Vans Girls at Camp Gritty It’s Do or DIY: Button Bar
Embroidering our backpacks just wasn’t enough, so we upped the decorative ante with a button bar for campers to add some more flair to their Realm Backpacks. We saw everything from funny phrases and matching cabin crew names (shoutout to “Brandon’s B5 Babes”) to intricate handprinted watercolor buttons. You better bet we collected buttons from all of these talented campers to pin on our own backpacks!
Who’s playing Winters? Who’s playing Winters?”
This whisper was caught on the wind and ricocheted off the barrack walls of Longmoor Camp.
It was March 2000. Myself and forty-nine other men were at boot camp, in training for what was to become one of the most successful TV series of all time, Band of Brothers.
It followed Easy Company of the 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from the jump into Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944, until VE-Day, almost a year later.
This band of brothers had had a leader, a man whose skills as a soldier were second to none, a hero to his men and to subsequent generations, and the boys in the barracks that day we all first met were keen to know who was going to play him.
Well, it was me.
Every young actor wanted to be in Band of Brothers. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks were producing for HBO and it quickly became the project that everyone had to be “seen” for. But it wasn’t just the high profile of the producers that excited everyone.
It was the story—a true story about real people and the extraordinarily heroic things they did in the Second World War. And we’d been asked to tell it.
I remember, as I arrived at Longmoor Camp for training that first day, I still wasn’t fully aware of the enormity of what I was being asked to do.
Everyone had been telling me, “You’re the guy. He’s the main guy.” But I hadn’t seen all the scripts (they weren’t all written yet), and was equally being told it was an ensemble piece. It was. But Winters was its spine.
Two things then happened that made me sit up.
I discovered that the actors living in the States (as opposed to those cast out of the UK) had made contact with the veterans they were going to portray, and had already formed considerable friendships. They’d had a few whiskies (depends on your definition of a few!), shared many stories, laughed and cried. The actors were ready to tell the vets’ stories and ready to do justice to the achievements of their new friends. It was infectious.
The second thing that shook me was a conversation I had with Donnie Wahlberg, who was playing Sergeant Carwood Lipton, a man also decorated for his bravery.
We’d been yelled at and driven relentlessly on our first day’s training out in the field.
No concessions were made to us being actors; in fact, the opposite was true, and we were exhausted.
It was nighttime, a few minutes before lights out, and I found myself and Donnie in the first moment of peace we’d had since arriving, leaning out of the top-floor windows of our barracks, facing each other across the concrete of the parade ground, discussing our fears and anxieties about doing these men justice in the nine long months ahead of us.
The night was still and Donnie said in a calm voice, “I don’t know you, but the fact they’ve asked you to portray this man means you have my respect already.”
And in that moment I knew.
I knew what Dick Winters meant to people.
He was a hero, an icon.
Dick kept diaries in the war. He wrote letters home. He had several folders of memories. And I had them all for research.
But I had never met him.
At boot camp I called him for the first time, and through a series of phone calls I set about slowly trying to earn his trust. What emerged as I got to know him was a man not given to late nights in bars, reminiscing, not given to romanticizing his past glories.
He was a man whose recollections were analytical, pragmatically ordered, not emotional, a man who was much happier answering questions on technical maneuvers or what boot he wore his knife on (the left by the way), than what he felt, as he found himself isolated from his men, staring at a whole company of Germans, on top of that dyke in Holland, for example.
"I was always just concentrating on getting the job done,” would be his typical reply.
It dawned on me what a happy coincidence it was that I had felt slightly removed from the “hype” at the beginning of the job, a little detached.
For it was precisely this ability to distance himself from any hysteria and to remain calm and lucid in moments of danger that made Dick Winters a natural leader of men.
But not only that. Once I had his trust, I found a warmth, a wickedly dry sense of humor and a willingness to listen that is not often found in men of power.
After the series had been filmed I went and visited Dick and Ethel at home in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We chatted and joked as he showed me some of his mementos and walked me around their beautiful farm (another major achievement in his life).
He treated me like a son and told me that he thought I’d done a pretty good job portraying him, although he was unsure at first!
I thought, yup, that’s him. Authoritative, nurturing and honest all at once.
I felt immensely proud that I’d had the opportunity to portray this man, a decorated war hero whose story I’d been entrusted with. It had needed a precision and an unfailing commitment to the truth.
It’s what Dick always demanded, of himself and others.
And as I sit in my trailer on another film set writing this now, the big band sound of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” swingin’ in the background on my stereo, I’m reminded of what Dick used to say to me during filming, “Just hang tough!” but always with a twinkle in his eye… .
We’re lacing up our Sk8-Hi’s and hitting the road to attend Charlavail’s first ever Camp Gritty. This isn’t just any ordinary summer camp, it’s a weeklong getaway catered to crafty creatives, with ‘Girl Power’ flowing through their veins. So what does a Vans Girl pack for camp? We’re sharing all of our essentials to get you through those hot Tennessee days, and chilly summer nights.
We’ve packed our Old Skool II Backpack with some of our favorite Vans Girls pieces, starting with our latest obsession— the Meridian Mixed Flannel. We love this fun, colorful flannel because it can be worn around the waist during the day, and as a light jacket after the sun sets. Of course when you’re going to be outdoors in the hot summer sun, the Reek Havoc Tee Dress and matching Dugout Baseball Hat are a must. The best thing about this dress is how simple and easy it is to wear. Plus it looks extra cute with a pair of Sk8-Hi’s! Another one of our staple outfits is Denim Shorts and the Vandal Girl Top (in stores) paired with our favorite Semirimless Cat Sunglasses and a bandana necktie for a cute outdoorsy look. Of course, we couldn’t leave home without our Boom Boom Jacket for chilly nights hanging around the campfire.
Based off the imagine: Imagine one of the Company farting so bad, it wakes everyone up and turns into a Whodunnit, but nobody knows that it was actually you that did it.
Your stomach twisted into another knot as you shifted on your bed roll. Inside you were full of gas from the stew you had shared with the Company, although they seemed to digest it much better. You tried to stay as still as you could as you began to sweat from the building heat in your bowels; it was only gas, you knew, and eventually it was going to make its escape. You clenched you eyes shut tightly as you tried to let the fart go slowly, silently. Oh, how you failed.
haha this is a venting comic (literally) based on how i react when im anxious (i try to use non-scarring short-term pain to divert my thoughts away)… i had a particularly bad day today regarding mental health, it was quite scary, so i had this reaction a lot to my thoughts and it wasnt good so i made this comic instead.
oh also this references the time four cadets broke their wrists on a camp one year by punching a wall when they were pissed off.
i think drawing on skin is good. especially with a ballpoint pen because it stings but only a tiny little bit. and pen is marking. so it helps me focus!
poor dirk… his only help is a pair of shitty glasses
The perfect Camp Gritty breakfast? Waffles of course! There’s nothing better than waking up to the smell of freshly cooked waffles before a fun-filled day of creativity and crafts. Luckily, the Vans Girls crew was on site at the campgrounds to cook up vegan & vegetarian waffles for 130 kick-ass campers. Happy National Waffle Day! Are you celebrating by wearing your waffle soles?! We sure are.