‘This Is Us’: Why Did Jack Lie About His Military Service in Vietnam?

This Is Us is ready to delve deeper into Jack’s backstory, but fans already know the Pearson patriarch told at least one big lie about his past. On the most recent This Is Us episode, “A Manny-Splendored Thing,” Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) was haunted by Vietnam flashbacks as he used a punching bag as a way to deal with his drinking problem. But the flashback snippet also showed Jack carrying an M-16, meaning his military service was far more front-line than he originally let on.

This Is Us fans may recall that last season, in the Season 1 finale “Moonshadow,” Jack helped fix elderly neighbor Mrs. Peabody’s car in a flashback scene set in the early 1970s. At the time, Jack told Mrs. Peabody he had worked as a mechanic in Vietnam.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman said Vietnam will be a big piece of the puzzle surrounding Jack’s story and it will play out throughout the second season of the NBC drama.

“Clearly there’s a new piece of the puzzle toward Jack being added on here, which is Vietnam,” Fogelman told EW.

“And the fact that you’re flashing to something when he’s hitting that punching bag that doesn’t quite match up with what he’s told his family about his experience in Vietnam is a place that we’re certainly going to be exploring not just this season but as the series continues.”

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Now that Jack was seen in the thick of war, exiting a military helicopter and carrying a machine gun, viewers can expect to find out a lot more about how his experiences in Vietnam affected his life.

“We’ll certainly get deeper into it as we go,” the This is Us creator said.

“Jack has clearly has packed a lot of stuff down and part of his journey, through the steps of AA moving forward, is going to have to sit in some of the stuff that he’s avoided for so long.”

While Fogelman promises Jack’s Season 2 storyline will lead us to the events surrounding his death, his full backstory will first be explored—including his difficult childhood and his years in the war.

“You can’t explore this man without understanding what happened to him, very specifically in Vietnam, so that’s going to be a longer story that we’ll slowly start embarking on this season — and really will be a bigger part of the future of the show,” he said.

So why did Jack play down his military service to his family and to Mrs. Peabody? This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia says his character is “holding on to a lot” after seeing the atrocities of war first hand and that he may be playing down his service as a defense mechanism.

“I think Jack in his younger years saying he was just a mechanic is just a way to put off other questions, because Jack had adjusted his own perspective on life post-war and moved forward,” Ventimiglia told EW. “It’s nothing anyone can ever expect to have, but Jack was fortunate enough to have a clean perspective moving forward and manage whatever emotional distress he experienced while he was over in Vietnam.”

Milo Ventimiglia also revealed that the show will spend a lot more time exploring Jack Pearson’s younger years as the mystery of his life—and death—unravels.

See the video below for more on This Is Us and Jack Pearson’s Vietnam past.

[Featured Image by Ron Batzdorff/NBC]