Stories of heroism have been a fascination for humans for as far back as we can trace our sentient history. From ancient tales like “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and “The Iliad” to modern blockbusters like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers,” war stories permeate our culture and entertainment.
It's especially poignant when warfighters themselves share their own experiences. As military veterans transition from their service to a career in the arts, so too do the military stories themselves begin to morph, adding insight into the warrior that hasn't always been associated with the archetype.
It can be easy to place the hero on a pedestal, but it is critical to remember that every war story is, at its core, a story about mankind. With this in mind, stories told from the perspectives of the veterans themselves carry with them the authenticity and the humanity of the military.
These are five veteran storytellers to watch in the coming months:
1. Tyler Grey, U.S. Army Ranger
"What we're trying to do as a group is make something that's not real, obviously, but to make something that's authentic and feels authentic," said Tyler Grey about “SEAL Team” on CBS. Former Army Ranger Tyler Grey was, in his own words, "blown up on a nighttime raid in Sadr City, Baghdad, in 2005." He was medically retired after sustaining a critical injury to his arm, which still bears the scars from that attack.
Now, he gets to use his training and experience to help tell the stories of U.S. Navy SEALs. His role on “SEAL Team” has ranged from consultant to actor to producer. This season, Grey tackled another title: Director. He helmed Season 3 Episode 10, which will mark his first foray into television directing.
2. Graham Roland, U.S. Marine Corps
After his military service, U.S. Marine Graham Roland started his writing career working for iconic projects like “LOST,” “Fringe” and “Prison Break.” In 2018, he released “Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan” on Amazon with co-Showrunner Carlton Cuse.
"I may never do a show that big again, in terms of budget," he told We Are The Mighty. "We shot all over the world, on five continents. It was awesome and a huge learning experience. It was a huge property and there were a lot of people involved with a lot at stake."
After creating a second season of the successful show, Roland has now shifted his focus to a new project with HBO that is based on the Navajo Nation in the 1970s.
3. April Fitzsimmons, U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force veteran April Fitzsimmons is writing “Chain of Command,” a Fox pilot that will tell the story of "a young Air Force investigator with radical crime-solving methodology who returns to her hometown to join a military task force that doesn't want her, a family who has traumatized her, and must confront the secrets that drove her away," reports Deadline.
This isn't the first adventure into military storytelling for Fitzsimmons, whose credits also include “Doom Patrol,” “Valor,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Justice.” She is also the director of the Veterans Workshop at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, where she mentors veterans as they write and perform original monologues that deconstruct the idea of a hero.
She's also a mentor for the Veterans Writing Workshop at the Writers Guild Foundation, paying it forward to a community of future writers who served.
4. David Daitch, U.S. Navy
After his active duty service in the United States Navy, David Daitch joined the Naval Reserves and started working as a technical advisor and a writer. Together with his writing partner, Katie J. Stone, Daitch's writing credits include USA's “Shooter” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered.” In October 2019, Deadline announced that Daitch's next endeavor will be “Adversaries,” a drama that centers on the leader of the Navy's Top Gun fighter pilot school in Key West.
Daitch and Stone have teamed up with Sean Finegan to write and executive produce the pilot, with Freddie Highmore producing. “Adversaries” will tackle the intensity of the male-dominated pilot training environment.
5. Brian Anthony, U.S. Army
U.S. Army vet Brian Anthony has a steady career in service of adding authenticity to film and television's portrayal of the military. Most notably, he has been a producer and writer for series like “FBI” and “The Night Shift,” the latter of which notably created an episode that was both written and directed by military veterans and featured them in multiple guest roles on camera.
Anthony also serves as a mentor for the Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Workshop, where he helps his fellow vets develop their writing careers.
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