GI Film Festival San Diego Announces Virtual 2021 Season

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GI Film Festival promotional logo with the title and San Diego added

Organizers of the GI Film Festival San Diego are thrilled to announce its diverse film lineup for their annual festival happening May 18-23, 2021.

For the first time ever, the multi-day military-themed event is streamed online. Established in 2006 and brought to San Diego in 2015, the festival solely presents films and events for, by and about military service members and veterans.

A record year for films selected

This year, 38 films representing an array of documentaries, narratives, feature-length, and shorts are included in the lineup focusing on themes such as women in service, the Black military experience, the lasting impacts of the Normandy liberation, post traumatic growth, caregiver experiences, and a pandemic story. The number of films selected is the highest to be included in the San Diego military film festival.

Festival fans, active duty military, veteran supporters, and lovers of independent film can look forward to standout stories, including the documentary feature “The Girl Who Wore Freedom” that highlights powerful interviews with French survivors and American veterans from WWII; “The Invisible Project,” a documentary style info-drama that follows the lives of four women as they work to change the public perception of women veterans in America; and “Sky Blossom: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation,” a documentary that salutes the 24.5 million children and millenials who have stepped up as frontline heroes caring for family with tough medical conditions.

A full list of films selected for this year’s festival is at the end of this news release.

By the numbers

In 2021, more than half of the lineup includes films made by or starring active duty military or veterans, 11 were made by female directors, eight were directed by first-time filmmakers, and another eight are student films. Festival organizers also saw a significant number of international film submissions this year, with four making the official selection. The GI Film Festival San Diego also honors local filmmakers through the Local Film Showcase, organized in partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego. This year, six films round out the popular showcase, including the return of award-winning veteran filmmaker Mark Vizcarra, whose first film, “The Flying Greek,” screened in the 2016 GI Film Festival San Diego. Other filmmakers making their return to the GI Film Festival San Diego are Devin and Jeanne Scott (2015, 2017, and 2019), Tracie Hunter and Kyle Olson (2018), and RJ Nevens (2015).

“As the granddaughter of veterans, it is important to me to provide an avenue for these underrepresented stories to be told and retold,” says Nancy Worlie, interim general manager, KPBS. “When I helped bring the festival to San Diego in 2015, I dreamed we would create an everlasting experience that showcases the creative talents of emerging and established filmmakers from around the world, and gives the festival-goer a chance to gain meaningful insight into what it means to serve our country. I am very proud that San Diego is the home of the national, juried festival.”

Moving the festival online

The virtual platform will accommodate attendees from around the world – not just San Diego. The festival schedule will feature nightly online showtimes followed by post-screening discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, and subject-matter experts. These showtimes and discussions will provide audiences the experience to watch together and participate in the discussion in real time in a virtual auditorium – all from the safety and comfort of their homes.

Admission is $10 for general audiences and $8 for military and veterans per screening. All proceeds support the festival. Each ticket holder will receive a unique URL that will provide access to the virtual auditorium on the GI Film Festival San Diego website. Tickets are available starting April 1, 2021 at gifilmfestivalsd.org.

In addition to the virtual screenings, all films will also be available as a video on demand rental (VOD), beginning the day after its festival debut through May 26. This gives festival goers the flexibility to participate and enjoy the films whenever they choose within the rental window. Attendees will have the choice to either attend the online showtime for a synchronized watch and / or rent and watch on-demand. Each option requires a separate fee. “This new on demand feature broadens the accessibility of our festival and the films can be seen by a wider audience,” says Worlie. “It’s now even easier for attendees to participate whenever and from wherever they are.”

Bringing together civilians and military through cinema

Since its inception in 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego has presented more than 170 films from international, U.S., and San Diego County, and has attracted thousands of attendees from various backgrounds. To help bridge the military-civilian divide, each film selected tells a compelling and unique story. The GI Film Festival San Diego challenges notions about what it means to serve and goes beyond one-dimensional depictions of veterans, service members, their caregivers and families.

The festival has also hosted several celebrities whose films had been presented at GIFFSD events, including documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Ric Burns; actor and activist George Takei; actor Matthew Marsden; actor/producer/director Jeffrey Wright; and actor/director Brenda Strong.

Every year, films selected for the festival are curated by members of the GI Film Festival San Diego advisory committee. The film festival has active support from several military-related organizations, such as Project Recover, Workshops for Warriors, Travis Manion Foundation, Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Blue Star Families San Diego, American History Theatre, San Diego Military Family Collaborative, Armed Services YMCA, Southern Caregiver Resource Center, Courage to Call, and Joan & Art Barron Veterans Center at San Diego State University. Members of the advisory committee come from various military backgrounds, including veterans of the US Marine Corps, US Air Force, US Navy, US Army, US Coast Guard, as well as Air Force Reserves, and several military spouses, all who volunteer their time, talent, and expertise to ensure the festival provides an authentic view of the military experience and engages its audience through post-screening discussions.

“Each year I am amazed at what I learn and the people I meet through this community of passionate filmmakers, service members, military allies, film lovers and more,” says Worlie. “The power of great stories is undeniable and the continued support of the community is what makes it possible for us to tell these vital military stories every year.”

About GI Film Festival San Diego

The festival presents films and events for, by, and about military and veterans. The event is organized by KPBS and partners with the Film Consortium San Diego to present the Local Film Showcase. The festival is funded in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and is sponsored by National University and Scatena Daniels Communications. The GI Film Festival San Diego is an active member of the San Diego Veterans Coalition and the San Diego Military Family Collaborative.

About Film Consortium San Diego

The Film Consortium San Diego is a social venture that stimulates film and television production in the region and increases networking, employment, education, funding and distribution opportunities in film, television and new media. The Film Consortium hosts and organizes the San Diego Film Awards, San Diego Film Week, and various screening and networking events.

About KPBS

KPBS serves San Diego and Imperial counties with trusted news and programs that tell the stories of our time. KPBS delivers this content to more than one million audience members weekly via multiple outlets, including television, radio, and digital media. As a public service of San Diego State University, education is a core value – from our children’s programming to our local news coverage. KPBS provides stories that make us think, help us dream, and keep us connected. For more information, visit kpbs.org.

Film Selections for the GI Film Festival San Diego as of March 25, 2021:

The following films (in alphabetical order) are confirmed for this year’s virtual GI Film Festival San Diego. Titles are subject to change.

  • “The 11th Order” – The true story of two U.S. Marines who, in a span of six seconds, must stand their ground to stop a suicide truck bomb and protect the lives of the 150 Marines and Iraqi Police behind them. Less about glorifying warfare or the true event itself, our film aims to provide context to the unimaginable: to show these young men as ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances, and explain why there was never doubt in their actions that fateful morning.

Narrative Short / Directed by Joshua DeFour / 25 minutes / 2019 / USA / Local Film Showcase / Student Film / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere

  • “Actions Speak Louder than Medals – the Royce Williams Story” – On 18 November, 1952, Royce Williams found himself alone in an aerial duel against SEVEN superior, aggressively flown Russian MiGs. In the 38 minutes that followed, he bested at least four and just-barely brought his wounded F9F Panther back to the carrier….where he was promptly told that what had just happened “didn’t.” True to his values, Royce put the spectacular event out of his mind and continued his service, quietly, humbly — only telling his wife when informed (over FIFTY YEARS LATER) that the moment was now “unclassified.” Today, at age 95, Royce is finally (and somewhat bewildered by) the attention he deserves. But behind every great hero story is an even greater back-story proving out that the actions behind great deeds are their own reward. Documentary Short / Directed by John Mollison / 20 minutes / 2020 / USA
  • Alene B. Duerk: The First Woman Admiral” – “Alene B. Duerk: The First Woman Admiral” is a short documentary that tells the story of how Alene Duerk overcame gender stereotypes in the military to accomplish the highest rank ever achieved by a woman in the history of the US Navy. Documentary Short / Directed by Eliciana Nascimento / Nine minutes / 2020 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere
  • Amazing Grace” – “Amazing Grace” tells the story of a young woman looking after her father, a Vietnam Veteran struggling with alcoholism and PTSD, in which dealing with the challenges of everyday life can require an extraordinary amount of patience, understanding, love… and grace.

Narrative Short / Directed by Nina Brissey / 23 minutes / 2020 / USA

  • A Band to Honor” – Using archival footage, photographs, and personal interviews, “A Band to Honor” tells the story of 21 young naval musicians. These individuals were among the 1,177 USS Arizona members who lost their lives when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As the day of infamy arrives, an incredible account of the attack on Pearl Harbor is offered with an extraordinary animation sequence and the eyewitness testimony of three Pearl Harbor survivors, two of which were crewmembers of the USS Arizona. The tragic final minutes of the band are detailed, clearing up the many misconceptions about the USS Arizona Band’s fate.

Documentary Feature / Directed by Warren Hull / 77 minutes / 2020 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / West Coast Premiere

  • Beauty for Ashes” – A film showcasing the power of forgiveness in the most challenging of circumstances.

Narrative Short / Directed by Jamie Humphris / Seven minutes / 2020 / Australia

  • Brothers in Arms” – “Brothers in Arms” tells a powerful story of hope and courage. Following WW2 Combat Marine Veteran Charlie Kohler from his childhood in the Heartland to a promising major league baseball career that’s cut short by the break out of the war.

Documentary Short / Directed by Tracie Hunter / 22 minutes / 2020 / USA / West Coast Premiere

  • Budding Creativity” – An African American, wife, military veteran, and mother of three explores creative transferability during COVID-19.

Documentary Short / Directed by Kay Barnes / Nine minutes / 2020 / USA / Student Film / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / World Premiere

  • Burger Day | A Short Story by Audrey di Faye” – An Asian-American woman confronts a veteran about his service when he harasses a food service worker over the restaurant’s Veteran Day special. “Burger Day,” was inspired by Greek tragedy, Euripedes’ “Hecuba.” It is a synthesis of a modern veteran experience and the ancient theater arts.

Narrative Short / Directed by Audrey di Faye / Six minutes / 2020 / USA / Student Film / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere

  • Charlotte Mansfield: a Woman Photographer Goes to War” – Drawing from an extraordinary archive of unpublished military photographs and personal correspondence, as well as expert and family interviews, “Charlotte Mansfield, a Woman Photographer Goes to War” tells the story of Sgt. Charlotte Dee Mansfield’s pioneering career as a Women’s Army Corps photographer during World War II.

Documentary Short / Directed by Brian Graves / 26 minutes / 2019 / USA / West Coast Premiere

  • The Children’s Crusade” – Two young men, on opposite sides, meet on the battlefield in Iraq; but this could be any battlefield.  Had they met anywhere else they might have been friends, but this is Fallujah.  This film is intended to educate the public on the cruelty, the brutality, and the fog of war while also showing the human side and the bonds that tie all of us together.

Narrative Short / Directed by Joe Mery / Five minutes /  2020 / USA / Made By or Starring Veterans or Military / World Premiere

  • DREAMS OF THE BLACK ECHO” –This is the story of the Vietnam War, told to the younger generation through the experience of American and Vietnamese veterans and the battles of Khe Sanh. A unique co-production with Duy Tan University in Vietnam and Dixie State University film students, faculty, and staff for the DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival, “DREAMS OF THE BLACK ECHO” features stark historical and current footage and interviews, which enhance an already gripping look at this controversial war and the healing process which happens when soldiers can communicate after the conflict. Documentary Feature / Directed by Phil Tuckett and Tran Anh Tien / 80 minutes / 2020 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / West Coast Premiere
  • Early Light” – A 24-hour glimpse into an Equine Therapy Program where two Wyoming veterans turn to the healing power of horses to battle their PTSD. Allen and Sam find themselves on a path to self- destruction. Sometimes the only one who hears our cry for help is the last one we expect to be listening.

Narrative Short / Directed by Ted Schneider / 17 minutes / 2020 / USA / San Diego Premiere

  • THE FARM” – Follow transitioning military as well as veterans learn Sustainable Organic Agriculture as a career.

Documentary Short / Directed by Shawn Efran / 30 minutes / 2021 / USA / Local Film Showcase

  • A Flash of Green” – After being wounded by the first explosions at Pearl Harbor, Charles McCandless fought in the most critical battles against Imperial Japan in World War II. Midway, Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima, to name a few. When he got home, like many veterans, he never talked about it. When Sandra McCandless Simons first read her father’s memoir, its revelations inspired her to publish his book so that others could experience his unique perspective on the war in the Pacific. Using newly-discovered archive footage along with unique images from McCandless family scrapbooks, this film brings the vivid storytelling of Charles’ memoir to the screen, along with fresh insight and humanity to one of the most consequential military struggles in history. Documentary Short / Directed by Edward Nachtrieb / 41 minutes / 2020 / USA / San Diego Premiere
  • The Final Stand” – October 1941. Fascist hordes rush to Moscow. As a result of the breakthrough of the defensive line on one of the direct highways, there were no regular units of the Red Army left and the invaders were able to move in freely. Soviet High command decides to close the gap with cadets from the Podolsk infantry and artillery schools, many of whom were about 18 years old. Their task is to hold out for five days until the reserves arrive. The cadets held out for twelve… Аt a cost of their lives, they did not allow the enemy to reach Moscow, and thereby changed the course of war. The film is about heroism, about love, about true friendship.

Narrative Feature / Directed by Vadim Shmelyov / 136 minutes / 2020 / Russian Federation

  • Forgotten Heroes” – The legacy of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore still resonates today. But what of those from the island who fought on battlefields thousands of miles from home? “Forgotten Heroes” follows the stories of four courageous individuals from Singapore who found themselves in far-flung theatres of war. From the blood-soaked beaches of Northern France to the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, from the violent skies over southern China to the brutalities of a Japanese POW camp in Java, this documentary recounts the incredible true stories of four Singaporeans who lived through turbulent times. Documentary Short / Directed by Tom St. John Gray / 49 minutes / 2020 / Singapore / West Coast Premiere
  • Fort Irwin” – Cristian arrives for his first day of work as an amputee actor at Fort Irwin, a military base in the California desert. For his new job, Cristian will act as if his legs have been destroyed by a bomb while wearing gory prosthetics as a part of soldiers’ training exercises. Cristian, an injured veteran himself, enters the artificial military simulation to confront his real combat trauma. Haunted by the past he fights to transform his fear into a source of strength.

Narrative Short / Directed by Quinn Else / 11 minutes / 2019 / USA / Student Film / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere

  • From Russia with… Mehh” – Matri, born in Deerborn Michigan in the mid 60’s, a daughter to a mail order Russian bride, tells the sad tail of growing up with a narcissistic mother and how she discovered the American Dream the hard way. Made almost completely with old super 8mm footage found at swap meets and estate sales, this unique style of film will leave you appreciating your childhood. Who knows, it might be a true story…

Narrative Short / Directed by Devin Scott / 17 minutes / 2020 / USA / Local Film Showcase / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / World Premiere

  • The Girl Who Wore Freedom” – Normandy, France. Once an idyllic landscape, Normandy had succumbed to German invaders who overran its farms, its manors, its countryside. Here we meet Dany, Maurice, Henri-Jean, and others, who share their relationships with Allied forces who liberated Normandy. The journey from occupation to liberation, to acceptance and forgiveness, to gratitude and pride, is explored through interviews with French survivors and American veterans. We are reminded who America can be at her very best: when she values people over politics, seeks to right the wrongs of injustice, and sacrifices, when necessary, so others might be free.

Documentary Feature / Directed by Christian Taylor / 89 minutes / 2020 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / West Coast Premiere

 

  • Guide On” – On her first day of basic training, Halle Varro, a young Army recruit, stands out among her peers as she competes to be the guidon bearer. Halle’s attitude of defiance and winning at all costs puts her in Drill Sergeant Mallett’s crosshairs. Can Halle rise to the challenge and become the first female guidon bearer? Inspired by true events.

Narrative Short / Directed by Paige Compton / 16 minutes / 2020 / USA / Student Film / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans

  • Hun Pilots” – A documentary about the heroic men who survived America’s first supersonic fighter, the F-100 Super Saber, an iconic fighter that flew more combat sorties in the Vietnam War than any other fighter. Documentary Short / Directed by Mark Vizcarra / 57 minutes / 2019 / USA / Local Film Showcase / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans
  • The Invisible Project” – “The Invisible Project” is a documentary style info-drama that follows the lives of four women as they work to change the public perception of women Veterans in America. In the film, they demonstrate that service matters, and the service continues when they come home, as women and as Veterans.

Documentary Feature / Directed by Pacifica J. Sauer / 81 minutes / 2019 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / World Premiere

  • The Khe Sanh Peace Garden” – This touching and hopeful film is about a medevac helicopter pilot who found peace within himself and with his mortal enemies when he tries to build a peace garden at the Khe Sanh Combat Base where he was stationed during the Viet Nam War.

Documentary Short / Directed by Tinh Mahoney / 25 minutes / 2020 / Viet Nam / San Diego Premiere

Continue to gifilmfestivalsd.org to read the full lineup.

Behind the Scenes: Act of Valor

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Act of Valor promo posted with soldiers in flag background

Join SEALKIDS on April 29 at 5:00 PM MT (7 PM ET, 4 PM PT) for another unique webinar experience with a new format. SEALKIDS Board Member Andy Wirth will interview Act of Valor star Rorke Denver, live in Colorado, and will incorporate questions from our live audience.

The 2012 hit film Act of Valor was filmed with a cast of active duty Navy SEALs, including SEAL Commander Rorke Denver.

In 2006, Denver was officer in charge of BRAVO Platoon of SEAL Team THREE in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province in one of the most combat-heavy deployments of any regular SEAL team since Vietnam. He was an assault team leader for over 200+ combat missions. Denver was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” for valorous action in combat.

“Once we step off on campaign, once this bird’s ready and we’re downrange, everything back home needs to be in balance. If things aren’t right with the family, let’s make sure we lock that down so when we’re ready to roll, all our focus is on the mission.”
— Rorke Denver as Lt. Rorke, Act of Valor

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to hear about the real SEALs and real stories that inspired the movie.

Act of Valor is available to stream on Netflix.

See the trailer below and watch the entire film to prepare for the webinar!

For more information and to buy tickets go to https://www.sealkids.org/actofvalor

Jake Gyllenhaal cast in ‘Combat Control’ as Medal of Honor recipient John Chapman

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Jake Gyllenhaal headshot

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal has been confirmed for the role of Air Force Sgt. John Chapman in the upcoming film “Combat Control,” Deadline first reported.

Chapman, a combat control technician who was killed in action in Afghanistan during 2002′s deadly Operation Anaconda, was first recognized with the Air Force Cross prior to the award’s 2018 upgrade to the Medal of Honor.

The reformed recognition followed an exhaustive investigation led by Air Force Capt. Cora Alexander, whose examination into the heroic firefight that claimed Chapman’s life, coupled with the best-selling book “Alone at Dawn” by Dan Schilling and Lori Longfritz, is forming the basis of the film’s script.

Image: Gyllenhaal at the premiere of ‘End of Watch’ (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

In March 2002, Chapman was flying with a team of Navy SEALs when the helicopter transporting them came under heavy fire from al-Qaida fighters below. When a member of the assault force was thrown from the helicopter amidst the turmoil, Chapman and other SEALs volunteered to go out on foot and retrieve their teammate.

Chapman was “the first to charge up the mountain toward the enemy,” former President Donald Trump said at the 2018 Medal of Honor presentation. The airman had just cleared a bunker of its enemy occupants when he decided to launch into a sprint toward additional al-Qaida fighters. That’s when Chapman was hit by multiple enemy rounds, knocking him unconscious.

Minutes transpired before Chapman regained consciousness and resumed fighting. After engaging the enemy for nearly an hour, another helicopter carrying Army Rangers and airmen approached. Rather than remain covered, Chapman emerged from his concealed position to fire at the assailants who were sighting in on the helicopter.

In the open, the airman was struck by two machine gun rounds that delivered the fatal blow, but his last-ditch efforts were lauded as saving numerous lives of those onboard the arriving helo. The husband and father of two daughters, then ages 3 and 5, was 36 years old.

For years, the exact circumstances surrounding Chapman’s death remained a mystery. A 2016 report from The New York Times revealed that former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, after seeing enhanced drone footage of the engagement, was the first to recommend Chapman’s Air Force Cross be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

James argued that early after-action reports were inaccurate and that Chapman had not been killed when he was first knocked unconscious, as initial reports indicated.

After cross-referencing a video feed from an MQ-1 Predator drone and testimony by troops on the ground and in the air — an AC-130 air crew was overhead — a 17-person investigative team was able to pinpoint actions taken by Chapman on that frigid mountainside where he took his last breath.

“John survived that initial wounding that he got, and continued to fight on for an hour,” Chapman’s squadron commander Col. Ken Rodriguez said. “And then at a crucial moment, right at the end of his life, he sacrificed his life for the incoming quick reaction force, when he could have hunkered down and said, ‘Finally, the guys are coming in to get me.’ But instead he said, ‘If I don’t do something, others are going to die.’ He’s clearly a Medal of Honor-worthy warrior.”

Read the full article on Military Times.

Trace Adkins—He’s Got Your Back

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By Kat Castagnoli

For more than two decades, country music icon Trace Adkins has sold 11 million albums –all but one has gone Gold or Platinum — won numerous Country Music Television (CMT) and Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards and has nearly 200 million plays on YouTube.

But if you ask Trace Adkins what he’s proudest of, it has little to do with any of the above.

It’s the invaluable, long-lasting connections he’s made with U.S. veterans through his work with the USO, and especially with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

“I’m a better man for having associated with these men and women. I always say that if you have the opportunity to be in the presence of heroes, take it. You’ll be better for it,” said Adkins, who’s been WWP’s spokesperson since 2010.

“It’s always been a privilege to work with veteran organizations and it’s really been the most meaningful thing that I’ve done in my career.”

Steve Nardizzi, chief executive officer for WWP, says Adkins’ unwavering and passionate support for their cause has given a voice to their mission and the needs of the nation’s wounded veterans. “Time and time again, Trace has gone out of his way to highlight WWP and help us ensure this generation of injured veterans is the most successful and well-adjusted in our nation’s history,” said Nardizzi.

The country music singer’s support for the military began when he went on his first USO tour in 2002 to Bahrain, according to an Iamthevoluntourist.com interview.

“After that first trip, I was hooked,” Adkins said. “They were some of the most appreciative audiences you’ll ever play for.”

Since then, he’s been on a total of 12 USO tours, visiting over 65,000 service members across the globe, including performances at military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

Respect for the armed forces is a common theme in the singer’s music. “The last few albums we’ve always tried to include a song that pays tribute to the men and women that serve,” he says. “I appreciate them. They’ve got my back and I want to let them know, I’ve got theirs, too.”

A Deep Connection

Widely known for his distinctive, bass-baritone voice, Adkins first emerged onto the country music scene in 1996 with his debut album, “Dreamin Out Loud,” released on Capitol Records Nashville. Since then, he’s released ten more studio albums and two greatest hits compilations. In addition, he’s charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard country music charts, including number one hits, “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” and “You’re Gonna Miss This,” which peaked in 1997, 2007 and 2008, respectively.

All but one of his studio albums went Gold or Platinum in the U.S. – his highest-selling to date is the 2005 album, “Songs About Me,” which went multi-Platinum, selling over two million copies.

On his 2017 album, “Something’s Going On,” Adkins dedicated the song, “Still a Soldier,” to our nation’s veterans as a way to show his support and respect for all that they have done.

The song talks about the life of an American veteran and his deep-seated connection to life as a solider, even though he’s currently living a civilian life:

“Comes home at night to a pretty wife

With a baby due

He’ll sleep in on Saturday

Cut the grass if it don’t rain

After church he’ll watch the game

And have a beer or two”

“He’s still a soldier

His blood runs red, white and blue

He put away his gun and boots

But he still believes

The American Dream

‘Til his last breath he’ll always be

A soldier”

Adkins’ songs are just one of the many ways he advocates and supports veterans. The singer has been involved with the Wounded Warrior Project since its

Trace Adkins on stagein a suit and holding his cowboy hat singing with US flag in background
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 31: Trace Adkins performs onstage during the Wounded Warrior Project Courage Awards & Benefit Dinner at Gotham Hall in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Wounded Warrior Project)

inception and is passionate about its mission. “In my career, I just can’t think of any other organization that I’ve been involved with that just moved me the way my work with Wounded Warrior Project has,” he told Rolling Stone.

In his experience with wounded veterans, Adkins said he’s been struck by how many share the same goal: to rejoin their colleagues in active duty. “That’s all they want to do is go back, because they couldn’t find solace or comfort here. They just want to go back,” he says. “It’s sad to see those folks and visit with them. You can hear that pain. I’ve been around a lot of them and talked to a lot of them and it leaves you feeling helpless.”

Still, the singer, who released the EP “Ain’t That Kind of Cowboy” in October, is bolstered by the progress he’s witnessed. “There have been so many success stories,” Adkins says. “They come back and they get the help they need and it’s a wonderful thing to see when that does happen.”

In 2016, Adkins received the National Defense Industrial Association’s Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for his exceptional leadership and advocacy for service members. But, “I’m not going to pat myself on the back too hard,” Adkins says. “I just do what I can and hopefully it’ll help.”

Living Country

Just hearing some of the things Adkins has lived through, you might say he doesn’t just sing country songs – he’s lived them. Born in the small Louisiana town of Sarepta in 1962, Adkins, at the age of 17, hit a school bus while driving to school one morning, puncturing both lungs, breaking several ribs and severing his nose – which, thankfully, they were able to sew back on, according to Wide Open Country. He went on to garner a football scholarship to Louisiana Tech University, but sadly, knee injuries ended any chance of an athletic career.

After college, Adkins worked several manual odd jobs before figuring out that Nashville was the place to be. He took up the guitar early in life but at the time, he was known more for his accident-prone ways than his singing.

Trace Adkins performs in on stage with his guitar in blue jeans, cowboy style shirt and cowboy hat
CEDAR PARK, TEXAS – AUGUST 09: Trace Adkins performs in concert at HEB Center on August 9, 2019 in Cedar Park, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

In 1982, Adkins’ tangle with a bulldozer caused such deep cuts that, “I thought I was fixin’ to lose both my legs,” he told Wide Open Country. Less than a year later, a tank containing 400 barrels of oil exploded while he was trying to repair a leak, crushing his left leg. And in 1988, Adkins flipped his truck on an icy overpass in Texas, putting him in a neck brace. Another accident a year later left him with one of his fingers cut off.

But the decade’s cherry on top was Adkins being stranded with nine other coworkers on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Chantal in 1989. To survive, “I got to the highest part of the living quarters on the rig, so if it turned over, I was pretty well centered and could go in either direction,” he told Wide Open Country.

Adkins survived, and went on to have two daughters, Tarah and Sarah, with his first wife and high school sweetheart, Barbara Lewis, and three daughters, Mackenzie, Brianna and Trinity, with his third wife, Rhonda Forlaw, a former publicity manager for Arista Records who actually helped Adkins jumpstart his career.

However, in 1994, his second wife, Julie Curtis, got a little too fed up with his drinking, picked up the family shotgun and shot Adkins. Bullets went through his heart and both lungs.

“The doctors held little hope that I would survive and told my family and friends to go in and say goodbye,” he wrote in his autobiography, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck.

But if you know anything about Adkins, it’s that the country star has nothing if not nine lives, and continues to live life on his terms.

Generations of Sacrifice

With all Adkins has been through, he wasn’t going to let a pandemic

Country music star Trace Adkins, with his daughters Brianna and Trinity, and his dogs Bella and Daisy sitting on a couch
JUNE 11: Country music star Trace Adkins, with his daughters Brianna and Trinity, and his dogs Bella and Daisy, invites dog owners to enter the Waggin’ Train Tail Waggin’ Jingle Contest by writing a song about the fun they have with their four-legged friends. The Grand Prize winner gets to sing his or her jingle in a recording session produced by Adkins. For complete contest rules, visit www.WagginTrainBrand.com. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images for Purina)

prevent him from performing at the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS for his fifth time. The concert is traditionally one of PBS’ highest rated shows and went on as scheduled, but with a few noticeable changes. The event usually draws hundreds of thousands of people to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, but in 2020, the tributes and performances were filmed separately in accordance with social distancing guidelines–something Adkins didn’t mind.

“For me, it was less of a challenge than it has been in the past because there was no live audience and if I screwed up, I got to do it over again. In the past I walked out on stage to 200,000 people, so it’s like being in a pressure cooker. This time it was way easier,” he laughingly told Iamthevoluntourist.com.

Adkins says he was thrilled to be part of the show and is happy to celebrate veterans every chance he gets. “It’s always a privilege and the highlight of my year to be part of this show. This year, I think especially. It provides some perspective.

“We’re going through a strange time but there have been generations before us who have been asked to sacrifice way more than we’re being asked to sacrifice. The times have been tougher on a much bigger scale and I think we need to be reminded of that. This too shall pass.”

Discovery Channel’s special “Gold Rush” Featuring military vets airs Friday Night- Sneak Peek Clip!

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promo poster of Gold Rush series on Discovery Channel

“Gold Rush” is Discovery’s #1 show, and Friday night’s episode will focus on the all-military veteran team led by military veteran turned mine boss Fred Lewis.

During the show, fans will learn about their war injuries, paths to recovery and how his all-veteran team got into gold mining. It also reveals that crewmember Kyle Pletzke is one of the nation’s many homeless veterans.

Fred’s rookie team has faced a lot of setback this year from spotty ground to aging equipment… resulting in a low gold total so far.

But, the silver lining is that his special forces team has gelled together and is working well now as a crew.

They’re working through the night when needed, all with the goal of banking more gold.

VIEW THE TRAILER!

On Friday’s episode of “Gold Rush”, airing at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, mechanic Mitch Blatshke from Parker’s crew stops by to help fix up the operation to get them to finish line. Now, they have to hope the gear will hold and that there’s gold in the ground to have any chance of bringing home gold this year.

Gold Rush” airs this Friday at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, followed by the military Gold Rush special at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery. Fans can also binge all previous seasons of Gold Rush on discovery+

Kellie Pickler, Wilmer Valderrama Named USO Global Ambassadors

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In honor of its 80th anniversary, the United Service Organizations (USO) has named country singer and actress Kellie Pickler, and producer, actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama as USO Global Ambassadors.

USO tour veterans Pickler and Valderrama will help lead the effort for Americans, united in spirit and action, to give more than thanks to the military community.

“We are honored to have these two longtime advocates come on board as USO Global Ambassadors,” said J.D. Crouch II, USO CEO and president. “Kellie and Wilmer have seen firsthand the importance of the USO mission and the impact it can have when we express the nation’s gratitude to our Armed Forces. We hope their continued support will invite more Americans to join them in honoring service members and their families.”

As USO Global Ambassadors, Pickler and Valderrama will support the organization’s Give More Than Thanks initiative, a campaign encouraging all Americans to find actionable ways to express their gratitude for the service and sacrifice of our troops and their families. Throughout the year, Pickler and Valderrama will participate in events and entertainment engagements for service members, raise awareness of our military’s needs and share ways Americans can help the USO give more than thanks.

Pickler and Valderrama have dedicated their time and talents to give back to service members and their families throughout their careers, including touring together in 2018 for the annual USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ways Pickler and Valderrama have served with the USO include:

Kellie Pickler

  • First tour in 2007 to Iraq
  • 12 USO tours visiting 13 international locations (Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, Kosovo, United Kingdom, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Norway) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • Five USO Holiday Tours with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018)
  • USO Military Virtual Programming (MVP) session with husband, Kyle Jacobs, broadcast worldwide to 34 locations in the U.S., Qatar, Guam and Japan
  • Recipient of Department of Defense Spirit of Hope Award, Operation Troop Aid Chris Kyle Patriot Award and USO of North Carolina Heart for the Warrior Award

“I am honored to join the USO as a Global Ambassador for their 80th anniversary of supporting America’s military, especially in support of this campaign encouraging all Americans to give more than thanks,” shares Pickler. “The USO has allowed me so many opportunities to serve those who serve us, and this is another way I can help shine a light on something that matters … supporting our servicemen, servicewomen, their families, and letting them know we don’t take what they do for granted.”

Wilmer Valderrama

  • First tour in 2007 to Germany
  • Eight USO tours visiting nine international locations (Germany, Poland, South Korea, Afghanistan, Djibouti, Greenland, Norway, Bahrain, Iraq) and a ship at sea; and three domestic locations
  • One USO Holiday Tour with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018
  • More than 40 USO performances
  • USO MVP session broadcast worldwide to 13 installations in the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan, Italy and Iraq

“Touring with the USO has been one of the proudest moments of my career because it has given me the chance to pay my respect and personally express my gratitude to our servicemen and women,” Valderrama said. “I feel honored to now serve as a USO Global Ambassador, to help others understand how important it is to support the military and encourage Americans to follow our heroes example in becoming a more united community in a more united nation.”

Generations of Americans have answered the call to step up, serve and sacrifice. Wherever they are deployed or stationed—on the front lines overseas or the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response at home—the USO stands by our heroes in uniform. Since 1941, the USO has been a resource for more than 40 million individuals, from providing morale-boosting entertainment to delivering millions of care packages.

To learn more about ways to give more than thanks, visit USO.org/morethanthanks. Follow the USO’s Give More Than Thanks campaign and join the conversation using the hashtag #MoreThanThanks on social media.

About the USO:

The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs, services and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission and learn more about the USO, please visit USO.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

This Taylor Swift ‘Red’ Hit Is Now a Sea Shanty, Thanks to U.S. Navy Band

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Taylor Swift closeup with her smiling wearing red lipstick

Sea shanties may be trending on TikTok, but the U.S. Navy wants you to know that they were into the genre first — so much so, that the U.S. Navy Band took to Twitter to share its sea-shanty rendition of Taylor Swift’s Red single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

Featuring a thumping, shanty-esque beat, violins and a five-part vocal harmony, members of the Navy Band chant the lyrics, even putting their own spin on the second verse’s “indie record” line: “And you would hide away and find your peace of mind/ With some TikTok video that’s much cooler than mine,” the female vocalist sings, nodding to the growing sea-shanty trend on the popular video sharing platform.  (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)

To really let followers know that sea shanties are deeply embedded in U.S. Navy history and culture, the band playfully quoted the Navy Chief of Information in the caption: “To quote @CHINFO, ‘We were very much into this music before it was cool.’”

Watch the U.S. Navy Band’s sea-shanty version of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” below.

Read the complete article on Billboard.

Joe Walsh Presents Lineup And Details For This Saturday’s VetsAid Festival 2020 – Home For The Holidays

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VetsAid promo poster featuring many musical artists

Joe Walsh reveals the final artist lineup and details for this Saturday’s VetsAid 2020: Home for the Holidays today, boasting nearly 50 performances and appearances, the multi-hour music festival will raise sorely needed funds to veterans services groups across the country. Join Joe and his friends December 12 for a worldwide broadcast of unique performances, never-before-seen VetsAid footage from years past and great stories from some of the greatest musicians in the world. VetsAid is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and multi-GRAMMY Award winning musician’s national 501(c)3 non-profit veterans organization.

“Wow – what a show we have this year! Such a diverse and wonderful line up!” Walsh explains, “When you have something like this you humbly ask your friends and colleagues and hope a couple will sign on – kind of like going fishing – but this year everyone I asked said yes! And now it’s turned into a virtual music festival like no other. We know the plight of our vets is hard enough in the best of times, and they are especially vulnerable during this pandemic.

Nearly 50 performances and appearances from artists across the USA, including never before broadcast from The Vetsaid Archives; Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Haim, Don Henley, Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Brad Paisley, Ringo Starr, James Taylor, Keith Urban, Joe Walsh And Zz Top.

And new performances and/or appearances from; Drew Carey, Kenny Chesney, Alice Cooper, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Melissa Etheridge, Brandon Flowers, Mary Gauthier, Vince Gill, Patty Griffin, Daryl Hall, Ben Harper, James Hetfield, Jewel, Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan And Ayaan, The Lumineers, Richard Marx, Tim Mcgraw, Willie Nelson and The Boys, Phillip Phillips, Nathaniel Rateliff, Josh Ritter, Blake Shelton, Jake Shimabukuro, Amanda Shires, Gwen Stefani, Billy Bob Thornton/The Boxmasters, Steven Van Zandt, Eddie Vedder, Rufus Wainwright, Joe Walsh and Verdine White.

VETSAID 2020: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

TO BE STREAMED ONLINE DECEMBER 12, 2020

AND AVAILABLE FOR RESTREAM THROUGH DECEMBER 14, 2020

Tickets on-sale now at vetsaid.veeps.com

“I am proud of this nationwide tradition we’ve created and I’m so glad we can have this show during the holidays featuring all these artists that I love. I’ve got a great feeling about it and know fans will too. I hope it shows the Vets how many people care and want to help – I can’t think of a better way to remember and honor the men and women who have served our country this holiday season than by helping us raise funds to support their essential and basic needs.”

This ticketed event will be streamed on December 12 starting at 6pm ET via vetsaid.veeps.com and will also be available for restream through December 14.

Tickets and merch bundles are available now at vetsaid.veeps.com and will be priced from $20 with discounts available for active duty military and veterans using the promo code VALOR.

Joe Walsh launched VetsAid on September 20, 2017 with an inaugural concert at the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, VA. The second festival event was in Tacoma, WA and the third in Houston, TX.  VetsAid typically seeks to host the events in cities across the country with large veteran populations. The shows have included performances by musicians including James Taylor, Chris Stapleton, Don Henley, ZZ Top, Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Zac Brown Band, Jason Isbell, Keith Urban, Haim, Gary Clark Jr. and Joe’s brother-in-law Ringo.

VetsAid has raised nearly 1.5 million dollars and supports veterans and their families.

All net proceeds from the 2020 festival will go directly to the veterans’ services charities selected through a vetting process coordinated in tandem with the Combined Arms Institute.

For more information, please visit www.vetsaid.org.

Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME) Joins Forces With AT&T for Veterans Media Fellowship

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diverse group of veterans standing together with a VME sign in the background

Attention U.S. Military & Veterans: Interested in a Media or Entertainment Career?

For the second year in a row, AT&T, parent company of WarnerMedia, Warner Bros, HBO, CNN, and DC, among othersis sponsoring a Veterans in Media Fellowship in collaboration with Veterans in Media & Entertainment (VME).

“The fellowship highlights AT&T’s continuing commitment and track record of supporting U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families,” said Roman A. Smith, AT&T’s Director of Community Investment.

“The select group of 40 veterans will meet virtually for 13 Saturdays starting in early 2021, with online seminars from fellow veterans already working in the industry as well as entertainment and media leaders,” said Karen Kraft, producer and VME Chair.

“The goal is to introduce veterans to the industry and provide an opportunity to work with professionals through a series of individual and small group projects,” added Tom McCafferty, actor and VME Vice-Chair.

Tom DeSanto, producer of “X-Men” and “Transformers,” was one of the first guest speakers. “It’s an honor to support our next generation of filmmakers through this AT&T program with VME. Having hired veterans before, their work ethic, ability to problem solve, and commitment to the team always amazes me. Our veterans have always been there for us and it is time for us to be there for them.”

“I was so impressed with the creativity and dedication of the Veteran Fellows I met last year,” said guest speaker Dara Weintraub, co-producer of “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.” “It’s inspiring to see AT&T leading this initiative to enable veterans to gain a better footing in the industry.”

Weintraub added, “Many producers are simply not aware of how diverse the veteran population is and how their talents and life experiences enrich any office or set.”

Other guest speakers included Jim Arnoff, career coach and television packaging agent; Ann Epstein, Head of Studio at Troika Media Group; James Fino, executive producer of “Rick and Morty”; and accomplished television directors Matt Knife and Jonathan X.

Several past fellows were recently engaged as segment producers for the Veterans in Entertainment Virtual Summit, sponsored by a coalition of Hollywood studios. Others have moved into production jobs or internships or entered media-related college tracks.

Emerging filmmaker Terry Rivera, a past AT&T Media Fellow and Navy vet who also served in the NYFD on 9/11, who is now developing a documentary about fellow Latino firefighters said, “The program helped me hone my career goals and the connections I made helped open doors to get my project off the ground.”

“While last year’s Fellowship was held in-person in Los Angeles, for 2021, we’ll be completely virtual. That means, this year, we can open up applications to veterans and the military all over the U.S., as well as those who are still serving overseas,” said Program Manager Brian Wright of Max Edwards Company, who also serves as a VME Advisory Board member.

Applications for the 2021 class are open online now at www.VMEconnect.org through Dec. 11, 2020, with the selected fellows notified by Dec. 18, 2020.

Veterans in Media & Entertainment is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to connect U.S. military veterans working or aspiring to work in the entertainment industry to jobs, internships and educational opportunities. More info about VME at www.VMEconnect.org.

Redemption Day – Watch the Trailer!

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Redemption Day Promo Posted for Marine who rejoins to save wife who was kidnapped

Having just returned home, decorated U.S. Marine Captain Brad Paxton’s (Gary Dourdan) wife, Kate, is kidnapped by a terrorist group while working in Morocco.

He is forced back into action for a daring and deadly operation to save the woman he loves.

Starring:
Gary Dourdan, Serinda Swan, Martin Donovan, Ernie Hudson, Samy Naceri, Andy Garcia

In Theaters – January 8, 2021
On Demand and Digital – January 12, 2021

Click here to watch the trailer!

Military Makeover with Montel Launches on FREE Streaming TV Service, STIRR, on Sunday

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Montel Williams with cast of Military Makeover

In addition to its longstanding home on Lifetime and The American Forces Network (AFN), Military Makeover with Montel, a BrandStar Original, is expanding its viewership through a new partnership with STIRR, a free, ad-supported streaming TV service owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. With over 6 million downloads, STIRR offers local TV viewers across the country more than 130 free TV channels and over 8,000 hours of free video-on-demand (VOD) movies and TV series. The addition of the award-winning show, Military Makeover, expands STIRRs original, veteran-focused, content to audiences across the country.

Military Makeover offers hope and a helping hand on the home front to members of our military and their loved ones. Talk show legend and military advocate Montel Williams, a veteran of the Marine Corps and the Navy, is both host and co-executive producer of Military Makeover. Montel along with the cast and crew, special guest veteran WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, non-profits and likeminded companies with a similar mission to help veterans, come together to transform the homes and lives of military families across the country.

“Military Makeover has already proven to be a huge hit with audiences, and we’re excited to welcome BrandStar content to our platform,” said Ben Lister, Director of Content Acquisition and Business Development for STIRR. “Thanks to the incredible success of the STIRR City Channel, we anticipate that this program will become a major attraction for STIRR users when it premieres.”

Military Makeover kicks off with a marathon airing on STIRR City (Channel 1) on November 8 from 10am – 6pm. Thereafter, it will run weekdays 1-2pm and available anytime, on-demand through STIRRs robust VOD library. STIRR can be accessed online (http://www.STIRR.com) or via app which is available on Roku TV, Fire TV, Apple TV as well as iOS and Android devices.

“BrandStar is thrilled to embrace STIRRs new OTT streaming platform, bringing our award-winning, original content to a broader demographic, says Mark Alfieri, CEO BrandStar. Being a free platform, our life-changing, veteran stories will now be available for all to see.”

Military Makeover with Montel®, a BrandStar Original, is America’s Leading Branded Reality TV Show that offers hope and a helping hand here on the home front to members of our military and their loved ones. A veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Navy, talk show legend and military advocate Montel Williams, who creatively co-produces the show along with a colorful cast that seeks to transform the homes and lives of military families across the country. The cast includes co-host Art Edmonds, designer Jennifer Bertrand and contractor Ryan Stanley. This special series enlists caring companies of all sizes as well as non-profits and the local community. Military Makeover airs on Lifetime® , STIRR and on the American Forces Network which serves American servicemen and women, Department of Defense and other U.S. government civilians and their families stationed at bases overseas, as well as U.S. Navy ships at sea. Help starts at home for veterans on Military Makeover. Join us as our makeover team engages to change the living situation – and the lives – of these deserving families.

About STIRR: STIRR is a free ad-supported streaming service featuring a mix of live local news, TV shows, movies, sports and lifestyle programming. STIRR delivers over 100,000 hours of live local news a year, over 130 linear channels and over 8,000 hours of video on demand movies and TV shows. The STIRR app is available on Roku TV, Fire TV, Apple TV as well as iOS and Android devices or at http://www.STIRR.com. Based in Santa Monica, CA, STIRR is a first of its kind OTT service created, owned and operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

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