From Front Lines to Behind the Scenes

by Mike Nyeste

I guess another late-night related TV post couldn’t hurt.

A recent New York Times article revealed Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, has been quietly operating a training program aimed at teaching veterans entertainment industry skills and helping them get employment within the field. Apparently, Stewart’s just now making this veterans program widely known because of his pending Daily Show exit and to encourage other Hollywood big shots to start similar ventures.

In a word, awesome. This is just simply, purely awesome. While I personally have no Hollywood aspirations, I know plenty of qualified, talented people who are, and I’m sure the America as a whole stands to benefit by having war veterans as writers, directors, producers and on-air talent.

I spent nearly five years in the active-duty Army as a print journalist in addition to being a soldier. Naturally, I’ve met many quality writers, from all military branches, who are hilarious, witty and superb communicators. Us print journalists worked hand-in-hand with our military broadcast journalist counterparts. Those broadcasters wrote TV spots, filmed segments from the field, edited them back at base, stood behind the camera to film the newscast or were in front of the lens when the lights came on. Many did radio work also. Both fields of military journalists have already been honing many of the same skills Stewart’s program imparts. These service members, unlike many recent college graduates, have utilized this knowledge in high-stress (to say the least), real-world settings.

It’s been this way for decades, yet can any of us name a war veteran that has had an impact on pop culture? Outside of Netflix, I don’t digest many TV shows, movies or pop culture in general. That being said, I watch enough to know veterans are lacking a voice in our national consciousness. We’ve been at war or something awfully close to it for almost 14 years now. Can you name one time a veteran in the entertainment industry ushered us into an indelible moment about the trials, triumphs or historic significance of two incomprehensible, convoluted wars through pop culture?

I simply can’t. I suspect the same is true for you. That’s a shame– maybe even an unacceptable one.

Stewart’s and similar programs will, or already have, stumbled upon a gold mine of talent. That’s not to say veteran’s wishing to be in the entertainment industry are inherently more talented than their civilian counterparts. Talent can be found everywhere. But most veterans have gone through more rigorous tests and trials than a 22-year-old out of film school, many with the ability to entertain and communicate.

Even if you take veterans’ already running some of the toughest gauntlets life can throw at a person out of the equation, we’re still left with an important, needed voice left out of entertainment. A wise friend of mine once observed, “Media is the way the world talks to itself.” When the world hears its own voice, shouldn’t veterans make up an integral part of that voice? The answer is obvious. Thank goodness the Iraq War’s biggest critic is doing something to fix it.

This post originally appeared on Mike’s personal blog, Mike’s Opus. Reprinted by permission.