Tom Hanks Speaks From The Heart
Advocacy Playing a United States military member on screen is not the only way Tom Hanks is connected to our armed forces. He is an advocate for our veterans, urging Americans to get involved on a personal level.
What has motivated you to get so involved with military/veteran advocacy?
Growing up in the Vietnam era — that war and its human cost was a part of everyday life. The work in Forrest Gump, then Saving Private Ryan, led to making Band of Brothers and The Pacific so that the stories of the people in war would be in the forefront of the strategic history of the wars. We all pretended to go to war with the aim to make manifest the human toll war takes on the human soul — different for each veteran, but tangible and real and unique no matter the era of the war.
What advice can you give for people who want to get involved?
There is a veterans organization just a short drive or a phone call away. Let your representatives know that building monuments is great, but taking care of minds and bodies is the true task at hand.
What was it like to play Captain John Miller in Saving Private Ryan — a character that so many service members could relate to?
Captain Miller was haunted by the idea that he could get his men killed — he could have a failure of training or judgment that would lead to casualties. He suffered the burden of leadership; he worried he would never be the same man he was before the war, but that did not stop him from serving.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from depicting a service member on screen?
That those in combat fight for each other — to save and protect those they have come to love.
Do you have any military initiatives planned for the future?
We will be helping initiatives for years to come — from big televised events to small occasions — to help veterans get the time they need to heal each other and help each other.
What was one moment, story or experience that has had the biggest influence on you military advocacy?
It’s the people who say that their father or grandfather screamed in their sleep from nightmares they could not stop. Now their husbands, wives, brothers and sisters are having those nightmares, not just because of what happened to them, but because of what they saw happening. As Sherman said — War is all hell. Hell is not easily shaken off.
If you could leave readers with one message about the veteran community, what would that message be?
The number of veteran suicides will soon outnumber those who died in the field. What does it say about our society when more soldiers die in a time of peace than died in war?