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!

THE BATMAN

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A killer targets Gotham’s elite sending Batman on an investigation. As evidence mounts, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit, and bring justice to corruption.

www.TheBatman.com

@TheBatman

#TheBatman

More enlisted airmen, guardians are eligible for bonus pay as staffing needs grow

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airman jumping out of an airplance with two other airmen looking on

by Rachel Cohen, Yahoo News

Enlisted airmen and guardians in more than 60 career fields can earn some extra cash this year by extending their time in the service — a much broader retention push than in 2021.

The Department of the Air Force will dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonus pay to troops who reenlist by Sept. 30 to work in 63 specialties with particularly high turnover or exorbitant training costs, from Chinese and Russian language experts to satellite and radar operators.

After seeing unusually high retention at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of the Air Force is beefing up its incentives for people to stay. Bonus pay dried up between 2016, when the Air Force offered extra money to 117 career fields, and 2020, when just 37 specialties were eligible. Forty fields were eligible under the program’s most recent update in 2021.

Members of the Air Force and Space Force can earn up to $100,000 in each of four periods of time over the course of their careers: when they have served between 17 months and six years; six to 10 years; 10 to 14 years; and 18 to 20 years. They’re allowed a total windfall of $360,000 over the course of their career. Staff Sgt. Clayton Wear

Bonuses are tallied by multiplying one month’s base pay by the number of years an airman chooses to reenlist, and multiplied again as much as fivefold depending on how urgent a career’s staffing needs are.

This time, service officials have added jobs like cyber warfare, Farsi language analysis, cyber intelligence and fighter maintenance, while others — including human intelligence — have dropped off the list.

Special operations airmen are still in high demand, from pararescuemen to combat controllers, as well as explosive ordnance disposal crews.

Click here to read the complete article on Yahoo News.

Can soldiers consume CBD energy drinks?

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U.S. Soldier drinking Rockstar beverage with hemp leaves in the background

by Sarah Sicard, MilitaryTimes

Rockstar has become the latest in a string of energy drink companies to add a hemp-infused beverage to their offerings, so consumers can chill out while they rage.

But soldiers beware, these drinks have a slim chance of causing you to pop positive on a drug test.

“A single use of some hemp products may result in a positive drug test result for THC,” Matt Leonard, Army spokesperson, told Military Times.

“[Regulation] AR 600-85 prohibits soldiers from using products made or derived from hemp, including CBD, regardless of the product’s claimed or actual THC concentration and whether such product may be lawfully bought, sold, or used in the civilian marketplace,” Leonard said.

Hemp plants contain more cannabidiol (CBD) than cannabis, which contains more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although it’s unlikely, there’s no guarantee that hemp or CBD users will avoid showing positive for THC, which is what the Army tests.

“No test currently exists to identify the source of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a urine sample to determine if it was derived from illegal marijuana, or other products such as hemp energy drinks or Cannabidiol (CBD) infused products,” Leonard added.

“Hence, to protect the integrity of the Army’s drug testing program the only type of hemp products authorized within the Army Substance Abuse Program, Army Regulation (AR) 600-85 are those used as a durable good (eg. rope or clothing).”

So soldiers should avoid the hemp, unless you’re taking up twine-braiding or decide go on a hippie handmade hemp clothing bender. But it seems easy enough to abstain. These drinks aren’t exactly designed to keep the average soldier awake on duty.

Rockstar Unplugged, which comes in three flavors — blueberry, passion fruit and raspberry cucumber — isn’t meant to keep an exhausted person alert.

Click here to read the complete article posted on Yahoo!News.

Nebraska teen accepted to all five military academies; sets out to serve America

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Noble Rassmussen holding military hats

By Angelica Stabile, FOX News

High school senior Noble Rasmussen intends to serve his country well — and all five U.S. military academies seem to agree.

The Nebraska teen joined “Fox & Friends” on Friday to celebrate his acceptance to all five academies.

He then announced on the program that he’ll be attending the United States Air Force Academy in June.

Rasmussen, a cadet with the Civil Air Patrol, said that his interest in applying to each school was sparked from a desire to represent and serve the United States as a whole.

“I want to serve my country the best I can,” he said. “So applying to all academies [presented] the option to serve anywhere.”

“I feel like it’s my duty to serve my country.”

VIDEO: Watch the interview on FOX & Friends

While the “noble” sentiment of military service complements Rasmussen’s first name nicely, his mother, Cheri Rasmussen, said that was his parents’ exact intention when they named him.

“Our prayer for him his whole life was just to have that noble character of honor, honesty and integrity,” she said. “Just to kind of rise above and have that high moral principle.”

“God has blessed us with that, and we see those qualities of leadership and maturity in Noble.”

Continue to Fox News to read the complete article.

Retired Army captain runs 44 miles in effort to raise awareness for veterans’ mental health

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Kyle Butters crosses finsish line carrying a U.S. flag

By Bradley Bennett, Cincinnati News

In Pasadena, Maryland, Retired Army Capt. Kyle Butters could be seen running and carrying an American flag for an important cause last weekend. “This flag has been everywhere from Afghanistan (to) Kuwait (to) Turkey,” Butters said.

More than just sentimental value, the flag he carries is the symbol of freedom and sacrifice. Butters ran 44 miles total.
It’s all to raise awareness about mental health issues facing veterans.” It’s affected me personally.

I was medically retired from the Army due to mental health issues. I’ve also lost soldiers to suicide throughout my time in the Army (and) even since I’ve been out of the Army,” Butters said. Starting in his own Pasadena neighborhood, Butters ran 4 miles every four hours for a total of 22 miles a day to represent the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.

”They think that during the COVID pandemic, that (it has) gone up by as much as 20%,” Butters said. “I chose to use running as my platform because not every veteran has the physical ability to do what I do, and people pay attention when you do big distances. ”He’s raising money with the run — more than $12,000 — to support the Infinite Hero Organization. ”They provide grants to veterans and also to research causes, whether it’s brain injury, PTSD, even physical disabilities,” Butters said. Butters said he’ll be back at it again next year and hopes this is something that can spread to other states with the ultimate goal of normalizing tough conversations that could save lives.

Read the complete article here.

Park Police to resume escorts for Honor Flight visits around Washington, D.C.

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male veteran shaking hands with female uniformed police officer in an outdoor setting

By Leo Shane III, Air Force Times

U.S. Park Police officials have agreed to resume escorts for Honor Flight events around the nation’s capital, continuing a tradition that had been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The news came just one day before the group’s celebration on the National Mall of the 250,000th veteran transported through the program. Since 2005, officials have helped veterans from across the country visit Washington, D.C. for an opportunity to tour the war memorials and national landmarks there.
Max Lonzanida

In many cases, the veterans are elderly and in poor health, and are able to make the trip only because of the special medical and financial assistance provided by the group.

In the past, the U.S. Park Police provided escorts to tour buses filled with veterans visiting areas of the National Mall with limited parking, such as the World War II memorial and Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Honor Flight officials reimbursed the agency for the costs of the escorts.

Honor Flight activities were largely shuttered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but resumed last fall. However, Park Police officials in recent months have told organizers they could no longer assist with the events because of bureaucratic issues with the Department of Interior.

On Monday, officials said those problems have been resolved. Escorts will resume starting June 1.

In a joint statement, officials from the Park Police, the National Mall and Memorial Parks agency and Honor Flight said they have met in recent weeks “to discuss our shared commitment to continuing to work together and the best way to safely support hosted visits while also ensuring USPP can meet its primary law enforcement and public safety mission.”

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo News.

Honor Flight Network Celebrates Milestone of Bringing 250,000 Veterans to Nation’s Capital on May 3 Event

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Honor Flight Network promo poster

To kick off Military Appreciation Month, hundreds of dignitaries, veterans, volunteers, supporters and leadership of the Honor Flight Network will gather at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the organization’s milestone of bringing 250,000 veterans to our Nation’s Capitol to visit the memorials that honor their service and sacrifice on May 3rd.

WHAT:
Event to commemorate the 250,000th participant in the Honor Flight Network program.

WHO:
– The 250,000th Commemorative Honor Flight participant and hundreds of veterans

– Volunteers, supporters and leadership of the Honor Flight Network
– The Honorable Elizabeth Dole, Event Chairperson
– Speakers include Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald M. Remy, Senator Jerry Moran and Congressman Mark Takano

WHY:                                    
To celebrate Honor Flight Network’s past while charting its course for the future in serving veterans from more recent eras.

WHEN:
Tuesday, May 3, 2022, 2 p.m.- 3 p.m.

WHERE:
World War II Memorial, 17th Street NW
Between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW.

The event includes distinguished speakers and guests, military band, Honor Guard and hundreds of seated veterans, volunteers and supporters, set against the backdrop of the World War II Memorial.

For more information visit, Honor Flight Network.

New Minnesota Veterans Law promises to ‘protect and support’ those who served

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A man wearing appearing with half civilian clothing and the other half of a military uniform

By Dana Thiede, Kare 11 NBC

Vowing to make good on Minnesota’s duty to “protect and support” those who have served in the military, Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday signed the new state Veterans Bill into law.

The legislation, which passed through both the House and Senate nearly unanimously, was written to end and prevent future veteran homelessness, fund veterans’ homes and cemeteries around the state, and award bonuses to Gold Star families who have sacrificed while their loved ones were serving.

“This bill makes good on our duty to protect and support our veterans during and after their service – and it demonstrates that we can come together in a bipartisan way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families,” said Governor Walz in a released statement. “As a 24-year veteran of the National Guard, this is a bill that’s close to my heart. I know that this is going to have a real impact for our veterans and I’m proud to sign it into law.”

The new Veterans Law includes:

  • $5.4 million that will fund a grant to provide assistance to veterans and former service members and their families who are homeless or in danger of homelessness.
  • $1.7 million annually to fund temporary housing options for vets experiencing homelessness and to increase outreach activities to end homelessness.
  • $10.3 million in fiscal year 2022 and $16.5 million in 2023 for the design, construction, furnishing, and equipping of new veterans homes to support vets in Bemidji, Montevideo, and Preston, Minnesota.
  • Nearly $25 million in fiscal year 2023 to fund service bonuses to post 9/11 era vets and Gold Star families.

“Minnesota’s more than 304,000 Veterans know that their voices were heard and their service honored with the historic passing of this first-ever Veterans Omnibus Bill,” said Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke.

Along with support for Minnesota’s veterans, the new Veterans Law also provides $4 million for enlistment incentives designed to retain trained and ready members of the Minnesota National Guard over fiscal years 2023-2025.

Click here to read the full article on Kare 11 NBC.

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

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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. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. LA Fleet Week
    May 27, 2022 - May 30, 2022
  5. Buffalo Soldier Iron Riders Quasquicentennial Gathering
    June 13, 2022 - June 19, 2022