The family of John Wayne’s character in The Green Berets, Maj. Gen. Michael Healy, recently opened up about his real-life character, and they shared he was just as heroic and kind in real life as he was on screen.
The movie, which dropped in 1968, followed Healy, named Michael Kirby in the film, on one of his five tours in special forces during the Vietnam War. But his service spanned much longer than that. By the time he retired in 1981, he had given 35 years to the military and was officially the country’s most senior Special Forces soldier after serving in both Korea and Vietnam.
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Maj. Gen. Healy passed away in 2018, three years after he was officially inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment.
While Speaking to the Associated Press, Healy’s wife, Jacklyn, remembered him as “knowledgeable” and “gentle,” despite earning the nickname “Iron Mike.” She fell in love with him almost immediately, when she was only 18. And the two enjoyed 69 years of marriage before he passed.
Though John Wayne depicted Healy as a steadfast and proud soldier in the movie, he was also a humble man who kept the details of his military career far from his family. And he never saw himself as a hero.
John Wayne’s Screenside Hero Always Put the Spotlight on His Fellow Soldiers
Furthermore, while his sons, Sean, Pat, and Mike, shared that he was proud of his military work, he understood the emotional and physical turmoil it took on service members, so he never wanted his children to follow in his footsteps.
“He was a warrior and a great warrior,” said Mike. “But he didn’t want us to go through battle and suffer.”
“I remember him saying, ‘I want you to do something constructive,’” added Mike, via U.S. News. “The addendum was, ‘Not destructive, like I have to do.’ He was glad to fight for his country, especially being in charge of boys he could protect. He was a great commander, and they loved him. But he didn’t want us to go.”
Healy, like many service members, also never talked about his personal time at war, whether it was the good, bad, or heroic. Those were stories that died with him. However, he did take the time to honor the men who fought alongside him, especially his fallen soldiers.
When he spoke at his Distinguished Member ceremony, he put all the attention on the others who fought instead of himself.
“They gave me their hearts and a lot of them their lives,” he shared. “I never forget them. Every night I speak to them.”