Max Martini has been a bodyguard, contacted aliens, rescued a hostage from pirates and brought a soldier home from combat.
He’s been also been shot at, blown up, and beaten to death with a tire iron; whatever the role, Max gives his all, entertaining and moving millions of people with his acting work.
It was his role as Corporal Fred Henderson in the powerful film, Saving Private Ryan, that introduced Max to the immense sacrifice made by so many in the military. He credits this experience for shaping him personally and professionally, and inspiring him to take his support for our military beyond the big screen.
Professionally, Max Martini immerses himself in military life via the characters he plays. Off-screen, he’s built a strong personal community of men and women in the Armed Forces.
These relationships impact him profoundly- so much so that he is now personally involved in non-profits established to support specific members of the active duty and veteran populations.
He was overseas on one of many trips to visit deployed troops. There on the tarmac was an Army Ranger who is also a fan. The two men struck up a conversation, and a friendship was born.
The men stayed in touch. Max became a willing sounding board for *Will. As Will began sharing his experiences, Max absorbed every word of his friend’s extraordinary and heartbreaking story.
Will told Max about surviving two IED explosions the second of which left him the sole survivor of his team. Those kinds of things don’t just fade away. They leave a physical and emotional footprint strong enough to stomp out any type of healthy, happy life after combat.
Will’s story struck Max hard. He thought about Will and his other friends returning from combat with physical injuries and wounded souls, only to face even more battlefields here at home. He learned more about the reality behind life after war.
Wave upon wave of men and women are returning home from combat forever changed.
They mourn their fallen friends. They grapple with injuries. They struggle to return to lives they once knew in bodies and minds that are no longer the same, while protecting their families from the inner battle they wage each day.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress are very real adversaries, made more dangerous by their lack of visibility to the naked eye. A RAND Study reports that over 260,000 veterans from OEF and OIF have been diagnosed with TBI. Numbers on PTSD are more difficult to determine, as so many instances are undiagnosed and unreported. Yet regardless of what the statistics show, the reality is thousands of veterans are faced with these conditions as a result of stepping up to serve their country.
Max watched as his friends stared down their new challenges. He learned TBI and PTSD can become overwhelming, and that those who bear these injuries are at increased risk of homelessness, addiction, divorce, and even suicide. Will was battling these adversaries. Many of his other friends are too.
It ate at him, this gnawing awareness of what our troops experience for the sake of their service. He knew there was more he could do and he was driven to figure out how.
How could he do more than he already was? How could he help people like Will find a way to enjoy the very freedoms and opportunities they themselves give so much for?
The answer hit him as he was deeply entrenched in his work on the television series, The Unit.
“We’re lucky as performers to have the eyes and ears of so many people,” Max realized. It struck him that he could now use his own work to help raise both awareness and tangible support for our combat veterans.
He called Will; “I asked him if I could take his story and use it to inspire a movie, with profits going to military-based charities.”
The answer was yes, and Max got to work.
First he focused on writing a screenplay that strikes a perfect balance between eye-opening and endearing, inviting the audience to feel the story rather than demanding they do so.
Next, he worked to convince investors to give their money to a project with a different kind of profit than they typically seek not in dollars and cents, but in patriotism and selflessness.
While his friends and colleagues lined up to be a part of this film, convincing investors proved more challenging. “Giving away profits is a deterrent for investors,” laughs Max. But as with anything else in life, persistence paid off.
True to his word, Max stayed with his mission. He found investors who share his commitment to supporting veterans. The film, SGT. Will Gardner, is complete. Max portrays his friend Will. Friends and colleagues including Gary Sinise and a cameo by the Army Ranger this film depicts comprise the rest of the cast.
The film concludes with information about the non-profits Max supports. Each organization hits upon an area Max is passionate about making an impact on.
His determination is real. His commitment is absolute. Max is on a mission to strengthen the work of these organizations, so they may continue to strengthen those who do so much for our country.
It tells a story of one man while representing thousands of others who bear the highest cost of freedom. It also represents the tenacity and talent of another; Max Martini worked hard to achieve his own American Dream. Now that he’s living it he’s doing his part to give back and inspire others to do the same.
It’s important to him to do so, as he is filled with appreciation for all he has achieved and the country that allowed him that opportunity. “There isn’t a better country in the world,” he says. Every day he sees his two kids thrive he finds more appreciation for the liberties and freedoms they inherit simply because they are Americans.
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