Today’s generation of veterans find themselves existing within a unique social dynamic. Among ourselves, veterans often operate like a pack of wolves, supporting one another against external threats while often tearing each other apart internally.  Outside the ranks of the initiated, the public at large also sees veterans in a sort of dichotomy of opposition: assuming each of us are either cold-blooded killers, or so troubled by our experiences that we’re worthy of pity rather than fear.

All of it–the support, the infighting, the public trying to decide if we’re the troubled vet from “Rambo: First Blood” or the killing machine from “Rambo: First Blood Part Two” as we sit in our booth at Applebee’s–it’s all more mental projection than reality.  So much of the conflict that arises between the perception of modern veterans and who we truly are boils down to one simple misunderstanding: the idea that being a veteran and being a regular person are somehow mutually exclusive.

Enter the guys from Article 15 and Ranger Up.  Chances are good that you’re already familiar with their work.  Hell, based on demographics, being a SOFREP subscriber means you probably have some of their shirts tucked away in your drawer right now, but making clothing isn’t all they do.  For years now, Mat Best, Nick Palmisciano, Jarred Taylor, Vincent Vargas and the rest of the guys at Article 15 and Ranger Up have been producing content on platforms like YouTube that shows a different perspective on what a veteran is and what they can be.  They don’t trade their machismo for sensitivity, nor do they try to convince you that they’re the toughest operators to ever don a Kevlar.  Instead, they approach the veteran experience in much the same way most of us approached field ops while we were still in uniform: with a healthy level of sarcasm and an abundance of dick jokes.  That mentality has led to professional successes that helped them achieve a level of notoriety among veterans, and eventually, to being able to crowd fund their own zombie film – made by veterans for veterans.

2016’s “Range 15” was a commercial success, in many ways, because it felt real. No, not the zombies or the guy with his junk stuck in a blow-up doll (spoilers, they were in love all along), but the dynamic between the ensemble cast was true to our own experiences as veterans.  As we sensed danger looming just over the next berm, felt the desperate tug of our families and old lives on our hearts, we met both with the kind of third grade humor you can’t help but chuckle at, even when it’s been a day or two since you last ate.  “Range 15” brought that same humor to the screen, and did so realistically because the guys doing it had been there too.

“It all goes back to when we sat down and said, ‘we’re gonna do this.’” Jarred Taylor explained.  “So, we had to find the one situation where we could tell the same jokes we really would, without making it political.  We had to ask ourselves who we could kill without anyone caring?”

Over the years, American action movies have featured a number of disposable villains: the Russians were heavy favorites in the ’80s, generic “terrorists” became prominent even before the attacks on September 11, 2001, but there was one potential enemy everyone agreed would be universally fun to watch die: zombies.

From there, they got to work writing the film and then fundraising through an Indiegogo campaign in May of 2015.  They hoped to raise a modest budget of $325,000 to add to the $250,000 they had already secured to make their movie a reality–they would go on to raise over a million dollars instead.