Turner Classic Movies has traditionally highlighted military-themed movies for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but this year they've done something special for Veterans Day. The network invited seven military veterans and one active-duty reservist to pick a movie and present it on-camera with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.
The channel has made an effort in recent years to make a direct connection with viewers and this event continues its practice of letting real fans talk about their favorite films. Not every veteran picked a military movie for their slot, but TCM will be showing eight must-see movies, four on Saturday 11/11 and four on Sunday 11/12.
Not to burst anyone's bubble, but TCM isn't actually live like ESPN SportsCenter or your favorite cable news programming. All eight men and women visited the Turner studios in Atlanta last month to tape their appearances and we've got some excellent photos of everyone on set.
Check out the full program below.
Army Veteran Edward Lapinskas - "Strategic Air Command" (1955)
Airing: 9:00 AM ET/ 6:00 AM PT
Ed was drafted in April of 1968 and served in Vietnam with Delta Company. Returning from a particularly hard mission, he was greeted by Hollywood legend (and WWII veteran) Jimmy Stewart as he disembarked from his pontoon boat. That encounter made a lasting impression.
The Conneaut, Ohio native was wounded by shrapnel from an enemy grenade on the last day of his tour. After his service, Ed worked at General Motors.
Ed's encounter with Jimmy Stewart inspired his movie choice. "Strategic Air Command" stars Stewart as a WWII veteran who's become a St. Louis Cardinals baseball star. He's called back to duty during the Cold War and jumps at the chance to pilot the new B-47.
Army Veteran Eric Hunter - "The Green Berets" (1968)
Airing: 11:15 AM ET/ 8:15 AM PT
United States Army Sergeant Eric Hunter (Ret.) joined the military at the age of 22 and first deployed to Iraq in 2010. He stepped on an IED on May 31, 2012 in Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan during his second deployment. He lost his right leg and his left was shattered.
Eric spent 4 years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and has so far undergone 61 surgeries with more possible in the future. The Gary Sinise Foundation is building a specially adapted smart home for Eric, his wife Kenna and their three children. The family currently lives in Marietta, GA.
Eric will be presenting "The Green Berets," John Wayne's legendary Vietnam War movie. Wayne's Col. Mike Kirby faces off with liberal war correspondent George Beckworth (David Janssen) and educates him about the country's anti-Communist mission in the face of misunderstanding back home.
Army Veteran Paul Henderson - "Where Eagles Dare" (1968)
Airing: 2:00 PM ET/ 11:00 AM PT
Paul Henderson served in Vietnam and went on to a career in Special Forces. After leaving the Army, Paul became a medical malpractice attorney based in Vancouver, WA. He also spends much of his free time working with the non-profit organization Soldier's Heart. Paul leads PTSD workshops across the country where he teaches the latest treatment methods and he's on a mission to rebrand PTSD as "Post Traumatic Growth."
Paul acknowledges a favorite veteran pastime: many who serve can't watch a war movie without picking apart all the inaccuracies. He rates both Das Boot and Saving Private Ryan as movies that get depict the realities of war.
Paul's choice for TCM is "Where Eagles Dare," a rousing WWII classic starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Allied commandos parachute behind enemy lines to rescue an American officer held in a moutain-top castle.
Army Veteran Brian Delate - "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946)
Airing: 5:00 PM ET/ 2:00 AM PT
Brian Delate served as a draftee infantry sergeant in the Vietnam War and has gone on to a career as an actor, playwright and director. His play "Memorial Day" portrays a Vietnam veteran on the verge of suicide during a Memorial Day celebration. In recent years, Brian has performed his play in Vietnam as an effort to promote healing between our countries.
Brian's decision to show "The Best Years of Our Lives" isn't a surprising one based on his own work. The 1946 drama is a landmark movie that focuses on the struggle of veterans trying to integrate back into civilian life after World War II. The movie won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Fredric March), Best Supporting Actor (Harold Russell) and Best Director (William Wyler).
Air Force Veteran Maggie Dewan-Smith - "National Velvet" (1944)
Airing: 11:30 AM ET/ 8:30 AM PT
Maggie Dewan-Smith served in the Air Force for 26 years, mostly in the reserves but she saw active duty during Operation Desert Storm. She rose to the rank of Chief Flight Nurse and then worked part-time in the Pacific Air Force Surgeon General’s office in Washington D.C. while maintaining her civilian nursing career at UCLA hospital.
While working for the Surgeon General's office, Maggie helped develop the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program, which works by allowing those enlisted to have 3 years of paid nursing school with no other military commitments.
Maggie didn't choose a military-themed movie, but "National Velvet" does rank as one of Hollywood's greatest achievements. A 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor plays Velvet Brown, a young farm girl who's training a difficult horse for England's Grand National Steeplechase. There have been dozens of "girls who love horses" movies in the decades since, but nothing has come close to the original classic.
Army Reservist Donald Morrison - "Lost in a Harem" (1944)
Airing: 2:00 PM ET/ 11:00 AM PT
Donald Morrison joined the Army Reserves in 1988 and was called to active duty in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He later served in Central America, Hungary, Germany and Afghanistan. He's got a civilian job at TCM's parent company Turner as Director of Security, Special Events and Remote Locations and worked at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival, where he had the opportunity to meet Sidney Poitier.
He's presenting one of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's silliest movies, "Lost in Harem." Filmed for MGM, the movie recycles elaborate Middle Eastern sets built for "Kismet" for a ridiculous tale of show biz performers kidnaped by a sultan.
Army Veteran Jenny Pacanowski - "Casablanca" (1942)
Airing: 3:45 PM ET/ 12:45 AM PT
Jenny Pacanowski joined the Army in 2003 and did medical support for convoys in Iraq. She returned from the war and was diagnosed with PTSD. At a Veteran's retreat in 2007, Jenny discovered that writing and performing were a great way for her to deal with the condition. She currently lives in Bethlehem, PA but spends time in NYC as a writing fellow at Bedlam Theater in Manhattan.
Jenny chose "Casablanca," the World War II movie that's inspired a love of classic movies in every generation that followed. Lots of folks think it's the best movie of all time and you've got no excuse if you've made it this far into the article and haven't seen it before.
Veteran Yonel Dorelis - "Bullitt" (1968)
Airing: 5:45 PM ET/ 2:45 AM PT
NYC native Yonel Dorelis has a long and colorful military career as a helicopter pilot, serving in the Marines, Air Force, Army and National Guard (which is why it just says "Veteran" in his headline). He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and has some recent acting credits. Marvel fans may remember him as the helicopter pilot in the original Iron Man.
Yonel might agree with one of our basic philosophies around here, the one that says there are two kinds of people in the world: those who think "Casblanca" is the greatest movie ever made and those who know that "Bullitt" actually is the greatest movie ever.
Steve McQueen is SFPD Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, the model for every cop with an authority problem who came after. Mobsters kill the witnesses he was assigned to protect, and he aims to solve the crime no matter what the brass tells him to do. Director Peter Yates raises the car chase to high art in "Bullitt." There's no finer way to waste a Sunday afternoon than watching these last two movies back-to-back.