story has received extensive media coverage including features in Esquire Magazine and articles in major publications, such as LA Times, New York Times, and Chicago Sun. He appeared in the HBO documentary, Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq with the late James Gandolfini, CSI: NY, The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke, and American Sniper with Bradley Cooper.
As you’ll hear in this special edition of the WATM podcast, Bryan’s energy is contagious.
Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones
from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.
If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.
He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.
“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new
PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”
In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.
“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.
This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.
The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.
Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.
For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.
When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.
Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.
“Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.
Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:
“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”
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In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake speaks with Jimmy Blackmon, the author of Pale Horse, a book about his time commanding an Army aviation task force with the 101st Airborne Division at the height of combat in the Afghan War.
Set in the very valleys where the 9/11 attacks were conceived, and where 10 Medals of Honor were earned.
These are the stories of the pilots behind the lethal Apache helicopters who strike fear into the heart of their enemies as they work with medevac crews who risk their lives to save their fellow troops. We get an understanding of how warriors learned selflessness and found the closest brotherhood they ever known through the crucible of war.
Jimmy was also in the area when Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl decided to go for a stroll in Afghanistan.
“Every soldier out there has a mom and dad that loves them and they all make stupid mistakes at some point,” Jimmy humorously states. “Thank goodness I didn’t decide to go for a walk in Afghanistan.”
Role players are an essential element for troops preparing to travel overseas and face-off with the enemy. They provide a cultural boost by immersing troops in the violent world they’re about to deploy to.
They submerge themselves into training scenarios like mock firefights, ambushes, and suicide bombings — all for the benefit of troops heading to combat.
Some role players themselves are refugees turned Hollywood actors.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake talks with Kelvin Garvanne about his life as an Arabic/Iraqi role player for U.S. ground troops heading into combat.
For the last nine years, Garvanne has provided Islamic culture and language training to military and civilian personnel deploying overseas.
“A role player is basically there to interact with the battalion’s training,” Garvanne explains. “There are different levels on how you can interact. We were all characterized as ‘meat puppets’ which were basically folks who were just there to do whatever was told of us to do. “
These mock firefights consist of loud gunfire (blanks), firework explosions and a Hollywood makeup team to create realistic blood and guts.
Kelvin Garvanne attended the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. He is an Emmy award creative artist who is fascinated by the world and enjoys investigating the context of national and world events.
Mr. Garvanne is a native New Yorker who has lived in Washington D.C., Bogota, Colombia, Madrid, Spain, and Los Angeles, CA. He has traveled through several countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Panama, Mexico, and Haiti. For the last nine years, he provided Islamic culture and Iraqi and Pashto language training to military and civilian personnel deploying overseas.
Mr. Garvanne continues to develop opportunities to advise and train military and civilians positioned in careers involving global service. He also develops creative projects to expose the human condition.