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Mecca: Local filmmaker makes war flick
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The slogan, “A lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man,” displayed beneath the title of the World War II documentary “Valiant,” embodies the intended point of the film: the mettle of American fighting men rising to the challenge.

“Valiant” was produced, directed and edited by a remarkably talented 22 year old named Rachel Horstmann.

Just one of many devoted and gifted people working at Triple Horse Studios in Covington, Horstmann’s childhood dream envisioned a career in filmmaking. If “Valiant” is any indication, an amazing and rewarding career awaits her.

After graduating from Eagles Landing Christian Academy, she earned a bachelor’s degree in film and television at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Her documentary “Valiant” illustrates the stress, yet courage, of a young lieutenant during his first encounter with combat and death.

Atlanta native Blair Jasin plays the inexperienced lieutenant named Ryker, a role he played to perfection.

The opening scene depicts Lt. Ryker’s heartfelt response to the wounding and then death of one of his men, a fresh-faced soldier played by Yoel Kanchelov. Yoel, at the ripe old age of 14, was certainly suitable for the part.

His role gave me pause to remember Pfc. Dan Bullock, the youngest person whose name is etched into the black granite on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall — he was 15.

In World War II, 12-year-old Calvin Graham was wounded in a naval battle at Guadalcanal.

A kid named James Clark was mistakenly drafted by the Army at the age of 13. He survived the war.

More than 200,000 underage boys served in World War II; the youngest casualty is not known.

My wife and I were honored to be invited to the premiere of “Valiant” at Triple Horse.

One gentleman I noticed in the viewing room was a muscular male that we Budweiser-type males envy. He looked like the Terminator with real brains.

His name is Tim Perez. Perez played the gruff-voiced, war-experienced general in the film, a level-headed senior officer capable of leadership and compassion, and possessed of the ability to perform and risk his life, just as he requested that the men under his command do.

Both ranking officer and father figure to the fledgling Lieutenant Ryker, the general inspired the faith of action and confidence the young officer needed to get the job done. Horstmann could not have picked a better actor for the role.
Perez has played several movie roles, normally as the “bad” guy. He’s known in the film industry as “The Atlanta Tough Guy.”

Cast as a gang member, a killer, father, businessman, and, closer to his real character, as a pilot, soldier and military man, Perez talks the talk and walks the walk.

Perez spent 23 years in the service of his country, including eight years in the U.S. Navy.

After sailing the seas, he joined the National Guard and obtained a commission, working his way up the ladder from platoon leader to light infantry company commander.

At retirement, he held the rank of infantry captain.

Ports-of-call included service in volatile Beirut, Lebanon, and in the Sinai desert as a peacekeeping sector leader and border liaison officer.

Somehow Perez even found the time to earn his wings as a professional pilot.

When not roaming through cloud cover in the wild blue yonder, Perez is acting or giving motivational speeches.

Overcoming a myriad of turmoil and trouble growing up, Perez said, “I went from being a nobody to 100 somebodies.”

Not the type to sit around waiting for his ship to come in, Perez builds his own ship and sails his own way.

During my brief conversation with him, I asked permission to write his story.

“I’d be happy to,” Perez said. “But I’m shipping out tonight. We can stay in touch via email. I’ll have Internet in my room.”

“Shipping out” meant traveling to the other side of the world. “In touch from his room” meant corresponding from an undisclosed location in the “Destroyer of Nations.”

This multi-skilled patriot is currently flying for the U.S. Army as a contract pilot in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Perez pilots the Beechcraft King Air 300 twin turboprop. A little-known but popular aircraft among flyers, versions of King Airs have served with the Swiss Air Force, Royal Australian Army and Air Force, Japan Ground Self-defense, and in 2007 became part of the Iraqi Air Force. Ironically, King Airs also flew in the Falklands War of 1982.

One of the last emails from Perez read: “I just landed. I’m flying nights, which is nice given the miserable daytime heat. It’s 0400. Crawling into the sack for a few hours.”

A common question today is, “Where are the real American patriots?”

I know many at Triple Horse Studios — including a producer named Rachel, actors Jasin and Kanchelov, and Georgia’s favorite Terminator, Timothy D. Perez.

His missions are classified.

He flies at night in a country where daytime flying is dangerous.

Perez is indeed “Valiant,” and is living proof that “a lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man.”

Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist and freelance writer. You can reach him at or