Veterans Day Q&A: 'Gotham' star J.W. Cortes and Kate Hoit of the Got Your 6 campaign
This year, a new study showed that the general public only sees extreme depictions of America's bravest on film and television. Got Your 6, the non-profit campaign that commissioned the survey, is working to dispel common myths about veterans and normalize how they're depicted in Hollywood.
This is a goal that's dear to J.W. Cortes' heart. He now stars on hit show "Gotham," but he started his career as a U.S. Marine. He credits the values he learned in the Marines for his on-screen success today and cares deeply about ensuring that depictions of U.S. soldiers on film and television are accurate.
Together with Kate Hoit, Army veteran and director of communications for the Got Your 6 campaign, they are sharing their experiences with AOL.com and opening up about the damaging stereotypes that veterans face.
See photos of J.W. Cortes and Kate Hoit:
SEE ALSO: 3 Doors Down rocker gets candid about his time in Navy
AOL.com: Why did you join the U.S. military?
J.W. Cortes: I joined quite honestly to escape a really tough situation. Growing up on a block during the crack epidemic in Brooklyn that the NYPD nicknamed "Little Vietnam" helps to set the landscape of what we dealt with on a day-in-day-out basis. In a lot of ways, going to Iraq wasn't my first "battlefield" experience -- Brooklyn was.
Kate Hoit: I joined at the age of 17 when I was a junior in high school in December 2001. Initially I joined because I thought it would help me with a career in federal law enforcement. But when I deployed and worked as a photojournalist — writing and snapping photos for our base newspaper The Anaconda Times, I fell in love with writing. When I came home I began writing and earned a degree in journalism. Then I went on to get a Masters degree in nonfiction writing from Johns Hopkins. [I've] been writing and working in communications ever since.
AOL.com: What does it mean to you to have served in the U.S. military?
J.W. Cortes: Serving for me was and will always be a two-fold experience. In one respect, I learned what patriotism and service was through my father who always taught us about the great sacrifices made by our service men and women. The idea of serving one day was spurred by him. Separately, enlisting and serving saved my life and made me the man I am today. I know wholeheartedly that the reason I'm able to withstand much of what we go through as artists, as members of law enforcement and in daily life is because of the skills I learned and practiced in the Marine Corps.
Kate Hoit: My time in the Army has quite literally shaped my entire life. It allowed me to see my potential as a soldier, student and now in my career. I owe my success and growth to the Army.
AOL.com: Can you explain what "Got Your 6" means?
Kate Hoit: In the military, "Got your 6" means "I've got your back." The saying originated with World War I fighter pilots referencing a pilot's rear as the six o'clock position. Got Your 6 chose this term, because it is emblematic of the many skills that veterans bring back into their communities when they return home.
Learn more about the Got Your 6 campaign:
AOL.com: What are the biggest misconceptions most people have about veterans?
J.W. Cortes: Mostly, and not that there isn't any truth to it, is that we're broken. That we're not as capable as another group of professionals because of what we've been through. But I would argue that in many respects we're very capable, we usually exceed and excel in the areas of leadership, thinking outside of the box and mission critical orientation.
Kate Hoit: Some of the stereotypes and misconceptions of veterans is that we all struggle with unemployment, homelessness and post-traumatic stress disorder, or that we're less educated than our civilian counterparts. And while some do struggle with these issues — on the whole, we are a resilient bunch. Early this year, Got Your 6 commissioned a study that revealed that the general public currently reports seeing only extreme depictions of veterans — as either heroic or broken — on film and television. These portrayals significantly influence public perception of veterans overall, yet are not representative of the actual veteran population.
AOL.com: Who is the one person that you served with whom you most look up to?
J.W. Cortes: I've always had tremendous respect and admiration for the Marine Corps emphasis on small unit leadership. We as Marines, spend much of our time in the beginning of our careers really learning the smaller more intricate lessons of survival and accountability from our Corporals and Sergeants. I don't believe other branches of the military give and expect as much responsibility from its junior enlisted.
Kate Hoit: I served with so many soldiers who have influenced me throughout the years. But today, it is my fellow Tillman Military Scholars who I most admire and who push me to always challenge myself. They have all these amazing stories of service and now they're working to strengthening their communities here at home. When I'm in their company, I become so inspired — they keep me motivated and you can't fail when you're around them.
AOL.com: What do most people forget or overlook about the men and women serving in the military?
J.W. Cortes: At times, there is a distancing of "I've never served so I don't really know who you are or what you've gone through." I would dare say that we're much more alike than we are different and want many of the same things for example -- to be appreciated for a job well done, to have our [families] become successful and to continue the legacy of our country's principles. The same can be said of our Officers who are without a doubt the finest you'll find anywhere in the world.
Kate Hoit: I think some forget that those who have served or those who are currently serving are essentially their neighbors. We come from all walks of life. We're diverse. We all joined for different reasons. We're highly trained and educated. And when we come home we are looking for our next mission. We are looking for our next opportunity to serve.
AOL.com: How has your service prepared you for what you do today?
J.W. Cortes: To portray Detective Alvarez on the FOX prime-time hit series "Gotham," I rely on various lessons I learned while serving in the Marine Corps: discipline, tenacity and having a clear plan of action.
Kate Hoit: My military service placed my life on a trajectory. Through my time in the Army, I found my voice. I learned the power of storytelling and the importance of how to properly communicate. Since I returned home, I have worked in the veteran space — from digital engagement to congressional communications at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Got Your 6. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't joined the military.
See other celebs that have served in the military:
More Veterans Day coverage from AOL.com:
Veteran Ron Steptoe shares how the military prepared him for his future career
How Matt Zeller is helping translators who aid US troops
3 Doors Down star gets candid about time in Navy