Before he became an actor, Jake McLaughlin of NBC’s “Believe” was in the U.S. Army, in the unit that was one of the first to enter Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. McLaughlin served four years and was injured twice: once when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near a tank in which he was riding; and again after another grenade exploded near him, and he wound up with back and spine injuries.
Returning home, he went to work in construction but segued into acting with a role as a soldier in the Tommy Lee Jones film “In the Valley of Elah.” Zap2it caught up with him during a press event in January, not long after reports surfaced that terrorist forces were re-entering previously secured territories.
Zap2it: You were in the Army during Iraq War, including the invasion of Baghdad. How do you feel about al-Qaeda reoccupying parts of Fallujah, which many U.S. Marines died to secure?
Jake McLaughlin: I lost a lot of faith in the leadership of this country a long time ago. It’s pretty sickening to me. We’re not on the same page. I was in Fallujah. My friends that I talk to, we talk about it every once in a while. It’s just one of those things where it’s pretty sickening, to be honest with you. There’s not much to say about it. What are you going to do?
We fought in Fallujah for months, and to know what we did over there, that it was all for just to let them take it back over … I don’t know.
Zap2it: What about combat scared you the most?
Jake McLaughlin: Mortar attacks are pretty scary — anything that’s out of your control, like sitting in the back of a Bradley [fighting vehicle] when a bomb explodes.
Zap2it: A link to a news article from your Wikipedia page said your back was injured by a nearby grenade explosion. How’s it doing?
Jake McLaughlin: It’s never good. It comes and goes. It’s pretty much a constant thing, but there are days when it’s much worse, as far as my back going out.
Zap2it: Are you involved in social media?
Jake McLaughlin: I’m not really into the social media stuff, to the dismay of the advertising team. I don’t want a Wikipedia page, then I find out today, from you, that I have one.