Entries in Veterans (4)


Lt. Col. Rob Riggle Is Not Your Typical Comedian

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- War is no joke, but Rob Riggle was not about to let 23 years of Marine Corp service stand between him and a career as a comedian and actor.

"The comedy seeds were planted before the Marine seeds," the recently retired lieutenant colonel says.

"The thought of comedy never happening was scary. When you have a plan, you never know what will happen."

A Louisville, Ky., native, Riggle, 43, is probably best known for character roles on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, as well as work with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York.

He also had parts in movies like The Hangover, Step Brothers and 21 Jump Street, all of which he managed while serving in the Marine Corps: nine years of active duty and 14 years in the reserves.

"I don't think anybody is just one thing," he says. "When I put on my Marine cover, I'm a Marine and I act accordingly."

He joined the service in 1992. He was studying theater at the University of Kansas as a sophomore at the age of 19 when a friend motivated him to join. "I always thought highly of him and when he came back from duty and told me all about it, he got me all motivated," Riggle recalls.

Comedy has always played a big part in Riggle's life. At home his mom and dad were a comedy team, with dad as the most animated, he says. And jokes were part of  Riggle's way of defending himself. "If I could make them laugh," he says, "they won't beat me up."

He says he was voted "most humorous" in high school.

The fear of not being able to fulfill his dream of becoming a comedian made him quit flight school in 1994.

"I have never quit anything in life, so it didn't sit well with me," he said.

That's when he wrote down a note that he was going to be on Saturday Night Live in 10 years.  To his amazement, he got a call 10 years later to be part of the cast of SNL. That was a dream come true for Riggle, because it was one of the first comedy shows he ever watched, he says.

Indeed, whenever he was away from comedy in the Marines, he would make sure to write, perform jokes and surround himself with friends in the business.  He also watched fellow Marines to gather ideas for future characters.

"I would always study those guys and focus on them," he says, "and really listen to the words they use."

Riggle's message for veterans coming into the civilian world:

"My advice is for veterans to seek out mentors, people who are doing what you want to do. You have to decide what you want and have a goal. Don't worry about how you're going to do it. Just trust that you'll get there. There's no better citizen than a veteran. There's so much waiting for you outside and it's not something to be intimidated by or scared by, it is something to be embraced. Decide what you want and go get it."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Gary Sinise on Playing Lt. Dan and Helping Veterans

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Actor Gary Sinise has starred in his share of films of television shows, but there’s one role that still follows him nearly 20 years later: Lt. Dan.

Sinise, a longtime advocate for veterans’ interests, says his role as a double-amputee Vietnam War veteran in the iconic movie Forrest Gump changed his life forever. In addition to the instant stardom that followed, he says it “began a relationship with our disabled veterans and our wounded veterans.”

“I realized from the get-go that that particular character had been seen by so many people within the military community that it meant something to them,” Sinise tells Politics Confidential. “That particular character is bigger than a movie really.”

Though his interest in helping veterans began long before his role as Lt. Dan, Sinise says it has allowed him to make a remarkable connection with the military community. He tells the story of the first time he visited a military hospital: “I started walking by them and said hi to them and their faces were burned…you could tell that they had been through the war.”

“They started looking at me, and then they started recognizing that I was Lt. Dan, the faces changed, and they started talking to me about Lt. Dan and stuff and their faces changed, and their attitudes changed,” he said.

Harnessing the power of his type-casting, Sinise has since started a foundation dedicated to helping veterans and is currently working on an initiative to help veterans transition their military skills to civilian careers. He even started a band, naming it “The Lt. Dan Band.”

“I go into military communities and do fundraisers and that kind of thing with the band, because I know that the music can help do a lot of things. It can bring communities together, it can raise awareness…and it entertains,” says Sinise, who adds that he’s performed at so many military bases now that he’s lost count.

To hear more about the work that Sinise is doing for veterans, including what he says we need to do as a country to make sure we keep our promise to veterans, check out this episode of Politics Confidential.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


George Lucas Mentors Military Veteran

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Capt. Hank Hughes, a decorated platoon leader, served twice in Afghanistan but now has left the military to find a new career. Many others are doing the same: Last year 180,000 troops retired from the military, and this year that number is expected to increase to 300,000.

"You return home in a bit of a time machine," Hughes told ABC News. "Everyone else has moved on, and you've just arrived."

Since he was a kid, Hughes dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. Growing up, Hughes' favorite movies were Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

In college he majored in film but put his dreams on hold for his country. Now, back at home, he's studying to become a director. Hughes says his dream is to make movies for the rest of his life.

As part of the series "Standing Up for Heroes," ABC News worked to find Hughes a mentor who could guide him along his new path. And help came from an American movie legend, the man who created the movies Hughes had admired and adored since childhood: George Lucas.

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"These guys are heroes, and we need to help them," Lucas told ABC News.

During their first meeting, Lucas started right in with the lessons.

"The first thing you do is come up with an idea," Lucas told Hughes. "The secret of directing is to be persistent."

Most important, Lucas explains, is to enjoy the work you are doing. Lucas even revealed new details to Hughes about the original Star Wars films.

"It wasn't done as a trilogy, it was really done as one movie," Lucas told Hughes. "The script was like 250 pages, and I couldn't crush it down ... so I cut it in three pieces and then it became a sequel."

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Hughes described the first meeting with his mentor as "unbelievable."

"It's amazing that George Lucas would ... take that time out of his day to talk to me just because I was a veteran," he said. "I don't know if I could articulate an equal to his action in gratitude. It's fantastic."

The two will meet again in September so that Hughes can show Lucas the movie he is working on in film school. And just like Yoda and Luke Skywalker, their relationship will go on.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


More Stars Join Campaign to Support Returning Military Veterans

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The latest stars to get behind the Got Your Six campaign, in support of military veterans are Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael Douglas, Brian Williams, Tom Hanks, Alex Baldwin and Bradley Cooper.  All are featured in a new pubic service announcement, reports E!

The campaign intends to bridge the divide between military and civilian life for veterans.  Inspiration for the cause came from first lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces campaign, which in turn was created with support from the Clinton Global initiative.  Numerous celebrities have signed up to lend their support.

In a statement released Wednesday, the first lady said, “The entertainment industry captures our imaginations, opens our eyes and touches our hearts, and I’m proud to work with them on Joining Forces initiative.”

More information can be found at

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio