Exclusive: Captain Sullenberger Reveals What He Thought of ‘Sully’
LifeZette talks to the man behind the 'Miracle on the Hudson' about his work with veterans — and about Clint Eastwood's movie
For the past 20 years, the American Veterans Center — a nonprofit in the Washington, D.C., area whose mission is to guard the legacy and honor the sacrifice of all veterans — has concluded its annual conference with a black-tie dinner event honoring some of America’s greatest military heroes over the past 75 years.
This year was no exception. The event, “American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes,” was held last weekend and featured musical performances and guest speakers who recalled fallen veterans and celebrated those who still serve our country today.
The event was hosted by Bear Grylls, most famous for starring in “Man vs. Wild” and “Running Wild” on NBC; he’s also a veteran of the British Special Forces.
Two of the most iconic figures received personal tributes, including Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot on the legendary Doolittle Raid of April 18, 1942. At 102 years old, he is the last survivor of the 80 Doolittle Raiders.
And the other was Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, the U.S. Air Force fighter pilot veteran and hero of the "Miracle on the Hudson" emergency landing of U.S. Airways flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009.
LifeZette asked Captain Sullenberger for his thoughts about "Sully," the 2016 hit movie about his miraculous water landing in the Hudson River — which saved 155 souls. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood and starred Tom Hanks as Sullenberger. The captain also talked about his passion for combating veterans issues, even long after his service ended.
Of Hanks' portrayal in "Sully," Captain Sullenberger said it was a "nuanced performance, and he's so good at his craft."
After Sullenberger's "Miracle on the Hudson," he began experiencing PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), something he never went through even during his five years in the Air Force.
"I believe depression is a very serious issue, and that's why I am involved in the Make the Connection initiative," he told LifeZette. "It's a public awareness campaign by the Department of Veterans Affairs that helps veterans find ways to better their lives and their families' lives [in terms of] adjusting to civilian life after the military."
The show will be nationally syndicated to over 100 million households.
Sullenberger's website further explains that Make the Connection "brings together veterans of all service backgrounds who share their personal stories to encourage men and women who have experienced similar feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, loneliness and depression to reach out for help. It can be hard to remember that you are not alone — millions of people are struggling with these same emotions and undergoing similar challenges. Make the Connection gives our veterans and their families the support they need to succeed and lead a fulfilling life — and is a fitting thank-you to these men and women for their service and sacrifice."
In addition to Sullenberger, other special guests who were honored at the American Valor event included these figures:
- Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, combat pilot with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in U.S. military history;
- Maj. Gen. Patrick Henry Brady, an air ambulance helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, who is personally responsible for saving more than 5,000 lives;
- Sgt. 1st Class Michael Schlitz, a U.S. Army Ranger wounded in an IED attack in Iraq, whose inspiring recovery led him to become an advocate for fellow warriors to speak out on the scourge of suicide facing our veterans;
- Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, a U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard veteran of three tours to Afghanistan, and one of six women to have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (the first was Amelia Earhart), and only the second to receive the award with valor; and
- Capt. Florent Groberg, an immigrant to the U.S. as a child, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen and Army officer before being awarded the Medal of Honor for fighting off a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
"American Valor: A Salute to Our Heroes" will be televised on Veterans Day, November 11, and will feature celebrities such as Mel Gibson, Mike Rowe, Gary Sinise, Diane Lane, Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman, all of whom lent their voices to tell true stories of service and valor.
The show will be nationally syndicated to over 100 million households worldwide, including WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles and WLS in Chicago, and broadcast to troops serving around the world and on Navy ships at sea on the American Forces Network.
To find out more about Make the Connection, click here.