Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
One Vet’s Mission To Change The Lives Of Wounded Warriors Through Fishing
When retired Marine Col. Eric Hastings returned from duty as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War, he turned to fly fishing as a method for obtaining relief from the lingering stress of combat. For the past seven years, Hastings and a group of dedicated fly fishers have shared this relief with wounded warriors through their Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation.
The feature-length documentary, “Not Yet Begun to Fight,” portrays the narratives of five wounded Marine, Navy, and Army veterans who arrive in Bozeman, Montana, ostensibly to learn fly fishing, but also to learn a measure of peace if they can find it. Each veteran brings with them their stories, which unfold in a leisurely manner, intercut with the visuals of learning the basic elements of fly fishing.
Hastings assigns a guide to each veteran, who gives them personalized instruction and also assists them with mobility when necessary. The veterans begin by learning to cast on dry land, then move to the river, where they practice catching and releasing trout.
The veterans’ injuries run the gamut. Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Hupp battles the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder. Several of the veterans are missing limbs. Retired Navy SEAL Elliot Miller is severely limited in his mobility at the time of the film, and communicates through a voice-enabled tablet.
Throughout the documentary, the pacing and narrative flow set a smooth, meditative rhythm, much like the service members learn out on the water. There are few hurried sequences, and long stretches where the camera pulls back to allow the veterans some time alone, or just to allow events to unfold without overt narration.
Some of the phrasing found in the interviews will be familiar to both military and civilian audiences. One veteran, Marine Cpl. Erik Goodge, a forward observer who lost his right eye, speaks of wishing he could return to Afghanistan, and that combat is about taking care of the person next to you. An early sequence shows footage from the Naval Medical Center in San Diego that looks pretty much like every other footage of wounded veterans learning to cope with their changed circumstances.
The filmmakers, directors Shasta Grenier and Sabrina Lee, allow time for humor, especially that which arises naturally from a group of military members. Marine Capt. Blake Smith, a helicopter pilot, describes his former aircraft has having the “…flight characteristics of a broken grocery cart.”
In another sequence --- this one on the bus driving them to and from the river --- the veterans joke about the likelihood of bears attacking, judging them likely to be attracted to “amputees and toddlers.”
Guide Collin Brown shows Navy SEAL Elliott Miller (ret.) how to place the line.
One of the themes that run through the film is that of being “overwhelmed.” Hastings uses this word early in the film to describe Smith’s laugh. Other times, the men use it to describe both combat and the long road to recovery after returning from combat.
In one sequence, Smith begins detailing the injuries he suffered when his aircraft collided with another in midair. As he begins what appears to be an oft-repeated catalogue of extensive proportions, the frame jump cuts ahead, a cinematic device that can come across as humorous, and combined with Smith’s deadpan delivery, almost does here. It’s only when he is finished that the viewer realizes the overwhelming extent of what he faces on a daily basis.
This documentary is one of many that detail the grassroots initiatives that sprang up in the last 10 years, many of them, like Warriors and Quiet Waters, started by fellow veterans. In the face of institutional failures such as those seen within the Department of Veterans Affairs --- and even within some independent charities coming under fire for their methods --- these smaller initiatives provide support to military members who need assistance reintegrating, from veterans, such as Hastings, who have been in the same situation at one time.
One of the most poignant parts of the film comes toward the end. Smith talks of his crash, visibly trying to hold it together, as he speaks of the shame of having people think he caused the crash in which he was injured and fellow service members were killed. Hastings, the former fighter pilot, responds to that grief, one of the few people in the military, let alone the world, who can honestly know what Smith is going through.
“Not Yet Begun to Fight,” the title of which was taken from one of Miller’s tattoos, has enjoyed a respectable festival run and is now available on several streaming formats. A product of a civilian crew, the film is accessible to both civilian and military audiences. It joins a cohort of civilian-produced films about these micro-initiatives, such as “HEAL! Veterans and Their Service Dogs,” and “Riding My Way Back,” both of which were official selections at the 2014 G.I. Film Festival.
As the film comes to an end, each of the five men returns to his life. Goodge continues fishing with a passion. Miller moves on to achieve goals such as obtaining a driver’s license and working on being able to speak again. Smith marries, then divorces, his fiancée.
There is a place for these micro-initiatives, and the message that they bring to veterans and transitioning service members. Perhaps some of that message, and some of that passion, can next be embodied by the institutions charged with rehabilitating and reintegrating all service members who find themselves struggling with their service-related wounds, both visible and invisible.
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.