Today is Veterans Day, the time we have set aside as a special occasion to honor the courageous individuals who have served in the armed forces. These noble citizens have faced horrific situations in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, simply because their country needed them to do so. When duty called, these were the remarkable people who answered without hesitation. Honestly, a day is not nearly enough time to thank veterans for their sacrifices and those of their families.
The One of Us crew would like to honor our veterans in our own way. We’d like to take a moment to talk about some of our favorite cinematic soldiers and what they mean to us. Of course, it goes without saying that these individuals are fictional. While we certainly respect these cinematic soldiers, their bravery and valor pales in comparison to the real members of the armed forces, the people who actually risk everything each day to make the world a safer place for the rest of us. Many of the greatest warriors in movies share the same traits and characteristics that make real veterans worthy of our admiration. By examining what makes a fictional soldier stand out, our appreciation of the people who possess these traits in real life becomes that much greater. Every positive word we say about the heroes of the silver screen is reflected a hundred fold in our veterans, and that is why we honor them today.
Forgive me for going with the obvious answer, but I have to go with Captain America as my favorite cinematic soldier. Chris Evans does an impeccable job of bringing Marvel’s first Avenger to life. Not only does he look the part, his performance embodies the best aspects of the Steve Rogers we know and love from the comics. In The First Avenger, Evans’ Steve Rogers starts off with nothing to offer but his unbreakable loyalty to his country. Even before becoming Captain America, Rogers is willing to risk death multiple times for the sake of preserving freedom. Various individuals in the movie note that his super-strength or his shield that make him the hero he is. Steve Rogers’ basic, core good is his greatest asset; his powers and weapon only serve to enhance that trait. The Winter Soldier trailer also shows he is not simply a blind patriot who follows orders without question. He realizes that this country can do better, thus he strives to make it so. Captain America fights to both protect and improve the country he reveres so dearly and that is why he is an exemplary cinematic soldier.
Veterans Day is an American tradition, but here in the UK we have a similar day known as Remembrance Day. But really the title for either isn’t the point. Today, I remember, and pay tribute to the veterans in the USA, UK and all over the world who gave up their lives in the line of duty. I don’t think we should ever forget, but today allows us to take a moment together, in unison, and remember. There are many great examples of on screen soldiers, but there is always one that resonates strongly with me – Doctor Who’s Wilfred Mott, played by Bernard Cribbings. What made him so extraordinary for me was how ordinary he was – he didn’t play a large “important” role within the war, have unique abilities or powers but he prided himself on serving his country and through his performance epitomised the sadness of the past, the wisdom of the lessons that can be learned and the hope of the potential future where things are even just a little better.
Veterans Day took on new meaning for me when I met the woman that would become my wife as she comes from a military family. In our years together her father went on two tours of duty in Iraq and I want to just give a big shout out to all the men and women that devote their time to this country and fight for it. I have such great respect for these folks that I almost kind of regret picking my favorite cinematic soldier as Dutch from Predator as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Predator is one of the first horror films I watched as a young lad and I love it still to this day. I can’t with a clean conscience call this a serious pick for favorite soldiers, but Schwarzenegger and the rest of the gang are pretty badass throughout the course of the film and I couldn’t help but choose Dutch and his crew for my favorite cinematic soldier(s).
Since today is Veterans Day and we were asked to pick some of favorite cinematic soldiers I decided to go against the norm. Yep I’ve picked a female soldier (which there is a startling lack of) who I think can kick all the male soldiers butts. Yes even yours Captain America. That woman is Warrant Officer (later promoted to Lieutenant 1st class) Ellen Louise Ripley. Ripley is one of the few female soldiers in cinematic history, but what makes her stand out even more is that she’s one of the very few female soldiers to not be portrayed as a sex object and taken in a serious manner. What makes this even more astonishing is that she came about in 1979 when a female soldier was unheard of in movies for the most part. Yet here Ripley was the toughest member of her ship. She proved that when she kicked Xenomorph tail and saved a child, fellow soldiers, and a cat while doing so. She dealt with PTSD, a cover up, losing her flight license, and more importantly the death of her fellow crew members and soldiers. She kept going because she knew she had to and that she could save people. She didn’t take crap from anyone, and even after everything she had been through she had hope for humanity. To me that’s why Ripley is my favorite Cinematic soldier.
Sure, say what you will about Saving Private Ryan and how it is complete Hollywood schlock. No way in hell would someone send the lives of eight soldiers just to find one MIA soldier, and send him back to his mother, all because his three other brothers have died and his mom is going to get all three telegrams about their death on the same day. They didn’t even know if Pvt. Ryan was even alive, so the mission was FUBAR from the beginning. It’s war. People die by the masses, and we shouldn’t spend time contemplating the life of a single person they don’t know right? Well, this is what Captain John Miller has to say to one of his soldiers, who wanted to quit and leave:
“I’m a schoolteacher. I teach English composition… in this little town called Adley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I’ve been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was a coach of the baseball team in the springtime. Back home, I tell people what I do for a living and they think well, now that figures. But over here, it’s a big, a big mystery. So, I guess I’ve changed some. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed so much my wife is even going to recognize me, whenever it is that I get back to her. And how I’ll ever be able to tell her about days like today. Ah, Ryan. I don’t know anything about Ryan. I don’t care. The man means nothing to me. It’s just a name. But if… You know if going to Rumelle and finding him so that he can go home. If that earns me the right to get back to my wife, then that’s my mission.
You want to leave? You want to go off and fight the war? All right. All right. I won’t stop you. I’ll even put in the paperwork. I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel.”
So it’s not about glory, patriotism, or even Ryan’s own life. War is just composed of people trying to fight their way back home. Sure, it may sound selfish of him to say that, but in war who isn’t selfish? So rather than saluting soldiers for “fighting for America,” I salute them for dying for my freedom to believe. Captain John Miller is a normal guy, forced in to a dire situation of ugliness and brutality, and does what he is told, just so he can go back home and be done with it all. In the cold world of war, he is the warm gooey center of humanity, and that’s why he will always be my favorite soldier. Also… he was a complete BAD ASS in the movie! Implementing crazy smart Guerrilla strategies like making sticky bombs with socks, tar and c4 explosives. With his final breaths of life, as a final “Fuck off!” to the Nazis, his last stand has him taking on a tank with a pistol. He didn’t go out crying! That being said, his last words to Ryan, were actually his last words to the audience. His final words meant that the sacrifices made, suffering inflicted, and the people that had been slaughtered should not have been in vain. We need to live life to the fullest potential, or else everything they fought for will have been for nothing. These were those words: “Earn this. Earn it.”
Again, thank you to all of our veterans, past and present, from all of us here at One of Us.