My wife and I were honored to be invited to the premiere of locally produced World War II film "Valiant" at Triple Horse Studios in Covington. The film's slogan, "A lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man," embodies the intended point of the film: the mettle of American fighting men rising to the challenge.
"Valiant" was produced, directed and edited by 22-year-old Rachel Horstmann, daughter of Triple Horse Studios CEO Karl Horstmann.
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 film "Valiant" highlights the stress, yet courage, of a young lieutenant named Ryker, played by Atlanta native Blair Jasin, during his first encounter with combat and death.
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.
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.
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, the Atlanta-based 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."
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. 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, actor Blair Jasin and Georgia's favorite Terminator, Timothy D. Perez.
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist and freelance writer. You can reach him at email@example.com or aveteransstory.us.