Outside The Wire

Man United provides discounted tickets to upcoming U.S. matches

Manchester United the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Manchester United the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014, in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The wait for the next World Cup may be another four years, but international soccer continues, including two upcoming games here in the United States. And for current and retired members of the military, attending these matches can be affordable.

Manchester United, the British Premiere League team, will play AS Roma in Denver on Saturday and Inter Milan in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as a part of the pre-season International Champions Cup tournament. The club announced Wednesday that they are teaming up with govx.com to provide free and discounted tickets to members of the armed services for both games.

Govx.com provides discounted clothing, tickets and a host of other goods and services to military and other government personnel.

The ticket offer is a part of Manchester United’s new “United for Heroes” program, an initiative to “give something back to the local communities that we visit” by recognizing “those people who dedicate their lives to serving their country,” the club’s Managing Director Richard Arnold said in a press release.

Some tickets for each match will be available for free, with the remaining tickets available at a 25 percent discount. They are available through govx.com or at stadiums on matchday with appropriate identification, according to Manchester United.


Watch: Medal of Honor recipient Ryan Pitts breaks gavel at New York Stock Exchange

Two days after being awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House, Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts had the honor of ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Pitts made the most of it.

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Tearful pfc. stays in hunt for $1 million ‘America’s Got Talent’ prize


Pfc. Paul Ieti was the first contestant to clear “Judgment Week” during Wednesday night’s “America’s Got Talent” broadcast. (NBC screen shot)

Earlier this year, while visiting family in Florida and pretty much killing time, Pfc. Paul Ieti won $150 at a Florida fair’s karaoke contest by belting out “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts.

His latest rendition of that hit came with a bit more pressure. And earned him a chance at bit more cash.

The 21-year-old petroleum supply specialist from American Samoa was the last of six male singers featured during Wednesday night’s two-hour episode of “America’s Got Talent,” part of the NBC show’s “Judgment Week” festivities that determined which 48 acts will move on to perform live at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. The top act earns a $1 million grand prize.

Ieti teared up when discussing his parents in American Samoa during a pre-performance video package (“Just to see my mom’s smile … the best I can do now is just to do this for them”), performed for an audience consisting of four celebrity judges (his audition benefited from the crowd’s standing ovation), then was summoned back to the stage shortly thereafter (“Am I in trouble?”).

He wiped away tears after judge and former Spice Girl Mel B. delivered the good news, then called his mother — listed under “Mommy” on his cellphone, a fact revealed by a surprisingly well-placed camera — and kept it simple.

“I made it through to the live shows,” Ieti said.

“I’m so proud of you, son,” came the reply.

He was the first of the night’s selections; nearly all the rest came at the end of the show. They did not include another singer, Sal Gonzalez, a former Marine who lost part of his left leg to an improvised explosive device in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004.

The rest of the show contained the requisite amounts of children crying; a band made up of 12 siblings whose names all start with the letter “J”; a trio of folk artists who covered OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”; a pig that went 2-for-3 solving math problems by picking up cups with numbers on them (drawing negative remarks from the judges, but … it’s a pig); and a foursome of stunt-pogo-stick jumpers.

The live shows begin next week. Missed the show? See an earlier version of Ieti’s “Bless the Broken Road” here.


More than ‘Maverick’: James Garner and the forgotten Purple Heart

James Garner

Actor James Garner smiles as he holds up a Purple Heart presented to him in a ceremony in 1983. Garner was wounded in April 1951 in Korea, but his medal was never presented to him. (Lennox McLendon/AP)

A recent USA Today appreciation for James Garner, the iconic actor who died Saturday at age 86, called him “the epitome of the reluctant hero.”

The examples cited involve Garner’s on-screen choices and characters as well as his off-screen battles with studios. But before all that — before a career that spanned from Maverick to The Rockford Files to … well, to Maverick, and plenty of stops in between — Garner was in Korea, quite literally trying to avoid getting his ass shot to pieces.

Then-Pvt. James Bumgarner received his second wound during his time in Korea (multiple obituaries say he was the first Oklahoman drafted during that war) on April 23, 1951, while serving with the 24th Division, according to 30-plus-year-old Associated Press article.

He described the injury to the AP thusly: “As a matter of fact, I got it in the backside. I went into a foxhole headfirst and I was a little late. There’s a lot of room for error with a wound in the rear. It’s a wide target.”

The posterior puncture was the second wound Garner suffered during service; his obituaries list him as earning two Purple Hearts. The medal for the foxhole incident came three decades after the war, with the Army reportedly making the presentation after Garner mentioned never receiving it during a TV interview.

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 31:  Actor James Garner portrait session at the Walt Disney Studios January 31, 2005 in Burbank, California. James Garner has been named the 41st Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award honoree.  (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

James Garner poses for a portrait in 2005, before receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild. (Getty Images photo by Mark Mainz)

He was, at the time, promoting one of many military-themed projects of his long career — the early-80s comedy “Tank.” A New York Times film reviewer wrote that the movie’s “screenplay wobbles uncertainly between sadistic melodrama and populist farce,” showing that, if nothing else, NYT writers probably got paid by the syllable in the 1980s.

A better-known military role for Garner was alongside Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape.” He also played an aging bomber pilot-turned-preacher-turned-astronaut in 2000′s “Space Cowboys” and played the leader of the 1st Ranger Battalion during World War II — an early big-screen starring role — in 1958′s “Darby’s Rangers.”

His view on real-life military service came through fairly clearly in the AP report: “Do I have fond memories? I guess if you get together with some buddies it’s fond. But it really wasn’t. It was cold and hard. I was one of the lucky ones.”

VIDEO: Army head coach’s Afghanistan diary


Army football coach Jeff Monken, reporting from Afghanistan (YouTube)

The superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy wanted the school’s new head football coach to get a first-person understanding of the jobs his players — current Black Knights and future recruits — will be doing after they hang up the pads.

So Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, himself a starting offensive lineman while at West Point in the 1970s, brought Jeff Monken along on a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan last month, with the three-star speaking with recent academy grads as well as more senior leaders to find out how to improve the school in ways that will help future students succeed as Army officers.

Monken called it “the trip of a lifetime,” and he documented some of it in the video below — everything from travel updates at airports to boarding helicopters to a grand tour of war-zone VIP quarters (long on technology, short on space).

Both the coach and the superintendent spoke with Army Times to discuss the journey, their takeaways from talking to West Point alumni in the field, and a bit about the football program’s future; read more in the issue that hit newsstands Monday.

German troops in Afghanistan relish World Cup victory

German Col. Achim Ruetzel watching Germany's World Cup victory from Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of NATO.

German Col. Achim Ruetzel watching Germany’s World Cup victory from Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of NATO.

After more than 100 tense minutes, German troops in Kabul hit the roof when their team scored the winning goal in Sunday’s World Cup game against Argentina.

“The reaction from the troops was unbelievable,” said Col. Achim Ruetzel, chief of the Civil Aviation Transition Branch. “Everyone was jumping around with his arms in the air and everybody was – almost kissing each other, I would say.”

A few U.S. troops were also watching the game at the German troops’ invitation, Ruetzel told Outside the Wire on Tuesday.

“Obviously, they were all cheering for the German team, not for Argentina,” he said.

For the Bundeswehr troops in Kabul, the game was both exciting and exhausting, said Col. Frank Graefe, who will replace Ruetzel.

“The longer the game was, the more people stood up and walked out of the room because they couldn’t stand it anymore,” Graefe said. “Everybody was standing for the last 15 minutes.”

Soccer is the most beloved sport in Germany, so it is impossible to overstate what Germany’s World Cup victory means to morale for German troops.

“There are serious scientists who say that we have three men who founded our federal republic: One was our first chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, with his orientation to the west; the second one was Ludwig Erhard, with the miracle of building up our economy again; but some say the real foundation of Germany was in 1954 when we won the World Cup for the first time [thanks to] our famous Sepp Herberger, who was then coach of the team, “Graefe said.


Latest plan to save ‘Enlisted’ — follow another cult hit online


Fans want more “Enlisted” — but does Yahoo? And can producers keep the cast together? (Fox photo)

It’s something the Army has known for years but the entertainment community is just finding out: It’s tough to close a base.

Even a fictional one.

When Fox officially shut down Fort McGee, Florida — home to the freshman comedy “Enlisted” — this spring, fans mounted a push to convince the network the show was worth saving. They pointed to an awful time slot, a lack of promotion and an underappreciation for a growing social media following, which led to the show trending on Twitter frequently — sometimes when it wasn’t even on.

Mainstream media — give or take — voiced its agreement. But Fox didn’t budge, and the comedy’s series finale aired June 22. It was watched by less than a million people and earned a 0.3 rating in the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic, well below its network competition and far off the pace of “The Last Ship,” the TNT drama about a fictional Navy destroyer. More than 5 million people tuned in to see the Navy save the world.

Still, fans aren’t done plotting for the show’s revival. The latest target, according to TheWrap.com, is Yahoo Screen, an online streaming service that recently announced it would air new episodes of “Community” — a comedy canceled by NBC after five seasons.

“Enlisted” fan Carl Brand, whom the website identifies as “one of the brains behind this operation,” told The Wrap that he thought a “Community”/”Enlisted” double feature would give the video service instant credibility as an original-content provider. He’s decked out his Twitter page to that effect.

A possible roadblock — cast members don’t have the luxury to see whether these last-ditch show-saving moves succeed. Parker Young, who played the youngest of the show’s three brothers, and Keith David, who played a less-than-traditional command sergeant major, are both slotted to star in “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight,” the first scripted comedy produced by DirecTV, according to The Hollywood Reporter. And the rest of the group can’t be expected to put off other offers while fans await resurrection, although some don’t seem entirely opposed to the idea.

Brand sent out a tweet seeking support for the idea. Send it along if you support keeping Fort McGee off the closure list.


VIDEO: National Guard’s top general plays it straight in Letterman guest spot

Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, thanked David Letterman for helping with the guard's recruiting effort at the Indianapolis 500 last month. (Screen shot via YouTube)

Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, thanked David Letterman for helping with the guard’s recruiting effort at the Indianapolis 500 last month. (Screen shot via YouTube)

There were no head-shavings, no laughing about early career missteps, not even any celebrity sing-offs with 80s-era rockers: Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, was light on laughs during his Monday appearance on “The Late Show,” but he did field some tough questions … and make one heroic airman’s night.

Grass, who is in charge of 760,000 Army and Air National Guard members, met host David Letterman at the Indianapolis 500 in May — the guard sponsors the race team co-owned by the talk-show legend. Grass thanked Letterman for speaking to recruiters and potential enlistees at the speedway, a move that, if successful, would give the Indy sponsorship a pretty good lead over the much-maligned NASCAR program.

That particular advertising effort didn’t come up Monday night, instead, the men talked about Iraq, with Letterman discussing his encounter with two injured guardsmen during a war-zone visit, saying it was the first time he’d realized members of the guard participated in combat.

That led to the host asking Grass about plans for the guard returning to Iraq amid the ongoing chaos. “We’ll do whatever missions the nation needs us,” Grass said. “This is a very dangerous world, and we have to make sure our National Guard is in a higher state of readiness than ever before.”

Proof of that danger came later in the interview, when Grass asked Air Force Master Sgt. Mike Sears, a member of the New Jersey National Guard, to stand up in the audience. He told the crowd that Sears had deployed twice to Afghanistan as an explosive ordnance disposal expert and would be receiving the Silver Star over the weekend for his actions. The crowd erupted before Grass could say much else — Sears earned the award in a 2012 incident, reportedly risking his life to save a wounded Polish soldier and a medic.

Letterman’s not done with military guests this week: Retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, who recently was awarded the Medal of Honor, will be on the show Thursday, according to the program’s website.

Here’s Part 1 of Grass’ appearance:
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And Part 2: 
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Report: More than 22K British soldiers overweight, 32K fail fitness test

Soldiers From The 1st Battalion The Scots Guards Homecoming

British soldiers return to Catterick, England, after a deployment to Afghanistan in 2013. New figures from Great Britain show a force struggling to meet fitness requirements. (Getty Images photo by Ian Forsyth)

The British army, like its U.S. counterpart, is drawing down. The waistlines of its soldiers, however, are not.

Multiple British media outlets have reported that more than 32,000 soldiers have chalked up at least one fitness-test failure in the past three years . More than 22,000 British army members are considered overweight by the Ministry of Defence, which one unnamed U.K. defense official (make that “defence official”) blamed on their “appalling diet.”

Despite the eye-popping statistics — current British army end strength rests at 150,000 or so — the Daily Mail reported only 50 U.K. soldiers had been kicked out of the service since 2002 for “obesity.” It’s not clear how the Brits define that term, but on this side of the Atlantic, more than 2,500 soldiers got the boot for violating weight standards from 2011-2012.

The British army’s physical fitness test should look familiar — two minutes of pushups (make that “press-ups”), two minutes of situps and a run, though only 1.5 miles instead of two. Troops must take the test twice a year and can retake it within seven days of a failure.

The age-bracket breakdowns aren’t the same, but the tests appear comparable: Going by the Daily Mail figures, a 25-year-old male British soldier would need to do 44 press-ups and 50 situps to pass, for example. A 25-year-old U.S. soldier would need to break 40 pushups and perform 50 situps to earn the minimum 60-point score.

Prior to these statistics, the biggest news in UK military fitness came in 2010, when two lawmakers from Northern Ireland were denied the ability to visit Afghanistan because the military couldn’t provide large enough flak jackets. The gear topped out at a waist measurement of 49 inches, bringing a literal meaning to “political fat cats.”

Report: Hollywood has interest in Bergdahl’s story, including from ‘Hurt Locker’ director

Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal

Director Kathryn Bigelow, right, and filmmaker and journalist Mark Boal are planning a movie on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to a report, but could have competition. (Associated Press photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision)

The Hollywood forces behind “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” could tell Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s story on the big screen, according to a report from a well-known industry news site.

Deadline.com said earlier this week that Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal  are “in the early planning stage” of a project on the recently returned prisoner of war.

Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for best director with “The Hurt Locker” in 2008, and she and Boal both produced that movie as well as “Zero Dark Thirty,” a version of the Osama bin Laden raid that benefited from close collaboration with high-level U.S. officials. Maybe too close, according to reports.

The pair has been considering a Bergdahl-based project for years, according to Deadline. This could lead to a production setup similar to  ”Zero Dark Thirty,” which began as a film on the fruitless search for bin Laden until being overcome by events in fairly spectacular fashion in 2011.

Competition on the Bergdahl-movie front could come from Fox Searchlight — Deadline reported the studio has secured the rights to “America’s Last Prisoner of War,” a 2012 Rolling Stone article on Bergdahl written by Michael Hastings. Hastings, whose profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal led to the officer’s resignation (and, eventually, to a separate movie project that will star Brad Pitt), died one year ago today in a car accident.

Would you watch the Hollywood treatment of the Bergdahl case? How would you like to see it play out on the big screen? Let us know in the comments below.