Gadson is an active-duty soldier with nearly 24 years of military service. A United States Military Academy (West Point) graduate, Gadson served in every major global conflict of the past two decades, including Operation Desert Shield/Storm (Kuwait), Operation Joint Forge (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq).
A decorated officer, Gadson was commander of the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery in Iraq when on the evening of May 7, 2007, he was severely wounded by an improvised explosive device and lost both legs above the knee. He remains on active-duty service in the military and currently serves as the director of the Army Wounded Warrior Program (wtc.army.mil/aw2).
Suffice to say, who better to ask if the portrayal of men in arms is a realistic depiction than the honored (three Bronze Stars, Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal) veteran himself. Speaking on Skye from Hawaii, after a special screening at the Nite Hawk Cinema in Brooklyn, New York, he was very engaging.
“I think it does. One of the aspects that I’m really impressed with is how they included actual service members from three or four different generations going back to I think those that fought in World War II or even Korea. So it really did fuse the brotherhood of those that serve in arms together.”
It was no accident that “Battleship” is Gadson’s first film, he recalls.
“Peter Berg called me up at my house one day, and asked if I wanted to be in his movie. You know, Pete is a big Giants fan, and he had been following my relationship with the New York Giants, especially during the 2007-2008-football season. Also, I was part of an article on advancements and technologies related to prosthetics, and there was a photo of me in the January 2010 “National Geographic” that Pete had also seen and I think that’s what gave him the idea.”
Although well versed in the area of combat and disabilities Gadson, who plays Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales (an Army combat veteran and double amputee) and in the midst of recovery just as the aliens attack, he did find some hurdles in pulling off the role. “Really trying to pull out my emotions or let my emotions truly come out as I was acting was a significant challenge for me.
I would say that I can make myself pretty vulnerable having to expose myself. I wasn’t sure I was willing to do that in this kind of a forum, and that was a challenge. I think as a career Army officer, we’re often trained to hide our emotions or manage our emotions. And so, I wasn’t used to exposing myself, and that wasn’t something I anticipated. But I took it on and we’re here.”
One of the physical obstacles that Gadson faced was the turf.
“The physical challenges really were working here in Hawaii. I honestly hadn’t walked in a lot of off-road terrain prior to coming and working here in Hawaii. So I literally had to devote a lot of my mental energy to making sure I didn’t fall too much.”
Life lessons are something that Gadson is great at giving even if he admits to not always being at the apex of his emotions.
“I try to be positive. I wish I could say I’m always positive, but I’m human and, you know, I have my days. But I do try to take a positive approach to life. I think as I was going through my recovery having to kind of figure out how to get my life back to a positive direction, I really didn’t know what was on the horizon. There are not too many scenarios where you envision something like this happening to yourself. So you don’t really have a road map to where you want to go or what you’re going to do.
“It doesn’t have to be someone that is wounded. I mean many of the wounds that service members face are unseen, and those are challenges too. It can be as simple as raising and taking care of your family. And so, sometimes I guess mentally having the courage to be able to go in a direction that is not clear, that’s unknown, and having the faith that everything is going to come out all right is important, especially after something devastating has happened to you. Life is forward and I try not to spend a lot of time looking backwards or complaining about something that’ has already happened because there is very little you can do about it. So just to look forward and just continue to fight and get the most you can out of life.”
Syndicated columnist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]