Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.
Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.
The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.
Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.
Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.
Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.
He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.
He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.
After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.
Continue on to Defense.gov to read the complete article.
The night was dedicated to the bravery and commitment of the wounded military veterans who make up the U.S. Invictus team and featured a silent auction of NFL memorabilia to benefit the team. Kevin “Red Eagle” Brown, president and CEO of USVCC, opened up the night, explaining the mission of the USVCC and the organization’s dedication to helping veterans successfully transition from the military to civilian life.
“Underneath the umbrella of support for all veterans, we have a laser-focused look at our wounded warriors that are participating in adaptive sports,” said Brown.
Brown also recognized the late Pro Football Hall of Fame member Chris Doleman for his contributions to USVCC and the veteran community. “It was his original inspiration that identified the similarities between transitioning ball players and transitioning service members.
“Both of them leaving behind a team, both of them leaving behind something bigger than themselves—a higher calling, a mission, a victory,” said Brown.
Medal of Honor recipient Paul “Bud” Bucha also spoke to the attendees, defining what it meant to be an adaptive athlete. “An adaptive athlete is a competitor who uses the modification in sports to meet the challenge of their disability,” said Bucha. “Basically, an adaptive athlete is an able-bodied athlete with all the problems mankind can think of being thrown in their way.” He went on to thank the many corporate sponsors of the night, the athletes and the veterans who he added, “have gone to the gates of hell and back to serve their country.”
Retired Army Master Sergeant and U.S. Invictus team co-captain George Vera also spoke to the attendees. Vera shared his personal story of the events that led to him become an adaptive athlete. In 2015, Vera’s base in Afghanistan was attacked by terrorists using a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) and assaulters with suicide vests in an attempt to overrun the outpost. Vera led part of a counterattack that successfully defeated the terrorists inside the base.
However, in the process Vera was shot four times in his legs and back, leaving him paralyzed below the waist. Vera experienced a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout his recovery, and he explained how adaptive sports helped save his life. “Although I couldn’t be a regular Special Forces guy, Istill had the ability to help lead,” said Vera.
He also discussed the bond that adaptive sports bring to the wounded warrior community. “Although it’s great to bring home the gold medal, I don’t really think that’s what it’s about—it’s more about overcoming adversity and helping others overcome adversity,” Vera said.
Among the other honored guests of the night were Pro Football Hall of Fame members Kevin Greene, Curtis Martin, Mike Haynes, Curly Culp, Harry Carson, Morten Andersen and Rickey Jackson. Greene also held a fireside chat for the attendees, where he spoke about his time serving in the U.S. Army and his reverence for the wounded warriors playing on the U.S. Invictus team.
“They volunteer, first of all, to serve our country in the combined armed forces, and then despite all the adversity that they’ve experienced and are presently experiencing they’re now becoming heroes of the field of sports,” said Greene. “They’re being heroes for us now on a different stage, on an international stage, representing this country in these sporting events.” The fireside chat came to a playful close as Greene was asked if he would take Tom Brady on his team, to which he replied, “does a fat baby fart?”
The main event of the night featured a fireside chat between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker. Baker opened up the discussion by reciting “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. Henley wrote the poem in in the late 1870s after losing a leg to tuberculosis. The poem was meant to define fortitude in the face of adversity, and strength in the face of permanent disability.
Throughout the fireside chat, the long relationship between the NFL and the military was discussed, as well as the fact that three NFL players—including an NFL commissioner—have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Goodell then touched on his 2008 United Service Organizations (USO) tour that brought him to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait to visit deployed soldiers, saying, “I was just amazed at what these people do for us. The men and women in our military are just extraordinary,” added Goodell. He went on to say that the 10 days he spent on the tour were some of the most inspiring days of his life, adding that the debt which is owed to U.S. soldiers for what they sacrifice could never be repaid.
The two also discussed Goodell’s contributions to the veteran community, including his support of the Merging Vets & Players (MVP) organization, which helps transitioning service members and professional athletes navigate life outside of uniform together. When asked about his thoughts on the Invictus Games, Goodell told Baker that he didn’t think there was anything more inspiring.
“I don’t think that there’s anything more important in the world to show people that you do overcome those problems, you do overcome those challenges, and you’re doing something really positive in the world and inspiring people who are watching you as athletes on the world stage,” Goodell said. “When you combine football, athletes and our veterans, that’s a magical combination in my view.”
The night ended with the silent auction of NFL memorabilia and VIP picture opportunities. Over $150,000 was raised by 256 attendees and all proceeds will fund the U.S. Invictus Team Training Camp at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Campus in Canton, Ohio. Official sponsors of the event included Caliber Home Loans, Seeger Weiss, World’s Greatest Videos, Aetna, CVS Health, GEICO and Loews Hotels.
People Magazine‘s Senior Graphics Operator, Nikki Smalls, and Live Graphics Operator, Lucas Walsh, began a conversation one day about Walsh’s sister, Caitlin Walsh. Caitlin is currently serving in the Navy aboard the U.S.S. Truman.
The entire crew of the Truman tested negative for COVID-19, but have collectively agreed to isolate themselves rather than take deployment as an extra precaution.
When Nikki Smalls heard about Caitlin and the rest of her crew, she wanted to find a way to show her gratitude for their service while also spreading some extra joy. Teaming up with her daughters’ Brownie Scouts Troop, Troop 83340, she decided to lead the girls in creating care packages to send to those serving on the U.S.S. Truman.
With his signature black leather jacket, still-tousled hair and mega-watt smile, Jon Bon Jovi is every inch the rock superstar you’d expect him to be.
The band that bears his name has released 14 studio albums, five compilations and three live albums. This translates to 130 million records sold worldwide, with more than 2,700 performances in over 50 countries for more than 30 million adoring fans.
Yet the level of Bon Jovi’s fame is unequaled by the size of his heart. Few may know this son of two former Marines is true philanthropist, and he’s made helping military veterans and their families his personal mission.
During a recent interview on CNN’s ‘The Lead with Jake Tapper,’ Bon Jovi announced that his JBJ Soul Foundation has donated half a million dollars to help build 77 new homes for homeless veterans in Washington, D.C. The project has taken ten years to complete alongside Help USA, a non-profit whose goal is tackling the issue of homelessness in the United States.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 50 percent of veterans who were homeless (since 2010) have been housed. But Bon Jovi says there are still more out there who need a helping hand. “Oftentimes, they’re [veterans] left to deal with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and the issue of coming back to the workplace after leaving the battlefield,” he said in a blog on mypositiveoutlooks.com. “Life as you knew it is going to be different, and sometimes, people need that extra help.”
Born to Rock
Bon Jovi, or John Francis Bongiovi Jr., was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. His mother, Carol Sharkey, was a former model and one of the first Playboy Bunnies. She met Bon Jovi’s father, John Francis Bongiovi Sr., after she enlisted in the U.S. Marines. John Sr. was already serving when they met.
It’s been said that Bon Jovi is a blood relative to the late Frank Sinatra, who was Bon Jovi’s great uncle on his father’s side, according to a May 1988 issue of Spin Magazine. This would certainly account for the rock star’s love of music from such a young age.
“Every kid who ever played in their garage dreams of being in a “Big Rock Band,” and I was no different,” said Bon Jovi during his induction speech into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
He explained, “I was first introduced to music at seven years old when my mother brought home a guitar she bartered for, along with the Kenny Rogers “Learn to Play Guitar” record. As a kid, my parents took me to lessons where this guy in a little cubicle smoking a pipe, opened up a book of scales and tortured kids with his smoke and lack of interest.
“After a couple weeks, I quit, throwing that guitar down the basement stairs. That guitar laid there in the dark, until I was around 15 and a man named Al
Parinello moved into our neighborhood. I didn’t learn quickly, and I was by no means any good, but Al showed me the magic of a song.”
Bon Jovi attended St. Joseph High School in New Jersey, but took little interest in his studies. He spent most of his adolescence dreaming about becoming a rock star; playing in his buddy’s basement, the local talent show, block dances and at clubs.
After high school, Bon Jovi worked as a janitor for a time. While sweeping floors at The Power Station in NYC, he got the opportunity to record demos. One of the demos, ‘Runaway,’ he sent to every label and manager he could think of before playing it for a D.J. at a new radio station. A few months later, ‘Runaway’ was playing on the radio, not only in New York, but in Tampa, Chicago, Detroit and Denver.
Shortly after, Bon Jovi was signed by Mercury/Polygram in 1983—the label he is still with to this day—and he gathered together David Bryan on the keyboard, Alec John Such as bassist and Tico Torres as the drummer to form the band, Bon Jovi. Their first album, Bon Jovi, was released in 1984.
Livin’ On a Prayer
By 1986, Bon Jovi had achieved widespread success and global recognition with their third album, Slippery When Wet, which sold 28 million copies worldwide. Slippery When Wet included three top 10 singles, two of which reached No. 1: “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
His next album, New Jersey, not only shared the same success as Slippery When Wet—the album had five top-10 hits on Billboard’s Hot-100. No other album or artist ever produced as many top-10 hits, according to IMDb.com. And two of these top-10 hits, “Bad Medicine” and “I’ll Be There For You” topped the charts at number one, according to Bon Jovi’s biography on Billboard.com.
But despite his success, Bon Jovi felt something was missing. “I had the No. 1 album, the No. 1 single and I opened up the window of the hotel and there was us on the billboard out my window: Literally, right there, celebrating the No. 1 this and that,” he said in an ultimateclassicrock.com interview. “And I thought: ‘Wow, this is a high. What do I do to get higher?’”
During a break on tour, he and his high school sweetheart, Dorothea Hurley, flew out to Las Vegas to elope on April 29, 1989. Fast-forward 30 years later: the couple remains happily married with four children: a daughter, Stephanie Rose, and three sons, Jesse James Louis, Jacob Hurley and Romeo Jon.
“She’s the glue,” Bon Jovi said of his wife in a Huffpost.com interview. “I’m the crazy visionary with all kinds of things flying, and the seams are all splitting. She’s the one following me with the glue and the thread and needle, keeping it all together.”
To Be of Service
When Bon Jovi was asked to appear at Rockefeller Center in NYC for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony this past December, he seized the opportunity to share with military men and women his new song, “Unbroken,” which shines a light on veterans struggling with PTSD.
In an interview with Variety, Bon Jovi says the song is written from the perspective of a soldier living with the ghosts of combat—a “daunting task” for the songwriter because he himself had not served and the subject matter was foreign to him.
“When you write a song that has to do with soldiers, my only background in this was protest songs that were of the era, whether it was John Fogerty about Vietnam and “Fortunate Son,” or ultimately Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,’” Bon Jovi said.
But when Academy Award-nominated director Josh Aronson reached out about a documentary he was doing on a soldier’s journey, entitled, “To Be of Service,” the singer was instantly inspired.
“He [Aronson] told me just a couple of things that the soldiers had said that were going to be in the film. And when I asked him the name of the movie and he said, “To Be of Service“, I got it. “It came to me immediately,” he said. “I just grabbed my guitar and pretended to be that soldier and the narrator of the film.”
After Bon Jovi finished the song, he decided on a whim to send it to Prince Harry, creator of the Invictus Games—an annual international, multi-sport event for wounded, injured or sick servicemen and women. The games were named after the short poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, an amputee himself.
Bon Jovi thought the Games’ choir of real soldiers singing “Unbroken” would bring attention to the issue of PTSD. “And so I just wrote him [Prince Harry] a letter and I said, ‘I’ve got this song, I’ve sung with your brother, I’ve met your father, your grandmother, your grandfather.’ And so I said listen to it and let me know. And so he said absolutely,” Bon Jovi explained in a Town & Country.com interview.
The duo met in February at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in northwest London to record a special single of “Unbroken” with the Invictus Games choir—the event one of the last public engagements Prince Harry made as an official royal.
While Coronavirus concerns have caused this year’s Invictus Games to be delayed until 2021, the special single of “Unbroken” debuted in March. The song will also be included in the forthcoming Bon Jovi album, “Bon Jovi 2020.”
Over the next year, Bon Jovi and Island Records will also donate 100 percent of the net proceeds from the download of the song to the Patriotic Service Dog Foundation, according to a Variety.com article.
And while “To Be of Service,” currently streaming on Netflix, takes viewers from boot camp and battle to night sweats and heartache, Bon Jovi found a way to not only honor veterans but end his song on a hopeful note, concluding, “well, the blessing and the curse is/ Yeah, I’d do it all again.”
In true Military Makeover style, host Montel Williams, cast and crew, special guest WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, and equally passionate national brands have come together again to serve those who have served.
U.S. Army veterans Luke Harvey and Natasha Woodruff along with their 3 children will be given the gift of a beautifully renovated home among other gifts of gratitude. The first of eight (8) episodes airs on May 15th at 7:30am EST. All aired episodes can be viewed at militarymakeover.tv.
Luke Harvey, a medically retired and disabled combat veteran, served 6 years in the United States Army as an infantryman. In 2008, he was deployed to Iraq, where his convoy was hit by multiple IEDs. In 2014, Luke was medically retired from the military for PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury), and was awarded a Purple Heart. Luke met Natasha Woodruff while he was recovering from his injuries. Natasha too is a medically retired, disabled veteran who served as a Geospatial Engineer in the United States Army. During Natasha’s service, she was sexually assaulted, which left her with permanent injuries and PTSD. Upon retirement, Natasha was awarded the Women of Courage Award by the Pentagon for her perseverance in shining a light on the issue of sexual assault in the military.
The Military Makeover team came equipped with donations from generous brand partnerships that the show cultivates. Brand partners provided supplies like floors (Tarkett), roofing (ABC Supply), HVAC systems (Goodman Manufacturing), countertops (Caesarstone), computers (MyComputerCareer) and other home furnishings. Other partners pitch in and donate gifts for the family such as insurance (Geico), mortgages (New Day Financial), caption enabled phones (CaptionCall) and smartphones (AT&T). Exclusive weather sponsor, AccuWeather, ensured sunny skies throughout the week, while Unilever kept the volunteers hydrated with Lipton beverages. The Harvey-Woodruff makeover was made possible by all of these generous companies.
Volunteers from the community and guest WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, stepped up to lend a hand in support of the Harvey-Woodruff family throughout the renovation process. The final reveal unites cast, brand partners and volunteers, creating a literal “community celebration” of support for the change they created together.
“In the nearly three decades since I retired from the Navy, I’ve never really taken the uniform off because standing up for those who are serving now and those who have served has been the greatest honor of my professional career.” – Montel Williams, Host and Co-Executive Producer
“We are so fortunate to be able to cultivate strong partnerships with national brands, non-profits, and local military communities to make each makeover better than the next.”-Mark Alfieri, Founder and CEO of BrandStar
Military Makeover with Montel®, A BrandStar Original, is America’s Leading Branded Reality TV Show thatoffers hope and a helping hand here on the home front to members of our military and their loved ones. A veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Navy, talk show legend and military advocate Montel Williams, who creatively co-produces the show along with a colorful cast that seeks to transform the homes and lives of military families across the country. The cast includes co-host Art Edmond, designer Jennifer Bertrand and contractor Ryan Stanley. This special series enlists caring companies of all sizes as well as non-profits and the local community. Help starts at home for veterans on Military Makeover. Join us as our makeover team engages to change the living situation – and the lives – of these deserving families. Military Makeover with Montel EPK
On March 10, Carlos “Chuck” Norris turned 80 years old. Before becoming a martial arts expert, acting and creating his own gym, Norris served as an Air Force Pilot in South Korea and has become the subject of some of America’s favorite jokes. In honor of Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday, we wanted to share our top ten favorite Chuck Norris jokes.
Chuck Norris was once bitten by a cobra. After days of excruciating pain, the cobra passed away.
One time, Chuck Norris went to Mars. That’s why there’s no sign of life there.
Chuck Norris doesn’t try to survive a zombie apocalypse; the zombies try to survive Chuck Norris.
Few people know that Chuck Norris has a diary—it’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.
Contrary to popular belief, Chuck Norris has never cheated death. He always wins fair and square.
Chuck Norris is actually the creator of the giraffe. It came to be after he uppercut a horse.
Chuck Norris has punched people so hard that their blood started bleeding.
Chuck Norris has never had to put gas in his tank. All of his vehicles run on fear.
Chuck Norris doesn’t need to look at a clock for the time. He tells the clock what time it’s supposed to be.
When life gave Chuck Norris lemons, he squeezed the lemons and made orange juice.
Host Montel Williams and WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, both military veterans, launch national campaign to identify and select the next military family to receive a full home makeover on the popular veteran show Military Makeover on Lifetime TV.
Military Makeover kicks off a national campaign with WWE to find the next military family to receive a complete home makeover on the popular veteran show on Lifetime TV. WWE has a long history of supporting the military community and this partnership furthers their mission to give back to veterans and their families.
Talk show legend and Host Montel Williams, a veteran of both the Marine Corp and the Navy, along with WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, a veteran of the US. Marine Corp, have worked on 4 makeovers together, recently completing the renovation of the home of Debbi Hixon, wife of the late Navy veteran and hero Chris Hixon, Athletic Director and Wrestling Coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Military Makeover will team with WWE to search for the next deserving family and WWE fans will be a big part of it by social tagging their favorite veteran hero. Military Makeover and WWE will be launching a collaborated campaign on their social media channels looking for deserving families.
The initiative started on April 15th with an announcement of rules by Montel Williams and WWE Superstar Lacey Evans on both Military Makeover’s Facebook and Instagram Stories. Fans will tag their favorite veteran hero #tagahero. Tagged families will have an opportunity to fill out an online form that will prompt info like the age of their home and what type of health struggles, if any, they may be having. Application submission deadline is May 31st. On July 13, 2020 Montel Williams and WWE Superstar Lacey Evans will appear on Facebook & Instagram announcing the home makeover recipient.
“I’m incredibly grateful to WWE to help us identify and support more veterans. I also can’t say enough good things about Lacey Evans. She is a fierce advocate for her fellow veterans and I’m excited to continue to partner with her on her advocacy,” – Montel Williams, Host & Co-Executive Producer
“It is my honor and privilege to be part of an initiative that is very personal to me,” said WWE Superstar Lacey Evans. “Working alongside Montel Williams and the Lifetime team to help our veterans and families in need has been a lifechanging experience that I am so grateful to be a part of.”
About Military Makeover with Montel®: A BrandStar Original, is America’s leading branded reality TV show, offering hope and a helping hand here on the home front to members of our military and their loved ones. Talk show legend and military advocate Montel Williams, a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Navy, creatively co-produces the show and works with a colorful cast that seeks to transform the homes and lives of military families across the country. The cast includes co-host Art Edmonds, designer Jennifer Bertrand and contractor Ryan Stanley. This special series enlists caring companies of all sizes as well as nonprofits and the local community. Help starts at home for veterans on Military Makeover. Join us as our makeover team engages to change the living situation – and the lives – of these deserving families.
About WWE®: WWE, a publicly traded company, is an integrated media organization and recognized leader in global entertainment. The company consists of a portfolio of businesses that create and deliver original content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. WWE is committed to family friendly entertainment on its television programming, pay-per-view, digital media and publishing platforms. WWE’s TV-PG, family-friendly programming can be seen in more than 800 million homes worldwide in 28 languages. WWE Network, the first-ever 24/7 over-the-top premium network that includes all live pay-per-views, scheduled programming and a massive video-on-demand library, is currently available in more than 180 countries. The company is headquartered in Stamford, Conn., with offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, Munich and Tokyo.
Vet Tix & 1st Tix, a non-profit organization is working to capture the spirit of America. The veteran organization is holding a nationwide virtual talent show, ‘America’s Hidden Talent’ in partnership with Law Enforcement Today.
Kids and adults are able to show off their talents in this online competition. Those participating have to be a veteran, emergency responder, active military member, or have a household family member who is.
The top 3 videos will be voted on by the public.
Celebrity judges including Kurt Bush, NASCAR Cup Champion, Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher, former Navy SEAL and Shark Tank contestant and model Jessica Rafalawski will then pick the winner who will receive a $500 gift card to Amazon.
The deadline for this competition is Sunday, May 3rd. Don’t miss out! Share your special talent today.
Here is how it works:
There are three categories:
• Kids 12 and under.
• Kids 13-19.
Competitors need to create a video that’s five minutes or less showcasing their talent. They will then need to upload it onto YouTube. Once uploaded they will need to add in the description a written paragraph about who they are, what their talent is, and what America means to them.
Competitors must post the link to their social media pages and tag either Vet Tix or 1st Tix and include #VetTixTalentShow when posting online.
To be officially entered into the contest contestants MUST email the YouTube link to firstname.lastname@example.org between now and Sunday, May 3, 2020.
Once submitted, the public will be able to vote on their favorite competitor for each age group. The voting will take place the following week.
The top three videos that get the most votes from each age group category will then be sent to the panel of celebrity judges. Once the judges have given feedback on all the finalists’ videos, a winner will be chosen and announced on a Facebook watch party.
The winner in each category will receive a $500 Amazon gift card.
“Our goal has been, and will continue to be, to serve first responders as a way to thank them as they keep our families and communities safe each and every day.” Michael Focareto, Veteran Tickets Foundation founder, CEO and Navy veteran stated.
Understanding the effect war can have on an individual and their family is something Milo Ventimiglia knows intimately. His dad, Peter Ventimiglia, served two tours of duty as a soldier in Vietnam.
Ventimiglia has friends who served more recently, and he almost went into the Navy himself at age 18. This military connection has retained its significance in his life, though he ultimately has pursued a different path.
This path includes a career in the world of Hollywood, where Ventimiglia has earned fan acclaim for roles such as Jess Mariano in Gilmore Girls, Peter Petrelli in Heroes, and most recently, Jack Person in This Is Us. He’s even spent time behind the camera in a director capacity.
Now in its fourth season, This Is Us is an NBC series chronicling the lives and families of two parents, and their three children in several different time frames. Ventimiglia’s character, Jack Pearson, is the protagonist and late husband of Rebecca; the couple are the parents around which the main storyline centers. Jack is also a Vietnam veteran.
Inspired by his father’s service, Ventimiglia weaves sentiments conveyed to him by his father into Jack’s character.
“It was very easy to reflect on stories I’d heard from my father and then kind of tie things together,” he said. “It very much informed who Jack became – coming from combat, coming from war, looking out for his brother and really looking after the guys that he served with.”
Ventimiglia himself is active in expressing and garnering support for military service members.
Last year, Ventimiglia spent time with military leaders and Defense Department personnel at the Pentagon, with the goal of developing new ways to strengthen the civilian-military connection.
Several months ago, Ventimiglia took part in the 21-push-up challenge, in which 21 push-ups are executed to bring awareness for veteran suicides. He is actively involved with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization (IAVA), which supports veterans who need help when they return home from war.
He has performed in USO shows for deployed troops and been visiting military bases for about a decade.
“We did 10 shows over six days, covering 17,000 miles, 18 flights, five countries and eight time zones,” the actor said of a recent USO tour. “It was the first tour that I’ve been on where we were actually putting on a show.”
When it was his turn to perform, he would ask a service member to join him onstage to act out a scene from This Is Us.
Themes of War
Season 3, for example, delves deeply into how Jack’s time in Vietnam as a solider shaped him.
Season 4, in contrast, focuses on more of Jack and Rebecca’s story before they became parents. However, the themes of Vietnam are present in their love story.
“The Vietnam stuff informs the new love, let’s just say, because it’s fresh in Jack’s mind, it’s fresh in Jack’s heart,” Ventimiglia told The Hollywood Reporter. “He is someone who’s just home from war, but yet he wants to move forward in his life, he wants to embrace this feeling of home he’s getting from this woman…It’s a bit relieving to be away from the war moments and play new love, but at the same time it’s heartbreaking, too, because we know how that story ends. Jack dies in his 50s. So, the whole is basically just one big heartbreak.”
Preparing for Combat
As part of his preparation for the Vietnam-specific scenes, Ventimiglia participated in a boot camp that taught the basic operating procedure of a solider and a solider of the Vietnam era. But he notes that the process and protocols are but a fraction of the required research to fully embody Jack’s character.
“Emotionally understanding what was going on at that time in the world, but in particular in the U.S.—young men being drafted and really how the draft was going to drastically change someone’s life and put them on a course that a lot of guys just couldn’t recover from—that was something that was as much preparation as learning how to operate an M16 rifle, protocol in military, and battle scenes.”
Ventimiglia also leveraged Tim O’Brien’s personal account of the war to inform his character. O’Brien is the author of The Things They Carried, a collection of linked short stories about a platoon of American soldiers fighting on the ground in the Vietnam War. This work is based on his own experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division.
While Ventimiglia synthesizes the soldierly aspects of battle from primary sources, like his dad and O’Brien, he makes sure to parlay the sentimental undertones that shape who Jack is.
“There’s always an emotional touchstone that I have to be aware of within the technical aspect of playing war,” Ventimiglia said. “Because of who Jack is and what he’s going through, I can’t just dive him into ‘super-militaristic guy with the golden heart’; he’s the guy with the conscience. But in this case, the guy with the golden heart is attached to a rifle.”
Most of the Vietnam narrative was shot at Lake Piru in California, but production also took place actually in Vietnam.
“For me, I was very aware,” Ventimiglia said of shooting in Vietnam, “and maybe a little self-conscious of wearing an American uniform over there.”
The actor pointed to a particularly striking moment during a break from shooting near two lotus fields. Wearing the full battle dress uniform—complete with a rifle slung on his shoulder—Ventimiglia was standing in place when an older man on a bicycle came upon him.
“He kind of looked at me, looked at me again and said something to himself and kept riding,” Ventimiglia said. “And Dustin Nguyen, who was my costar who played Bao, he starts laughing … I guess the guy [said], ‘An American soldier, what the hell is he doing here again?’”
A Personal Battle
Ventimiglia’s character doesn’t like to talk about his experiences in war, because he doesn’t want anyone to bear the burden of knowing.
“[Jack] doesn’t want anybody to have to shoulder that or be concerned for him, because Jack and who he is and being a man of that era, I think he bottles it all up and he shoulders it. He gets through it for himself. He doesn’t want anybody else to have to help him deal with it. He just will keep it concealed forever, which ultimately he does.”
Ventimiglia understands this personal paradox, and does his best to convey how these emotions can play out amongst family and friends. He sees it in his dad.
“My dad is such a great man,” he told PEOPLE’s Jess Cagle. “I know even though he presented himself as put-together, I know that war impacted him and affected him; I would start to pull those feeling I saw from my own father into Jack.”
Organizations like America’s Warrior Partnership are committed to empowering communities to address issues like veteran mental health. It fills the gaps that exist between current veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with the veterans, military members and families in need: bolstering their efficacy and improving their results.
For example, Community Integration is an America’s Warrior service model that emphasizes holistic support inclusive of mental health, ensuring veterans are empowered to achieve a better quality of life.
“He may be past physical war, but it doesn’t mean he’s not in private war—personal war,” Ventimiglia said of Jack in an Entertainment Weekly (EW) interview. “Those fractures and cracks that you just never recover from. We’re going to see him go through that experience post-war, really trying to reconnect and restart. What is life after Vietnam?”
Ventimiglia, who was recently nominated for his third consecutive Lead Actor Emmy, has expanded his role with This Is Us to include director. His directorial debut, episode five of season four, “Storybook Love,” follows his own character and his pregnant wife as they host their first family get-together in their new house. The episode also follows a still-grieving Rebecca a year after Jack’s death hosting a dinner after Kevin – her son –shared his marital news.
Ventimiglia leveraged his role as the actor embodying Jack as well as Jack’s own proximity to the characters. He says this gave him a depth of understanding and appreciation for their roles in the narrative.
“I watch the show from almost a studious place where I’m focused on the making of it, the look of it and the feel of it. Aside from acting on the show, I’m a fan.”
Because of the anachronistic approach the show takes to storytelling, it’s crucial the stories and timelines are consistent throughout the narrative.
“I love the working backwards of this show,” Ventimiglia told The Hollywood Reporter. “We know that Jack lost his life in a fire. How are we going to get there? It’s informing where we’re going to be going.”
Arlington, Texas — The Airpower Foundation is proud to announce the new home for the upcoming Sky Ball XVIII ; at the brand-new, state-of-the-art, Texas Rangers Globe Life Field in Arlington Texas. On the weekend of August 21 st and 22 nd 2020, the largest and most impactful civilian military support event in the nation joins the Major Leagues.
“We are ecstatic to welcome the Airpower Foundation and their world-famous Sky Ball event to Globe Life Field. The work that the Airpower Foundation does for our military is truly extraordinary and we are honored to be their host for 2020 and beyond.” Said Sean Decker, EVP, Sports and Entertainment, Texas Rangers Baseball Club.
Since its inception as the premier fundraising event for the Airpower Foundation, an all-volunteer organization, Sky Ball has raised over $20 million. Thanks to generous sponsors, Sky Ball has grown from a single evening fundraising dinner to a weekend of tributes honoring our nation’s military and their families. Activities over the weekend’s festivities include educational outreach programs to local schools, a Friday evening concert dedicated to our military and families, a portrait presentation-luncheon honoring a fallen military hero, all of which culminates with the Sky Ball Saturday evening Gala.
“The Airpower Foundation has displayed an unwavering commitment when it comes to supporting our military veterans across this great country,” said Jeff Williams , Mayor ofArlington . “The foundation’s legacy of recognizing their sacrifices, and taking care of military families, is an inspiration to all Americans. We’re incredibly honored to welcome the prestigious Sky Ball to Arlington, the home of the future National Medal of Honor Museum, and we’re grateful for the instrumental leadership of Airpower Chairman Sid Eppes for helping us showcase why The American Dream City has a patriotic spirit that’s second to none.”
“We couldn’t be more excited with this opportunity to host our 18 th annual event at the brand-new ballpark with the Texas Rangers.” Said Sid Eppes , Chairman of the Airpower Foundation . “This extraordinary new venue will allow us to raise more funds than ever before, making an even larger impact changing the lives of our nation’s military, veterans, wounded, their families, and the families of our fallen military heroes.”
Over the past twenty years, Airpower Foundation has grown to fund more than 72 programs across the country annually, ensuring the funds raised directly impact and support those who need it the most.
The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with its roots dating back to 1958, when Air Force General Curtis LeMay and businessman/philanthropist Frank Kent created the Fort Worth Airpower Council dedicated to supporting the military community at Carswell Air Force Base.
The mission of the Airpower Foundation has grown since its formation in 1999 and is now a nationwide, all-volunteer program dedicated to supporting active duty, reserve and National Guard families. Airpower also supports projects to assist wounded service members, children of our fallen military, veterans of previous wars and educational projects to make sure the next generation understands the honor and sacrifice of wearing the cloth of this country. Thanks to our generous sponsors and supporters, the Airpower Foundation currently funds over 72 grants annually nationwide.
The Airpower Foundation board of directors is a diverse group of professionals who volunteer their time and are dedicated to the proposition that freedom is not free. It is their noble mission to assist deployed military families, wounded service members, and veterans of past wars. They spend countless hours visiting military installations and families, assessing needs and grant requests. They are instrumental in providing leadership to organize and execute numerous projects every year in support of military families.
Sky Ball is the premier fundraising event for the Airpower Foundation and has raised over $20 million since its inception thanks to our generous sponsors. Sky Ball has grown from a single evening fundraising dinner, to a weekend of events honoring our nation’s military and their families. Events over the weekend include educational outreach programs to local area schools, a concert for military and families Friday evening, a portrait presentation luncheon honoring a fallen military hero, which all culminates with the Sky Ball Gala Saturday evening.
Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans