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'Call of Duty' video game models new character after retired Green Beret

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By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: May 5, 2020

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — A Special Forces veteran with Fayetteville ties is one of the newest operators — or characters that gamers can select — in the latest "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" and "Warzone" video game series.

In an interview with Task & Purpose, video game representatives confirmed that the operator Ronin in the game's third series is modeled after retired Master Sgt. Tu Lam.

Lam may be the first "real" veteran the video game series has modeled one of its character operators after, Dave Stohl, co-studio head at Infinity Ward, told Task & Purpose.

Infinity Ward, the Los Angeles-based studio that created the "Call of Duty" franchise, helped develop Ronin.

Daniel "Ronin" Shinoda, a "one man army," was introduced as a playable operator April 21, an Activision Games Blog reported.

Activision is a developer and publisher of interactive entertainment, including "Call of Duty."

Lam told the Activision Games Blog that representatives of Infinity Ward reached out to him to capture his weapons and gun movements that are used for the Ronin operator.

Lam's face and body were also scanned for the game.

"It was amazing to see how much work is put into making me an operator," Lam told the Activision Games Blog. "I can't begin to tell you how honored I was to be offered such an amazing role."

The Activision blog stated that in the game, the character Ronin searches for a resolution to the near-endless conflict in Urzikstan and is part of the coalition for Warcom, which is a faction of operators from around the world through the game.

Lam himself was "born a child of war" and spent about 14 years off and on and during war as a Green Beret, he told the Activision Games Blog.

Lam was born in Saigon, Vietnam, a year before the fall of Saigon.

In 1979, his family escaped the communist regime in a boat as refugees, as the boat drifted for months until Russians towed it to Indonesia, where his family stayed for a year.

Lam's aunt married a Special Forces soldier who sponsored his family to come to the U.S. in Fayetteville, Lam said.

Though he said the family faced racism, Lam said his mother remarried a Special Forces soldier, who he said inspired him to become a Green Beret.

He was 8 when he discovered Fort Bragg.

"At that early age, I was indoctrinated in the ways of a Special Forces soldier," Lam said in a separate 2017 interview with The Veterans Project. "I learned how to speak different languages, learned how to take apart many different types of weapons, and learned how to properly navigate the backwoods of North Carolina. I was taught how to navigate the stars and build my own compasses."

At 10 years old, he knew he wanted to become a Green Beret.

After completing basic training and airborne and Ranger school in 1993, Lam graduated from the Special Forces qualification course in 1998.

He was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group and was part of a combat rescue and hostage rescue team in Asia.

After 9/11, he specifically requested an assignment in the Middle East. He was later assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group working with a counterterrorist unit in Africa.

"You put the teams ahead of yourself," Lam told The Veterans Project of what he learned while being a Green Beret. "As a leader, you always put the team first. That's your family. The biggest thing is to lead by example, be a positive role model, and when times are hard, you have to be the strong one."

Lam retired in 2016 and operates a tactical equipment and training business that is also called Ronin.

In a Feb. 15 post on the business' Instagram page, he explained that ronin means "a wandering samurai who no longer serves a lord."

Lam told The Veterans Project that doctors later found he had a traumatic brain injury that affected his mood.

He'd later flush his prescription pills down the toilet and read "The Book of Five Rings" by Miyamoto Musashi, who he said was a ronin.

The ronin, Lam said, meditated in a Buddhist cave while dying of stomach cancer in 1600.

Lam said Mushai's teaching that "you must fight like you already died" resonated with him and pushed him to evolve and give back.

Along with Bushido, or warrior code of values and ethics, Lam said he identifies as a modern day ronin who wants to give back and share knowledge .

In a March 28 Instagram post, Lam wrote that "Ronin" is not "just a word or brand," but is a mindset to be better than the day before and to "live a life of higher purpose."

"As I seek to better myself, I seek to better others; and this my friends — is Ronin — masterless in thoughts and opinions, an individuality and a desire to live a life of higher purpose," he wrote. "We all have a little Ronin in all of us."

The "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" Ronin operator is available to unlock by purchasing the "Ronin Operator Bundle" in the Call of Duty in-game "store."

"It's an honor to be a part of this game," Lam told the Activision Game Blog. "'Call of Duty' is a popular game around the world and especially in our military. As a former soldier, I can tell you how the game provides morale and stress relief to our service members while deployed."

©2020 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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