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.

A U.S. Marine will wrestle in the Olympics for the first time in decades

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The MArine who will wrestle in the Olympics is pictured with a side by side image of him in uniform and his wrestling gear

For the first time in nearly 30 years, a U.S. Marine will be wrestling at the Olympics. “It’s amazing … I never in a million years thought I’d wake up one day and say I’m an Olympian,” Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz said after three consecutive wins at Olympic Team Trials in Fort Worth, Texas over the weekend.

The 29-year-old member of the All-Marine Wrestling Team is now the best 87 kg (181-pound) class Greco-Roman wrestler in the country, according to The Jacksonville Daily News, which described Stefanowicz as feeling “unstoppable” and ready to bring home a gold medal. He’ll be one of 15 American athletes competing at the 2020 Tokyo games this summer, which were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every time I step out on the mat and I wear USA on the back, that means something greater than just myself and my last name,” Stefanowicz told Task & Purpose.

“What it means is to truly show the world what we’re about and what my brothers here do day in and day out,” Stefanowicz said of his Olympic dream. There has not been a U.S. Marine wrestler at the Olympics since 1992.

“I fight for everything that I believe in and what the Marine Corps stands for,” Stefanowicz said in 2019, describing his style in training and on the mat as “high intensity, high impact, no forgiveness.” He’s made a name for himself as a top athlete, despite his age and untraditional path into the sport.

Stefanowicz also has a black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program — though it’s unclear if any of his Marine ninja skills have ever come into play during an official wrestling bout.

Read the full article on Task and Purpose.

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

Charles Coolidge, Oldest Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 99

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Charles Coolidge looking left in suit and tie with an american flag in the background

By Richard Goldstein, New York Times

When Charles Coolidge was growing up outside Chattanooga, his grammar school class received a visit from Sgt. Alvin York, the Tennessean famed for World War I exploits that brought him the Medal of Honor.

In the aftermath of World War II, it was Sergeant Coolidge making the rounds of his home state, telling of another harrowing firefight in France, this one bringing him the nation’s highest decoration for valor in his own right.

Celebrated in Chattanooga with a park and a highway and at the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, Mr. Coolidge died there on Tuesday.

He was 99 and the oldest living recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor. The heritage center announced his death.

Photo Credit: NY Times

Mr. Coolidge’s death leaves Hershel W. Williams, 97, as the oldest surviving recipient of the medal. Mr. Williams received it for his exploits fighting with the Marines on Iwo Jima in World War II.

“We both have been blessed by God with a long, long life,” Mr. Williams, who had last been in touch with Mr. Coolidge about five years ago, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

In the last week of October 1944, Sergeant Coolidge and some 30 outnumbered soldiers in his rifle and machine-gun section faced annihilation by German troops with tanks during a major battle in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France, near the German border.

Sergeant Coolidge had fought with the 36th Infantry Division in Italy before it moved into France, and most of the troops under his command in the fall of 1944 were replacements for those who had been killed or wounded in the division’s long slog. They had little if any combat experience.

His unit was nevertheless ordered to hold off the German forces threatening to attack the right flank of the division’s Third Battalion, 141st Infantry, which was massing with two other battalions outside the tiny town of Belmont-sur-Buttant.

Through the first day of his unit’s confrontation with the Germans and over the next three days, Sergeant Coolidge’s men fought for control of what was known as Hill 623 in the face of repeated attempts by the Germans to overrun them. All the while, Sergeant Coolidge sought to calm them and direct their fire.

At one point, two German tanks came within 25 yards of him. A tank commander shouted, “in perfect English, ‘Do you guys wanna give up?’” Mr. Coolidge recalled in a 2014 interview with the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media. His reply: “I’m sorry, Mac, you’ve gotta come and get me.”

After that, he said, the Germans “fired five times at me.”

“When a shot went one way, I went the other way,” he added, recalling how he had dodged the fire by moving from tree trunk to tree trunk.

“Then I found a bazooka,” he went on. “But it didn’t work. Someone had taken the batteries out. You use what you do have. I started lobbing grenades.”

On the fifth day of the standoff, Sergeant Coolidge orchestrated an orderly retreat, enabling his men to rejoin the Third Battalion a few hundred yards away.

But the First Battalion, surrounded by Germans for a week, appeared on the verge of being wiped out.

Then came a long-remembered feat. The Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, having already incurred heavy casualties in Italy and France, broke the siege of what became known as the Lost Battalion, rescuing more than 200 men.

Sergeant Coolidge received the Medal of Honor on June 18, 1945, in a ceremony near Dornstadt, Germany.

Read the full article on the New York Times.

Soldier Becomes Angel to Injured and Abused Cat, Wants Him to be Her Companion Animal

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Bubba the cat poses with soldier standing behind her

While she didn’t set out to be, Army Sergeant Rode became an angel to a cat while serving in the Middle East. She’s on a mission to help Paws of War with the costs of rescuing her cat, which she named Bubba, back to the states with her since she has received new orders.

It’s a mission that Paws of War can help her pull off, but only with the support of the community. This type of effort takes a village, and the organization is asking people to support Sgt. Rode, who is serving her country.

“This is a story you can’t help but to love and want to get behind,” explains Dereck Cartright, a disabled veteran who is the stateside logistics coordinator at Paws of War. “Sgt. Rode saved Bubba, but there’s only so much she can do on her own”.

When Sgt. Rode first saw Bubba, he had given up. Bloody, frail, and injured, the cat ran from everyone. It was clear that he had been fighting for his life for a long time. Sgt. Rode knew she had to help. For days, she left food, waiting nearby to make sure he ate. Initially, he cried and backed away when he saw her, but eventually, he grew to trust her and allowed her to sit within just a few feet while he frantically ate the food she left.

Slowly but surely, Bubba allowed her to get a little closer until, finally, Sgt. Rode was able to touch him. However, what she discovered horrified her. Old scars mixed in with new wounds that covered Bubba’s body. He had been through a lot and was timid, but once he felt the kind touch of Sgt. Rode, he immediately began purring, showing her the love and affection he had never been shown. She became Bubba’s angel, and he became her greatest joy while serving overseas, and they were essentially inseparable.

Worry came back to her when she received new orders to head home, and it was clear that she would not be able to take Bubba with her. She couldn’t stand the thought of leaving him behind to fend for himself or to try to find someone else to provide him with the love and care that he has grown accustomed to with her. When she heard about the work that Paws of War does, helping soldiers to get their pets back to the U.S., and she turned to it for assistance.

“Bubba is such a wonderful cat, and he greets me every time he sees me and purrs loudly whenever I pet him,” says Sgt. Rode. “I have formed such a great bond with him, it took me so long to gain his trust, and I can’t fathom the thought of leaving him behind once I get deployed back to the U.S. He has been a wonderful companion and provides me so much comfort when I need it most. I could not leave this cat behind to suffer and die. He trusts me, and I won’t let him down.”

Paws of War is seeking the support of the community to cover the costs in order to bring Bubba back to the states to live out his life with Sgt. Rode. While the organization has helped many soldiers bring their rescued animals back, it’s a mission that is costly. Soldiers tend to rescue stray dogs and cats, and they form bonds with them that help them to find comfort during their time of deployment. With the help of donations from the community, they are able to cover the expenses that are involved in such a mission.

The organization has helped so many soldiers with this type of mission that it has created a strong network of support. It’s that network that helps them to navigate through the challenges and logistics of relocating a pet overseas, and to pay for the care, paperwork, and flight that is involved in the mission.

To learn more about Sgt. Rode and Bubba or to make a donation to help with the rescue mission, visit the site at: https://pawsofwar.networkforgood.com/projects/127816-help-save-bubba.

In addition to helping soldiers relocate their pets, Paws of War also rescues dogs, provides them with proper training, and then pairs them with veterans who need service animals, all free of charge. It also helps soldiers bring dogs and cats they rescued while serving overseas to safety in the U.S. Those who would like to learn more about supporting Paws of War and its mission can go online to: http://pawsofwar.org.

About Paws of War
Paws of War is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides assistance and a wide range of programs to active, retired and disabled military members. To learn more about Paws of War and the programs provided or to make a donation, visit its site at: http://pawsofwar.org.

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.

Vietnam Veterans Day

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Vietnam war veterans day march 29 poster

Vietnam Veterans Day commemorates the sacrifices of Vietnam veterans and their families and is part of a national effort to recognize the men and women who were denied a proper welcome upon returning home more than 40 years ago.

The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, signed into law in 2017, designates March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Most states celebrate “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” on March 29 or 30 of each year. Though there is some debate, March 29 is generally viewed as a more appropriate date.

On that day in 1973, the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the last prisoners of war held in North Vietnam arrived on American soil. It is also the date President Nixon chose for the first Vietnam Veterans Day in 1974.

Read the full article including legislation and resolutions on ncsi.org

Celebrating Women’s History Month and the First Woman to enlist in the Military

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woman smiling waving hand wearing a large brimmed black hat and Navy Uniform circa 1917

The U.S. Naval Reserve Act of 1916 permitted the enlistment of qualified “persons” for service in the Navy.  When the Secretary of the Navy asked whether this applied only to males and was told that it did not, the Navy began enlisting women less than a month later.

Historical records reflect that on March 17, 1917, the first woman to enlist in the Navy was Loretta Perfectus Walsh.

She was born on April 22, 1896, in Philadelphia and thus had the distinction of being the first woman to service in any of the U.S. armed forces in other than a nursing assignment.  Until Walsh’s enlistment, women had served as Navy nurses but were civilian employees with few benefits.

Walsh, aged 20, was enlisted on March 17, 1917, as a Yeoman(F), all of whom were popularly referred to as “Yeomanettes.”  During World War I a reported 11,274 female Yeoman(F) served in the Navy.  The Yeoman(F) women primarily served in clerical positions.  They received the same benefits and responsibilities as men, including identical pay ($28.75 per month) and were treated as veterans after the war.

On March 21, 1917, Walsh was sworn in as Chief Yeoman, becoming the first woman Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.  She served her active duty at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia and when World War I ended, Walsh and all the Yeoman(F) personnel were released from active duty.  As Walsh had enlisted in the Naval Reserve for a 4-year enlistment she continued on inactive reserve status, receiving a modest retainer pay, until the end of her enlistment on March 17, 1921.

Walsh fell victim to influenza in the fall of 1918 and later contracted tuberculosis.  She died on August 6, 1925, at the age of 29 in Olyphant, Pennsylvania.

Image Credit: The United States Navy Memorial

Read the full article at Navylog.org

99-year-old World War II veteran finally gets his medals

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Veteran Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Cornett sits tall in wheelchair on sidewalk in his military uniform

Shaky but sturdy, retired Sgt. 1st Class Marvin Cornett stood tall in a uniform he hadn’t worn in more than half a century to receive an overlooked award he’d been due since 1944.

Donning his “Eisenhower jacket,” a green, waist-length jacket worn by the famous general in the later stages of World War II, a garrison cap and matching trousers, Cornett was the center of attention at American Legion Post 84, in Auburn, California, Monday for an outdoor ceremony in which he finally received his Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal.

Photo: WWII veteran Jimmie H. Royer attends the ceremony where he was awarded France’s Legion of Honor at VFW Post 346 in Terre Haute, Ind., Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Image Credit: Austen Leake/The Tribune-Star via AP

Cornett, 99, came in not an inch shorter or a pound heavier than in his fighting shape of three-quarters of a century past, when he stood 5-foot-2-inches tall and carried 110 pounds on his frame.

More than 77 years ago, after having helped capture Sicily, completing a nighttime combat jump in the rain and seeing heavy combat during the Allied invasion of Italy, Cornett was wounded during a combat assault at Amzio on Jan. 31, 1944, which pulled him from the front lines.

His wounds, severe enough to send him home, were listed in unit paperwork. But in the blur of wartime bureaucracy, they were lost.

Members of the 82nd Airborne, along with other active duty and retired military members, were on hand to see Cornett get the awards he was due at the outdoor ceremony in California. Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, spoke with Cornett on a remote video call during the ceremony.

Recounting Cornett’s wartime and post-war service — along with the anecdote that until a few years ago, the man still regularly did 100 pushups a day — Donahue made an offer.

“If you want to come back, come on back,” Donahue said. “We need men like you.”

Cornett served in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne.

“You represent everything that is great with this country. You represent everything that is great with paratroopers,” Donahue said. “You are the 82nd Airborne Division.”

Read the full article at Army 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.”

General Lloyd Austin Chosen as Biden’s Secretary of Defense

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Headshot of Army General Lloyd Austin III, commander of the US Central Command

By Natalie Rodgers

Retired General Lloyd Austin has been chosen as the United States’ Secretary of Defense under President Joe Biden, making him the first black person to hold the position.

Before earning his four-star general rank and officially retiring in 2016, General Austin led the command on various historical events. He served in the U.S. Army for almost 41 years, spending much of his time as a General and commanding officer. After working for the Pentagon as the Chief Joint Operations Division for two years, Austin oversaw issues in Iraq; overseeing Operation Iraqi Freedom and the combat aspects of Operation New Dawn.

Photo Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

In 2010, Austin became the Commanding General of the United States Forces in Iraq and played an integral part in handling negotiations between the United States and Iraq governments.

In 2011, Austin was nominated to be the Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army (VCSA), where handled the organization’s budget and improved upon issues concerning suicide, mental health, and disability. From there, he took on the commanding position of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) under President Barack Obama’s nomination, making him the first black man to ever serve in the role.

Upon his retirement in 2016, Austin worked on the boards of large name companies such as Raytheon Technologies, Nucor, and Tenet Healthcare. He also runs his own operating firm.

Outside of his professional and official positions, Austin has been known to care for Gold Star Families, the loved ones of military personnel who passed away in service. It is highly believed that Austin’s extensive experience in the field and his understanding of the cost of life are two of the main reasons why he was nominated for the position by President Biden. Austin, much like previous Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, will need be waived from a law calling for a seven-year gap between service and the position.

Source: Washington Post and Wikipedia

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