Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

Violence escalating between Israel and terrorist organizations like Hamas is, unfortunately, all too common. But the fighting over Israel’s holiest sites dates back much, much further than Hamas or even modern Israel. Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city is home to the holiest sites of three major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Jerusalem remains the focal point for much of the conflict that rages between Israel and the Palestinians today – because those holy sites are all within the same square mile. 

In his latest Fox Nation special, “Battle in the Holy City,” Fox News correspondent Pete Hegseth takes viewers closer to the powder keg than they’ve ever been. Hegseth is uniquely qualified for the job. He’s been in combat before with the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Most weekends, Pete Hegseth is in the Fox News studio as a co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend. Not too long ago, however, he was Maj. Pete Hegseth of the Army National Guard. He joined the guard after graduating from Princeton in 2003, serving as an officer with the 101st Airborne Division in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

Not long after returning from Cuba, he volunteered to serve in Iraq as a civil affairs operations officer. It was in Iraq where he not only earned a Combat Infantryman Badge, he was also awarded the Bronze Star. 

That experience would serve him well when he volunteered for a tour in Afghanistan with the Minnesota National Guard, this time as a counterinsurgency instructor. Two years after returning from the war, Hegseth joined Fox News. 

Since then Hegseth has produced a number of thought-provoking specials and reports under his belt. He has interviewed American military veterans from all walks of life on the Fox Nation show “Modern Warriors.” During the Coronavirus pandemic, Hegseth hosted “America Together,” a “living room concert” that raised more than $8 million to support pandemic relief efforts. 

Today, his latest special report is one that has suddenly become more important than ever. As the tensions and clashes between Israel and Hamas increase, Hegseth’s “Battle in the Holy City” shows us why so many people are fighting and dying for this small strip of land in the Middle East. 

Jerusalem is a much bigger city than the carved stone streets of the old city. The old city is little bigger than a third of a square mile. Between the old city walls, however, the streets and houses are packed with religious and secular people from all walks of life. Jewish and Palestinian muslim familes, Orthodox Christian monks, and even Lutheran bishops are all packed in this small space.

Also inside this space is the Western Wall, the last remnant of the second temple, believed by the Jewish people to be the one place where heaven and earth come together. It is situated next to the Temple Mount, where the golden Dome of the Rock sits. 

To muslims, the area overlooking the Western Wall is where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven with the angel Gabriel, to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. It is the third holiest site in the Islamic faith, after Mecca and Medina. 

Just a short walk away from the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a large church built around the two holiest sites for Christians of all denominations. The first is Calvary, where Christ was crucified and the second is his empty tomb, where he was buried and resurrected. 

The Old City of Jerusalem can be a powder keg of tension. When fighting erupts, the results can be catastrophic. On Fox Nation’s “Battle in the Holy Land,” viewers can get glimpses of the holy sites and relics, a closer view than going in person, as Hegseth guides them through the start of the conflict and the reasons it continues to this day.

If you’re in the military or a veteran, you can check out Pete Hegseth and other awesome veterans for a year for free on Fox Nation. Check out the Fox Nation website for more details!

Veterans

This Air Force veteran has acted alongside Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins

They say that acting is one of the hardest jobs to find success in, but not for Skye P. Marshall. She just finished shooting a movie titled “Beyond Deceit” featuring Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, and Josh Duhamel.


Here’s how she went from serving in the Air Force to starring on the silver screen

Originally from Chicago, Skye originally enlisted in the Air Force because she needed discipline. After her enlistment at a hospital on Nellis Air Force base, she had no idea how to transition back into civilian life.

She returned to Chicago, determined to get her degree, and graduated with her bachelor’s in communication with a minor in theater. Since theater had always been a part of her life, she automatically gravitated toward it, ignoring the people who said acting was the hardest career to find success in. She doesn’t see it that way. “I think serving in the military is the hardest job,” she says.

Five years later, she has acted in major studio films and has no intention of stopping. She has no idea where it’ll take her, but as long as she’s still having fun, then, “Lights, camera, action.”

NOW: Marine Corps veteran pursues her acting dreams and a star is born

OR: How this Air Force medic became a fashion and fitness model

Veterans

97-year-old Silver Star Iwo Jima veteran is the oldest Marine to participate in the Marine Corps Marathon

On Iwo Jima’s Red Beach 75 years ago, Marine Pfc. T. Fred Harvey was completely enveloped by war. It was all around him – exploding artillery, grenades, small-arms fire, and mortar rounds coming from all directions.

The 97-year old said that fear is what saved him that day. Originally classed as a Paramarine, Harvey was attached to the 5th Marine Division in the Pacific theater during WWII. He was tasked with handling demolitions. When his unit landed at Iwo Jima, Harvey was injured by two grenades and received the Silver Star for saving the life of a fellow Marine. 

In October, Harvey became the oldest Marine to ever complete the Marine Corps marathon – just four days shy of his 97th birthday. He and his team crossed the finish line in a wheelchair. Fear didn’t need to be a motivator to complete the race – just simple pride. Harvey made history by being the oldest participant to complete the rough 26.2-mile race. 

Because of COVID, this year’s Marine Corps marathon had to be held virtually instead of hosting its annual race in Washington, D.C. But that didn’t stop Harvey and his team. They set out at 7 in the morning the day of the race from the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas, and finished their version of the marathon around 12:20 in the afternoon. Crowds grew larger each time Harvey took another lap around the museum. 

Before competing in October’s race, Harvey had never participated in a marathon. But he said he’s never been afraid of a challenge. In a press release, Harvey acknowledged his team of good friends, all of who are expert runners. “Without their help and my racing chariot, this would never be possible. I’ve traveled the world and accomplished more than I ever imagined, but it will be one of my greatest honors to cross the finish line as a proud U.S. Marine,” he said.

Harvey was accompanied by Glenn Paige, a former anesthesiologist, ambassador for the Navy SEAL Foundation, and the U.S. Naval Academy Blue and Gold Officer and mentor for prospective students. Paige didn’t serve in the military, but his father is a retired Navy commander.

Paige met Harvey at a country club in North Carolina in 2016. Harvey, a former high school athletics coach, was in North Carolina to visit a former athlete. Paige was there celebrating his birthday and received a cake featuring the Marine Corps Marathon emblem, which symbolizes the scene of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.

Harvey gave Paige a copy of his book, and the two became friends. They’ve spoken by phone every week since then. Initially, Harvey and Paige planned to attend the 2019 Marine Corps marathon, but travel issues prevented the trip. Then Paige had the idea to include Harvey as a marathoner for the 2020 race. He spoke with event organizers who connected him with Ainsley’s Angels, a Virginia-based nonprofit that aims to build awareness about America’s special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life. Ainsley’s Angels, founded by former Marine, Maj. Kim Rossiter and his wife, Lori, helped Harvey get a wheelchair for the race.

Included on Harvey’s marathon team was Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Mike Lawrence and Chris Haley, a member of Team Gratitude. Team Gratitude is a Frogman Swim team Paige founded to raise money for the Navy SEAL Foundation. Paige and the team pushed Harvey along a 5.8-mile course several times to equal the distance of a marathon. This year, more than 27,000 people participated in the race worldwide. After completing the race, Harvey was at a loss for words on how to describe the experience. “I’m the guy who couldn’t even pass English so I dropped out of school and joined the Marine Corps,” he joked.

After returning from WWII, Harvey earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in history. He taught history and PE at various Texas and Colorado schools and coached several sports. Now he lives in an assisted living facility in Texas. Harvey hasn’t decided if he’ll compete in next year’s marathon.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The veteran’s guide to not being ‘That Guy’ on Veterans Day

Veterans Day is quickly approaching and, honestly, it’s one of the greatest times to be a veteran. You can drive around town with your military or VA ID and treat yourself to all the free pancakes, haircuts, and oil changes you could possibly desire!

It’s amazing that so many companies are willing to take a financial dip for the sake of showing support to our nation’s veterans — though they probably recoup their losses by bringing in family members who otherwise wouldn’t have dined there that day, but hey, who are we to complain?

Potential PR gains aside, it’s fantastic to see veterans come out in droves and proudly let the world know that they served their community and their country — but despite all the patriotic goodness going around, there’s always that one guy who has to ruin it for the rest of us.

Veterans of America, here are a few helpful hints to keep in the back of your mind when you’re out there getting some free buffalo wings this holiday.


Remember the spirit of the holiday: civilians honoring veterans

The civilian-military divide is very real. With each passing year, the number of civilians with troops or veterans in their circle of friends or family decreases. Veterans Day gives these civilians, who know to honor veterans, a name and a face towards which to express that gratitude.

So, when a civilian comes forth and wants to thank you for your service, be polite, be courteous, and be professional. If you leave a fantastic impression on a civilian, they’ll go forward assuming that everyone in the military is as pleasant as you were. If you’re a dick to them, well, that impression will stick, too.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

Veterans Day is a day to celebrate everything that veterans have given this country. Enjoy it with a burger that has an American Flag toothpick in it — because America.

(Photo by Jorge Franganillo)

Think of yourself as an ambassador to the veteran community. You’re going out there to face a population that, in many cases, has only heard of us in pop culture or on the news. Take the time and share some of your lighter stories about your time in the service. Who knows? Maybe you’ll convince someone that military life isn’t all that bad — you just did half of the recruiter’s job for them.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

Just because your career consisted of just doing pointless details for Uncle Sam doesn’t mean you didn’t serve. That just means you were junior enlisted.

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

Don’t exaggerate your time in service

We all served as a cog in this grand machine we call the military. There’s no shame in having played any role. If you were a flight-line mechanic in the Air Force, own it — and let people know that you worked your ass off to be the best damn flight-line mechanic around.

There’s no need to pretend you were some badass when, clearly, you weren’t, The military discount applies equally to the Army private who fixed NVGs and the Green Beret who went on a classified amount of missions for Uncle Sam, so keep your cool.

This rule of thumb is important for two reasons. One, exaggerating your role belittles the other troops and veterans who honorably served their country in those seemingly small, but essential roles. Two, it takes away from the level of badassery that actual special operations maintained.

Just be you. If you raised your right hand to support and defend this country, you’ve earned respect.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

It may seem awkward at first, but it really does mean a lot to tell another veteran that you’re thankful for their service.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Adams)

Don’t go too far with inter-branch rivalries

While we’re in the service, we can be a bit harsh on our brothers- and sisters-in-arms about what they do and which branch they serve under. It’s in good fun between us and, usually, there’s no bad blood.

But not every veteran will take your “Marines are crayon-eating idiots” joke as lightly as you’d hope. As bitter as the rivalry between the 101st and 82nd Airborne is, it’s fine to put aside such differences over a beer. And shouting “POG!” at every support guy you see just doesn’t make sense when you two are the only ones who’ll understand what a “POG” is, anyway.

Enjoy the day with other veterans, especially if they served in a different era than you. You just might learn a thing or two from them.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

I honestly don’t get why these dumbasses waste so much money on impersonating veterans just to save 10% on a meal — but hey, that’s just me.

Don’t go patrolling for stolen valor turds.

We get it. There are douchebags out there that try to pretend to be veterans on Veterans Day just to get a free burger and some undeserved attention. F*ck ’em. It’s totally understandable to chew one of these assclowns out for reaping benefits for which they never sacrificed.

With that being said, don’t actively go out searching for these losers because, nine times out of ten, they’re actually veterans.

Use your best judgement when it comes to spotting other veterans. If you see an older guy that’s sitting quietly, eating with his family while wearing a Vietnam War cap, do not go around screaming at them, accusing them of stealing valor. They’re more than likely a veteran. If you see a twenty-something year-old prick wearing a modern uniform all jacked up? Well, feel free to press them about their service a little. Remember, though, that some veterans suffer from traumatic brain injuries, so the answers to very specific questions may be a bit fuzzy.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

Or you could call ahead or look up online where all the discounts and freebies are. It’ll be all over the internet this time of year.

(US. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski)

Don’t argue with retail clerks at places that don’t offer veteran discounts

Most places will give a veterans discount on Veterans Day — and that’s amazing. This doesn’t mean, however, that every place is required to offer one. Please — I’m begging from the bottom of my heart, here — do not get into a shouting match at some poor, minimum-wage-earning civilian who had absolutely no say on corporate policy.

Unless you’re talking to a real decision-maker, all you’re doing is making that retail worker think that all veterans are pricks. They’ll grow to resent veterans and it’ll put yet another wedge in the civilian-military divide. Just pay full price like everyone else that day, or politely say “thanks anyways” and move on to a competitor that does offer one.

Veterans

From the jungles of Vietnam to the Academy Awards, William Broyles still has the work ethic of a Marine

Former Marine First Lieutenant William Broyles deployed to Vietnam, served as an infantry platoon commander and earned a Bronze Star and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star before his illustrious Hollywood career began. Broyles is known for creating the TV show China Beach and for writing such great screenplays as Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard. Broyles also wrote Castaway and Polar Express, both directed by Robert Zemeckis, Jarhead, directed by Sam Mendes and Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood. Broyles’ films have won Academy Awards for their merits. 

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Broyles with China Beach star Dana Delaney. Photo courtesy of William Broyles. 

Broyles starts off our interview saying, “I will do anything for the Corps,” which led the interview to take off as quickly and smoothly as an F-4 Phantom. Broyles was born during World War II and his parents were both very young. His mother learned of the Pearl Harbor attack while coming home from a football game with her then-boyfriend. Broyles grew up in a blue-collar factory town outside of Houston, Texas, named Baytown, home to the largest refinery in the world. Most of his friends’ fathers were World War II veterans. He idolized them in their experience of the war. Broyles shared, “It was this sort of mysterious experience they had all had and I kind of inhaled. I didn’t particularly want to repeat it. I was just fascinated by it.” 

He went to a segregated high school, which deeply impacted his world view. He went to Robert E. Lee High School where the marching band wore confederate uniforms and the school’s fight song was Dixie. He saw photographs of Blacks protesting segregation so he began to question his identity and got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. When the Vietnam War started, he went from the Civil Rights Movement to the anti-Vietnam war movement. In January 1968, he was in a basement of the Oxford University where he was a Marshall Scholar at the school, and witnessed a news report on the Battle of Hue in Vietnam that deeply affected him. Broyles shared about the Marine he saw on TV being interviewed about his survival: 

“I thought, ‘Oh my God! That is the same kid I went to high school with….so many of my friends went to Vietnam. Some of them had been wounded and some had been killed. It sunk in on me then that I had this moral clash that I didn’t believe in the war, but also my deferment meant that other kids I knew were going instead and I was taking advantage of that with the privilege I had to avoid it. It was just confusion.” 

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Broyles (left) with Jeff Hiers (radioman) and Tom Tomasiewicz (squad leader) in Vietnam with a 60mm mortar. Photo courtesy of William Broyles.

Broyles had two ethical values that clashed: one, all humans being equal in the sight of God and, two, he thought the Vietnam war was wrong. He joined the Peace Corps, but that was eliminated as a deferment. In October 1968, Broyles got his draft notice. He decided he was going to serve and not try to go to Canada — he thought dodging was morally wrong. He went to multiple different branches in an attempt to find what fit him. The Coast Guard, Air Force and the Reserves were unavailable. He walked by the Marine Corps recruiting office, which didn’t have a line and decided to walk in. The Marine recruiter was reading a novel by Charles Dickens which surprised Broyles. Upon speaking to the recruiter, Broyles was amazed at the Marine’s depth of knowledge and worldliness. The recruiter discussed with Broyles about how the Corps has programs for educated young men and women to serve the Corps with the opportunity for distinction. Broyles joined the Corps right then and there, and showed up to serve on January 2nd, 1969, in a coat and tie “to look presentable.” He recalled his Officer Candidate School (OCS) experience: 

“…of course, we are sitting in there (a hall) and these enlisted guys are very helpful….to fill out this application….we are sitting there, and it is just really quiet. Suddenly these double doors at the back open and we all turn around. The wind blows snow in and we hear, ‘Get the F&$# out of here you maggots you have two minutes.’ So, we all jumped up and I don’t know where my suit is. Lost in the snow.”

Broyles graduated OCS and worked extremely hard to be the number two officer out of the 250 in his class at The Basic School so he could go to the Defense Language Institute to utilize his Masters in English from Oxford. He was assigned to report to Vietnam per his paperwork. His roommate got into the DLI instead of Broyles. Broyles was told by the Colonel of TBS that his leadership was needed in Vietnam with Marines in the fight. He was sent to a three-week Vietnamese language course before heading to Vietnam, which was offered to him by the colonel. He was stationed up close to Da Nang and then he was sent to a small outpost. The camp had been bombed the night before his arrival and was shot up pretty bad. Broyles said, 

“Of those 55 guys I spent six months with, they were 18, 19, 20, 21. I might have had 15 high school graduates and I learned more from them than I did from Oxford. We were so tight. The only question they had about me was not my resume or what I did…they just wanted to know if this guy will get us killed….the war was winding down at that point…it was almost lost…what really comes out is that whole bedrock Marine Corps ethic of brotherhood…as an officer you eat last, you take care of your men’s feet before you take care of yours…. I was the only officer….the whole time we were out I might have seen my company commander….two times. My radio man, a 19-year-old kid from Jersey, totally had an attitude, he saved my ass a couple of times. Totally. I am still in touch with him. A few weeks before we had been hit I went into Da Nang to visit some guys in the Naval Hospital….I saw this window into the Naval Hospital in Da Nang and it looked like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they take the Ark of the Covenant into the warehouse and all you can see is boxes, all you could see was wounded teenagers….to see a concentrated thing… I literally fainted and broke my nose. 

“I came to with this nurse and thought, ‘How can you do this? You volunteered.’ When I came back (from the hospital)… I was on this ridge (in the jungle outside of Da Nang) and I was lying there thinking all night – friends from Oxford or college they are not here… they are going to law school, starting to work at Goldman Sachs, they are becoming doctors or dentists…and here I am in the mud with my guys…my platoon. I had such high hopes for myself and this is the end. You are going to buy it here and all those things you want to do are hopeless. I saw this light streaking across the star….thought it was a shooting star…to cut to the future that experience in the hospital was the basis for the TV show China Beach and that light that went across the sky was Apollo 13 on its way to the moon. So, at that moment when I thought my whole life was over…at that moment of deepest kind of failure and despair…at the same time I couldn’t feel like that because I had all these men, I was responsible for. There was the groundwork for the best things I did in my future.

“If I had been in law school or had been some schmuck at Goldman Sachs, I wouldn’t have met those guys and had that experience and I wouldn’t have learned what I learned in the Marines Corps…the pillars of my life were formed there and as well as my sense of discipline and teamwork and loyalty down. Lots of people have loyalty up, but loyalty down….my commanders were always just guys on the radio…that sense of loyalty down and how we are all in it together and each person counts….to see this kind of love these guys had for each other….they would give their last drop of water in the canteen or their last c-ration or their lives really for each other. It was exactly what I had not wanted….but it is exactly what I needed. It’s what made me who I am….also the best Marine officers I met in Vietnam….were some of the smartest, disciplined, most on task, most focused people I have ever met up to this day. The sense of commitment to your work and to the people who depended on you and to see what you do in your life not as a job but as a calling, that made an impression on me that I have never forgotten.” 

Broyles said the most specific thing he learned from his time in the Corps was if you think you can’t take another step and keep going, you can. Put your foot in front of the next one and keep going. He describes this thought process as a “muscle” that is not easy to teach people. Broyles believes people have to experience it for themselves just like he did, and many others have. He also shared that when in command to lead with body language. “[You have to] project a sense of confidence, not just in yourself but in them. It was key to my leadership learning in magazines, Newsweek, Texas Monthly and TV shows. You don’t learn that in college, you don’t learn that sitting in a classroom.”

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Bill Paxton (left), Kevin Bacon (center) and Tom Hanks (right) in Apollo 13. Photo courtesy of wusa9.com.

Broyles believes showing up on time is simply a great leadership trait to have and he believes people that pull rank in a military setting are “very ineffective.” He said, “If you have to say you are the boss or say you are in command, chances are you are really not.” Broyles felt his Marine experience in Vietnam was more of a horizontal command structure in many ways because it was so collaborative — the decision was passed along to him for final call. He believes to get buy in by leading by example and not ordering others around. He stated, “I could order people around in my platoon, but if I ordered them around too much, I would have gotten a grenade rolled under my hooch and that was it.” 

Broyles learned skills to take care of every specific item. He recalled learning to sew, something he didn’t know how to do before the Corps.  He reflected upon how if he got things wrong with his Master’s in Philosophy, people could tell him he was just “wrong,” but if he got things wrong as a lieutenant in the mountains of Vietnam, he could get people killed. He believes a leader must be aware of the conditions and morale of a team, which he learned in the Corps. 

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
A historic scene from Flags of Our Fathers. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

He loves China Beach, Castaway, Apollo 13, Jarhead and Unfaithful. Castaway was the most collaborative, with so many people at the top of their game.  Broyles feels that as a writer, sometimes the reality of the film falls short based on expectations and who is involved while other times it exceeds expectations. He shared, “You can have a wonderful time and make a bad movie. You can have a miserable time and make a great movie…when you have a great time and make a great movie then you are blessed. You are blessed with your collaborators, Tom Hanks, Bob Zemeckis, Don Burgess our DP, everybody was at the top of their game. China Beach was close to the heart because it was the first one and also used Vietnam…it was that nurse. To try to honor the women that have been ignored and done so much in the war as nurses or support.” Broyles said about Castaway, “…it was my coming home from Vietnam movie.” 

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Tom Hanks and his “co-star” Wilson in Castaway. Photo courtesy of inlander.com. 

He believes you would never know watching it, but it’s about a person living their life normally, and is drafted into a new world that he had no idea about. He had experiences he couldn’t share with other people and then he was brought back to the world. When the person comes back, the world he had left was the same, but the man wasn’t, which is the story of Castaway on one level. As Broyles said, “….my plane didn’t crash like it did in Castaway it just left me in Vietnam.” Broyles describes Hanks’ character as being in one place and his mind is still back on the island, similar to his Vietnam experience and he didn’t want to make a traditional coming home from Vietnam experience. Castaway had similarities to the truths Broyles lived coming home from Vietnam and the Corps. Castaway to him had many similarities to the Marines Corps with people working together in the prime of their careers. He said, 

“I have great learning experiences out of all the ones that have gotten film and still have senses of loss about the ones that haven’t been made…I have gotten 10 made out of 30 scripts I have written….which is like a .333 batting average. That gets me into the Hall of Fame….I feel pretty lucky about that.”

When asked about Apollo 13, Broyles smiled. He was speaking with Jim Lovell when Lovell shared when things started going wrong on the mission it was time to focus on the problem and fix it. Broyles likened this mindset to the Marines when things go wrong it is time to think, adapt and improvise. The astronauts were on their own in many ways and had to work the problem out. Understanding the thought process of the astronauts as engineers helped, “…the tonal quality of the script…there would be no drama in the capsule…the antagonist was not a traditional human being….it was the problem and then outer space.” He wanted to show everyone working for a common goal in Apollo 13. 

For Jarhead,  Broyles put the Vietnam Veteran getting on the bus at the end in the film because of how he felt as a Marine having served in Vietnam. The scene in the film about the Marines watching Apocalypse Now was a recruiting film scene even though it is really an anti-war film. Jarhead was the opportunity to do a Samuel Beckett play into a film. One scene in Jarhead that reflects Broyles’ experiences was when the Swofford character played by Jake Gyllenhaal sees a group of Iraqi soldiers burned to a crisp sitting in a circle — likely where the Iraqis were eating their food rations. Broyles said of that scene, “I am always fascinated with what it is that lets us treat other human beings as less than human…we are raised to not kill.” 

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Skarsgard in Jarhead. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

He returned to Vietnam in 1984 to make peace with his experience. He purposely sought out people he fought against to make peace with those of the NVA and VC. The Vietnamese didn’t rotate home; they were in the fight for seven or eight years. Broyles wanted to meet these men he fought while in Vietnam over tea or food. A point of the film Jarhead was: what is the point of training for war and then not employing your training — which in turn makes the Marines angry for not getting to use their training. Flags of our Fathers is the opposite of Jarhead as it features mythical characters Broyles experienced in his coming of age as a Marine. Those Marines fought the great war and won, he fought in the jungle and didn’t.

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Broyles (right) with General Amos, then Commandant of the Marine Corps and his daughter Susannah Broyles at the awards ceremony for the Marines Corps Heritage Foundation. Photo courtesy of William Broyles. 

Broyles believes we need to find good stories and especially good Marine stories to tell. Hollywood is cyclical as well with the types of stories the film industry wants. We are currently in the longest war we ever fought with Afghanistan which makes people weary. He stated, “People aren’t just going to see a Marine Corps film they are going to go see a great film that features a great story that features Marines. It’s just getting good stories. If you do a really good story and a really good script it will eventually get noticed.”  Broyles is incredibly proud of Texas Monthly, China Beach, Castaway, Apollo 13 and Jarhead, but mainly he is proud of his five children and of “…having raised really good human beings in the meantime.” 

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Broyles with the cast of the TV show “SIX”. Photo courtesy of William Broyles.

A few interesting notes, Broyles has a Marines Corps award named after him titled ‘The Lieutenant William Broyles Award’ and it is given for a distinguished play or screenplay by a playwright or screenwriter dealing with U.S. Marine Corps heritage or Marine Corps life. The award is given yearly through the Marines Corps Heritage Foundation. Broyles’ son David served as a Pararescue Jumper in the Air Force and conducted special operations missions during the War on Terror. David is now a writer in Hollywood and has worked on History’s TV show Six. Broyles also got to hear President Kennedy speak at his college, Rice University, about the plan for the United States to go to the moon. 

Articles

This D-Day vet played the role of his British commander in ‘The Longest Day’

On D-Day, Richard Todd was one of the paratroopers who took part in the capture of Pegasus Bridge. Todd had parachuted in after the original assault and helped reinforce the British Army’s Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry led by Maj. John Howard.


Little did Todd know at the time that he would find himself portraying that same British commander when legendary director Daryl Zanuck was making Cornelius Ryan’s book “The Longest Day” into an epic movie.

Imdb.com reports that Todd was very nearly killed on D-Day. He had been assigned to a new plane. The switch was a fortunate one since his original transport was shot down by the Nazis, killing all aboard. A 2004 article by the London Guardian reported that Todd’s D-Day involved making his way to Pegasus Bridge, reinforcing Howard’s unit, and helping to fend off German attacks on the bridge while under Howard’s command until seaborne forces linked up with the paratroopers.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Pegasus Bridge, June 9, 1944. Richard Todd helped defend this bridge. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Todd never discussed his actions on D-Day. However, in his memoirs, “Caught in the Act,” he would write, “There was no cessation in the Germans’ probing with patrols and counter-attacks, some led by tanks, and the regimental aid post was overrun in the early hours. The wounded being tended there were all killed where they lay. There was sporadic enemy mortar and artillery fire we could do nothing about. One shell landed in a hedge near me, killing a couple of our men.”

By 1962, Richard Todd had become a well-known actor, with his most notable role having been Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the 1954 movie, “The Dam Busters.” Todd had also starred in “D-Day, the Sixth of June” three years later as the leader of a commando group sent to take out German guns.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

When he was asked to play himself in “The Longest Day,” he demurred, admitting his own role in the invasion had been a small part. The London Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I did not do anything special that would make a good sequence.” Zanuck, determined to have Todd in the film, cast him as Howard instead.

“The Longest Day” was one of Todd’s last big roles, as British cinema moved in a very different direction in the 1960s. He still found work acting, narrating the series “Wings over the World” for AE Television and appearing in several “Doctor Who” episodes, among other roles.

Todd would die on Dec. 3, 2009, after having been named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1993. Below is the trailer for “The Longest Day.”

Veterans

There was a time I looked forward to Veterans Day

Coming from a retired Army Noncommissioned Officer who wore a green beret and a drill sergeant hat, it may seem weird, but I don’t look forward to Veterans Day.  However, there was a time that I got excited about this holiday.

Growing up in small town USA certain holidays were big deals, it meant we’d have a parade. Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day brought the community together and honored our nation and its heroes. Not growing up in a military family, my parents made sure we attended these events. I believe it was a large part of my desire to be a soldier from a young age. I would see the old American Legion veterans marching in their uniforms and standing proud through speeches made by local leaders. I’m certain these old veteran’s dedication had an impact on many youth, not just me. 

Nov. 11 was a special day for me when I didn’t understand the cost of freedom and service. I was too young to realize that we were honoring these veterans because they chose to put themselves through hardship on our behalf.  It was more than a cool factor and an aura of professionalism.

Now, I don’t have the same sentiment toward Veterans Day. It’s one of those days that makes me feel uncomfortable. Memorial Day, the official day to remember our fallen, is another one. 

While well-meaning Americans reach out to shake my hand and say thank you for my service, I feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure what they’re thanking me for. Additionally, I don’t feel a need to be thanked for my service. It was my choice to serve and I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. Aside from being a father, serving this great nation is the biggest honor I’ve ever had. 

Yes, this may get uncomfortable. With this discomfort we can grow. I wonder what people are thanking me for. For following my dreams? Again, it’s what I always wanted to do. I got to live out my dreams. For signing up when they didn’t? It’s okay, I made my choices and they made theirs, no animosity. The military isn’t for everybody. For making it home when others didn’t? We don’t get to pick and choose who survives. I’m lucky to have served with the most outstanding people on earth who sacrificed their lives so that we may live ours. Are they thanking me because they feel societal pressure to acknowledge my service? I always assume positive intent, but I’m a realist that knows the world isn’t all roses and rainbows. 

The reality is I think of my service every day of the year. Sometimes with a smile and other days with tears for brothers who are no longer with us. I’m proud to have served and not a day will go by that changes that feeling. 

I appreciate the recognition of my service on this special day and I’ll answer like I normally do when I’m thanked. “No need to thank me. It was my privilege to serve and if I had a choice, I’d do it all over again.” However, like a lot of veterans, this day will give me mixed emotions.

Articles

3 heroes who became POWs twice

There is no easy time to be a prisoner of war.


The United States military’s code of conduct implores captured service members to continue to resist by any means possible. This often means reprisals from one’s captors. Therefore, surviving one stint in a POW camp can be excruciating.

To do it twice is unimaginable — except these three American servicemen did it.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
The United States Code of Conduct is memorized by service members to act as a touchstone and a guide if captured. (Department of Defense)

1. Wendall A. Phillips

Phillips was assigned to the Air Transport Command as a radio operator on C-47 aircraft flying from bases in England.

While in Europe Phillips survived five separate crashes. During the last one, in late 1944, his aircraft was shot down. Though he walked away from the crash, he was unable to evade the Germans and was captured.

He and his fellow crewmembers were taken to a German POW camp in Belgium.

Phillips had no intention of sticking around though. After just 33 days Phillips and two other POW’s made a break for it.

Also read: Bob Hoover stole a Nazi plane to escape from a POW camp

Phillips simply snuck away while no guards were around. Finding a hole in the electric fence around the camp, Phillips and the other two men made good their escape and quickly found a place to hide.

Phillips travelled for three days before he linked up with the French Underground. The resistance fighters helped Phillips make it back to American lines.

After returning to American forces, Phillips was reassigned to the China-India-Burma Theater flying “the Hump” to bring supplies to forces fighting the Japanese.

Once again, Phillips’ airplane crashed and he was captured by the enemy.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
POWs at Stalag 11B at Fallingbostel in Germany welcome their liberators, April 16, 1945. (Imperial War Museum Photo)

According to an article in The Morning Call, Phillips endured torture at the hands of the Japanese — they even forcibly removed his fingernails trying to get information out of him.

Phillips would not escape this time but he would survive his ordeal as a POW; he was released with the Japanese surrender in 1945.

2. Felix J. McCool

When Gen. Wainwright conveyed the American surrender in the Philippines to President Roosevelt, he said, “there is a limit to human endurance, and that limit has long since been passed.” But Gen. Wainwright was certainly not speaking for one Marine sergeant, Felix J. McCool.

McCool was still recovering from wounds he had received earlier in resisting the Japanese when he, the 4th Marine Regiment, and the rest of the defenders of Corregidor were rounded up and shipped off to internment.

Just getting there was bad enough as the captives were crammed into cattle cars so tightly that when men passed out or died they could not even fall down.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
POWs in the Pacific Theater endured horrific conditions. Pictured here are men on the Bataan Death March with their hands bound behind their backs; later this would be labeled as a Japanese War Crime. (U.S. National Archives)

But for McCool, being a Marine meant that he was not out of the fight. He did everything in his power to resist his Japanese captors.

While working as forced labor on an airfield McCool and his fellow prisoners created a tiger trap on the runway — they later watched as a Japanese airplane crashed and burned due to their handiwork.  

McCool also managed to smuggle in medical supplies to help the sick and wounded.

He did this despite the constant threat of beatings and even summary execution. He carried on despite the horrendous conditions in the camp.

But there was worse to come.

McCool next endured a brutal voyage to Japan aboard a Japanese prisoner transport vessel, known as a “hell ship.” McCool survived the hellacious conditions only to be put to work in an underground coal mine. There he continued his resistance by sabotaging the work and keeping the faith with his fellow prisoners.

After thirteen months in the coal mine, McCool was freed by the ending of the war in the Pacific.

He returned to the United States and decided to stay in the Marine Corps. Then in 1950, now a Chief Warrant Officer, he found himself fighting the North Koreans.

McCool became part of the fateful Task Force Drysdale, an ad hoc, mixed-nationality unit that was attempting to fight its way toward the beleaguered Marines fighting at the Chosin Reservoir. When the task force was ambushed and separated along the roadway to Hagaru-ri, McCool was once again taken prisoner.

McCool and his fellow captives were marched far north through brutal cold with no rations. Once in their internment camp, the conditions hardly improved. Besides the brutal treatment, the men were also subjected to communist indoctrination and propaganda.

Related: The day we saved 2,147 prisoners from Los Baños Prison

McCool’s resistance earned him the ire of his captors and they threw him in the Hole — a barely three foot square hole in the ground. But he endured.

McCool was repatriated with many other Americans during Operation Big Switch after the end of hostilities.

According to his award citations, McCool spent over six years as a prisoner of war between his two internments.

He later wrote a book about his experiences and the poetry that he wrote to keep himself going during those terrible times.

3. Richard Keirn

Richard Keirn was a young flight officer on a B-17 when he arrived in England in 1944. On Sept. 11, 1944, he took to the skies in his first mission to bomb Nazi Germany. It would also be his last.

Keirn’s B-17 was shot down that day and he became a POW for the remainder of the war. Released in May 1945 after the defeat of Germany, Keirn returned to the United States and stayed in the military. He became a part of the newly formed U.S. Air Force.

In 1965, Keirn embarked for Vietnam, flying F-4 Phantom II’s.

Then on July 24, 1965, North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles engaged and shot down an American aircraft for the first time. That aircraft was piloted by Capt. Richard Keirn.

Keirn ejected from his stricken aircraft and would spend nearly eight years as a POW in North Vietnam.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Keirn, like many of his fellow POWs, made every effort to resist the North Vietnamese. For his actions as a POW, he was awarded a Silver Star and a Legion of Merit.

Keirn was released from captivity with many other downed airmen as part of Operation Homecoming in 1973.

Veterans

VA chief fires head of department hospital in DC — again

The former director of the veterans hospital in the nation’s capital has once again been fired.


The Department of Veterans Affairs says it’s fired Brian Hawkins — citing audits that found mismanagement at the facility.

VA Secretary David Shulkin says he used new firing authority under an accountability law signed by President Donald Trump.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Dr. David J. Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

Hawkins was let go in August. He was later put back on the payroll after he appealed the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Shulkin says he’ll continue using his full authority “to hold employees accountable if they fail to do their jobs or live up to VA’s values.”

The agency’s inspector general’s office continues to investigate inventory practices at the hospital that the VA says put patients at risk.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This nonprofit charity helps veterans and their spouses find great careers

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

In the wake of World War I, hundreds of thousands of returning and separating American troops came home to a nation ill-prepared to support them. In 1920, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) was founded with the goal of helping these service members transition comfortably back into civilian life. Since then, DAV has been providing a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families by helping them access benefits they earned—like health care, education and disability—and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities.


The nonprofit charity was founded by an injured infantryman who rose to become a judge in the Superior Court of Ohio after The Great War. The organization was originally known as the Disabled American Veterans of the World War and, as its name suggests, it was focused on helping those who were disabled by the War.

Now, in addition to helping veterans receive their earned benefits, providing outreach to families of disabled veterans, and representing veteran interests to the government, they run an employment program that, in 2017, supported 140 traditional and virtual career fairs that helped over 43,000 attendees — and they’re setting higher goals with each passing year.

DAV established the National Employment Program in 2014, which focuses on connecting veterans and their spouses with employers. Their goal is to improve the lives of veterans and their families by finding meaningful employment.

Today, DAV hosts a job board that has as many as 250,000 active job openings listed at once. They also help represent veterans to employers, explaining to decision-makers why it’s best to target veterans for open positions.

If you’re a veteran or military spouse looking for new or improved employment, check out DAV’s employment resources, specifically their comprehensive hiring guide. And if you’re well-employed and looking to help veterans, consider giving to DAV by donating your time, money, or used vehicles.

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This treatment for wounded warriors is ‘tubular’

After losing his arm and leg in battle, a Hawaiian soldier being treated at the Naval Medical Center San Diego told his doctors that more than anything else, he wanted to surf again.


Navy Seaman Emily Wallace reacts to a moment free from her severe pain during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. The medically appointed surf therapy helps her to manage her pain and provides her with a reprieve from chronic pain without medications. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Almost 10 years later, the hospital’s surfing clinic staff has assisted more than 1,500 wounded, ill and injured service members from all service branches in their recovery through surfing.

“I remember at the time, I told him we’re going to go surfing but I had no idea how we’re going to go, with him missing an arm and a leg,” said Betty Michalewicz-Kragh, surf therapy program manager and exercise physiologist with the Health and Wellness department at the medical center, also known as “Balboa.”

Michalewicz-Kragh said she looked for ideas on the internet and eventually called a Brazilian above-the-knee amputee who came to San Diego and assisted Michalewicz-Kragh in training the soldier for five weeks.

The patient started surfing. “And as a result of him going surfing, many other wounded warriors have gone surfing, and it’s been an amazing journey,” she said.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Today, adaptive surfing is more mainstream, with its third world championship taking place in December in La Jolla, California. Michalewicz-Kragh said when the clinic first started using surfing therapy, she only thought of the physical benefits, such as the cardio ability and strengthening the posterior muscles.

“We ended up realizing the benefit surfing has for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues,” she added. “It’s been an amazing journey.”

Finding Fitness, Friends

Surfing is like a medication, and all the side effects are good, Michalewicz-Kragh said. “A person may come here to surf but they end up finding a community,” she explained. “The side effects will be that his fitness level will be better, his cardiovascular ability improves, he gets stronger, and he meets a lot of people. The community integration aspect is really important, so there are many benefits to surfing.”

She said patients don’t need to know how to surf before showing up and they can attend the swim clinic beforehand. “Our goal for the patients as they come to the program is to find out how they can make their life better by surfing and to have the ability to surf and become a better surfer,” she said. “You will not be Kelly Slater after six weeks, and not after 12, but you will have the tools to know how to practice and learn how to surf on your own safely and independently.”

Also Read: Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Beach Yoga

Before surfing, patients can also take yoga classes at the beach, thanks to Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, the Navy medical center’s preventive medicine department head.

“I always check with them at the beginning of class as they check in, where they’re hurting, so I can make sure they focus the class on things that will be beneficial to any particular needs they may have and then ask them afterward,” Christensen said. “I’ve had feedback from some patients who say that this is the only thing they’ve found that helps them feel better, and some who say, ‘I hated yoga, but now I love it,’ so that’s encouraging. It’s a great setting. It’s not me; it’s the beach.”

Christensen said programs such as the surfing clinic are important for wounded warriors. “It gives them hope and confidence, which will help them with their depression if they have it,” she said. “It’s giving them hope that they can get better, confidence in their abilities to do so, and then ability and new skills and new talents.”

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Volunteers

The patients can go through the six-week program twice to learn surfing, and those who transition out of the military and stay in the local area can continue with the program. About 50 surfers — retired firefighters, police officers and military, along with the Del Mar lifeguards — volunteer to work with the patients in the surf therapy clinic.

Former Air Force Sgt. Warren James, a Vietnam veteran, has been volunteering for the past two years. “I’m really good at teaching the beginners,” the former avionics technician said. “It’s very rewarding for me, and I can see it’s very effective for the patients.”

James, who repaired radios and radar equipment on F-4, C-130 and C-40 aircraft during his military service, said he enjoys volunteering with service members and fellow veterans. “It’s overwhelming sometimes. They have injuries, and I didn’t really get injured, so I feel for them,” he said. “I saw a lot of bad things, and I don’t say much about it, but it’s really good to be able to talk to somebody else about it. I know how they feel … I didn’t have PTSD, but I can sense when they do, and it’s really comforting to help them and know that it’s helping me, too.”

Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Surfing clinic participants gain confidence as they make progress in the surfing clinic, he said. “If they had a physical injury, they recover quicker,” he added. “They take less medication. It’s just a really good program.”

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Patients’ Opinions

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Toran Gaal, a bilateral amputee who lives in Valley Center, California, said surfing brings him closer to those he lost in combat. He was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2011.

“To be in a place like the ocean, it allows me to be closer to those people and feel like I’m lifted up,” Gaal said. “I feel like I’m around them when I’m out there. I feel like they’re around me, watching over me, making sure I’m safe. The ocean allows me to feel close to them, as well as gain relationships with some of the volunteers to be happy.”

The surfing clinic is about surfing and reintegration into the community, Gaal said. “It’s not just about gaining independence and going out and surfing. It’s about reintegration and transitioning,” he said.

Gaal said he and his wife, Lisa, have become friends and family with Bob Bishop, one of the volunteers, with whom they have regular lunches at Bishop’s home.

Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

“It’s just a sense of family for me, and my wife knows that. She knows that when I’m around these people, I come back happier because I enjoy being in their presence and the negativity is not there. They’re all positive influences,” Gaal said.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Volunteer Brianna Phillip helps Navy Seaman Emily Wallace, left, walk into the surf to meet her instructo,r Necia Snow, right, during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Wallace suffers from an illness that causes severe pain, and the medically appointed surf therapy helps to manage her pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Marine Corps Cpl. Leighton Anderson, a Gardena, California, native who was injured during an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash in 2016, said he enjoys the surfing clinic as well.

“I always wanted to learn how to surf, since I’m from California,” Anderson said. “I tried it three times in my life and never did it. I was like, ‘Let me try it through here,’ and then after that, I was hooked. It was pretty sweet. I love it. Everybody’s really nice and supportive.”

Anderson said surfing helps him physically and mentally.

“I had so many barriers, because once I was injured, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do that. I might hurt myself.’ I have a little PTSD, and I didn’t think I would enjoy anything. Once I tried it, I broke down a lot of barriers I had mentally and physically. I had weak tendons in my hand and foot, but with surfing they’re starting to get better. And mentally, it makes me happy. It’s just something everybody should take on.”

“Surfing therapy is amazing,” James said. “The program works, because it keeps them not thinking what they would normally would be thinking when they’re at a medical appointment. But here, we just talk about other things, and that’s why it works.

“It’s different,” he added. “I definitely suggest getting in the water, even if you have no experience at all. Just come to the beach.”

Articles

This former Army Blackhawk pilot is on the verge of taking off in Hollywood

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Ellis behind the controls of a U.S. Army Blackhawk. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)


By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.

Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.

“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.

Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.

In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.

He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.

The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.

“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”

There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.

The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.

“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”

The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”

He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.

“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”

Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Nate Ellis in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”

And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.

“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”

After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.

He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.

“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”

By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.

“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones

He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.

Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.

Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”

At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”

And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.

“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”

And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.

Army Veteran turned Documentarian continues to deploy to conflict zones
Ellis in action as a director. (Photo courtesy of Nate Ellis)

“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”

Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.

“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”

Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.

“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”

 

Veterans

This is why veterans fit in quickly at country clubs

Veterans are a cut from the finest moral cloth of society. Military service offers upward mobility in the social ladder across all cultures. Officers from humble beginnings have earned a seat at the table of high society by showing gallantry in battle. The character traits honed by veterans are what social clubs look for in members. Membership is a great way to engage with like-minded people to create powerful connections at the local level. Veterans fit in quickly at country clubs for various reasons.

Veterans have charisma

veteran country club
Doesn’t this look peaceful?

Even the Marine Corps has golf courses on her bases domestically and abroad. The need for recreation to keep up moral is always on the mind of great military leaders. The financial barrier to entry is reduced to enjoy these types of facilities on base. Many offer amenities such as banquets, tennis courts, wedding facilities and saunas that make it easy for active-duty troops to access.

Learning jargon, such as tee time, is an advantage for when a veteran is invited as a guest at a private club. Civilians at private golf courses have everything money can buy – except what you have done. Veterans are mysterious and offer a point of view they have never had. Members quickly hang on every word from a combat veteran’s lips. You will be surprised how many country club members have sons and daughters as officers in the military or that they themselves have served.

Veterans quickly pick up on decorum

There isn’t much to the science of etiquette. At first it is overwhelming to be sure, but through exposure it becomes routine. No one truly cares if you do not know the difference between wines or which side you place your water glass. They had the opportunity to learn it young and understand that a simple mistake isn’t the end of the world. In fact, you will find that members will take you under their wing to make you feel like you belong – because you do.

In order to join most country clubs you will need two written recommendations from members, along with three to five other members supporting you. What members are looking for is the willingness to learn. Vets are natural story tellers that command attention, an advantage for those seeking support for your goal.

The Army, Navy and Marine Corps have their own country club

There was much discussion during the summer and early fall of 1924 about the need on the part of Army, Navy, and Marine Corps officers stationed in the Washington area for outdoor recreation facilities. This need sprang from the realization that such officers, with modest salaries and generally without other means, were hard put to meet expenses for the necessities of life, let alone afford the high initiation fees and dues associated with membership in existing private country clubs of the area.

Army Navy Country Club, Arlington, VA

Prestigious social clubs actively welcome veterans despite having strict application policies. Prior service members and civilians can sit down and relax together. Joining a country club is a good idea for the bold and ambitious. It will surprise you how quickly a vet will adjust to a new world full of business opportunities. Across the nation there are many country clubs that cater to veterans and have reciprocal memberships with other country clubs. Another fact about country clubs is that once one accepts you, other clubs welcome you as well. This multiplies your ability to make connections exponentially. Veterans have charisma and that makes them fit in quickly within all stratus of society.

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