First and foremost, he is a patriot
By Dennis J. Freeman
The word patriotism has a different meaning to a lot of different people. To some people, being a patriot means being willing to commit the ultimate sacrifice for your country. To others, patriotism comes in the form of resistance provocation.
Then there are those individuals, no matter what kind of ugly scars or imperfect blemishes America has, sincerely believe that home of the brave identifies with this country’s pulse. Actor Dwayne Johnson is one of those people who is down with the red, white and blue.
The super talented thespian, producer, philanthropist and worldwide sex symbol, makes no bones about his allegiance to the flag and all the liberties of freedom it represents. To the Baywatch and The Fate of the Furious star, that freedom is no better represented or protected than by the men and women of the military.
In Johnson’s eyes, the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard, they’re all cut from the same cloth. These are individuals who risk their lives to keep America safe.
Honoring these true patriots every chance he gets, from pulling off a surprise television reunion between and a husband and wife to holding a celebrity-filled tribute to the troops, Johnson leaves no stone unturned in paying homage to these real-life gladiators.
He undergirds his support for military members and their families by partnering up with entities such as Under Armour and Authentic Apparel Group. A Facebook connoisseur, Johnson took to the social media platform to let the world know how he decided to honor the troops with his patronage of Under Armour.
“I come from a family of proud military soldiers—from the Vietnam War to Navy SEALS,” Johnson posted. “Since you’ve been loving our designs, I wanted to create a simple yet powerful design with my @UnderArmour partners that gives back to our military community while paying respect and homage to our country’s most powerful symbol: our RED, WHITE AND BLUE. To me, our flag stands for strength, self-betterment and an unbreakable spirit.”
“I stand for it, salute it, respect it and protect it,” Johnson added. “Through my partnership with @UnderArmour and the company’s @UnderArmourFreedom initiative in support of military, veterans and first responders, our goal is simple: these athletes have risked their lives for our freedom. They deserve everything we can give back to them. Like our motto says, first and foremost, we are patriots.”
In aligning himself with Authentic Apparel Group, Johnson has an opportunity to showcase the coolness of everyday working men and women strapping up with chic and always trendy jackets, pants, sweaters and shirts that reflect military fashionwear.
“Authentic Apparel Group is about legacy, performance and innovation. I am proud to represent a company that supports and honors the everyday heroes that inspire me,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s endearment to the military is not confined to just apparel. Admitting to the fact he played with G.I. Joe figurines when he was young, Johnson went a couple of steps further with his admiration for military members and what they do, bringing Navy SEALs on set during the filming of his 2013 hit G.I. Joe Retaliation.
“They are the real superheroes,” Johnson once said in an interview with METRO. “The men and women of our military are always inspiring to me. I have family who have served and family who are Navy SEALs, so I have an emotional connection. Even though GI Joe is heightened reality, we wanted to pay homage and make the movie real boots-to-the-ground gritty, with that spirit.”
The men and women of the military are indeed real-life superheroes. Johnson doesn’t do too bad a job portraying one on the big screen. Since his WWF days, where he won multiple heavyweight championships, and became an icon on the professional wrestling circuit as “The Rock,” Johnson has parlayed the role of one larger-than-life superhero after another into a financial and commercial blitz as an actor.
With past leading roles in The Scorpion King, Doom, The Game Plan, Hercules, San Andreas, as well as co-piloting the last four Fast & Furious films and taking on projects like Ballers, Moana and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Johnson is a prime-time, certifiable butt-kicker.
What Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise and Sylvester Stallone once was to the movie industry, Johnson is today—maybe even bigger (Johnson’s official Facebook page has over 57 million likes; 81.6 million Instagram followers). In 2016, Johnson made more money ($64.5 million) than any actor worldwide to top Forbes No. 1 list.
“I can kick ass better than anyone on the planet,” Johnson told Forbes in a 2012 interview. “And I have a decent smile.”
With all that money, comes fame. And plenty of admirers. People magazine named Johnson their Sexiest Man Alive cover last year. These are just some of the perks Johnson has been afforded since he’s become such a behemoth box-office draw. But they are merely sidekick benefits to what he is about, and that’s helping people.
This truism is reflected in HBO’s documentary, Rock and a Hard Place, with Johnson serving as executive producer. The military-type boot camp arena is sort of a rehab spot for young people to turn their lives around from their trouble-making days and running afoul with the law. Johnson identifies with these young people.
He was just like them, even getting locked up as a teenager.
“By the time I was 16, I had been arrested multiple times for a variety of things, and can relate to what these kids are going through,” Johnson said in a released statement.
The type of discipline for these young people to right their wrong turn is certainly something Johnson knows about. It was discipline that got him back on track to become a USA Today High School All-American to a college-bound enthusiast receiving a football scholarship to the University of Miami.
Johnson used that same discipline to mentally bounce back from a back injury that cut down his aspiration of playing in the NFL to having to endure a humbling stint of bringing home $175 a week playing football in the Canadian League for the Calgary Stampeders.
Johnson’s commitment to succeed served him well as he struggled with uncertainty before moving on to self-realization after he began dominating a sport that his father, Rocky Johnson, once infiltrated as a wage earner.
Now it seems he’s on top of the world, light years away from when he used to get teased by other kids growing up. With the height of fame Johnson has now achieved, he feels the responsibility to give back. That can’t be expressed more in the way he looks out to taking care the men and women in military.
In December 2016, Johnson decided to put up or shut up in regards to this matter. Gathering a whole cast of celebrity friends, Johnson paid homage to as many as 50,000 service men and women recognizing the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The occasion was no less than a momentous and celebrative one for the troops.
“We wanted to do something that had never been done before and we wanted it to be epic,” says Johnson, who served as executive producer as well.
The Rock the Troops event, which was held at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, brought out comedian Kevin Hart, funnyman extraordinaire Jack Black and leading man Matthew McConaughey, among others and far superseded original projected numbers. But that’s just like the playbook Johnson has always followed—go big or don’t go at all.
“The idea was to create a show that was epic and big and that would entertain and honor our troops,” Johnson said in an excerpted interview with Entertainment Weekly. “You get around these great men and women of the armed forces and you get instant perspective. I can have the life I have and the career I have because of what they do every day. They ensure our way of life. We enjoy the freedoms we have because of the brave men and women who serve, so the least we can do is give back.”