Today we salute the military veterans who have either served in wartime or in peace. I think technically Veteran's Day specifically honors war veterans, but I don't see why the non-combat military personnel needs to be excluded. Still, in the movies, it's the war vets that are most memorable, and on this holiday, I'd like to present my list of seven favorites.
Obviously this list isn't comprehensive -- in fact, I don't feature any examples of the now-stereotypical Vietnam vet character, which would include Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July or Gary Senise in Forrest Gump. This is just a list of characters, positive and negative, that I prefer and which I think somewhat represents the wide and diverse scope of war vets.
"Homer Parrish" from The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, William Wyler)
About fifty years before Robert Zemeckis was digitally removing Gary Senise's legs to make him the disabled vet Lt. Dan of Forrest Gump, William Wyler directed a real amputee veteran named Harold Russell as the handicapped character Homer Parrish in this movie about the difficulty of coming home following World War II. Russell actually won an Oscar for his performance as Parrish, a former high school quarterback who returns to his childhood sweetheart, with whom he's engaged and for whom he no longer feels good enough. The actor/character has hooks for hands and appears in some sappy, obligatory scenes where he has trouble with them, but he ends up a guy that is beloved more than pitied, and it's almost easy to forget he has the handicap, especially after hearing him play piano with the false limbs.