Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) —
For those not directly connected with an active-duty military person or a veteran, you often only hear their stories vaguely, or in passing. Now, two very different people have created Homefront Heroes to deliver veterans’ stories to you in a very compelling, human way.
Mike Allen, a Microsoft executive in their public sector division, and Brad Keller, a producer and film distributor, live 2,000 miles apart. Despite the differences in their jobs and location, however, they have teamed up to commit their free time to telling the stories of the wounded warrior community.
“We created Homefront Heroes to open a window on the lives of our wounded warriors,” Mike said, “Not to focus on their injuries, but to highlight their American spirit, their courage and how they are reclaiming their lives. They are the role models America needs.”
Homefront Heroes tells the unique stories of courage, commitment and inspiration from our wounded warriors, their family members and those that are stepping forward to help them recover.
The venture was started after Mike and Brad had a dinner with a group of wounded warriors in 2008. And despite their differences on the surface, the two men share some commonalities. Mike had been to Walter Reed many times and heard their stories, always impressed with the clarity in their eyes and devotion to country. Brad’s father and brother were both Marines and when he met the wounded warriors at that dinner he wanted to do something to help.
Now, riding the wave of the rise of social media and nearly ubiquitous video and mobile technology, Homefront Heroes is hitting its stride with compelling videos about people like Todd and Crystal Nicely. Todd, a Marine corporal, lost both arms and both legs to an IED explosion in Afghanistan in March 2010 while on patrol.
The story of Todd and Crystal Nicely will now get more attention. This particular episode of Homefront Heroes has become an official selection of the 2012 GI Film Festival. Their story titled, “He’s my best friend. The Crystal Nicely Story” will be screened Sunday May 20. More details and information about tickets can be found on the GIFF website. This is the 6th annual GI Film Festival, which screens movies that focus on America’s military and their families. Through viewing war films, documentaries and shorts, it is the only festival to specifically honor the members of the armed forces.
Homefront Heroes is still growing, but Mike and Brad have certainly captured the “influentials” audience, counting Admiral Michael Mullen, General Peter Chiarelli, General James Amos, General Edward Tonini, and Colonel David Sutherland among their fans.
For Mike and Brad, it’s not about them. It’s about the stories.
Dr. Mark Drapeau is part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation based in Washington, DC.
Photo at top: Mike Allen, actress Sally Pressman, actress Connie Britton, wounded warrior at Homefront Heroes screening.