Most military movies I have seen have revolved around a few actors seeking to score award buzz while trying to accurately portray a role that they have no ability to fully understand.
In recent years, a few films have broken that barrier and actually done justice to the reality of war - Restrepo was the first, Act of Valor is the second.
The first military motion picture to featuring real Navy SEALs, real ammunition, and no CGI [i.e. when the SEALS parachuted from a plane and into the ocean while a submarine arose from the depths beneath them to carry them to their next mission - it was real.] not only filled the heart and soul of every man in the theater with a desire to punch a stranger in the face on the way out while chanting ‘U.S.A’, it filled you with a sense of pride, and even more importantly, profound respect for the men and women who give so freely of themselves for our benefit.
In America, we are often exposed to the glories of war - the soldier returning home from battle to be with his family, the flag flying triumphantly in the wind, the cheer from the battalion as the enemy surrenders… war is seen as an inherent good, with little personal repercussion, as we are allowed to watch from the sidelines.
“There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory,” said Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, “but, boys, it is all Hell.”
What Act of Valor offers is a look behind the facade of war, and into the lives of those who fight it.
When directors Mike “Mouse” McCoy and Scott Waugh were asked on ‘Huckabee’ why they chose to hire real SEALs instead of actors, they said simply, “because of the brotherhood.”
If there is one thing that this film shows, it is the incredible bond between these men who fight along side one another and entrust each other with their lives. These men train for a year, pushing themselves to the very limits of their mental, physical, and emotional capacity in order to be the best of the best. They give everything they have for their nation, and everything they have for each other.
You see, despite the fact that fewer than ten percent of entrants into the BUD/S will graduate, despite the fact that becoming a SEAL means accomplishing the most rigorous training course on the planet, and despite the fact that with the designation of ‘Navy Special Warfare (SEAL) Officer inexorably comes the title of ‘certified bad ass’, it is never about the one. The focus is never on glorifying the individual, either in training or practice… it is always about the men, always about the team, and always about serving every day with a level of valor and honor that precludes the fear of death.
The in the final minutes of the film, a poem by a Native American Chief is read aloud while the names of fallen SEALs scroll across the screen:
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and
Demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life,
Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and
Its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
Even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and
Bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and
For the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing,
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
In a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
We owe these men more than a simple thank you or passing handshake, we owe them the desire to strive and live with the love, strength and fearlessness that they embody. These men live knowing that moment on this earth with the ones they love may be their last. They live in a world without the possibility of second chances, forcing them to appreciate what matters the most, without question or hesitation. This is how we should live, with the propensity to overshadow the inevitability of death through magnanimous power of service and love.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
To the men and women who live a life to this caliber and give of themselves with the desire to protect, serve and honor those they have never met… to the brave members of our military - to the teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and citizens of valor across this nation - to the damn few: