Captain Picard Has A New BFF: The Marine Corps Commandant

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Sir Patrick Stewart (left) at a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas on August 9, 2015. Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller (right) at Edson Ridge, Guadalcanal on Aug, 7, 2017.
Film Magic / Gabe Ginsberg; Marine Corps / Cpl. Samantha Braun.

Best known for his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Sir Patrick Stewart has found a kindred spirit in Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.


Neller – likely the most lethal Trekkie in history – recently expressed his admiration for “Next Generation” and Stewart's Captain Picard during a March 29 discussion at The Atlantic Council think tank.

“It’s a leadership show, because you always find that the crew and the captain are put in some sort of moral, ethical, operational dilemma, which I find interesting,” the commandant said.

In the quarter century since “Next Generation” ended, Stewart has been gratified to hear from people who were inspired by “Next Generation” to survive personal ordeals, such as rehab, he said. After Task & Purpose sent Stewart’s representatives video of Neller’s praise, the legendary Shakespearean actor replied to the commandant.

Sir Patrick Stewart (left) at a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas on August 9, 2015. Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller (right) at Edson Ridge, Guadalcanal on Aug, 7, 2017.Film Magic / Gabe Ginsberg; Marine Corps / Cpl. Samantha Braun.

“I was deeply moved by a letter from a sergeant in the Las Vegas Police Department, explaining how there were days when he despaired for humanity but once home he would watch an episode or two of TNG and his faith would be restored,” Stewart said.

“However, just now watching an interview with Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller and hearing him praise TNG, a very satisfied smile lit up this Captain's face,” Stewart said. “He said that for him TNG was about leadership above anything. I took that very personally as, if anyone knows about leadership, it has to be him.”

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The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

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