The initial intent of the episode was to explore the origin of Gibbs' given name, Leroy Jethro. It had been established in the "Heartland" episode in Season Six that Gibbs was named after his father's boyhood friend and business partner, an African-American man. Since Gibbs' father, Jackson (Ralph Waite), served in World War II, it followed that Gibbs' namesake would have done the same. We wanted the clue to finding Leroy Jethro Moore to be his receiving the Medal of Honor. But, in our research, we learned that no African-American was awarded the medal during the war. Interestingly, in 1997, Congress recognized the discrepancy and seven African-Americans were recommended to receive the nation's highest honor. We made one of them Leroy Jethro Moore, a Montford Point Marine. We, like most Americans, were not aware of the role the segregated unit played in World War II. But, ironically, as we were writing the episode, the Montford Point Marine veterans received Congressional Gold Medals, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Curiously, one of the scenes called for a photograph of Leroy Jethro Moore receiving his medal from President Clinton. Casting Billy Dee Williams as Moore was prescient. He actually had a photograph of himself with Clinton, taken in 1997. All we had to do was matte the medal around his neck.
Billy Dee was a pleasure to work with...and was idolized by the younger members of our crew, who forever remember him as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars films. His strong scenes with Gibbs and Jackson were highlights for us, as was our finally working with Ralph Waite, the consummate pro. In addition, it was our fourth episode with director Arvin Brown, a collaboration we always enjoy.