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Alejandro Villanueva Dishes On Vets, NFL Protests, And 'Call Of Duty'
Activision's first-person-shooter franchise returned to its roots Nov. 3 with the newest title in its marquee series, Call of Duty: WWII. And as happened with the launch of the first dozen or so COD installments since 2003, this first-person shooter will have a real impact on the U.S. military: In barracks and rec rooms on bases across the globe, internet speeds will grind to a (slower) crawl as squad after squad of junior troops log onto crummy wifi, locked and loaded with M1 Garands and Thompsons, to hit the beaches of Normandy in high def.
The first-person shooter bragging-rights tourney is a longstanding tradition for many Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors — including Army Ranger-turned-Pittsburgh Steelers star Alejandro Villanueva, who took time during a PR blitz for Call of Duty: WWII on Oct. 31 to talk with Task & Purpose about gaming culture in the military, as well as the use and abuse of vets in pop culture and politics.
When his unit was overseas, off-duty, and on a real COD jag, “We actually made our privates hold cardboard near the big flat screen TV so that we wouldn’t screenwatch each other and find each other on the map,” Villanueva — a 29-year-old former Army officer with three tours in Afghanistan and a Bronze Star with “V” — told Task & Purpose. “I don’t think there was one game that was more popular than the Call of Duty series when it comes to people in the military.”
Villanueva’s enthusiasm is not just a fan’s talk. The NFL tackle and teammate Le’Veon Bell appear as characters in Headquarters, a new garrison-style “dynamic social hub” for Call of Duty players to mill about between matches and hit up the shooting range, where a stern-looking Villanueva is there to give pointers.
NFL star and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva's persona in "Call of Duty: WWII."Image courtesy of Activision
In that shooting spirit, we asked him a couple of bang-bang questions; here’s what he had to tell us:
Gaming is a superior deployment distraction.
“When you go on deployments, you have that downtime — the gym rats, all they want to do is work out, and then you have the guys who want to read books, then you have the guys who want to binge watch Dexter. Then you've got what I saw, as the fun thing, which was to go into a hut and sign out Call of Duty and just smoke each other and scream at each other and see who was the last man standing.”
Audiences love the screwed-up vet meme.
“Just like how people sometimes want to see accidents on Youtube — they want to see what it’s like for a soldier to fail in society, because of all the stuff that he’s gone through. So I think that with that, there’s a lot of negative consequences.”
Soldiering is a job.
“To some degree, people need to chill. It’s not that dramatic, it’s not that crazy. It’s a very honorable job, honestly, but it’s not like every five minutes there’s sniper fire and piano music in the background.”
Vets aren’t all heroes or villains or victims. They’re people.
“People need to be careful — I think they need to be responsible coming out with these movies about veterans, they’re sort of using them as things to point at or kind of, you know, say ‘Stay away from them’ or ‘Feel bad for them.’ And that’s not the case at all.”
You are not your political opinions.
“When I was deployed, one of the crazy things that was going around — I don’t know if it was right or wrong — but people said, ‘You don’t have to vote; you shouldn’t vote.’ Regardless of who comes out of as commander in chief, your job is to follow orders, and your job is to be the best officer or enlisted you can ever be. That’s how I try to approach it. I’ve tried to stay out of politics in everything I’ve done in my life.”
If politics are your thing, okay. But be smart about it.
“For one, I don’t understand politics, and two, they’re paying me and they’re telling me lawful orders I have to do regardless of how I feel, and three, to me, you’re involved in something so large it can take up all your time — you could be focusing on the wrong things.”
No Steelers were on the sideline during the anthem.
LT Alejandro Villanueva, a veteran who served in the Army, stood near the tunnel. pic.twitter.com/JOviLUAtiF
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 24, 2017
The whole National Anthem/police protest/NFL/veterans thing is out of hand.
“Unfortunately, now that I’m in the NFL, they have to deal with that, and it f—ing sucks that it’s led to this awful political sort of thing… [Veterans don’t] need to be that dramatized, as our political views are, or what we think of the National Anthem.”
Gaming can help unify a divided nation (or wardroom).
“I think it’s much simpler for veterans, if you go back to things like playing Call of Duty because it brings a smile to people’s faces.”
Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."
"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.
"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."
Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.
Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.
No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.
With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.
Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.
And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.
But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.
As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.
The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.
That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.
The Justice Department has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of illegally using campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women.
Hunter, who fought in the Iraq War as a Marine artillery officer, and his wife Margaret were indicated by a federal jury on Aug. 21, 2018 for allegedly using up to $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors accused Hunter of using campaign money to pay for a variety of expenses involved with his affairs, ranging from a $1,008 hotel bill to $7 for a Sam Adams beer.