Hollywood veterans inspire others into film industry

Hollywood actors Julia Ling and Hiram Murray have their personal stories for joining the U.S. military. Navy Reservist Lt. Ling knew she wanted to serve in response to being thankful for growing up in America and for her freedom after watching her parents struggle through the painful memories of slavery and genocide in their home country before fleeing to the United States. Murray was attending film school in his home state of New York and working with the New York City Police Department when “9/11 happened on my watch, in my back yard.” That’s why he joined the Marine Corps.

Ling and Murray, members of American Legion Hollywood Post 43, have combined their two passions of acting and military service into a mission through Veteran Powered Films (VPF). They join this week’s episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast to discuss VPF.

Veteran Powered Films hires and casts veterans, invites veterans to be a part of the movie-making industry through roles on screen or behind the camera, and promotes veteran-owned businesses. And VPF is helping to reduce veteran suicide by giving veterans a purpose again.

For Ling, who launched her acting career in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and has starred in the TV series “Chuck”, “E.R.”, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House”, VPF started “from a really dark place. I was actually really depressed at the time, and we learned that a lot of veterans were taking their lives. It was the inspiration, the idea that we want to help stop veteran suicide by involving (and inspiring) veterans in movie-making by hiring and casting them.”

That mission has grown to helping “veterans as much as we can – anything that will help give that little spark,” Ling added. VPF has a new trailer called “Homestead” that is a family drama horror starring Murray.

Murray said the movie industry and military service are connected, with both having a mission. And VPF wants to show veterans that connection.

“It’s a collaborative experience … you know one team, one fight. We all have a mission,” said Murray, who has starred in roles on Fox's “Touch” starring opposite Kiefer Sutherland and “Lethal Weapon” starring opposite Damon Wayans. “When you’re on set the mission is to get the project done. When you’re in the military, you’re on a team and you have to know the man in front of you’s job and the man behind you’s job in case something goes wrong. You can still pick up and carry on to accomplish that mission. It’s the same thing on a movie set.”

Through VPF, Ling and Murray are also closing the gap between veterans and civilians by showing that “the only thing that separates us is that we chose to take up the call and serve our country but we’re still husbands, we’re still brothers, fathers, sisters,” Murray said. “The beauty of being in the military is that we take all different walks of life and we combine them together to make one unit,” said Murray, adding that he’s a father of six, a former law officer, from New York and has Caribbean heritage. “… there’s so many stories there, don’t put me in a box. I’m more than just my title of United States Marine.”

Also in this episode, co-hosts Amy Forsythe and Ashley Gutermuth discuss topics including:

• Banners honoring veterans may be coming down for good due to costs a local Legion post can no longer fund.

• U.S. veterans use art for female Afghan soldiers who fled their country to help process their pain features a recent guest.

• A USAA survey shows we should do more than simply thank our veterans for their service.

Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 200 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.