Forget Rihanna – Battleship’s True Star? Real-Life Wounded Iraq Veteran Greg Gadson

Rarely does a movie make you want to leap to your feet in support of our military men and women, as the new film Battleship does, at least when it unabashedly celebrates our soldiers.

But did you know one of its unlikely stars is a real-life veteran who was seriously injured in Iraq?

The poster may highlight Oscar nominee Liam Neeson, pop star Rihanna and heartthrob Taylor Kitsch.

But they’re not the real stars.

Greg Gadson, a true American hero who portrays a wounded veteran, deserves the title.

Gadson’s career brought him from the streets of Iraq to theaters nationwide. According to a recent USA Today article, Gadson was a lieutenant colonel with the Second Battalion and 32nd Field Artillery in Iraq until a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle on the way home from a memorial service. A few days after the attack, he awoke at Walter Reed Hospital with his legs amputated above the knees.

The soldier didn’t believe that people outside of the military would be interested in him but once his story received coverage, he got the recognition he deserved.

Battleship director Peter Berg was one of the people who expressed interest in Gadson. According to the article, Berg was “overwhelmed by Gadson’s story” and “tried for three weeks to offer him a part in the movie.”

That role—which Gadson, despite his initial doubts, eventually accepted– offered the young veteran a chance to portray a soldier struggling with his injuries. While the majority of the film focuses on the fight between Navy ships and the aliens that have landed in the ocean, one of the main subplots focuses on Gadson’s character.

Gadson plays Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales, a wounded veteran recovering from the battlefield. He is working with an inspiring physical therapist named Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) on his recovery. In her, he confides his innermost insecurities. “I’m half a man and half a man ain’t enough to be a soldier,” he says. But eventually, he’s given a chance to prove that his warrior spirit hasn’t suffered despite his physical limitations.

Casting Gadson in the role of a weary veteran struggling with his disability was an inspired choice. He truly represents the best of our nation’s military.

Perhaps Gadson deserved a better film. From the lackluster first act to the lame cliché-ridden dialogue, this blockbuster has a lot of obvious weaknesses.

But its greatest strength is its patriotic spirit and its focus on our nation’s military heroes, including a butt-kicking platoon of older veterans. Like this year’s Act of Valor, Battleship unabashedly praises our troops.

Greg Gadson’s remarkable story proves that you can never keep a good soldier down.