I dropped my strong hand to the ground — white-knuckled and ready to go — in the best three-point stance I could muster as a first-timer. I was both excited and scared as I stared across at my opposition. If he was afraid, he sure didn’t show it. The ring of the coach’s whistle marked my inaugural gridiron battle in full pads. I stumbled out of my stance and slammed face mask to face mask – and like that, I was on my back. As the haze lifted from my eyes, I saw the hand of my foe extended in my direction. We locked arms and with his crooked smile that conveyed both sympathy and strength, he peeled me off the ground. That was the first time I met one of my oldest friends, Milo Ventimiglia.
Milo has an extensive Hollywood resume written with the blood and sweat of over twenty years in the industry. It’s funny now to look back on all that has happened since we were kids. I once joked that his nerve-damaged mouth made him look like Sylvester Stallone. Fast-forward 15 years, and he’s playing opposite Stallone as Rocky’s son in Rocky Balboa. Go figure.
Like anybody trying to make a living, he’s had high points and low points. Periods where things couldn’t seem to get any better and periods where they couldn’t seem to get any worse. Despite all the ups and downs, there’s one thing he’s always made time for, and that’s service to others. He has a well-earned reputation for being generous with his time and down-to-earth with his colleagues and the people he meets on the street. Milo, the son of a veteran like myself, has supported multiple military charities and participated in numerous USO tours both stateside and abroad.
There are many in Hollywood who see their celebrity as an opportunity for activism. They take to Twitter or Facebook and posture themselves for or against an issue and wage a war. To each his own, of course. But service is an act of humility that emphasizes the dignity of the human person, lived out not unlike the great actors of old, the classic Hollywood icons like John Wayne and Bob Hope.
Service — the humble giving of one’s self – brings hope to those who can’t get enough of it. Traveling overseas to visit the troops is a minor sacrifice in the face of what those with whom he’s visiting have made, but it matters. It matters to the men and women he visits, if only for a moment. But it’s a great moment. An uplifting moment. Milo and others who travel on USO tours bring peace to turmoil. The world and the country are in the middle of a very tumultuous time with no shortage of passionate opinions. But it’s humility — it’s service to others — that is what brings the greatest hope for peace in the future. Regardless of your calling, it’s safe to say we can all use a little more peace in our lives.
On Feb. 8, Milo will be honored as Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals 2019 Man of the Year — a highly prestigious award from the country’s oldest theatrical organization. The honor is presented annually to “performers who have made lasting and impressive contributions in entertainment.” Past recipients include some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Tom Hanks, Robert Downey Jr. and Harrison Ford.
This is an honor he has certainly earned, but it’s what he does off the screen that really makes him a classic. I’m a career law enforcement guy. I’m not qualified to opine with any degree of credibility on Milo’s acting, but I know this much — Harvard got it right when they said Milo has made lasting and impressive contributions, but there are military professionals around the world who know it to be far more than just in entertainment. You could say he’s always had a knack for picking people up.
Jeff Cortese (@JeffreyCortese) a financial crimes manager in the private sector, is the former acting chief of the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit. Before his 11-year career with the bureau, he worked as a dignitary protection agent with the U.S. Capitol Police and served on the security detail for the Speaker of the House.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.