Gardens of Stone

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this seldom seen 1987 release stars James Earl Jones, James Caan, Anjelica Huston, D.B. Sweeney, Dean Stockwell, Mary Stuart Masterson and Laurence Fishburne. Despite its all-star cast, the film was released on a limited basis and received mixed reviews, though it earned the admiration of Chicago’s very own Roger Ebert for its unflinching look at the heartbreak of war.

“Gardens of Stone” refers to Arlington National Cemetery. Jones and Caan play a couple of old sergeants. Both highly decorated combat Veterans, they are the top NCO’s in a unit assigned to be Honor Guards at military funerals. It is 1968 and an increasing number of those funerals are for soldiers killed in Vietnam.

Frustrated at playing a “toy soldier,” Caan takes a young soldier (D.B. Sweeney) under his wing, determined to pass on to him the survival skills he acquired through combat in two wars. The young soldier is the son of a deceased comrade who Jones and Caan served with previously. They mentor the kid as he excels at Army life and gets accepted into Officer Candidate School.

Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry, he gets married and volunteers for Vietnam. He is motivated by patriotism and a sense of duty and he wants to be in on the action. He also wants to earn a Combat Infantryman Badge: the hallmark of a fighting soldier. Both his mentors have earned theirs and he earns his … posthumously.

To view the trailer, click here.

To read Ebert’s review, click here.

To rent this movie, click here.

To buy the DVD, click here.

To buy the book the movie is based on, click here.

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Steve Corbo

A founding member and corporate secretary of the Italian American Veterans Museum, Steve Corbo is the museum’s curator and a military consultant for Fra Noi. He has served for 25 years as president of S.A. Corbo & Associates Inc., providing professional liability insurance to health care providers. The son and nephew of World War II veterans and a passionate military historian for over 50 years, he has written and published articles on a variety of topics, including military history, and serves as the military consultant for Fra Noi, the Chicago-area Italian-American magazine.

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