It's no surprise that Col. Greg Gadson was not intimidated by his first feature film role, as a wounded veteran in the recently released summer blockbuster, Battleship. The former West Point linebacker has, after all, participated in every major U.S. combat operation of the last two decades. In 2008, a year after he lost both his legs above the knee in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated beneath his vehicle, he served as an honorary captain for the Giants during New York's run to victory in Super Bowl XLII. (He received his second championship ring, for the Giants' win in Super Bowl XLVI, on May 16.) Two years later he took over as the director of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, which provides aid and assistance to injured and ill soldiers and veterans. He works with generals. He has met presidents. "I wasn't starstruck," says Gadson, 46, who played most of his scenes opposite former SI swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. "I mean, this was only Brooklyn's second film."
Reviewers have noted the parallels between Gadson and Harold Russell, who lost both his hands in a training accident during World War II and went on to win two Academy Awards in 1947 for his portrayal of an emotionally scarred Navy vet in The Best Years of Our Lives. Nobody is predicting an Oscar for Gadson, but his performance, which includes a gnarly fight with an alien invader—a scene for which he did most of his own stunt work—has been praised as authentic and inspiring.
So will there be more movies to come? Gadson, who took leave from his duties to make Battleship, says he's not sure. He is due to take command of the garrison at Fort Belvoir, Va., in June. He did enjoy acting, he says, though he admits to being less comfortable with the emotional side of the job. "Like in sports, you can only do what you have to do," he says, "and you can't control what everybody else is doing."