During a special advanced screening of the film "Battleship" at the sixth GI Film Festival  May 17, some popular Hollywood actors may have received top billing on the screen credits, but it was clear who the real stars were – the wounded warriors in the audience.
In a packed Washington theater dominated by recovering servicemembers from Walter Reed National Medical Center, active-duty sailors, veterans and friends of the military, The American Legion's sponsorship of the event was noted in a shout-out by festival organizers.
"Thank you, American Legion!" responded the audience in unison, which also responded in similar fashion to the evening's other sponsor, the Gary Sinise Foundation. Army Col. Greg Gadson , the 2011 recipient of The American Legion Patriot Award, has a major role in "Battleship" as Lt. Col. Mick Canales – a tough-as-nails wounded warrior who administers an Earthling-style butt kicking on a space alien.
Wounded warriors who attended the event received movie cinema gift cards from The American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors.
"They were so thrilled to be able to see that film and for The American Legion's support of giving them their movie gift cards," said Laura Law-Millett, who founded the festival with her husband, Brandon Millett.
"One of our missions is to educate the public about organizations that support the military and try to recruit people to support their causes as well," Brandon added. "The American Legion has been extremely visible and active from Day One in our exhibit hall through signage (and) on our website. We have the gift card giveaways to the wounded warriors as well. It's just been a tremendously symbiotic relationship since Day One. And I think it's been a win-win, and we love those."
The GI Film Festival, which Brandon calls "Sundance for the Troops," was created in 2006 to honor works that celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the American military through the medium of film. In 2010, the festival was the recipient of The American Legion National Commander's Public Relations Award.
This year's festival was May 14-20 and included appearances by former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak, actor Joe Mantegna ("Criminal Minds)" and "Army Wives" actors Brian McNamara and Sally Pressman. It featured a lineup of 42 film screenings representing every branch of the military and spanning five wars.
For more on the GI Film Festival, click here .
2012 GI Film Festival Award Winners