Servicemen and women being wounded, many times severely so, is normally no laughing matter but what many civilians don’t understand is that sometimes humor, even the dark, impertinent kind is how many of our wounded warriors cope with themselves and each other.
Starting next week, (July 8) a new show, “Veterans Laughing Together” is breaking new ground. This totally unscripted show, which will be carried by the streaming video on demand channel VET Tv, and will truly earn the moniker “reality television.
VET Tv is the brainchild of retired Marine Captain and former Wounded Warrior Donny O’Malley, who spent six years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer, rifle platoon commander, and fire support team leader before finishing his Marines active career in the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Naval Medical Center San Diego. In typical VET Tv style, O’Malley writes that he was medically retired due to “weak bone structure and chronic sand in his lady parts.”
“This is a first-of-its-kind show with eight amazing Purple Heart recipients,” O’Malley says in a release about the show.
“They’ve been hit, they’ve been traumatized and they’ve seen and experienced all of the worst that war to offer, and yet because of the level of trust they have in us, they tell their stories to our audience in a way that very few people ever get to see or hear. You’ll hear about the physical trauma they all experienced in combat and the injustices that followed. They experienced the worst of it, yet they have this unbelievable sense of irreverence and they’re still able to laugh about it all, and that’s why we chose them.”
And that shared experience of pain, trauma, and the tragedy that troops in combat have all experienced is what makes the show so compelling to watch. But rather than turn inward and risk being one of 22 veterans each day that commit suicide, these veterans all bring that pain to the surface and use dark humor to deflect it in a positive direction. Which is something that troops have always done amongst themselves but rarely if ever allow civilians or family members to see. That is about to change.
The show has several intriguing guests who will share their own experiences and life stories. Marine Corps Corporal Paul Gardner, who was left paralyzed from the waist down after a bullet severed his spinal cord during a firefight in Iraq.
Army Sergeant First Class Joseph James, who deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom once and Operation Iraqi Freedom three times. On April 8, 2008, SFC James’ Humvee was struck simultaneously by two improvised explosive devices (IEDs). SFC James lost both legs in the blast. SFC James’ suffered a right below-knee amputation, a left above-knee amputation, and it is estimated that he underwent a total of approximately 18 surgeries throughout his recovery.
CW2 Army Special Forces Operator Nathan Smith who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He was wounded a third time on Sept. 10, 2018, just two days after being released from medical observation for a traumatic brain injury. Smith officially retired from the special operations forces in December 2018 on medical retirement.
E-3 HN Navy FMF Corpsman Shane Edmaiston who was injured by a hand grenade while on a foot patrol serving as an FMF Corpsman with 2nd Battalion 7th Marines on October 14, 2005. Due to a typical military SNAFU, a ground medevac never arrived and Edmaiston was forced to walk back to his forward operating base.
Army Staff Sergeant Vanessa Brown who did two total deployments, one each to Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Brown suffered six broken vertebrae when her convoy hit an IED that flipped their vehicle. Her upper spine is now held together by eight screws, rods, and plates. During her Iraq deployment, Brown was hit by gunfire in her rib cage. As she tumbled to the ground, several Iraqi locals dragged her to the side of the road and she feared being taken captive.
Army Staff Sergeant Robert Waples who was an Army Infantryman/SF in both the 115th Infantry and the 20th SFG(A) whose tours included Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He was wounded in a complex IED ambush during which he sustained a traumatic brain injury and nerve damage to his head. Waples was honorably retired on February 28, 2008.
Marine Corps Lance Corporal Anson Roberts who was stationed in Iraq in 2007 when a massive IED exploded and he was trapped inside of his truck unconscious. Roberts suffered first-degree flash burns on his face and second and third-degree burns on his hands and legs. Roberts ended up losing all of his fingers and nearly complete use of his hands. Roberts retired in 2009.
Marine Corps Private First-Class Sean Dillion, a Marine Corps veteran from the Vietnam War, Dillion was wounded when the NVA booby-trapped two 105’s wired up under the flak jacket and it exploded, severely injuring Dillion. The physical and mental toll haunted Dillion for many years that followed, the trauma that he discussed at length during his episode of Veterans Laughing Together.
O’Malley, a native of Queens, NY is also is the founder of the nonprofit foundation Irreverent Warriors, which is dedicated to preventing veteran suicide. He has organized several “Silkies Hike” events staged throughout the country, O’Malley and Irreverent Warriors have brought together more than 60,000 U.S. veterans together to help build social connection among veterans in order to reduce the number of veteran suicides.
O’Malley is also a published author, having penned the novel Embarrassing Confessions of a Marine Lieutenant, which lampoons his time in the Corps.
From the VET Tv website: “Veterans Laughing Together” is the 18th original series created by VET Tv, also known as Veteran Television. Based in Carlsbad and launched in 2017 by O’Malley, VET Tv sets out to recreate, parody, and celebrate the military experience for those who served. It uses dark and irreverent comedy to recreate the post-9/11 military veteran experience.
Everything VET Tv does is grounded in the same intention, to use humor and camaraderie to bring veterans together, to heal the mental wounds of war, and to prevent veteran suicide. VET Tv is available online at and via streaming apps on Apple, Google Play, Roku, and Xbox.
We look forward to this show which should bring the viewers not only plenty of laughter but plenty of tears as well.