But here is a story that touches on the social glitter of Entertainment Tonight, and Hollywood comes off the better for it.
It starts when actress Mila Kunis received a shot-in-the-dark invitation to the US Marine Corps Birthday Ball from Sgt Scott Moore. Kunis at the time was on the set of the movie “Friends with Benefits” with her co-star Justin Timberlake. Timberlake thought it was a great idea to accept and encouraged her to do so. (Kunis’ date is set for 18 November.) Encouraged by the story and Timberlake’s positive reaction on behalf of Kunis, Cpl Kelsey De Santis also made a Youtube invitation to Timberlake to escort her to her unit’s ball on the 12th.
What could have been another human interest/glamour story turned into something entirely better. Timberlake, already predisposed to be a fairly straight-arrow kind of nice guy (all the more remarkable in Hollywood), attended the event with De Santis and was awed by what unfolded. The Marine Corps Birthday Ball is the foremost of the US services’ celebrations, and invitations for non-Marines are sought after and appreciated. (Full disclosure: as a Marine, I attend whenever I have the opportunity, even here in Oregon which has divested itself of as much military presence as possible.)
Several news reports cited his reaction to the event, but none better than what Timberlake himself wrote in his own web log, partially excerpted here:
I’ve always been very vocal about my support of our Armed Forces. I’ve always felt like the offered us the opportunity to live our lives freely without fear that so many other nations have to endure still to this day. And, they do it without asking for anything in return. I had this very feeling walking into this dinner. So, to say I was stoked to be there would be more than accurate. . . .
[De Santis] seemed to me to be so humble and honest…. Very cool. She also simultaneously seemed like she was nervous about the whole evening and if I was going to enjoy myself. “Are you ok?” she asked 2 or 3 times. “I hope you are having fun. I know you will once my crew of friends get here to the table.” I have to tell you, it’s not every day that I meet a 23 year old girl and she’s more worried about if I’m having fun or if I’m comfortable! [a true rarity in Hollywood, I’m sure] It hit me all of a sudden that these were the type of people that look after us and our freedom…. Humble, concerned for others before themselves… This was the type of person our Marine Corps was building. I was really blown away. . . .
What happened then took me by such surprise that I was almost brought to tears. In fact, our whole table was….
They started the ceremony. And, the next thing I knew I was watching a video about Pearl Harbor/WW2 and the September 11 terrorist attacks…. It was a video with some first-hand accounts from some Marines who were there…. Telling their stories of the sights and sounds of war and rescue. So vivid and real. So honest but, so filled with a sense of compassion and adoration for this wonderful country. They spoke with a pride that only they could have acquired through their experience as a US Marine. There was a common theme that I began to notice as well…. No matter what the situation. No matter how dire…
They were there FIRST.
There on the front lines.
No questions… Just reaction.
While this tribute was playing, you could hear a pin drop. It was a surreal moment to be in that room with so many of our great Marines who have such a different type of connection to those stories. One that we who don’t serve will NEVER understand. It was familial. It was like they were listening to their own blood brothers. I glanced around the room at young men and women, spouses and soldiers… At kids way beyond their years, really… All so deeply entwined. Not just by battle, even though we who have never endured anything remotely close to those experiences and have NO position to comment on… But by having such life changing experiences through them and to not ever waver in their love and respect for our homeland. That’s what I saw. A faith in us that has been tested time and time again. And, through it all, NEVER a drop of doubt.
I was truly moved. . . .
To all of you who serve every day for us… Ensuring our freedom, I say: My deepest gratitude to you. I’ve met so many of my heroes… From Michael Jordan to Michael Jackson. And, nothing makes me feel more honor and pride than when I get to meet one of you. Last night changed my life and I will never forget it.
To people like me who get to benefit from this type of person… One with character and courage. With strength and bravery. With humility and honor… I say: Send your thanks. Do it however you can. Write a letter, type an email… Hell, buy ‘em a beer next time you run into someone from our Armed Forces in a bar. When they say thank you for that drink that cost you 3 bucks, they’ll mean it. They won’t take it for granted and, they won’t forget it.
Thank you Corporal Kelsey DeSantis. Thank you for inviting me. And, thank you for being my hero.The video that is being shown to all the Marine Corps Balls can be viewed here, and it is well worth your while, as are the full comments Timberlake's web log posting.
Thank you, Mr Timberlake, for your thoughtful and sincere comments about not only an event, but a special breed of people that many never really see. You are a class act.