LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Jeff Struecker’s character is on the big screen, but he wants everyone to know one thing before they see it:
It’s not a children’s movie.
“Black Hawk Down,” released in January, depicts the infamous peacekeeping mission to Mogadishu, Somalia, that turned bloody in October 1993. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed, and Americans will forever remember the images of Somalis dragging bodies through the streets.
Struecker, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was there. Now a chaplain with the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, N.C., Struecker saw the movie before it was released. The movie’s producer and director set up a special screening for all U.S. soldiers who fought in Somalia.
It is rated R for graphic scenes and excessive language.
“It’s a very real depiction of what happened,” Struecker said. “… Historically, the movie is extremely accurate.”
While there is plenty of foul language, Struecker says his character — played by Brian Van Holt — does not curse.
“I am pleased with the movie,” he said. “My character, especially, is one of the reasons I am pleased. Brian Van Holt was very cautious about making the movie as realistic as possible. He wanted to portray me as accurately as possible.
“He went to painstaking efforts to do that. He called me on the phone on location while they were shooting the movie and he said, ‘Hey, I need some info on this scene.’ He e-mailed me several times and we stayed in contact.”
Struecker said several people have asked him, “Is that how it happened?” Struecker simply replies, “No, it was worse.”
“But I don’t think the (studio) could have made it any worse and people have still been able to stomach the situation.”
For those who want to know more about the operation but don’t want to see the movie, a History Channel documentary may be the best bet. The cable station put together a two-hour documentary, “The True Story of Black Hawk Down” (graphic scenes, some language), which uses several excerpts from an interview with Struecker. It airs again Feb. 2 at 8 a.m. (ET).
“I am very happy with the documentary,” he said. “If you really want to know about the movie, but you’re concerned about the R rating, watch the documentary first.
“The movie’s very fast-paced. You’ll have to be on the edge of your seat the whole time to keep up with what’s going on.”
Struecker, who was a U.S. Army Ranger in Somalia, said he had mixed emotions when he first saw the movie.
“The first time I saw the movie, the lights went down and the movie began to roll, I got very nervous for some reason — almost like the first time I preached,” he said. “My heart was pounding and I had to stop myself and think, ‘It’s just a movie. It’s not real.’
“The first time we all saw the movie together, it was a very somber occasion. No one said a word during the entire movie. There were a lot of wet eyes by the time the movie was over. No one said a word — even after the credits rolled and the lights came back on. We just sat there for a few minutes before we actually said anything.”
The movie is based on a book by author Mark Bowden.