Navy Honors Diver and the Film "Men of Honor"

By Kozaryn, Linda D. | Sea Classics, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Navy Honors Diver and the Film "Men of Honor"


Kozaryn, Linda D., Sea Classics


Essential, yet unheralded, Navy divers work deep beneath the seas to save lives, recover remains and salvage equipment. It's a dangerous job, physically demanding, infinitely challenging.

Pentagon leaders honored the Navy's past and present deep-sea divers here and gave "four stars" to a new film about one of the Navy's diving heroes. "Men of Honor" tells the story of retired Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, the first African-American to become a Navy diver. Brashear, the son of a Kentucky sharecropper, joined the Navy in 1948, the same year President Harry S Truman ordered racial integration of the military. He overcame race, origin and, later, the loss of a leg, to become a "master diver."

The movie stars Academy-award winners Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert DeNiro. Gooding plays Brashear and DeNiro appears as Master Chief Billy Sunday, Brashear's hard-edged opponent-turned-mentor. The film portrays their courage, determination and perseverance.

"It's excellent, partly because of its veracity," Navy Secretary Richard Danzig said following the Washington premiere. "It addresses issues that are uncomfortable, like the history of discrimination in the Navy. But it also emphasizes things that are the best about the Navy - the sense of honor and the ability of people to get ahead within it."

Danzig attended the screening along with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, his wife Janet Langhart Cohen, members of the Navy's diving community and other guests. Cohen hailed the 20th Century-Fox production as one of the most inspirational he's seen.

"Carl Brashear will live in the hearts and minds of people the world over as a result of Cuba capturing that indomitable spirit that he has," Cohen said. That same spirit, he noted, "fires the hearts and minds of all who serve in the Navy and every service."

"The Navy will be proud to have a star of Gooding's caliber portray the real-life hero," Cohen continued. "I think the Navy will come away from this saying, This is what we do. This is who we are every day.' I think everyone's going to come away from this movie truly reflecting about the commitment of all of those who are serving in uniform." At a reception following the film, Langhart Cohen thanked Brashear for the inspirational story. "What you did made it possible for people like me to do all the things I'm able to do. You are a part of our greatest generation."

Cohen presented the Secretary of Defense Award for Outstanding Public Service to Brashear for his 42 years of service both as a member of the military and the federal civilian work force. …

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