Not-So Real American Heroes: The top ten fictional veterans
In honor of tomorrow's Veterans Day, we'd like to honor not only those brave men and women that served our nation, but also those fictional souls that impressed upon us the spirit of valor, patriotism, sacrifice ... and entertainment value. The few, the proud, the wartime characters of American pop culture.
10. Col. Sherman Potter
Col. Potter (Harry Morgan) wasn't the first CO of M.A.S.H., but with apologies to poor, doomed, contract-violating Henry Blake (MacLean Stevenson), he was the best. Part of that had to do with his bootstrap-mentality -- he went by the book, except when the book didn't make sense. He was career military without going the way of Col. Flagg--Potter showed the human side of the military life, and did it with grace, aplomb, and a kickass horse named Sophie.
9. Lt. Dan Taylor
Admittedly, Forrest Gump wasn't chock-full of realistic characters -- but Lt. Dan brought something markedly different to the film, and its impact. Some of this has to do with the intensity of Gary Sinese's performance, but ultimately it's the story of Lt. Dan -- his service, his loss, his struggle, and his ultimate recovery -- that marks him a hero. And really, someone needed to play straight man.
8. Lt. Col. Andy Tanner
Red Dawn's military guy -- a pilot who works not only among the highest military minds in what's left of the American government after the USSR invades (remember when that was our biggest worry?), but also supports the ragtag resistance group in the small Colorado mountain town of Calumet. The fact that he dies in combat only makes him that much more perfect -- this is a guy that gave his all for his country, and inspired teen heartthrobs to do the same. Wolverines!!!
7. Pvt. Beetle Bailey
Not a shining example of doing more before 8 a.m. than most of us do all day, Beetle Bailey is the Army's answer to Dagwood Bumstead. But there's something to his workaday Army life that still appeals, even after half a century of comic strips. Proof that not only can a military comic character still have relevance to the 21st century? But also that violence is still pretty funny.
6. Col. Robert Hogan
Hogan's Heroes might have been a ridiculous show -- and it was -- but Bob Crane's Col. Hogan was a military leader for the ages. Sly, handsome, and smarter than the average Nazi, Hogan symbolized American sentiment in that golden age following its victory in World War II: smug, sure, but deservedly so. And also secretly addicted to porn.
5. Sgt. Slaughter
Okay, forget the silly WWF storyline in which Sgt. Slaughter turned his back on his long history of hard-line American military patriotism and became an Iraqi sympathizer. What makes Sgt. Slaughter so militarily awesome isn't his wrestling moves, but his tenure with none other than GI JOE. They're the greatest American heroes, don't you know -- and Slaughter was known to be the toughest among them. Not to mention the first real-life person inducted onto the team (though he'd be quickly and notoriously followed by the likes of William "Refrigerator" Perry and his fabulous football-on-a-stick weaponry).
4. Nurse Colleen McMurphy
Dana Delaney's character from China Beach was sort of the anti-Hot Lips Houlihan. Both Irish spitfire nurses, McMurphy was nobody's fool, and would never have dated Frank Burns. But both women served the same purpose in one way: to show the courage and compassion of women in wartime. Not to mention the occasional sex appeal.
3. Sgt. Frank Rock
Stone-faced, impossibly tough, a crack shot with any weapon, and prone to monologues that break the fourth wall of comic books and speak directly to the reader about what it's like in Easy Company for its combat-happy Joes, Sgt. Rock is one of the paragons of the non-com military leader. Whereas his Marvel counterpart Sgt. Fury went directly from the war into being a super-spy, Rock never really left his wartime roots. In fact, some stories claim that Rock was KIA on the last day of WWII, by the last enemy bullet fired. A fitting end to the ultimate soldier of the war to end all wars.
2. John Rambo
Rambo wasn't just an 80s action icon -- he was Hollywood's attempt to redeem the image of the American soldier, to apologize for the treatment of its veterans (in myth and in reality) since Vietnam, to show some compassion for those veterans still in some real ways living the horrors of war. That it did so by allowing Sylvester Stallone to maim a bunch of yokel sheriff's deputies is a little ironic, but whatever. Did the job.
1. Captain America
Because that letter on his head doesn't stand for France.
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