Monday, August 11, 2014

The Final Reunion

Alamo Scout Conrad Vineyard
at the Bataan Memorial Museum
Attended the final reunion of the Alamo Scouts Historical Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 31 July to 3 August. Over 80 guests were in attendance for the culminating banquet and were treated to an outstanding speech by BG Salas, Adjutant General of the State of New Mexico. Special thanks to everyone at the Hotel Andaluz for their hospitality and for making us feel welcome. It was a fitting end to a 33 year tradition honoring the men of the Alamo Scouts. Mission Accomplished.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Monuments Men Movie Review

A Movie Review
of  Monuments Men (2014)
By Lance Zedric

      Often the best war films are not about war. While they occur in the shadow of death, destruction, and misery, they focus on what Abraham Lincoln called, “the better angels of our nature,” and illuminate the unsung efforts of those who preserve rather than destroy. Other films entertain and educate without being too heavy. Monuments Men (Paramount 2014) does all three.
     Beginning with the blitzkrieg in 1939 and lasting for the next six years of World War II, the German Army plundered some of the greatest works of art in Europe. Many were earmarked for Hitler’s grandiose post-war “Fuehrer Museum,” while others were stashed away by greedy senior officers, including Nazi Germany’s number two man Hermann Goering. But with the allied invasion of Europe in June 1944, Germany’s fate was sealed. It was trapped between two military juggernauts—the U.S. and British forces from the west and the Soviets from the east, and by March 1945 with defeat all but assured, Hitler issued the Nero Decree, his version of “scorched earth”, directing the military to destroy the monuments and art (along with everything else) of the occupied nations before retreating to Germany for the final stand. Fortunately, 345 men and women from 13 nations, officially known as the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives section (MFAA) were assembled to help locate and recover the art and preserve the monuments that had defined western civilization for over a millennium. All told, the unit recovered over 5 million relics and works of art.
      At the center of the movie is Frank Stokes, wonderfully played by actor/director George Clooney, whose character gains an audience with President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943 to help find, recover, preserve, and return art works, relics, and monuments from war-torn Europe.  Roosevelt gives the okay and Stokes assembles a small unit of middle-age art scholars and architects comprised of Walter Garfield (John Goodman), Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville), Preston Savitz (Bob Balavan), and James Granger (Matt Damon). The Monuments Men complete basic training and are shipped to Europe in July 1944, a month after D-Day. They form into small teams and are joined by interpreter Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin).
The action then moves to occupied Paris, where museum employee and resistance fighter, Claire Simone, marvelously portrayed by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, secretly catalogues the art being stolen by a greedy Nazi colonel in front of the allied advance.  In Paris, Granger (Damon) learns of Simone and eventually wins her trust [and unrequited affection], and armed with the list, chases the haul of stolen art and tracks down the Nazi colonel. Meanwhile, other teams scour liberated Europe for objects d’art and race against the Soviet Trophy Brigade that was tasked with recovering Russia’s share of Europe’s art treasures.
      At first glance, the eclectic ensemble presents all the “wrong stuff” and is a loveable, nerdy version of “Expendables” without the action, edge or angst. The characters’ personality quirks and lack of physical homogeneity connects with audiences and enhances rather than detracts from the film.  The good-natured banter and mutual respect earned through shared danger and hardship was marvelously conveyed by the actors and was a strength of the movie. Comic relief was well-timed, appropriate, and juxtaposed with poignant and moving scenes illustrating the longing for home, loss of human life, and the joys and sorrows faced by those who experience war. Damon turned in another solid performance in a career marked by such. In a limited role, Bill Murray displayed depth not seen since his work in The Razor’s Edge (1984). Not to be outdone, John Goodman was outstanding. Emotional versatility, impeccable comedic timing, sheer physical presence, and a tired, drawn face that told a story of pain, particularly at the death of a friend, underscores his “every guy” quality and illustrates his enduring audience appeal.
On the technical side, the quality of photography and the use of light and shadow didn’t disappoint. In keeping with the spirit of the film, the vivid cinematography conveyed nostalgia as rich as the art it represented, and the variety of shooting locations engaged the audience and provided geographic scope and historical context to the unit’s endeavors.
     While undeserving of an Oscar, Monuments Men is the confluence of an incredible true story, the perfect villain, and great acting. The richly layered feel good movie is a solid artistic effort—not just another Hollywood paint by the numbers product that capitalizes on an A-List cast validated by the ars gratia artis mantra. Rather, it is an entertaining history and art appreciation class without the drool or head nods that offers something for every palette—even those with a distaste for military fare.  8/10 Stars.

Actors  John Goodman, Matt Damon, George Clooney,
Bob Balaban and Bill Murray.


Cate Blanchett as Claire Simone, AKA: Rose Valland.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Robert Dunlap MOH - Interview

Major Robert H. Dunlap, USMC (Ret.)
Medal of Honor Recipient – Iwo Jima

 Interview By Lance Q. Zedric
Zedric: When did you enter the Marine Corps?

DUNLAP: I enlisted in February 1942. I was graduated early from Monmouth College [Illinois] because of the war and went straight to Quantico, Virginia for Officer Candidate School.

Zedric: Where did you go after OCS?

DUNLAP: I was commissioned at Quantico, and then I attended the Officer’s Training Course there.

Zedric: What was your first assignment?

DUNLAP: My first assignment was the Paramarines at Camp Gillespie, San Diego. We did our parachute training there.

Zedric: Did you deploy overseas with the Paramarines?

DUNLAP: Yes. My first action was at Vella Lavella with the Paramarines. I also got a campaign star for Guadalcanal.

Zedric: Did you see action at Guadalcanal?

DUNLAP: Not action, but we brought in equipment.

Zedric: Did you work with Edson’s Raiders?

DUNLAP: Yes. We went to several critiques where they were talking about what they were going to do. That’s about all there was to it. We didn’t really do anything ourselves. We looked at plans and so forth, but nothing substantial.

Zedric: How long were you with the Paramarines?

DUNLAP: Until they broke up [early 1944].

Zedric: Where did you go after the Paramarines were disbanded?

DUNLAP: We came back home and formed the Fifth Marine Division. We started forming that division in January 1943. We were only in the states long enough to form and deploy. We boarded a ship and were part of the floating Guam reserve. We got a battle star for that even though we didn’t go ashore. Then we went to the big island of Hawaii for R&R and amphibious training with the Navy. We were there about a year.

Zedric: Were you training specifically for the invasion of Japan?

DUNLAP: Well, we knew that we were eventually.

Zedric: Where was your next landing?

DUNLAP: Iwo Jima.

Zedric: What was your objective?

DUNLAP: I was a company commander by that time, and my company was to break its way in from the beach and set up a reserve area. Then we were to wait for further orders. But there was really only one objective—to take the island.

Zedric: Describe the landing.

DUNLAP: We landed on February 19 [1945] and we were in action immediately upon hitting the beaches, which were nothing but black volcanic ash. There wasn’t anything to hide behind and the Japanese were dug in deep. Since my battalion commander landed down near Mount Suribachi, and the XO landed up in the 4th Division area, I took over the battalion until he returned. That next morning the commander returned and asked how many men I had. I told him that I started with 285 and now had 300. He said, “Where in the world did they come from?” I said, “They just joined me.” We were doing something and they wanted to do something too.

Zedric: As you made your way inland you performed a little reconnaissance mission of your own, is that accurate?

DUNLAP: [laughing] Yes, I did.

Zedric: What prompted you to do that?

DUNLAP: I wanted to see where all this enemy fire was coming from because we were getting so darn much. The Japs were concealed in caves, pillboxes, and bunkers. We couldn’t see them and we were really catching hell.

Zedric: So, in fact, you conducted a commander’s recon [laughing]?

DUNLAP: [laughing] Yes.

Zedric: Your MOH citation states that you crawled 200 yards alone toward the enemy.

DUNLAP: No, I didn’t crawl. I walked. If I had crawled they would have got me because they could see me. They were dropping mortars around me!

Zedric: Was it a fast walk [laughing]?

DUNLAP: More like a run! I didn’t do anything but move forward. That’s just the way it happened. I got out there in front and I walked until I got right at the base of the cliff. There, I saw three big artillery pieces that looked like they were big enough to tear all of us apart.

Zedric: How far were you from those artillery pieces?

DUNLAP: I was close enough that I could have hit them with hand grenades. I saw a lot of Japs beside each gun. I concealed myself in a shell crater and radioed back what I saw.

Zedric: So, you maintained an observation post and radioed the location of the artillery pieces and the troops?

DUNLAP: Yes, and also reported on the morale of their troops.

Zedric: The citation also states that you called in naval fire from your position.

DUNLAP: Yes. I had everything at my disposal. I fired ships at sea, had planes in the air, and had artillery coming in.

Zedric: You have said that the enemy called you by name.

DUNLAP: Yes, they were calling my name the first day. They had intercepted my radio messages and they knew who I was.

Zedric: What were they saying?

DUNLAP: They said, “Come over here and fight, Bobby!” It went on that entire evening. They talked to me real often. They couldn’t pronounce their L’s very well, and kept calling me “Dun-wrap”. It was funny. They thought I had a good speaking voice or something. They wanted to egg me into a quick fight and to draw me out in the open because they didn’t specifically know where I was.

Zedric: Were you holed up in a shell crater at this time?

DUNLAP: Part of the time. I moved every minute or so—crater to crater.

Zedric: Over how many hours did this go on?

DUNLAP: Twenty-four.

Zedric: What was going through your mind when you were up there alone?

DUNLAP: I just wanted to do all I could do and to get rid of as many of the enemy as possible.

Zedric: Were the Japanese actively patrolling for you?

DUNLAP: Yes, but I didn’t rub shoulders with any of them. I kept moving.

Zedric: Did you return to you lines after the reconnaissance?

DUNLAP: Actually, I just stayed up there. My troops eventually made their way up to me.

Zedric: Were you then ordered to mount an attack against the Japanese and to remove them from the series of hills and cliffs?

DUNLAP: No, I just mounted the attack! I didn’t want to sit there and be a target. We were taking heavy small arms and artillery fire, and I would rather be a moving target.

Zedric: Were you awarded the Medal of Honor for the recon and for directing fire on the cliffs?

DUNLAP: [laughing] I’m just not sure, except that we were getting the job done. I was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading my unit on the assault on the cliffs. My personal action during that first twenty-four hours was just included in the citation.

Zedric: Had you been wounded at that point?

DUNLAP: No, several days later.

Zedric: How did you find out that you were to be awarded the Medal of Honor?

DUNLAP: I was informed in a rather unusual way. I had got shot through the hip on February 26, and was aboard a ship in a full body cast. The next morning a doctor came in and asked, “Do you know Robert H. Dunlap?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m Robert Dunlap”. He said, “Who do you suppose is number one on the major’s list?” I said, “Surely not me because I’m so junior”. He said, “No, you’re number one on the major’s list”. That’s how I knew I was getting the Medal of Honor.

Zedric: Do you recall the official notification?

DUNLAP: No, but it was several days later while I was at the Great Lakes Naval Hospital. I spent nearly a year there recovering from my wounds. I was asked if I wanted to go to Washington to receive it, but I told them that I wasn’t physically able to travel in a full body cast. I had also been hit in the left eye and was wearing a patch. So, I wanted to wait. Several months later, President Harry S. Truman awarded me the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House.

Zedric: What were you feeling when President Truman pinned the medal on you?

DUNLAP: I was mighty proud. It was very nice to have received it and I am proud of it. But I am prouder yet of the men who were with me. I had a heckuva good bunch of fighting men and I couldn’t have been any prouder of them than I was then. My battalion, 1/26th Marines, was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for our part in taking Iwo Jima. Sadly, our casualty rate was terrible. They got most of us [voice cracks]. I’ll never forget those boys. I can still see their faces.

Zedric: What did Truman say to you?

DUNLAP: He was very flattering. He told me what a terrific fighting man I had been and what a fine job I had done—and he knew what a fine job we all had done.

Zedric: Was that the end of your military career?

DUNLAP: Pretty much. I was physically unable to continue. I just didn’t heal and had trouble walking. I returned home and took a teaching job in Abingdon, Illinois. I retired from teaching in 1982.

Zedric: What, if anything, would you have done differently on Iwo Jima?

DUNLAP: Nothing.

Zedric: Your cousin, James Bond Stockdale, is also a Medal of Honor recipient.

DUNLAP: Yes, he was.

Zedric: What do two Medal of Honor recipients talk about at a family reunion?

DUNLAP: [laughing] We talk about our childhood, our family members, our gardens—just simple things.

Zedric: Do you and Jim have a special bond because of your common achievement?

DUNLAP: Yes, I suppose we do. I’m certainly proud of Jim and all that he did, and I’m sure the same holds true the other way.

Zedric: Do you consider yourself to be a hero?

DUNLAP: [laughing] No, not really, but sometimes I do. What I did was really great—but stupid in a way, too.

Zedric: Do you still get a tear in your eye when you hear the National Anthem?

DUNLAP: Yes, I do.

Zedric: What, if anything, do you think people can learn from your experience?

DUNLAP: I don’t know what they could learn. All I can say is to do the best they can at whatever they do. That’s all I did.
      Lance Zedric (l), and MOH recipients James Stockdale and
    Robert Dunlap (r) at the dedication of the Monmouth College
    War Memorial. June 1985.

Copyright by Lance Zedric 1995

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fabulous Fungus Patch


      For as long as I can remember, old-timers around central Illinois used to talk about a place where morel mushrooms grew taller than men and weighed more than five champion coon hounds. It is told that one mushroom could feed a man and his entire family for 50 years; that is, if he ate nothing else. Every spring from mid-April to late-May, the best and brightest morel hunters migrated to Fulton County's rich elms in search of the "Holy Grail" of mushrooms — the "Fabulous Fungus" as it was called at Chick's Tavern, a storyteller's mecca for more than 60 years.
     Nobody knew for sure where this elusive patch was, or if it even existed. But they came — the believers, the doubters, the dreamers, and the crazy-brave. They all came. Some with picks and shovels, others with hatchets and chainsaws; one man even brought a backhoe in hope of uprooting a massive morel. But as any experienced mushroom hunter knows, you have to FIND a mushroom before you can pick it.
Legend has it that "Grit" and "Willie" were down on their mushrooming luck. Some say that in the spring of 1946 they trudged 80 miles a day — every day, in search of a single mushroom. Others tell of how the down-and-out duo even walked two pack mules to death that year. To make matters worse, Grit was blind in one eye and couldn't see out of the other, while Willie suffered from partial paralysis and a pulled hamstring. Despite their handicaps, neither man would give up.
Grit and Willie tried all the tricks. They camped under rotting elm trees armed with flashlights and divining rods, prayed five times a day while facing east, and even employed bloodhounds. But that was useless, because Grit and Willie didn’t even have a single mushroom to give the dogs a scent to follow.
     After a long, fruitless spring, Grit and Willie were at the end of their mushrooming ropes. It was the last day of the season and their wills were almost broken — but not quite. The bedraggled morel hunters still had time for one more hunt, so they woke early and headed to Chick's Tavern for a "cold one" to get their circulation going. But things went downhill from there. "Hey Grit. I'm going to dip my mushrooms in egg and cracker crumbs and fry them in butter!" yelled a patron from the end of the bar.
"Me too!" echoed his neighbor, as he proudly hoisted a 10-pound grocery sack of morels onto the bar as if it weighed a ton. “Damn, these mushrooms are heavy!”
"I'm chopping mine up and frying them with steak!" beamed a drunk from the edge of his stool. "Not me!" exclaimed a toothy fat man sitting at a nearby table. "How are you fixing yours?" he added coyly, as he sank his large yellow teeth into a succulent morchella deliciosa (morel) and wiped the butter from his chin.
 Grit and Willie had become the laughing stock of Chicks, and even they were beginning to think of themselves as failures. "Let's get the hell out of here, Willie," said Grit defiantly. "These guys aren't real mushroom hunters. They're just a bunch of wannabes! We'll show them."
 "You guys go on!" urged a voice from the shadows. "Maybe you'll find the 'Fabulous Fungus' patch! If you do, say hello to Santa and the Tooth Fairy for me!" The laughter was nauseating.
Grit and Willie stormed out the front door of Chick's Tavern and stopped in the street. "Where now, Willie asked Grit half-heartedly.” We've covered every inch of Fulton County. There's no place left."
Willie thoughts and scratched his head, "We can always try the strip mines," he replied. "I know it’s nothin’ but shale and rock, but it’s the only place we haven't looked."
Inspired by the prospect of fresh hunting grounds, Grit and Willie traveled south on foot. Upon reaching the mines, the two explorers turned west.
"Since my eyes are better than yours, why don't you look up towards the sky and I'll look down on the ground," said Willie. "That way we have every angle covered. Good mushroom hunters find as many mushrooms looking up as they do looking down."  "Sounds good," said Grit with a smile. “Those mushrooms don’t stand a chance.”
Willie and Grit romped 20 miles over the barren hills with no luck, then stopped to rest. Grit raised his head, "Look Willie!" he exclaimed, pointing to what appeared to be an arrow shaped from the billowy May clouds. "It's a sign! It's a sign! I know it's a sign and it's showing us where to go!"
"Okay, Grit,” said Willie, not wanting to dash his best friend's hopes by telling him that the sign was nothing but a smoky contrail left by a sputtering airplane. “Okay, Grit. We'll go check it out."
The two insufferable hunters followed the arrow like the Magi to the North Star. Three grueling hours later they arrived at the base of a steep hill and the arrow vanished. "This is the place!" exclaimed Grit "I'm sure of it." Grit and Willie began the arduous trek up the hill. As they climbed, the coarse shale magically transformed into lush green grass and the walking became easier. Suddenly, the sky turned dark and thunder rolled in the distance.
"Look. Grit" cried Willie, pointing to the finest collection of rotting elm trees either man had ever seen. "Let's head for those trees!"
Grit and Willie hurried to the top of the hill. "We've found Eden!" They proclaimed, as the two men raced through the trees like naked apes mindless of their infirmities. "We've seen the promised land!"
Without warning, a mighty thunderclap shook the hill. "Help!" screamed Willie, as he disappeared into a depression deep into the earth. Grit frantically searched for his friend, but be had lost his glasses. Then came a voice guiding him, "Grit, jump in the hole! Get down here quick! Don't be afraid!"  Grit closed his eyes and took a leap of faith. After what seemed like a 10,000-foot free-fall, he landed softly on his feet. “This can't be a dream," he uttered, as he looked around in wonder. To his astonishment, morels were everywhere, but not like the little ones at Chick's. These were real morels! The whitish-colored stems were wider than tree trunks and the huge mushroom caps, with caverns larger than a fist, were a beautiful gray. But the most wondrous thing was the smell! "Ah. do you smell that smell?" beamed Grit, as he Inhaled deeply from his lungs to his feet, taking in the morels' unique aroma.
"I smell it," acknowledged Willie, as he took an even greater sniff. "It's the most delightful thing I've ever smelled!"
"We've got to get one of these babies out of this hole and back to Chick's!" exclaimed Willie.
"I'll take a log and pry one out of the ground, and you push on it," replied Grit. "Okay," agreed Willie. "But I want to take a picture first." Willie removed a small camera from his shirt pocket and calmly placed it on the stump of an old elm tree then set the timer.
With the camera in place, the two men hurriedly went to work. Grit pried and Willie pushed and Grit pushed and Willie pried. Finally, after two hours, the men extracted a huge specimen from the unyielding ground. They were the first men to ever hold, much less see, a Fabulous Fungus. The only problem was how to get the edible monster out of the hole and back to Chick's Tavern.
Fortunately, Grit had brought some rope and tied one end to the base of their prize, while Willie scaled the walls of the depression and climbed out. Willie then anchored his end of the rope firmly to a tree and pulled Grit and the marvelous morel to safety.
"We've got it!" exclaimed Grit and Willie in unison. "We are the greatest mushroom hunters in history!"
"Let's get going," urged Grit, wanting to return before dark. "We'll come back tomorrow and show the world what we've found. Then everyone will believe us."
Without warning, a thunderclap exploded like a symphony of kettle drums and violently shook the hill. Grit and Willie watched in horror as the earth moved and caved in around them, knocking them to the ground.
Suddenly, the ground stopped shaking, but when Willie and Grit rose to their feet, the depression was gone. With a brush of her mighty hand, Mother Nature had erased all trace of their storied discovery. But they still had the Fabulous Fungus as proof. "Where is it?" screamed Willie. "I don't know!" cried Grit. Without realizing it, the men had fallen on the mushroom and had crushed it into pieces.
"We've destroyed it!" shrieked Grit, as he felt the morel's spongy texture beneath him.  "My God, what have we done?"
The dejected hunters gathered what chunks of morel they could and began the long, slow retreat home. As they reached the bottom of the hill, they turned and cast their eyes upward. The trees were gone, and only the black, rocky hill remained.
"What luck," moaned Willie. The guys at Chick's will never believe us. We can't go in there telling everyone we found the Fabulous Fungus patch. We’d be laughed off the face of the earth."
"You're right," echoed Grit. "It will be our secret. No one will ever know. “Unbeknownst to Grit, Willie knowingly reached into his shirt and felt for his camera. It was safely in his pocket.
To this day, no one ever sees Grit and Willie during mushroom season. While others are tramping through the forests seeking the fabled morels and sitting at Chick's Tavern dreaming of one day finding the Fabulous Fungus patch, the two old men sit quietly in their homes — the butter dripping off their chins.
This story is a light-hearted look at that quest and the find of a lifetime. Willie is the late Willie Madras of St. David, Illinois, and Grit is Steve Zedric, my grandfather. Willie was a professional photographer and produced the photo with Grit around 1946. 


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lone Survivor
 Movie Review by Lance Zedric

A month after watching Lone Survivor (Universal – 2013) I feel like I’ve been gut-punched.  Hard.  I’m still trying to catch my breath and make sense of a cinematic effort that was patriotic, reverent and well-intentioned as any I’ve watched, but one that left me unfulfilled in a Hollywood sort of way. With that said, I’m proud of director, Peter Berg and his crew for bringing to light an amazing story of courage and sacrifice, and even prouder of the real men who face such dangers every day.
Before seeing the movie, I had managed to distance myself from the onslaught of media hype and stay relatively objective, but despite a boycott of movie trailers and online reviews, it was hard to avoid the Hollywood barrage. HBO’s mini-biopic on Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell—the central character in the movie based on the best-selling book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 (2007) by Luttrell and ghostwriter Patrick Robinson, took care of that. The well-timed teaser laid out the basic story of the four-man SEAL recon team sent into the mountains of Afghanistan in June 2005 to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah, and how Luttrell, an heroic and tragic figure, emerged as the lone survivor.  

The movie opens with a wonderful montage of archival footage from the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolitions  School (BUDs), and gives a glimpse into the toughest and most realistic military training in the world—training that separates the SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) operators from everyone else, and later illustrates how it prepared men like Luttrell to survive. The mantra, “Never Quit,” is a central theme and compels the viewer to question their own mettle—which is always a bonus.
Fast forward to Afghanistan.  Following a cursory and non-linear attempt by Berg at flushing out the central characters at the staging area, the SEAL team is inserted into the mountains to conduct its mission, but is ultimately [spoiler alert] discovered by goat herders, which provides the movie’s central moral dilemma—whether to kill the herders or to let them go. This scene draws the audience in and forces it to make its own value judgment and to question if the team’s decision to spare the herders, even if it could lead to discovery and death at the hands of the Taliban, was the correct one and justified the cost.

This is when the movie gets intense. Luttrell and the outnumbered SEALs engage in a valiant fight against the superior force that results in everyone being killed except Luttrell, who is severely wounded.  Luttrell’s efforts to elude the Taliban become the focus of the film, while the U.S. military’s effort to mount a hasty rescue parallels the action. This leads to the gut-wrenching loss of 16 men when their helicopter is shot down by the Taliban. 
Just when all seems lost, enter Gulab, a sympathetic Afghan villager who hides Luttrell in his home despite the obvious danger of being murdered by the Taliban.  It is the humane juxtaposition of Gulab and few Afghan villagers and their tribal code of Pashtunwali—a willingness to help a stranger—even a perceived enemy—that strikes a restorative chord.  Ultimately, Luttrell is rescued, and the movie is punctuated with an emotional tribute to the Navy SEALs who perished during operation Red Wing.

The glaring shortcoming of the movie was the lack of a back story and character development. Luttrell’s persona was barely explored, which was unusual in that he was the central figure, and his team members were afforded even less. The movie would have been more enjoyable if the characters were flushed out and more elements of the book included. The technical aspects of the movie earned a B-plus, as the special effects, military details, and stunt work were especially realistic, accurate, and intense.
Hollywood heavyweight Mark Wahlberg brought his A-game to the movie and put his customary tough, gritty stamp on the depiction of Luttrell, whose real-life grittiness would be hard to match on celluloid or anyplace else.  Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster were equally convincing in their portrayal of the other Seal team members and conveyed the professional responsibility they surely felt in accurately representing Luttrell’s comrades. But for me, the most compelling role was played by Luttrell, who made a few cameos as a SEAL team member in camp and as part of the ill-fated rescue team. To recreate the ordeal on film must have taken immense inner courage, but hopefully, it also served as a catharsis and helped Luttrell ameliorate the survivor’s guilt that he seems to bear.

Overall, Lone Survivor should be viewed as an ambitious, well-intentioned, artistically credible, and mostly factual account of a tragic event, but it will not be remembered as a top-tier movie. While the effort might have been better served as a documentary, it should be commended as a solid piece of cinematic work that evokes a deep sense of appreciation for the toughness, commitment, and professionalism of those in uniform, and reminds us of the emotional and physical scars that so many veterans—past and present—carry with them. And to that end, mission accomplished.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"42" is a Hit!

Want to watch an entertaining movie? Check out "42," based on Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player to play in the major leagues. The film focuses on the years 1945-47, and how Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, played magnificently by Harrison Ford, and Robinson, equally well-portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, break baseball's color barrier in 1947, and forever change professional sports and America. The film is an emotional feel-good effort that illustrates what Robinson had to endure in and outside of baseball and underscores the strength of his character in dealing with racism and ultimately gaining acceptance in America's game. Two hours well spent. Play ball!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome 2014

Happy New Year!

The shipwrecked USS America near the Canary Islands. This was a troop ship during WWII. Sad.