The news that rising star Mila Kunis will make a Marine’s dream come true by accompanying him to the Marine Corps Ball on November 18 in Greenville, North Carolina when he gets back from Afghanistan is one of the coolest things I’ve heard in awhile. And it’s a welcome reminder that there’s still hope for Hollywood.
Accepting Sgt. Scott Moore’s long shot proposal sent over You Tube, the 27-year old Golden Globe-nominated actress and Black Swan co-star shows Tinsel Town that you can still be hip and pro-military at the same time.
In an era when Hollywood is increasingly known for both bad behavior, e.g. Lindsay Lohan, and left-wing activism - Sean Penn’s passionate defense of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, Julie Christie and others sporting orange ribbons at the 2008 Oscars expressing solidarity with Gitmo detainees, and harmful military portrayals in movies like "The Green Zone" and "Rendition," Mila’s support for our troops stands out. And she’s originally from the Ukraine.
Hollywood wasn’t always so left-of-center.
During World War II and into the 1950s, it was as patriotic as it gets. That generation included film heroes who served in uniform like Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and later Elvis Presley. A-list celebrities Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe, Ginger Rogers, German-born Marlene Dietrich and many others bolstered their fame through lending their talents to visiting troops overseas through the USO.
The Vietnam War and related social upheaval of the late 1960s turned things around in Hollywood – and sadly it hasn’t really been the same since.
Though likely in the film industry’s minority, Mila is not alone in her down-to-earth personality and kindness towards the armed forces. Her "Friends with Benefits" co-star, Justin Timberlake, deserves some credit too, as he weighed in to make sure the date will happen. By the way, now HE's been invited to the ball, too, by a female Marine!
Let’s take a look at a few more actively pro-military Hollywood celebrities:
Gary Sinise – Best known as "Lt. Dan," the disabled and disgruntled Vietnam Vet in Oscar-winning "Forrest Gump" alongside Tom Hanks, the "CSI: NY" star has made supporting the military a second full-time job since 9/11.
He’s performed hundreds of concerts with the Lt. Dan Band in places like Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Germany, Okinawa, Singapore and throughout the U.S. for hundreds of thousands of troops. His Gary Sinise Foundation benefits the military, veterans, first responders and their families. The Lt. Dan Band movie was just released on the 4th of July with a kick-off event at the National Press Club.
Jessica Simpson – A pop singer and actress, her performance as Daisy Duke in the film version of the Dukes of Hazzard was a big hit with the military worldwide. She’s been able to thank the troops personally, headlining USO tours to places like Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Germany since 2001. One trip included an at sea visit to aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman in the Arabian Gulf.
Chuck Norris – The veteran martial artist and Hollywood legend has starred in over 20 films over four decades, including alongside Bruce Lee. The Walker, Texas Ranger TV series star has also been a strong USO supporter, visiting troops in Iraq and Kuwait. Serving in the Air Force just after high school, he got into martial arts while stationed in Korea. He’s been thankful to the military ever since.
Pamela Anderson – The former Baywatch star has become a good friend of the Navy, making regular visits to San Diego-based Sailors post-9/11. Since her first visit to an aircraft carrier in Oct. 2001 – USS John C. Stennis, she’s been back to visit carrier USS Ronald Reagan, and a new guided-missile destroyer, USS Halsey. Her one-time partner Kid Rock joined her on Stennis, and later became a regular on the USO tour circuit.
Other Hollywood notables like Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Jay Leno, Jon Bon Jovi, Alyssa Milano, Scarlett Johansson, Cuba Gooding, Bruce Willis, Carrie Underwood, Gloria Estefan and James Cameron have also volunteered their time and talents to entertain our men and women in uniform.
While we rightly applaud movie stars who continue to support our troops, let’s also tip our hats to all those who are on the front lines defending our freedom. The Medal of Honor ceremony for Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry at the White House this week reminds us of the type of heroes in uniform we’re lucky to have.
Lastly, in coming full circle, Sgt. Moore deserves a salute – like any good man in uniform, he has reminded us that all things are possible.
J.D. Gordon is a communications consultant to several Washington, D.C. think tanks and a retired Navy Commander who served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2009. As a career public affairs officer, he helped organize Navy events for Jon Bon Jovi, Pamela Anderson, Luciano Pavarotti, Alex Trebek and other celebrities. For more info: www.jdgordoncommunications.com
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander who served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-09. He serves as senior adviser to several Washington-based think tanks.