From “Miracle” to tragedy, the rest of the story

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From “Miracle” to tragedy, the rest of the story

Yesterday I had the day off, and as I was cruising through my Xfinity On Demand I saw what I wanted to watch almost immediately: “Miracle” the movie about the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game that took place between an all-amateur 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team and a Soviet team that consisted of guys who for all intents and purposes were professionals.  The Soviet team (consisting of a lot of guys on active duty with their military) was coming off 4 consecutive Olympic Gold Medals ('64, '68, '72, '76) and had a record of 27-1-1. 

After I watched the movie I saw an ABC This Week special on the 35th anniversary of the February 22, 1980 game, with an interview with Al Michaels who called the game, and he talked about how it was a moment where everyone always knew where they were when they heard the news:

In 2004 Disney came out with the movie “Miracle” and to this day I rank it in the Top 5 of all sports movies.  One particularly poignant moment is when the team had been cut to 20 players from the original 26, and Ralph Cox was the last to be cut.   Shortly thereafter though, Jack O’Callahan, one of the amazing young players (the average age of the US team was 22) was injured in an exhibition before the start of the games (in a game where the Soviets destroyed the US 10-3) and was fearful he’d be cut.  Here’s that scene:

O’Callahan would eventually return to the team in the game against the Soviets, and laid a few hard hits on the tough Soviet team, one of which allowed a teammate to get free and tie the game at 1 to 1 in the 1st period.

The rest, of course, is the stuff of legends.  The US team would pull off the “Miracle on Ice” defeating the Soviets in that game (which contrary to what most people think was the semi-finals, not the Gold Medal Game) and then beat the team from Finland 4-2 to capture the gold.   O’Callahan, from Charlestown Mass, would go on to play in the NHL, and then found a financial services firm.

But this post isn’t actually about Jack O'Callahan; it’s about Michael Mantenuto, the actor who played him in the movie.  As I watched the movie I thought he really was an excellent actor, and it occurred to me I hadn’t seen him in anything else.  So, as I usually do, I start Googling, and Wikipedia had an interesting thing on it:

The casting of the team [in Miracle] consisted of real hockey players to give the film a raw and accurate feel. [Film Director] O'Connor figured it would be easier to teach hockey players to act than to teach actors to play hockey. On-ice tryouts were held in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver. Another tryout was held in Vancouver for the Soviet and European teams.

But back to Mantenuto, unlike actors usually portraying Boston accents, his was excellent, which made sense after I found out he was from Holliston, Mass, and had gone to the University of Maine.  And it turned out he had done a couple of other movies, neither of which I had heard of and you probably haven’t either (“Dirtbags” and “Surfer Dude”.)

Generally speaking I don’t really revere actors, and certainly not ones who were in only 3 movies.  But Mantenuto deserves our praise, not for his acting, but for what came next.  He left the world of Hollywood behind, and became a Special Forces Operator (as Communications Sergeant) serving with the 1st Special Forces Group and deploying to Syria/Iraq to fight ISIS.

It’s almost like a Pat Tilman sort of thing, only I guess Mantenuto wasn’t as famous.  And unfortunately, his story ends no less tragically.

The star of a beloved Disney hockey movie, who later joined the Army and became a Green Beret, died  [in April of 2017] of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Staff Sgt. Michael Mantenuto, 35, was found in his car at Saltwater State Park in Des Moines, Washington, according to police, who are investigating his death.

The soldier, who played college hockey and starred in a movie about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's 'Miracle on Ice' win, had a short film career before enlisting in 2010.

Mantenuto was a Special Forces communications sergeant with 1st Special Forces Group, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, at the time of his death, according to a Facebook post from his group commander.

He was awarded numerous medals for his service, and left behind a wife and two children according to a Facebook post by the 1st Special Forces Group announcing his death.  A friend tells me that Mantenuto even helped set up a hockey club on base through volunteering with MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation to those not in the Army.)

What made Mantenuto great wasn’t his acting; it’s what he did after.  So it saddens me somewhat to see him referenced as an actor on most of his obituaries.  He was a soldier, one of the reported 3 out of a 100 who earn the coveted green beret.

And now he’s one of the reported 20 veterans a day who take their own life.  Part of me wishes I hadn’t started Googling yesterday, because the end of Miracle leaves you with a feeling of elation and a desire to go body check a communist into the boards.  That elation ended when I found out that one of the actors was a brother in arms of ours who at the end felt alone and thought he had nowhere to turn.

If you, or someone you know ever gets to that point, go to the Veterans Hotline, or call 1-800-273-8255.  We can’t keep losing our brothers and sisters who have already given so much.

RIP SSG Mantenuto.

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I cry when I here about this, an America solider taking his life and no there to help him. I hold the Federal Gov't responsible and the American Legion responsible for this.

The VA (which I assume you mean by Fed'l Govt) has gotten onboard (a little late as usual) and is working harder at stopping these senseless deaths. The American Legion has always pushed hard for the best care (physically and emotionally) for our currently serving and former brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

I am honored by the service of this young man---PTSD happens by less than one minute being shot at or heaven forbid--being shelled or IED'ed--My WW 1 uncle was deemed a coward, after 6 months (at the end_) on the front being gassed and shelled many times per day--PTSD haunted him until he died as an American Soldier in a Canadian Military hospital (thank you Canada).
Until we treat those who show no signs, just for being in combat, we will continue to lose the best of our best--how are to be honored and not called names as my Uncle had been. Survivors guilt is all part and parcel of PTSD--Damn you VA Treat them..

My mother suffered post partem neurosis depression after third birth of babies and after much soul searching the idea of improved dietary intake such as listed in the ancient book of Daniel Chapter One is of counsel because he ate only vegetables for ten days and was more health than all of king Nebuchadnezzar's men and fasting on grapefruit juice or purified water does much to assist the human brain and nervous system overcome much and allows closer awareness of Christ and Father God.

Godspeed, I hope you have everlasting peace. My sympathy to his Wife and Children.

May God's eternal peace surround you forever SSG Mantenuto.

As a fellow Green Beret during the Vietnam War, All too many brothers, all too many, a sad ending to a fellow military man that served his country well. RIP my brother and God bless your family and the strength to get through these hard days.

Thank you for your service SSG Mantenuto. Per the story, SSG Mantenuto was not recently separated, but still serving. In either case, if you suspect a service member or veteran is hurting, please encourage them to seek out their nearest veteran's service officer for referral to available help. As an American Legion and VFW member, I would also encourage the veteran to check out the nearest post for either organization. Currently serving military members and spouses (as auxiliary members) are eligible for the American Legion, and may be eligible for both of these organizations. You do not have to wait until you are separated from the service to join. Both welcome new members. I waited 16 years, and my first visit I felt like I was finally home.

!st SF 1963/64....Always hard to hear and bear...and baffling! RIP Soldier...

Suicide doesn't solve any problems; it just creates more. There is a better way -- talk to someone and let them know your feelings. There is always someone willing to listen at the American Legion, VFW, church, VA hospital, etc. Take that first step to help yourself or a buddy.

No one knows how these high tempo deployments affect the mind except those who have been there done that. Every deployment is different for everyone. Too often I hear civilians say very ignorant things like I do not remember veterans having all these issues. Veteran issues after returning home have long been unreported and not something you talked about. Media ignored it unless some veteran committed a crime. Unfortunately I have heard a few vocal veterans trying prove their era was tougher and walked uphill both ways and did not have these issues. No you are just ignorant about the real struggles veterans have always faced. We live in a time when we have finally realized we need to no longer ignore the issues but try to address them publicly. To often the casaulties of war occur off the battlefield. Most have made the transition back but many struggle which is what we struggle to comprehend. All warriors need to stand together with our brothers who are still fighting a war inside. Semper Fi!

Having lived with the loss of our only son (not a veteran) to suicide ,it has no way of telling when,nor to whom it may occur. I'm service officer at our Legion Post , plus a volunteer at our VAMC I see and hear of these tragedies a lot. I try and get veterans to join the Legion and get so many non-reason excuses not to.

Another brother gone. I'm so sad to hear this. Not only was he my brother in Arms, but he was our brother in Humanity. I keep reading, "if you suspect a Veteran is depressed or suicidal, help them to get help by giving them the Veteran Hotline # (1-800-273-8255)". Read closely my friends, as you flip the bird to your fellow driver along a commute, as you tell someone off to 'give them a piece of your mind, as you cut someone out of your life because they're 'toxic', as you justify your actions with some excuse think. THINK the person whom you are 'putting in their place' may be a
SSG Mantenuto. So please treat each other with kindness. Please. I, you, or anybody can not know the suffering someone is going through by only their outward appearance. Some hide it really well.
So please think twice about treating someone vindictively or just mean unprovoked. You could be preventing their suicide, and you'd never know if they were a Veteran or not. Love, Light & Peace...

Death to most is a tragic thing. Death to some means an escape. To those of us who have seen death up close and thoses who have even sent others into the other world, death becomes an alternative to life. WE want all to have an enjoyable and productive life. But when the decision is made to end one's life it is hard to turn things around. To these, logic no longer means anything.
And so the living are left wondering, blaming themselves and others and finally the victim.
As one of the county coroners I do inquest. I have heard the painful stories of those left behind.
I noticed an increase in the number of Veteran suicides but had no idea the number was so high.
Thanks to all who intervene and reduce these numbers. Without you the numbers would be even higher! As a veteran myself, i think you.

This is very tragic and sad....we are losing far too many of our good patriots like this! I believe that the investigation should include a detailed list of medications this young soldier may possibly have been prescribed that may have been a factor to his horrible fate. Far too many active duty soldiers and vets are being prescribed very dangerous cocktails of drugs that have known side effects such as increased depression, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, etc!

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.