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Green Beret, Hockey Star, Activist and Dad: Michael Mantenuto Was So Much More Than the Actor from Miracle

Many fans recognize Michael Mantenuto from his role in Disney’s Miracle, but those who knew him best will remember him more for his work offscreen as a father, soldier, hockey star and community activists.

“He was so much more than just a Miracle actor,” Teena Lepene, a friend of the actor, tells PEOPLE. After a short career in show business, Mantenuto joined the Army. He was a Special Forces sergeant stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington at the time of his death. He was 35.

The actor was found on Monday afternoon after sustaining a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the King County medical examiner’s office in Seattle, Washington, tells PEOPLE. His death has officially been ruled a suicide. He’s survived by his wife, Kati, and two children: daughter Ava and son Leo.

Lepene, who knew Mantenuto from his special forces training at Fort Bragg, says, “[He] was awesome and charismatic, people were naturally drawn to him.” While going through a rigorous special forces qualification course, Lepene says Mantenuto found time to start a youth hockey program on post with MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation), a network of support and leisure services for soldiers and their families.

“This course is intense and incredibly time consuming, but he found time for his passion and youth. People’s needs always came before his own, he was so giving,” she adds. At Fort Bragg, Lepene notes, the special forces corps trains around the clock for a minimum of 16 to 18 months.

In addition, Lepene says the actor “started a substance abuse program to save lives,” adding, “He is such an amazing person … He has touched a lot of people’s lives.”

Lt. Col. Robert Bockholt, Director of Public Affairs for U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, tells PEOPLE, “Our deepest condolences go out to Michael Mantenuto’s family, friends, and teammates,” adding, “The cause of death is still under investigation.”

Mantenuto enlisted in 2010, two years after making his final film, Surfer Dude. He attended special forces training in 2013, and went on to become a communications sergeant. He was assigned to 1st Special Forces Group, where he was stationed as a communications sergeant until his death.

He also attended SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) training — a notoriously tough course that prepares soldiers for when they are lost behind enemy lines, or are taken prisoner.

He deployed in Operation Inherent Resolve, the military’s operational name for the fight against ISIS, according to Bockholt. “He was a decorated service member,” Buckholt says. His awards and decorations include the following: Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defense Service Member, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and Good Conduct Medal with two knots.

In the wake of his death, social media was flooded with posts from friends and fellow soldiers sharing memories and well wishes for his family. “In life you find those that inspire you and mentor you. Those that take the time to impact lives of others,” wrote Samantha…

The Movie Date That Solidified J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dislike of Walt Disney

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends and carried on epic literary and religious discussions. They also went to see Disney’s first animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, together in 1938 or ’39. They hated it. Tolkien was particularly repulsed by how Disney portrayed dwarves.

Years later, in a 1964 letter to a Miss J.L. Curry at Stanford University, likely…

Disney Dates ‘Lion King’ and ‘Frozen 2,’ Pushes Fifth ‘Indiana Jones’ Film to 2020

Lion King Live-Action Remake

Disney dated a slew of films on Tuesday, including “Star Wars: Episode IX,” the live-action “Lion King” reboot, and “Frozen 2.” It also moved the openings for “Indiana Jones,” “Wreck-It Ralph 2,” “Wrinkle in Time,” and others.

The fifth film in the long-running “Indiana Jones” series will now gallop into theaters on July 10, 2020. It was previously slated to debut on July 19, 2019. The delay isn’t surprising. Director Steven Spielberg still has several projects on his dance card, including “Ready Player One,” a big-screen adaptation of a best-selling science-fiction novel, and a drama about the Pentagon Papers with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. The delay also gives the filmmakers more time to cook up a script that both Spielberg and Harrison Ford approve of, though it does mean that the action star will be in his late seventies when the film opens. By that point many globe-trotting adventurers would be forgiven for thinking about retirement.

Disney’s announcement will likely have ripple effects throughout the industry. The studio is the leader in terms of market share. Because it owns the rights to Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Pixar’s libraries, it has an enormous competitive advantage over other studios that don’t have the same reservoir of animated favorites and superheroes. That enables them to snap up the prime summer, spring, and holiday release dates for its films for years in advance, planting a flag that requires other studios to stake out other parts of the calendar where their films won’t be dwarfed by “Avengers” and “Star Wars” sequels and spinoffs.

There was a great deal of musical chairs involved in all the release dating. The company also…

Hold the Phone! Disney Just Opened a Dress Shop for Adults

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a little bit jealous of the little girls who get to go to the Disney salon and come out looking like their favorite princess. When I first saw this headline, I thought, “Well, this is cool, but I’m not sure I’d be down for wandering around the park dressed like a little kid.”

Well, it turns out Disney and I are on the same wavelength.

They don’t want to dress adult ladies like little girls. They want to dress us in Disney princess-inspired dresses. And good heavens, have their designers hit the nail on the head.

I want to buy them all.

This dress inspired by Belle and Beauty and the Beast

Disney Is Fulfilling One of Nikola Tesla’s Science Dreams

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You may not have known this, but The Walt Disney Company does much more than animated films and amusement parks. Its Disney Research arm, with divisions all over the world, has the mission to deliver all kinds of scientific and technological innovations. From video processing and robotics to behavioral sciences and materials research, Disney has it covered. Now, its researchers have brought us what we’ve all been waiting for (even without knowing it)—ubiquitous wireless power transfer or, in other words, electricity with no wires.

So, what is it going to take to have your phone charged without a power outlet and a charger? In layman’s terms, an apartment especially built for that purpose with a huge copper pole propped in the middle. In non-layman’s terms, the…

A First Look Inside Disney’s Avatar Theme Park

Walt Disney World Resort has transformed CGI into reality – it is opening Pandora, the magical world of Avatar, and we’re already planning to go there.

This newest massive expansion to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is scheduled to open its doors on May 27th. It will feature boat rides through a bioluminescent rainforest, walks under the floating mountains, and many other mysterious experiences. The journey through Pandora will culminate in an encounter with a Na’vi shaman who sends positive energy out into the forest through her music.

Bob Chapek, the chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, claimed that the new attraction represents a leap forward for the entire Florida resort. “From the place-making…