Kellie Pickler: On a Mission to Serve

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Collage of Kellie Pickler images

Interview and Story by Tawanah Reeves-Ligon

Not everyone has been called to serve as a member of our Armed Forces, but country star, actress, television host and philanthropist Kellie Pickler feels it’s her duty to serve the called.

By partnering with the USO (United Service Organizations), one of the nation’s leading nonprofit charities dedicated to members of the military and their families, Pickler, alongside other celebrities, gets the chance to give back to a community that means the world to her. “They have enabled me to be a part of something that matters,” she shared. “Working with the USO, it’s really all about keeping the families connected and keeping our servicemen and women connected with their loved ones.

We take a piece of home to them…when we do holiday tours, we take a professional athlete, a singer, comedian, actor, actress and just develop this show with them. We sign [autographs], laugh; we take pictures. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If they’re stationed somewhere where their families are able to be with them, we have family day. We get to break bread together and laugh and share their stories…break up the monotony of what they do.”

And Pickler, a North Carolina native, was a great choice for this role because she is a wiz at putting on a show. The now 35-year-old got her start in the industry in 2005 on the fifth season of American Idol, finishing in sixth place.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 27: Kellie Pickler sings with the U.S. Army Chorus at the American Veterans Center’s “American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes” Veterans Day special on October 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shannon Finney/Getty Images)

Her debut album sold over 900,000 copies, was certified gold and produced three top 20 singles on the Billboard “Hot Country Songs” charts. During her music career, Pickler has won or been nominated for numerous awards, such as the CMT Music Awards Breakthrough Video of the Year, Top New Female Vocalist of the Year, Female Video of the Year, Collaborative Video of the Year and Performance of The Year. She’s also won the prestigious Songwriter Award twice from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Later, after the release of her fourth studio album, The Woman I Am, Pickler went on to win the sixteenth season of Dancing with the Stars, alongside professional dancer Derek Hough in 2013. She would also go on to star in two successful television programs, I Love Killie Pickler, a reality show about her life with husband Kyle Jacobs, as well as Pickler & Ben, a daytime talk show she hosted for two years alongside influencer Ben Aaron.

Pickler has also starred in television movies for Hallmark, Christmas at Graceland, Wedding at Graceland and The Mistletoe Secret. However, for Pickler, these achievements are not the hallmark of her career or representative of her purpose. “…accolades, awards, that don’t matter. People matter,” Pickler said. “You never wake up after doing the right thing and think, ‘I wish I hadn’t done the right thing there.’ It’s easy to be kind; it’s easy to love your neighbor.”

NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 29: (L-R) Kyle Jacobs, Recording Artist Kellie Pickler, Allison Baker, Andi Zack-Johnson and Ken Johnson attend the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ ROll Nashville Marathon on April 29, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for St. Jude)

For Pickler, her real job is about what happens offstage, “I know that I was not put on this Earth to just be a country singer, performer and entertainer. That’s just my vehicle to get me through the door. I know what my calling is. I know that my purpose in life is to be a voice for the broken, to be a sanctuary for people.

I’m not perfect by no means. I know my heart. I know my integrity. And that’s not for sale. I feel very blessed to be in a position where I can use my gifts and blessings…” As a USO Ambassador, Pickler is excited about taking the opportunity to give back to those who she knows are prepared to give everything for our citizens and our country.

According to her, “It’s imperative that they know (and that the families know) that we have their backs too. It takes a very selfless person to do what they do.” She is especially sensitive to the families of servicemembers, “The families serve. I’m very close with many Gold Star Families and Gold Star Wives. The USO is a community that’s very, very much needed.

When someone gets that folded flag at their front door, that dreaded conversation, it’s imperative that they have community around them, to love them, help them, be there for their children…The USO has kept so many families connected, and even connected me with these families, in a way that I can have a relationship with them and let them know that they aren’t alone.”

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN: Kellie Pickler signs autographs after performing for U.S. service members as part of USO’s holiday tour.
(Photo by /The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The USO sponsors many programs with these goals in mind and works in over 250 locations. Their programs, predominately, fall into one of four categories: Unites, Delivers, Entertains or Transitions. Each category represents one part of the mission to keep servicemembers in touch with the places, people and positivity they need to keep going.

Programs include, but aren’t limited to: the Bob Hope Legacy Program, which helps servicemembers read to their children virtually; USO Coffee Connections, which gathers military spouses together at monthly gatherings in comfortable spaces where they can share and relate; USO Care Package Program, which delivers familiar snacks, toiletries and hygiene essentials to troops, predominately those overseas; and of course their many resources for those transitioning (or who have transitioned) out of military service.

Participating in the promotion of these programs, as well as having the chance to meet and link with servicemembers and their families, has been a dream for Pickler.

Though she and her immediate family did not come from a military background, she still feels as though she can serve, love on and relate to these families in her own way.

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 07: Singer Kellie Pickler (L) and Staff Sgt. Baily Zimmerman perform onstage during ACM Presents: An All-Star Salute To The Troops in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for ACM)

“We all have so much more in common than we realize,” she said. “I do feel that in my line of work, the music business is all about putting truth in the form of a song. I believe that there’s several songs of mine that have been autobiographical where I was able to put a pinprick of my life into a song. But it’s helped people heal. I do believe in sharing parts of my story…” Pickler continued, saying that her time, her story and her music have “brought people together and helped people find closure in whatever it is that they’re going through.” And that’s where the fulfillment comes from for her.

“There are countless things that the USO has done [for our servicemembers], and, again, it’s been just very life changing for me to be a part of the USO family. I feel that’s the way that I can serve those who serve.”

‘Top Gun: Maverick’ breaks longtime Memorial Day weekend record with $156-million opening

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Top Gun Maverick soars into Memorial Day with highest opening ever.

By Tracy Brown, Los Angeles Times

“Top Gun: Maverick” soared to the highest-ever Memorial Day weekend opening by raking in an impressive $156 million at the domestic box office in its first four days of release.

The updated estimates from measurement firm Comscore released Monday pushes Paramount’s highly anticipated “Top Gun” sequel past the previous record-setting Memorial Day total set by Disney’s 2007 “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” The third film in the “Pirates” franchise earned $153 million over the extended holiday weekend.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, “Top Gun: Maverick” sees Tom Cruise return as his iconic Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell 36 years after he first charmed audiences in the original “Top Gun.” This time around, Cruise’s Maverick is sent back to the Top Gun program as an instructor charged with training the next generation of elite fighter pilots.

In his review, Times film critic Justin Chang described the film as “ridiculous and often ridiculously entertaining.” “As a rare big-budget Hollywood movie about men and women who fly without capes, it has a lot riding on it,” Chang wrote of the film. “Once set for a summer 2020 release but delayed almost two years by the pandemic, it arrives bearing the hopes and dreams of a tentatively resurgent industry that could use a non-Marvel theatrical hit.”

Variety reported that approximately 55% of the movie’s audiences were 35 years or older, indicating appeal to demographics that have been most reluctant to return to theaters.

“Top Gun: Maverick” has smashed early box-office expectations, which predicted the sequel would earn $130 million over the four-day weekend. The film also marks Cruise’s biggest domestic launch ever. Overall, “Maverick’s” estimated global box office haul is $252.7 million for its opening weekend.

Click here to read the full story from the Los Angeles Times.

Young ‘Top Gun’ fan grows up to become Jacksonville pilot, airport director.

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Top Gun Fans becomes pilot 36 years after first movie release

By Renata Di Gregorio, Fire Coast News

Here’s a guess for what you may have done this weekend: go to the movies!

The new “Top Gun” hit theaters, 36 years since the first one. That means it was 36 years ago that some little kids were watching and now some of those kids are adults working in aviation.

Matt Bocchino was a young boy when he watched the first “Top Gun” movie and got inspired. Now he’s the one in the sky.

“I don’t think my mom knew that I saw it at that age,” Bocchino laughed.

After that, the path, or you could say the runway, was laid out for Bocchino’s future.

“‘Top Gun’ was definitely a huge part of my reason for getting into the aviation industry,” he said.

Now Bocchino is a pilot and the director of Cecil Airport and Spaceport.

The action, the adrenaline, the airplanes, the loud noises, which is kind of how I ended up at Cecil,” Bocchino said. “A lot of stuff you see in the movie there happens out here.”

In 2019 Tom Cruise’s fighter jet from the movie was at Cecil Airport and Spaceport.

“It flew into Cecil and then Boeing converted it into a Blue Angel,” Bocchino said.

Now decades after “Top Gun” debuted, the kid with the popcorn has become the man in aviator sunglasses flying the plane.

“It’s freedom,” said Bocchino. “There’s a famous saying, ‘a mile of runway will take you anywhere.'”

The first stop: to the movies.

If the original movie helped inspire Bocchino to become a pilot, could Hollywood help the pilot shortage?

“Partially because of this movie, I wanted to be in the military or fly for a living or both,” Bocchino said. “I’m Type 1 diabetic so that’s how we ended up in this path.”

Click here to read more on firecoastnews.com

Top Gun Then And Now

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By Danielle Jackola, Editor U.S. Veterans Magazine

As we countdown the days to the long-awaited release of Top Gun: Maverick on Friday, May 27 in time for Memorial Day weekend, we reflect on the film’s origin story. U.S. Veterans Magazine sat down with the ‘Godfather of Top Gun,’ Dan Pedersen as he shared the history of the program, why it’s creation came at a pivotal time and how it has impacted our nation’s approach to dogfighting.

Read more about the Top Gun program, Dan Pedersen and the eight other Airmen who brought this unparalleled program to fruition before you sit in theaters with popcorn in hand to be swept away by the cinematographic delights of Top Gun: Maverick.

The actors who brought this tale to life attended a premiere on the USS Midway in San Diego, Calif. on May 4 in celebration of the film and the rich history of the Top Gun program.

Photo caption above picture: Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez, Jay Ellis, Lyliana Wray, Bashir Salahuddin, Miles Teller, Charles Parnell, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Connelly, Jake Picking, Tom Cruise, Lewis Pullman, Jean Louisa Kelly, Greg Tarzan Davis, Kara Wang, Raymond Lee, Jack Schumacher and Manny Jacinto attend the Global Premiere of Top Gun: Maverick on May 04, 2022, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun USVM May Issue 2022 cover story collage of images

We all look forward to viewing Top Gun: Maverick and honoring the Airmen who made it all possible with their dedication to service as elite fighters.

Read more…

Arkansas veterans honored as motorcyclists travel cross country

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motorcyclists honor veterans in Arkansas

By Jade Jackson, THV11

RUSSELLVILLE, Arkansas — A large American flag hung by the local fire department blows with the wind as motorcyclists ride over a hill to the River Valley Veterans Memorial Park in Russellville.

They are riding as part of ‘Run for the Wall’, and are stopping to rest and eat at the memorial park along their journey. ‘Run for the Wall’ is an annual motorcycle ride in the United States that features parades around the country supporting Veterans and patriots traveling from Ontario, California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

They ride across the country to remember those Veterans missing in action, killed in action, or others who are prisoners of war.

Their ride through Arkansas counts as day 5 for them traveling from the West Coast to the east. While resting, they also honored the veterans remembered at the memorial.

“It’s the longest and hardest ride through the entire journey. We have a lot of miles to put in,” said Christina Roulston, the Arkansas state coordinator for ‘Run for the Wall’.

Roulston said the stop in Russellville is a new one. They usually stop for lunch in Coal Hill, Arkansas but the usual organization they work with has veterans who are aging and dealing with health problems. So unfortunately they weren’t able to feed them this year.

Click here to read the full article on THV11.

Meet The ‘Godfather of Top Gun’

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Top Gun USVM May Issue 2022 cover story collage of images

By Brady Rhoades

Mention Top Gun and most everyone thinks of Tom Cruise. But did you know there’s a real Top Gun program for fighter pilots? It’s safe to say most naval aviators do; most civilians don’t.

Dan Pedersen, 86, a veteran of numerous missions in the Vietnam War, is considered the real life “Godfather of Top Gun,” which he likens to a graduate school for aviators.

In the original Top Gun movie, those guys became the now-iconic and beloved Maverick, Ice Man, Goose and others. After three years of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-awaited sequel’s Memorial Day release will mark 36 years since the original movie debuted.

Goose and Maverick fans have been ravenous.

There’s been a buzz about the movie ever since Cruise announced that it was in the works, and Val Kilmer, the original Ice Man, started promoting it.

In “Maverick,” Cruise reprises his role as U.S. Naval aviator Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. The Joseph Kosinski-directed sequel also stars Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly and Jon Hamm.

One thing seems to be agreed on, however: the film, featuring what Cruise calls unprecedented flying scenes, is best seen on the big screen.

What better film to celebrate open theaters this summer?

In the Dogfighting Business Maverick and company, though based on true fighter pilots, were glitzed up a bit, and that’s just fine. Pedersen credits the 1986 blockbuster film with helping the military.

Dan Pederson poses with fighter jet in early Vietnam era
Dan Pedersen, author of Top Gun: An American Story, used his experiences as a fighter pilot in Vietnam to train talented, young pilots in a program that would later inspire Top Gun starring Tom Cruise. Photo: Navy Historical Foundation Pederson

“The movie was excellent,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine. “They motivated us and increased recruiting.” But Hollywood is in the storytelling business. Pedersen was in the dogfighting business. When he spearheaded Top Gun, he focused on pilots, in the air, in dogfights. “The only thing they have to rely on is their professional experience and senior guidance,” he said. “The guys that were with me were far more professional and serious,” he said.

Before Top Gun, which formed in 1969 with Pedersen and eight other elite Airmen honing their skills in Miramar, pilots in that war were achieving a 2 to 1 “kill ratio,” meaning they killed two enemies for every one American lost. “Totally unacceptable,” Pedersen said. And the “Godfather of Top Gun” ought to know. He was there when 11 American pilots were killed in 17 days.

Fast forward a couple years into the graduate school crash course for the one percent of elite fighters of that era, and the kill ratio was 24 to one. So, what does it take to be in that one percent? “The guys have got to really love what they’re doing every day…you’ve got to do a lot of air time, and that’s when you get really good and unbeatable.”

Tom Cruise in original Top Gun movie pictured riding motorcycle with fighter jet in background.
The movie Top Gun, directed by Tony Scott. Seen here, Tom Cruise as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell riding a Kawasaki GPZ 900 R. Initial theatrical release May 16, 1986. Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: CBS via Getty Images.

Pedersen, who has been married for nearly 30 years after reuniting with his teenage sweetheart, likes to keep things simple. He credits his own success as a pilot to skilled mentorship, some of it from seasoned Word War II veterans. That was a bottom-line principle of Top Gun: teach advanced tactics to young, talented pilots. And pay it forward by, in turn, passing on that knowledge to the next generation.

At the Top of Their Game
The techniques and tactics that Pedersen and others taught in the Top Gun program are still used today, even with vastly more sophisticated technology.

Why has it stood the test of time?
“These are principles that evolved from experience and winning,” Pedersen said. Not to mention, the world’s greatest pilots. The Top Gun program has since moved to Fallon, Nev., and the technology has advanced but one thing hasn’t changed from air warfare in the 20th century to today, according to Pedersen.

“The pilot, the human, will always be the key factor in a win in aero combat,” he explained. Of the current one percent of naval aviators at Fallon, Pedersen said: “You look at these young pilots, and boy are they good.” Great pilots need great planes. Pedersen loved the Grumman F9F-2 aircraft that he flew dozens of missions in during Vietnam. “You could shoot the eyes out of a cat with it,” he said.

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis pictured together in original Top Gun movie.
Tom Cruise and co-star Kelly McGillis in original Top Gun movie. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Archive Photo/Getty Images.

The military continues to deploy incredible planes, but two things concern Pedersen:
1) Some of the uber-expensive ones have too many bells and whistles inside the aircraft (He prefers simple and reliable.)
2) The United States needs to produce more to keep up with China, Russia and N. Korea.

“We have these nice, big aircrafts and not enough planes,” he said. “We do not want to be numerically outnumbered… if you get mosquitos in a phone booth, one fly swatter won’t do.”

An American Story
The release of Top Gun 2: Maverick roughly coincides with Pedersen’s release of his national bestselling book, titled Top Gun: An American Story, 50 years after the original Top Gun program was formed. In the 320-pager, Pedersen tells the inside story of how he and eight other risk-takers revolutionized the art of aerial combat. Hachette Books published Top Gun, and it’s an intriguing read.

Following is an excerpt from the promo on the book’s website:
“… the most interesting parts of the book are the discussions on how he became the man assigned to creating the school. Many today can reflect on similar situations with the War on Terror. The bureaucrats and many high-ranking generals thought they knew best until the candid USS Coral Sea Commander Frank Ault spoke out. Already in line for admiral and with nothing to lose the World War II attack pilot put his gripes on paper in 1968 and sent them to the Pentagon. He listed in detail the problems and the solutions with aerial engagement in Vietnam, in what became known as the Ault Report, and recommended the formation of a school specializing in aerial combat.

an Pederson's Top Gun book cover
Photo Credit: Hachette Book Group.

“Some of the problems included pilots fighting in Vietnam receiving limited training, having faulty Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles and not learning the skills they needed to outmaneuver the enemy. This became abundantly clear with the kill ratios: In World War II, the kill ratio was approximately 14-to-1, during the Korean War about 10-to-1, but in Vietnam — before the Top Gun program — it was as low as 2-to-1.

“Capt. Pedersen (then a lieutenant commander) was the first officer in charge of Top Gun. He was chosen because of his experiences in the air battles over Vietnam where he received first-hand knowledge of the shortcomings of American tactics and equipment. The ‘high tech’ weapons failed about 90 percent of the time, and the latest fighter plane didn’t even have a gun!

American fighter pilots were being shot down by a third-world air force using Soviet aircraft — MiGs. The Navy moved toward radar-guided missiles and aircraft to fire them instead of dogfighting.

“The Top Gun School ended up being very successful. The 2-to-1 ratio changed to a 24-to-1 ratio. It became, and still is, run by people with combat experience. It is obvious that Top Gun saved lives and turned the air war around.”

Pedersen, who calls the original Top Gun pilots “real patriots,” said he is pleased with his legacy in the military, which is chronicled in his book. “Anyone willing to defend their country should have a voice in combat and should have some control over their own destiny,” he said. “I am very proud that my lasting military contribution was Top Gun, where the trainees became unbeatable.”

Click here to view the exclusive Dan Pedersen interview video!

SUNKEN ROADS: Three Generations After D-Day–Streaming on Memorial Day!

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Sunken Roads movie poster

First Run Features presents the Streaming, Blu-ray and DVD premiere of Charlotte Juergens’s new documentary Sunken Roads: Three Generations After D-Day beginning Memorial Day, May 30, 2022.

Don McCarthy was 20 years old on D-Day, when his infantry division landed on Omaha Beach. Don and the other veterans who survived D-Day will someday soon have passed into memory and legend. This realization inspires 20-year-old filmmaker Charlotte Juergens to join Don and seven other D-Day vets on a journey to France – a commemorative pilgrimage to Omaha Beach for the 70th anniversary of the invasion.

The vets come to see Charlotte as a granddaughter, trusting her with their stories as they confront the trauma that still haunts them 70 years after the war. In capturing their lives, Sunken Roads offers an intergenerational perspective on D-Day, presenting the memories of 90-year-old combat veterans through the eyes of a 20-year-old woman.

“The film is extraordinary!”
-Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC

“Manages to capture an innate gentleness and twinkly-eyed mischief in all of these men…Sunken Roads brings a hugely personal touch to such a massive moment in history.
It is, at times, a very emotional watch.” -JumpCut (UK)

“A disarmingly sweet film.”
-Saturday Evening Post

“Juergens’ filmmaking style is classic cinema verite: the cinema of truth. There is no artifice. There are no special effects. She’s never intrusive. She lets her subjects control what the lens and microphone will discover. Their faces are iconic.”
-Niagara Gazette

WATCH THE TRAILER!

Festivals & Honors
Winner! Outstanding Feature Documentary
Normandie–World War II International Film Festival

G.I. Film Festival
National WWII Museum
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
National Museum of the U.S. Army
Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival
Carmarthen Bay Film Festival

Streaming on Apple TV, iTunes, Amazon & Vimeo On Demand plus DVD & Blu ray availability begins May 30, 2022

DVD UPC: 7-20229-91815-2 DVD Catalog #: FRF 918152D
DVD PRE-BOOK: May 30, 2022 SRP: $24.95
DVD Disc Features: 12 Bonus Scenes

BLU-RAY UPC: 7-20229-91816-9 BLU-RAY Catalog #: FRF 918169D
BLU-RAY PRE-BOOK: May 30, 2022 SRP: $29.95
BLU RAY Disc Features: 2-disc set; 20 Bonus Scenes; 5.1 Audio

GI Film Festival San Diego Announces Film Lineup for 2022 Season

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GI Film Festival marquee

Organizers of the GI Film Festival San Diego are thrilled to announce a diverse film lineup for its annual event happening May 17-21, 2022 at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park. The film festival is dedicated to presenting films and events for, by and about military and veterans, and is set to return to in-person screenings for the first time since 2019. The online box office opened on April 1 at GIFilmFestivalSD.org.

27 films to debut at this year’s military-themed film festival

This year’s multi-day festival features a selection of 27 films reviewed by members of the GI Film Festival San Diego advisory committee and festival organizers, including full-length documentaries, animated shorts, student projects, local films, and international films. The lineup also covers events from World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, and present day. In addition, film themes and plot lines this year include mental health, military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress, the untold Filipino American military experience, women in service, transitioning to civilian life, life as a military spouse, veteran suicide, prisoner of war (POW) experiences, and much more.

Also, 13 of the films are narrative stories. Among them include the dark comedy “We All Die Alone” from San Diego filmmakers Jonathan Hammond (director) and Ryan Binse (producer and U.S. Navy veteran). The narrative short is a comical and tragic story of two warring gangs taking part in an eight-way standoff. Another narrative short featured in this year’s lineup is “THAT NIGHT,” a suspenseful, psychological thriller from Los Angeles filmmaker Samuel Gonzalez Jr., a U.S. Army veteran. Lastly, the period drama “Over There” from New York Film Academy graduate Charles Allen of St. Paul, Minnesota, is set in World War I and tells the story of two brothers who find themselves in the throes of battle with one objective: to make it home.

The other 14 films are documentaries. Making its San Diego premiere is “STRANGER AT HOME: The Untold Story of Military Mental Health.” Directed by Beth Dolan and Luis Resemar, the film weaves three veteran stories as they work tirelessly to deliver their urgent call-to-action for radical military mental health transformation. Also making its San Diego premiere is the documentary feature film “A Long March.” Director Tammy Botkin shines a light on the treatment of Filipino American veterans, from war to erasure by the U.S. government. Another documentary, “Walk With Frank,” documents a Vietnam veteran as he walks across New York to raise awareness and support those struggling with PTS. The film makes its West Coast premiere during the festival.

The GI Film Festival San Diego also honors local filmmakers through a partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego. This year, five films round out the local selections, including the return of Spring Valley filmmakers Devin and Jeanne Scott (2015, 2017, 2019, 2021) and newcomer Scott Campbell of El Cajon with the documentary short “Down on the Ranch.” Additionally, this year’s festival will feature 13 San Diego premieres, five World premieres and four West Coast premieres.

“We’re very excited to return in-person this year after two years of online screenings,” says Jodi Cilley, founder and president, Film Consortium San Diego. “There’s nothing better than sitting in a theater next to the WWII veteran you see on screen or hearing first-hand from a film subject on their war experience, or even talking to a filmmaker who served in the Vietnam War finally getting to tell their story. The GI Film Festival San Diego brings together our troops and civilians, and that is what makes this event so special, unique and an experience like no other. ”

The GI Film Festival San Diego not only plays an important role in preserving our military history, but also in bridging the military and civilian divide. Each film selected for the festival presents a different perspective of the military experience, and reassures our veterans and their families that they are not alone and their service is appreciated. The festival gives active duty military, veterans and allies a place to come together, share stories, and learn more about military heroes and events they may never see on the big screen or read in a book.

In addition to the film screenings, attendees will enjoy captivating post-screening discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, actors and subject-matter experts. The panel discussions explore the important topics and issues raised in the films, give audience members an opportunity to engage directly with the filmmakers, and create a space for dialogue, camaraderie, and listening. The festival culminates with the Awards Celebration, also taking place at MOPA on Saturday, May 21 with Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, musician, radio broadcaster and U.S. military veteran and advocate Thom Tran, returning as event host. Tickets to the Awards Celebration will also be available via the online box office beginning April 1.

A complete list for this year’s film lineup is at the end of this news release.

Can’t make it in-person, watch the films at home for a limited time

All films shown at the in-person screenings will also be available as a video on demand rental (VOD), beginning the day after their festival debut through Memorial Day, May 30, 2022. This virtual option gives festival fans who are not able to attend the screenings in-person the flexibility to participate and enjoy the films however they choose within the rental window.

When the online box office opens, attendees will have the option to reserve a film or film block for VOD or secure a ticket for the in-person screening. Tickets for most in-person screenings start at $10 each or $8 for military, veterans and KPBS members. VOD rentals will be $10 each. Guests attending in-person screenings will be asked to observe and follow COVID-19 policies.

For seven years running

Since its inception in 2015, the GI Film Festival San Diego has provided a platform for military service members-turned-filmmakers both local and abroad to showcase their creative stories on the big screen, challenging the notions about what it means to serve. More than 210 films have since been screened at the festival, each presenting a compelling and unique story that aids in bridging the military-civilian gap.

Every year, members of the GI Film Festival San Diego advisory committee help review films for the final festival selection. The film festival has active support from several military and veteran-related organizations, including Project Recover, Workshops for Warriors, Travis Manion Foundation, Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Blue Star Families San Diego, Wounded Warrior Project, American History Theatre, San Diego Military Family Collaborative, Armed Services YMCA, Southern Caregiver Resource Center, and Courage to Call.

Members of the advisory committee also come from the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and many have military backgrounds, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and the Air Force Reserves. Several are military or veteran spouses. All committee members 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.

Over the years, the festival has also hosted several celebrities whose films had been presented at GI Film Festival San Diego 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.

For up-to-date information on this year’s film festival, how to attend and ways to get involved, visit GIFilmFestivalSD.org.

About GI Film Festival San Diego 

The GI Film Festival San Diego is a multi-day showcase of films for, by, and about military and veteran experiences. Films featured in the festival reveal the struggles, triumphs, and experiences of service members and veterans. The festival also provides veterans and service members with an opportunity to further their creative skills.

Documentaries, shorts, narratives, and feature-length films are presented. The festival includes locally-connected films, which feature San Diego’s filmmakers, events, people, or places. Post-screening discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, actors, and subject-matter experts are also part of the festival.

The festival, established in 2015, is organized by KPBS in partnership with the Film Consortium San Diego to present the Local Film Showcase.

The 2022 festival is sponsored in part by Military Times, Scatena Daniels Communications, New York Film Academy, SAG-AFTRA and Veterans United Home Loans of San Diego. Additional support is provided by a grant from the California Health Care Foundation.

The GI Film Festival San Diego is a proud 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.

  • “3:35 to Boston” – A military wife, struggling to balance all the pieces of her life, breaks down when she realizes the life she had originally planned for herself may not be possible. Narrative Short / Directed by Kay Barnes / 8 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / Student Film / San Diego Premiere
  • “American Hero” – Since the day Lt. Jordan returned home, she’s been trying to get the truth out, only to find herself struggling to overcome the pressures of the military. As her truth is revealed, Lt. Jordan has to bear with the severe backlash from the media, fellow soldiers, and the people who she loves the most, while facing the challenges presented by the intuition she swore her life to. The strength and bravery of Lt. Jordan will promote healing and political change for all of those who have suffered similar traumas within the committed constraints of the military environment. These similar traumas are shared and hidden by her husband. Film contains mature themes including rape and trauma. Viewer discretion advised. Narrative Short / Directed by Manny McCord / 15 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere
  • “Barrier” – September 1944. Two Canadian soldiers find a boy washed up on the Dutch beach. Where did he come from and can he be trusted? Narrative Short / Directed by Niels Bourgonje / 9 minutes / 2020 / Netherlands / French with English Subtitles / San Diego Premiere
  • “Blind Ambition: The Wop May Story” – Shot on 35mm filmstock with an orchestral musical score, “Blind Ambition” brings to life the story of an inspiring and courageous pilot. After learning to fly in WWI, a young Canadian man returns home to start a bold career in aviation. Barnstormer, lifesaver, and intrepid bush pilot, Wilfred ‘Wop’ May proves the value of flight to the world. But when a 15 year old injury requires catastrophic eye surgery, he is forced to admit he had done it all with only one good eye. Now grounded, Wop continues to push aviation forward by running training schools for pilots and navigators in WWII, creates the first Air Search and Rescue service, and opens the Arctic and Pacific Rim to commercial flight. However, this dedication leaves little time for family. Upon Wop’s death, his teenage son discovers how little he really knew his father when he travels to the North and hears tales of his father’s adventures, heroics, and generosity – the legacy of Wop May. Documentary Short / Directed by Frederick Krotesch and Tom Robinson / 20 minutes / 2021 / Canada / West Coast Premiere
  • “Blood and Glory” – Two homeless, female veterans’ friendship is tested when they confront adversity, discrimination, and even mother nature herself in their attempt to find work and survive the day. Narrative Short / Directed by Satinder Kaur / 12 minutes / 2019 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere
  • “BRAKE”– In this 2D-3D hybrid animation, a man endures sensory overload from attempting to travel. He and his service animal are denied entry which sends him into a panic. His service animal works to get him back to his senses.

Narrative Short / Directed by Aja Weary and Amanda Richardson / 4 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / Student Film / San Diego Premiere

  • “Colonel Jack” – Unassuming, affable and hilariously funny, Jack Jacobs does not fit the mold of a “war hero” — nor is he comfortable with the term. But on March 9, 1968, a wounded Jacobs repeatedly returned to a Vietnam battlefield to rescue 14 men while under enemy fire. The action would earn him the Medal of Honor – presented by President Richard Nixon – and inspire a memorable scene in the film “Forrest Gump.” In “Colonel Jack,” Jacobs opens up a window into his unique philosophy, speaking candidly about the attack, the enemy, the importance of humor and why he dedicated his life to the U.S. Army. Documentary Short / Directed by Eric Greenberg / 7 minutes / 2022 / USA / Student Film / World Premiere
  • “Dear Sirs” – Filmmaker Mark Pedri had never heard his grandfather Silvio’s story despite spending nearly every day together for 10 years. It wasn’t until after Silvio’s death that Mark found an archive of old photos, letters, and documents detailing Silvio’s journey as a Prisoner of War (POW) in World War II. The discovery inspired Mark to bike over 500 miles across Europe, following the original Prisoner of War transportation routes, in an effort to tell his grandfather’s story and better understand the man who helped raise him. This film contains difficult subject matter and imagery including depictions of war. Viewer discretion advised. Documentary Feature / Directed by Mark Pedri / 92 minutes / 2021 / USA / San Diego Premiere
  • “Down on the Ranch” – A ranch owner volunteers her time and horses to provide equestrian assisted services for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Documentary Short / Directed by Scott Campbell / 10 minutes / 2022 / USA / Local Film / San Diego Premiere
  • “HERE. IS. BETTER.” – A soldier’s story is always personal, but never more than in HERE. IS. BETTER., a documentary film with unprecedented access inside trauma therapy sessions delivering hope to veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals featured in the film include former Presidential hopeful Jason Kander, who shocked many when he left the Kansas City mayoral race in 2018 to seek treatment; a Vietnam War veteran still haunted by events that occurred over 50 years ago; and the voices of so often overlooked female veterans, all seeking the keys to unlock their places of hurt and pain. Directed by Emmy®-winning filmmaker Jack Youngelson and produced by Emmy winners Sian Edwards-Beal and David Beal. Score composed by David Baron and Jeremiah Fraites of the GRAMMY-nominated band The Lumineers. Original songs by Josin and Kara DioGuardi. This film contains course language, scenes from combat, and mature themes of suicide, sexual assault, and violence. Viewer discretion advised. Documentary Feature / Directed by Jack Youngelson / 95 minutes / 2021 / USA / West Coast Premiere
  • “Into Flight Once More” – On an airstrip in Connecticut, a squadron of World War II-era DC3/C47 airplanes is forming. The distinctive, throaty roar of their massive radial engines stir up memories and challenges. Lovingly restored and flown by passionate aviators from all over the country, each plane represents an investment of money and countless hours to honor the Greatest Generation who sacrificed their lives to protect freedom worldwide. Their mission: To fly from Connecticut to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, England and finally across the English Channel to Normandy, France where, on June 6, 2019, the members of this remarkable squadron will join roughly 500,000 people from all over the globe to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. The squadron members’ backgrounds and personal motives differ, but what unites them in recreating this historic journey is their commitment to honoring the veterans that secured peace for all of us, and celebrating their return home. For many of the men and women who served in World War II, seeing the vintage airplanes again sparked memories long held deep inside. At each stop on the journey from the United States to France, we will meet veterans as they reconnect with the planes that flew, provisioned, rescued, supported and meant so much to them during wartime. “Into Flight Once More” is narrated by Gary Sinise. Documentary Feature / Directed by Adrienne Hall / 69 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere
  • “Landing Home” – “Landing Home” is a film that takes the audience into the mind of a combat soldier and pulls back the curtain of the lasting damage war has to our veterans and their families. Returning home for men and women in uniform can represent only the beginning of a different kind of war. Luke, an army combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, decides to leave the military and come home to be with his family. He soon realizes that this is much harder than he ever imagined. Something as simple as a birthday party for his five-year-old daughter can quickly become overwhelming and trigger his post-traumatic stress. “Landing Home” is inspired by the award-nominated off-Broadway play, “The American Soldier.” The play has been performed in over 28 cities and gives voice to veterans and military families. It is based on actual letters soldiers have sent to their loved ones from the Revolution to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The script of “Landing Home” is created from a combination of exhaustive research and verbatim language lifted from countless interviews the director and producer have conducted with veterans and their family members. Narrative Feature / Directed by Douglas Taurel / 73 minutes / 2019 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere
  • “Lives On the Line” – Kyle is an Afghanistan war veteran, suffering from chronic pain, who falls victim to a broken system while seeking treatment at the VA. At his breaking point, he meets a disillusioned VA employee who has seen what happens when the promises made to veterans are broken. This film deals with difficult topics such as suicide, which some viewers may find disturbing. It is intended for mature audiences. Viewer discretion advised. Narrative Short / Directed by Steve Stein / 20 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere
  • “A Long March” – Three veterans trace their paths from war to erasure by the U.S. government. Winding through a seldom-told history of the Philippines, seized by the U.S. as a colony in 1899, through a 40-year stretch of lethal imperialist policies, Celestino Almeda, Rudy Panaglima and Feliciana Reyes find themselves inducted into the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII. After their service, Congress declares them, and hundreds of thousands more, to be “not on active duty.” These veterans are denied back pay, GI benefits and promised citizenship. From 1946-1948 the U.S. Army further disenfranchises these veterans by reconstructing rosters of service which also secretly refuse to recognize the service of women. Today, Celestino, Rudy and Feliciana represent the tens of thousands of elderly veterans who remain unacknowledged despite their evidence of service. As judicial solutions hit a brick wall and all eyes turn to Congress, this documentary asks the hard questions: Will America stand up for the values it claims? Will these veterans get the recognition they deserve before they are all dead? The plight of these veterans unfolds alongside interviews with family members, legal, legislative, and military advocates; archival footage; and 3D animation of rediscovered WWII art. Documentary Feature / Directed by Tammy Botkin / 86 minutes / 2021 / USA / Local Film / San Diego Premiere
  • “My Happy Place” – Anna Borman’s six-year-old life in 1965 was nearly perfect. Living in Florida, having two great parents… and then an abrupt life-changing situation turned her world upside down. Divorce was on the rise in the ‘60s, but the circumstances around the Borman’s split comes with a twist. Anna and her father take a road trip across America during summer visitation and lessons of love and forgiveness are learned. This found-footage film has driving scenes from the East Coast to the West Coast and includes imagery of the many historical sights still popular today. Anna and her father finally arrive at their final destination: “Autopia” in Disneyland, Anaheim. “My Happy Place” visually touches life in the 1960s, drawing empathy and compassion for the characters. This story was inspired by a few of the producer’s true experiences. Narrative Short / Directed by Devin Scott / 18 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / Local Film / World Premiere
  • “Nation’s Promise” – “Nation’s Promise” brings to life the true story of two patriots who, for both love of country and one another, made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War for our nation. Inspired by our nation’s commitment to returning all of her fallen sons and daughters back to their families and a grateful country, this is the true story of First Lieutenant Loren Hagen and Sergeant Al Boyers, lifelong friends, divided at time of war and brought together in the quest to find each other. Al Boyers joined an elite group of special forces tasked with carrying out harrowing missions in a clandestine division known as the Studies and Observations Group. After being stranded behind enemy lines and declared MIA, Loren Hagen joins the military to find his best friend. With never-before-seen footage, “Nation’s Promise” explores one of the most enduring legacies of two men’s commitment to one another, a family’s journey to bring them home, and a nation’s promise to honor all whom have served and made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States of America. Documentary Feature / Directed by Justin Dailey / 60 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / Local Film / World Premiere
  • “Over There” – After the United States enters the First World War, two brothers find themselves amidst the horrors of modern combat in Europe with one objective: to make it home. Narrative Short / Directed by Charles Allen / 13 minutes / 2020 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / Student Film
  • “RAW” – Past and present are blurred by a horrifying transgression as a female soldier faces the aftermath of a military patrol in the Middle East. RAW exposes military sexual trauma through the eyes of a soldier struggling to readjust to everyday life. Film contains mature themes including rape and trauma. Viewer discretion advised. Narrative Short / Directed by Drake Shannon / 10 minutes / 2020 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / Local Film
  • “Second to None” – The discovery of an interview with his deceased grandfather leads filmmaker Edmund Carson to a previously unknown part of his family history. “Second to None” is a gripping first-hand account of a U.S. infantryman in World War II who walked through fear and cheated death. Documentary Short / Directed by Ed Carson / 26 minutes / 2021 / USA
  • “Shell Shocked” – After two years of unsuccessful treatment, a combat veteran suffering from “battle induced stuttering” discovers a controversial drug banned since WWII that has the possibility to cure him. Narrative Short / Directed by Paula A Cajiao / 16 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / West Coast Premiere
  • “Stem to Stone: A Wreath’s Journey” – Each December, volunteers lay 250,000 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, one on every veteran’s grave. The sight is breathtaking and iconic. Wreaths Across America urges Americans to remember, honor and teach for those who have served our country and paid the ultimate price. Wreaths are placed at more than 2,500 locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad. Many of these wreaths are made from trees that bear the name of a fallen service member. Come along for the poignant and patriotic trip, from a tree farm in Northern Maine to the U.S. capital. Witness this remarkable journey from stem to stone, through the eyes of trucker and Gold Star father J.D. Walker. Documentary Short / Directed by Brian Burdett / 6 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / World Premiere
  • “STRANGER AT HOME: The Untold Story Of Military Mental Health” – STRANGER AT HOME weaves the life-altering stories of the Navy Psychologist forced into whistleblowing, the Army Ranger involved in the killing of Pat Tillman, and the Vietnam Marine turned world-renowned trauma expert, as they work tirelessly to deliver their urgent call-to-action for radical military mental health transformation. This film contains difficult subject matter and mature themes. Viewer discretion advised. Documentary Feature / Directed by Beth Dolan and Luis Remesar / 69 minutes / 2021 / USA / Local Film / San Diego Premiere
  • “THAT NIGHT” – A haunted veteran plagued by guilt and hallucinations struggles with the murder of an innocent civilian girl. Wishing to end it all as he tries to make sense of his past and fractured reality, when a mysterious young woman changes everything. Based on the untold true story. Narrative Short / Directed by Samuel Gonzalez Jr. / 39 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / San Diego Premiere
  • “The Monument of Tolerance” – Seventy-five years after the end of World War II, veterans from both the Allied and Axis forces, and survivors of the Holocaust, come together to reconcile and put tolerance into practice. These former enemies demonstrate to all people that reconciliation with one’s fellow human is attainable and the way forward for a future together. Documentary Short / Directed by Tracie Hunter and Elizabeth Suter / 30 minutes / 2021 / USA / World Premiere
  • “Veterans Journey Home: On Black Mountain” – At a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center in the hills north of San Francisco, California, 22 women veterans experience a four-month mindfulness meditation-based workshop to confront the demons connected to their military service: sexual harassment, rape, abuse, discrimination, career exploitation, and the lies and hypocrisy from their commanders. Documentary Short / Directed by Frederick Marx / 50 minutes / 2021 / USA / US Premiere
  • “Walk With Frank” – A former Vietnam infantry soldier decides to celebrate his 70th birthday by walking across New York to help other survivors of PTSD and confront his own dark past. Documentary Feature / Directed by Ryan Mayers and Matt Mayers / 78 minutes / 2021 / USA / West Coast Premiere
  • “We All Die Alone” – The hubris of an inept conflict negotiator leads two warring gangs into an eight-way standoff. The consequences are both comical and tragic in this whip-smart short. Narrative Short / Directed by Jonathan Hammond / 13 minutes / 2021 / USA / Made By or Starring Military or Veterans / Local Film

2022 Hot Jobs for Veterans

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black female soldier using laptop with apply now page appearing on screen with her military experience

By Natalie Rodgers

It’s a new year, and with the many social and economic changes from the last two years, many veterans are looking for a fresh start in 2022. While veterans are equipped to work in just about any job position, there are a few job fields that could change your 2022 for the better. Here are some of this year’s most popular hot jobs:

Healthcare

If you already have medical experience from your time in the field, healthcare may be the perfect option. Veterans with medical training are properly equipped to work in a variety of different positions in the medical field. They are even at an advantage for opportunities to sharpen their skills for a higher-paying position through veteran-supported programs and the perks of the GI Bill. Some of the most popular jobs in the medical field amongst veterans are:

  • Physicians Assistants: $96,000 per year
  • Registered Nurses: $73,000 per year
  • Chiropractic Care: $71,454 per year
  • Radiologic or Cardiovascular Technologist: $50,000-$61,000 per year
  • Medical Lab Technician: $45,000 per year

Federal Jobs

Federal organizations not only want to hire veterans but actively seek them out. They are already aware of the skillsets, mindsets, and needs of veterans transitioning into work and are willing to provide any additional, necessary training that veterans may need. Government jobs also tend to come with great benefits, solid routines and sturdy pay. There are many kinds of government jobs across organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Parks and Recreation, the Department of Transportation and more.

  • Transportation Specialist: $83,748 per year
  • Police Officer: $61,936 per year
  • Social Worker: $54,923 per year
  • Firefighter: $51,368 per year
  • Substance Abuse Counselor: $41,610 per year

Outdoors Work

Veterans have a long track record of working outdoor jobs, from park security and landscaping to working with animals. While many like the idea of working indoors or in an office, many veterans prefer to be in an open, outdoor space. This environment can be especially helpful for veterans with PTSD, depression or other mental conditions.

  • Landscape Designer: $64,307 per year
  • Land Surveyor: $63,094 per year
  • Park Ranger: $51,481 per year
  • Veterinary Technician: $43,964 per year
  • Farm Hand: $35,296 per year

Skilled Trades

Learning a trade is one of the most popular options for veterans transitioning into civilian life. It provides them an opportunity to work with their hands, expand on their skill set, and utilize tactics they already know from the field. There is also an abundance of programs and organizations specializing in trade training specifically catered to veterans.

  • Electrician: $60,906 per year
  • Plumber: $60,848 per year
  • Auto Mechanic: $46,309 per year
  • Carpenter: $45,068 per year
  • Commercial Driver: $40,877 per year

Education

Veterans are used to environments where they must lead, learn fast, adapt quickly, and teach others how to do the same. As the educational system continues to change, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, veterans are excellent candidates as teachers on every level. Educational occupations usually require additional certifications but are generally gained in shorter periods and with assistance from military benefits.

  • Special Education Teacher: $56,914 per year
  • Elementary School Teacher: $54,102 per year
  • Middle School Teacher: $53,825 per year
  • High School Teacher: $52,481 per year
  • Vocational School Teacher: $50,881 per year

No matter what field you’re pursuing this year, remember that your military experience has equipped you for an array of jobs, and the right fit for you is just around the corner.

Sources: Glassdoor, Trade-schools.net, Healthcare Daily Online

Drew Carey: A Grateful Marine

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By Brady Rhoades

The Price is Right host and Hollywood icon Drew Carey is, in many ways, an unlikely Marine.

The congenial, bespectacled, self-described “peacenik” comedian served his country as a sergeant and field radio operator with the 25th Marine Regiment and calls the experience a pivot-point in his life.

“Military life and experiences gave me incredible experiences in leadership — especially in small groups, and under pressure,” Carey, 63, said in an interview with U.S. Veterans Magazine. “The military is not about yelling at someone to do things, as people wholly unfamiliar with the military would believe. There’s a tremendous amount of trust that other people will do their jobs and that you’ll do yours. So, there’s social pressure. And a lot of subservience to the mission and the greater good of the group. So, you learn to swallow that and perform because there are always stakes, great and small. And you never want to be the one who can’t rise to the occasion. You’re reminded of this dynamic constantly in the Marines. It’s just there. No one has to yell at you about it.”

Rewind to 1980. Carey, who hails from Cleveland, was jobless, broke and crashing at his brother’s California home when he joined the military.

It turned out to be a watershed move.

“I went from not being able to afford to eat or clothe myself to getting three meals a day. I had an instant family,” Carey said.

The lessons his new family — the Marine Corps — taught Carey ring true to him to this day. They explain, in part, why he’s committed to the ideal of service.

One of his most famous philanthropic efforts took place in 2014 when he promised $10,000 to help find the perpetrators of a fake “ice bucket challenge” involving an autistic 14-year-old Ohio boy who had been told he was going to be doused in ice but instead was showered in urine, tobacco and cigarette butts.

“Horrendous,” Carey tweeted at the time.

Drew Carey seated in helicopter wearing fatigues and posing with another Marine
Drew Carey and others meet with and perform for military members during comedy tour for USO.

Drew Carey and others meet with and perform for military members during comedy tour for USO.

Carey, who checked out a joke book from a local library after his stint in the Marines, is a big supporter of libraries. Over the years, he has donated millions to the Ohio Library Foundation and Cleveland Public Library.

And he advocates for active military personnel and veterans — performing in USO tours, competing in the Marine Corps Marathon, and raising money in various ways.

On a lighter note, Carey continues to advocate for the Cleveland Browns, who sported a disappointing 8-9 record this season. After Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked nine times in a 26-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 3, the funny man tweeted this:

Maybe the #Browns offensive line just doesn’t like Baker Mayfield?

Ever think of that?

Or it’s some kind of insurance scam.

I dunno.

When Carey completed his military service in 1986, he turned to standup comedy at the Cleveland Comedy Club and other venues.

In 1988, he competed on Star Search. In 1991, he landed a spot on HBO’s Young Comedians Special and appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He went on to co-star in the Disney TV series The Good Life and worked as a staff writer on The Gaby Hoffmann Show.

Actors Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Pauley Perrette, and Jai Rodriguez pose outside smiling
(L-R) Actors Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, Pauley Perrette, and Jai Rodriguez attend the 29th Annual AIDS Walk. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

By the mid-1990s, Carey was a household name, starring in The Drew Carey Show, which ran from 1995-2004, and the improv/sketch show Whose Line Is It Anyway? on which he was host and producer from 1998-2007.

The success of that show led to the creation of Drew Carey’s Improv All Stars, a talented troupe that performed across the country.

Carey was cast in movie roles and penned a best-selling memoir titled, Dirty Jokes and Beer: Stories of the Unrefined.

In 2007, he was named the host of The Price Is Right, succeeding longtime host Bob Barker. This year marks the show’s 50th anniversary.

As if that doesn’t keep him busy enough, Carey is more-than-passingly involved in music.

“I play rock n roll every Friday night on Sirius channel 21,” Carey said. “Little Steven’s Underground Garage. It’s called the Friday Night Freakout, and it airs from 8 to 11 p.m. EST. Also streams on the Sirius app. It’s my passion project.”

Most people know all about Carey’s TV career — and now they know

Drew Carey speaks at a podium at the Veterans Inaugural Ball
Actor Drew Carey attends the Veterans Inaugural Ball.(Kris Connor/Getty Images)

about his love of rock and roll — but what do they know of pre-famous Drew Carey? Probably not much.

That goes back to the unlikely part, although Carey said he’s not that unlikely.

“I know it sounds paradoxical, but despite being such a supporter of our troops and the military, I’m a real peacenik. I’m half hippy, to be honest. But I know I’m not the only one.”

He’s also not the only Buddhist who’s served his country.

“I discovered Buddhism and meditation late in life,” he said. “You do it because it’s the least conflicted and happiest way to live. And because it’s just the right thing to do. It took me a while, but I no longer consider anyone else above or below me. I used to think I did. But I didn’t. I would be intimidated by or jealous of different types of people in power or with different social standings. And I would feel sorry for people who didn’t have as much in one way or another. Now none of that matters to me as far as how I treat them. We all have our path. I try to treat everyone with the same dignity and respect.”

And, of course, he will always be an Ohio-style diehard when it comes to veterans, a feeling that took root in his teens.

Drew Carey as a young  Marine headshot
Drew Carey during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I graduated high school in 1975, the year we got the last helicopter out,” he said. “I delivered the Cleveland Plain Dealer as a paperboy. They broke the Mai Lai Massacre story. I remember folding all those papers with those awful pictures on the front page. And I remember how badly soldiers were treated when they got home, both by civilians and our institutions. I believe it’s important for us to always recognize the sacrifices it takes to serve in our military, and how necessary they are… We need to recognize and applaud people in our military who do their jobs well, and with honor. Period.”

Over 200 New Positions Just Opened: Apply Now

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man typing on keyboard with job application on the screen

Recent reports indicate that nearly two-thirds of workers in the United States are on the hunt for a new job or have left the workforce, in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing need for many critical staff, the VA has opened numerous positions under a direct-hire authority, which allows agencies to hire qualified applicants more quickly. It expedites hiring by referring all qualified candidates directly to the hiring manager, without consideration for ranking, rating and other typical selection procedures.

“If you have ever dreamed about having a steady job with good benefits and a retirement plan, now is probably one of the best times in the last decade to secure such positions,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing and workforce solutions at VA. “From housekeeping to police officers, air conditioning mechanics to health technicians, program support assistants and more, there are over 200 job opportunities open to the public now.”

Changing priorities

Research has shown that people tend to reevaluate their jobs after experiencing a major life event. These events don’t have to be negative; a new baby or the opportunity to pursue new education may certainly spur reevaluation. However, the universal nature of the pandemic is a major reason so many are considering their options. “Most people don’t evaluate their job satisfaction every one of 365 days in a year,” said Brooks Holtom, a professor of management and senior associate dean at Georgetown University. “Those shocks usually happen idiosyncratically for people. But with the pandemic, it’s happened en masse.”

What workers want

The biggest reason for the job search for many is a better salary. But after salary, workers cited better benefits and career advancement as the other top motivators. Jobs at VA provide all that and more.

  • Competitive starting salaries. We offer our employees strong starting salaries based on education, training and experience. We also offer steady growth, with periodic pay raises that address inflation and local market changes.
  • Education and leadership. We offer ongoing leadership development through every level of employment, whether it is mandatory programs or competitive opportunities. All leadership programs align the organization around a set of core competencies that facilitate career development through continuous learning, coaching/mentoring and assessment throughout your career.
  • Flexible schedules. Our employees receive 13 to 26 paid vacation/personal days, as well as 13 sick days annually with no limit on accumulation, and we celebrate 11 paid federal holidays each year.
  • Robust insurance options. You can choose from a variety of health maintenance organizations or fee-for-service health plans, and all cover preexisting conditions. Additionally, we pay up to 75 percent of health premiums, a benefit that can continue into retirement.

Work at VA

Now is the time to join our team by taking advantage of one of these COVID-19 hiring opportunities.

  • LEARN more about what VA has to offer.
  • READ job search advice on VAntage Point.
  • JOIN our communities on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
  • APPLY for jobs at VA.

All current available positions are listed at USAJobs.gov.

Source: Vantage Point

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Multiple Hire GI Hiring Events During June-December!
    June 21, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  4. San Diego Unified Construction Expo 2022
    July 13, 2022
  5. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022