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Courage Under Fire (1995)

Character Name: Major Teagarden

Academy Award winner Denzel Washington stars with Meg Ryan in the drama COURAGE UNDER FIRE. In one of his most challenging roles to date, Washington portrays Lt. Colonel Nathaniel Serling, an armored tank commander serving in the Persian Gulf.

During an intense midnight attack at Al Bathra, Serling gives the order to fire at what he believes is an enemy T-54 tank. When the smoke clears, he is horrified to learn that he has destroyed one of his own tanks, killing several of Serling’s own men.

As the military conducts a hushed investigation into this incident of “friendly fire” Serling is sent home to Washington, reassigned to the purgatory of a paper-pushing desk job in Awards and Decorations at the Pentagon.

Haunted by the events in the Gulf, he anxiously awaits the results of an internal military investigation, but his superior and mentor, General Hershberg (MICHAEL MORIARTY) downplays the incident and assures him of his continuing support. Even though Tony Gartner (SCOTT GLENN), a reporter with the Washington Post, is already starting to ask questions, the army will not offer up Serling as a sacrificial lamb.

Serling is ordered to review Capt. Karen Walden’s (MEG RYAN) candidacy for a Medal of Honor, to be awarded to the Medevac pilot for her “courage under fire.” The honor, unhappily, is to be posthumous.

Expected to expedite the inquiry and rubber-stamp the approval for the Medal, Serling instead finds himself unavoidably drawn into her crew’s conflicting stories regarding Walden’s actions during a rescue mission. Serling begins to suspect a much more complicated tale, perhaps even a cover-up… but why?

Serling refuses to file an incomplete report. He confronts General Hershberg with his findings, and is threatened with the loss of his mentor’s protection from the internal investigators unless he heels to the will of the institution. In a desperate race against time, he must not only find the truth, but somehow manage to preserve his honor.

In reliving Karen Walden’s story, which unfolds through a series of flashbacks, Serling confronts the demons of his own nightmare in the Gulf. By solving the mystery surrounding her death he finds peace with his own actions and comes to understand the many meanings of real courage.

Brett Cullen plays Major Teagarden, the helicopter pilot that flies in and rescues Walden’s unit.