Back from Colorado Springs!

Quick thanks to Sven and team from USAA for a great screening and event in Colorado Springs last Thursday! I really enjoyed spending time with all the Vets and family of service members there.

You could feel the emotion in the packed room after the screening: the questions were very poignant. I am honored to be able to spend time with so many people who have served our country. Humbled that so many feel that Brothers at War tells their story as well.

It was a lot of fun to have the chance to speak with service members, veterans, and some very proud parents after the screening. Especially cool to talk with a Vet from the 82nd who made four combat jumps in WW II and Gen. Steve Richie, America’s last fighter ace.

Looking forward to another great event with USAA in San Antonio in August!

Jake

Brothers At War’s Television Premiere on Memorial Day

Dear Friends,

Thank you again for the support you have given Brothers at War. I wanted to share with you that Showtime has decided to make the National Television Premiere of Brothers at War at 8 PM on Memorial Day!

This ever greater exposure and viewing of the film means that the accurate portrait of our American Military Families is reaching an ever greater audience. It is my hope that audiences are as inspired by the people I got to know and those I got to know better on my journey into the lives of my two brothers. All of their experiences leave me humbled and deeply appreciative.

For those of you who do not have access to Showtime but would still like to see the film, click on the “buy the DVD link” to the right and enter “Memorial” at checkout to receive 20% off.

Have a wonderful weekend,
God Bless you all.

Jake.

Greetings from Cannes

Being at the Cannes was an amazing experience. It is exciting to see “Brothers at War” begin to reach an international audience. I enjoyed spending time with Morris, Sam, Brain and Erin from the Shoreline Team who are doing a great job representing the film.

While taking in the fireworks, attending some of the parties, and being out for dinner, I had an opportunity to speak with people from around the world. I was struck by their curiosity and eagerness to see a film about Iraq where the filmmaker had actually been there, and where they as the viewer get to go there as well.

A view point and perspective has been created about our country and our service members from the limited coverage that has gotten out into the main stream internationally. It is invigorating to think that our film can help to change people’s minds about America and our service members. I think one of the values of the film is that it allows you to personally meet a number of service members on the front lines. Through that collage a portrait comes into focus. Hopefully, the opportunity to spend two hours with our service members on the front lines and the family back home will start to open minds and bring people from other countries a more truthful picture of who is serving in Iraq and what they are doing.

I wanted to send a special thank you to Jack Kelly for creating and airing the radio spot for Brothers At War during the Film festival. You can click on the link below to listen to it. Thank you also to France 24 who I enjoyed interviewed by at Cannes.

Cannes Radio Spot

It was also a very cool to see the film advertised on the back cover of Screen Magazine and in the hands of those attending the festival.

Spending time overseas gave me an opportunity to share what I love about our country. I believe when others have an opportunity to gain a better understanding of our military families, and what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will go along way in our relationships with others from around the world.

Peace,

Jake.

Jake

2010 GI Film Festival

Thank you to all those who are helping Brothers at War go International! Thank you also to Paul Brian for introducing us to Jack Kelly who is playing a radio commercial for Brothers at War on his two radio stations in Cannes 64 times over the next four days!

For all of you in DC, I wanted to let you know that tonight Lt Dan Band For The Common Good will be playing at the GI Film Festival. I have had the opportunity to see this excellent film by Jonathan Flora: In addition to the great music and the interactions with the troops all over the world, the film peers into a man’s quest to do what he can do to support those for whom he cares deeply for and admires. It is both moving and inspirational. Gary Sinise and Jonathan Flora will be in attendance.

On Friday night, Patrol Base Jakerl will make its World Premiere! David Scantling journeyed to Afghanistan where he embedded with a Marine unit in the dangerous Helmand Province. Drawing from his expert background in economic rehabilitation of war torn countries, he captured the philosophy and execution of counter insurgency strategy in action. I am personally jealous of all who get to be the first in the world to see this important work!

These are just two of many great films and events happening at the GI Film Festival this week. Go to GI Film Festival to explore all the great films that they are helping to launch and take this opportunity to interact with the filmmakers, festival executives, and patriotic celebrities who are dedicated to telling the GI’s story.

Mother’s Day

In honor of Mother’s Day this year, I asked Jennifer Rademacher to write about a particular poignant Mother’s Day. Please share some of your experiences by commenting on the post.

Jennifer Rademacher
Army Wife and Mother currently stationed at Fort Polk, LA with husband Isaac and 6 year old daughter Hunter
Former Captain, with 5 years of service in the 82d ABN DIV

As we head toward Mother’s Day, with the due date of our second child looming, I am reminded of one year in particular that was so bittersweet as an Army wife and mother. When our daughter, Hunter, was six months old, my husband left on his third deployment. He chose to take his fifteen days of R and R in accordance with her first birthday on April 26th. It was an occasion he truly did not want to miss. We had a wonderful party; both sides of our families were able to attend even though they had to travel very far for just a short weekend event. As it turned out, we had to bring him to the airport to return to Iraq on Mother’s Day, 2005.

After a lot of tears at the gate, I returned home with my baby girl to our empty house. On the counter were a dozen red roses and a note. It says: “Dear Mom, Dad and I love you so much and thank you for bringing Daddy home for my first birthday. We love you, Love Hunter.” Then an additional paragraph from Isaac which says: “Jenny, Hang in there. Hunter and I are the luckiest. I’m very proud of you and thankful for you on Mother’s Day. I love you. Isaac.”

This short note is one of my proudest possessions; it now sits in a shadow box with the dried roses from that bouquet above my desk and always brings a smile to my face. My husband had no idea at the time how much it would mean to me and was pleasantly surprised to come home after his twelve month deployment to see it so prominently displayed. I sometimes joke with friends and family that I am a single mother but unfortunately, my husband’s profession makes this more reality than a joke time and again. Those of us that are married to men serving our country know that we rarely come first. When we start having children, the situation deteriorates further because our children become the most important part of our lives. Being an Army wife and mother is a selfless obligation that makes the slightest sign of appreciation feel like a true mark of achievement.

As Army wives and mothers, I know I speak for everyone when I say that we do not expect any praise for our daily sacrifices. It is the sacrifices our children involuntarily have to make which truly break our hearts. We must be extra vigilant as our children deal with having a father on a deployment. Explaining to a small child why Daddy is leaving and won’t be back for holidays or birthdays is a hard task to accomplish. We rarely get to draw within ourselves to worry for our husband’s safety; our children need us to be present, compassionate, and engaged in everyday life as they struggle to comprehend a soldier’s profession and that his absence does not equate to a lack of love.

This Mother’s Day, we also need to remember the amazing sacrifices of active duty mothers across the military. Having been one, I know that this is the most difficult sacrifice I ever had to make. Choosing your country over your own child is purely selfless, these mother’s have taken it upon themselves to make this country a better one for all of our children’s futures and we need to thank them.

I hope that this Mother’s Day, all the mothers and wives of those serving our country receive a show of appreciation from their spouse and children. We are the backbone of all military families and we love what we do.

We also wanted to further support an organization which Cindy McCain and Gary Sinise helped us raise money for last year by doing a special promotion for Blue Star Mothers.
Click on the “Buy the DVD” link at the top and enter “mother” at checkout: In addition to receiving a $2 discount off the purchase price, we will donate $2 to Blue Star Mothers on the sale of every DVD! Buy 2 and receive free shipping. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing moms out there.

Brothers At War raises money for Snowball Express

As April is “Month Of The Military Child” all of us at Brothers At War wanted to reach out and show our support for some of those who have sacrificed the most: the children of our fallen warriors.

We have chosen to raise money for the wonderful organization “Snowball Express”, who has been providing hope by creating new memories for them: Since 2006, Snowball Express has taken these children and their families on a fun mini-vacation, giving them a piece of their childhood back, enabling them to meet others “just like them” and talk about it; creating new friendships that will last a lifetime but more importantly, putting a priceless smile on their faces, letting them know “it’s OK to laugh!”

Throughout the month of April, we will be donating money to Snowball Express with every purchase made through our website. Simply click on the Buy DVD link on top and enter “snowball” at checkout: Not only will you get $2 off the purchase of the DVD. We will donate an additional $2 to Snowball Express on your behalf.

For more information on Snowball Express, please click here

A visit to Fort Hood, Killeen

I really enjoyed hanging out with the wounded warriors at Fort Hood a couple of weeks ago. Great meeting them and hearing some of their stories. It was awesome that USAA treated them and their families to a screening and reception in Killeen that night. Their response to the evening and film was moving and one I will not forget. Thank you for your service on behalf of us all. Grateful, that I had an opportunity to spend some time with all of you: this is one of the things I look forward the most and hope to always be able to do so!
Jake

A three part testimonial…a letter…a poem…and a story.

Through email, our website, our Facebook Page, our Twitter account and our blog, we’re continually amazed and delighted by the positive feedback and supportive comments we receive from the real critics. We recently received a note from Martha Blakeman, a military mom. She’s given us permission to post the note she sent, as well as the poem and story she wrote. All three are inspiring and heartfelt. Thank you Martha!

THE EMAIL:

Thank you for your response to my postand for giving me this address.
I’ve attached a poem and a story (perhaps to be considered a review also) that were inspired by your film.  The words to the poem came from watching SSgt Ed Allier, via his comments and attempt to check his emotions when talking about the children.
The story/review was definitely triggered by the “grace on earth” comment in the extra clips.
My daughter is the State Casulty Operations Manager for the Illinois Army National Guard.  Her husband is the 1st Sgt. for the 232nd Corps Support Batallion and has served one tour in Iraq.  He’s an instructor in terrorism and force protection.  They’ve not seen the movie yet, but will very soon.
I am so thankful, and in awe of what you have done with this film, and am equally thankful that your brothers made it home safely.  And you also, of course.
Take care.
Martha Blakeman
THE POEM

The Soldier’s Keep

I feel your strength surround me

As you keep the wolves at bay

Ever vigilant you guard

Me as I sleep

My trust I’ve placed upon you

As so diligent you wait

Watching lest the evil

Chance your keep

A soldier at the ready

Life is etched upon your brow

If but a moment I could ease

The weight you’ve borne

Surrounding you with warmth

Holding tightly to your hand

That you should know

There is a place you may call home

Martha Blakeman

March 1, 2010

THE STORY

Grace on Earth

Evil is a strong word, the connotations obvious.  It doesn’t affect me directly on a daily basis as I traipse through life. Undoubtedly it lurks amid the shadows if I were to peer in.  But those who willingly stand strong before its wrath are heroes.  If push came to shove, though not apparent hero material, I like to believe I would stand with them.

A recent film by Jake Rademacher titled “Brothers at War” chronicles such by our troops in Iraq.  In case you are unfamiliar with the film consider this your official introduction.  Though Jake’s intent was a firsthand account of why two of his younger brothers chose the path to serve, the film encompasses far more.

Last night I watched “Brothers at War” for the second time. As with the first viewing I was humbled, and I cried.  My tears flowed for reasons I can’t necessarily articulate, though I emerged with one certainty – I wanted to soothe the harrowed brows of these warriors.

I said the film covered far more than the trials faced by a single family and so it does.

During Jake’s second trip to Iraq he encountered a Staff Sgt. who proved himself an extraordinary soldier and man.  He swore, raved, cajoled and tormented.  He also tried valiantly to check his tears as he spoke of the sometime unavoidable danger to innocent children.

Jake defined this emotion during an extra piece included on the DVD.  He spoke of how he had truly seen evil.  Yet, he also witnessed grace on earth in the poignant comfort an American commanding an Iraqi unit showed a soldier badly injured on patrol.  Personally, I will never forget the image as he caressed the young man’s face with the back of his gloved hand.  It was such a contrast to the evil that had rained upon them.

These, as with others in the film, were profound moments which shall stay imbedded in my soul forever. And thus I consider Jake’s statement of having witnessed “grace on earth”.

I call myself a Christian though I would be at a loss to truly define that status.  If someone doesn’t believe in a higher power I’m not offended.  They won’t burn in some semblance of hell because their lives follow a different path.  I’m not so arrogant as to believe I’m right and they’re wrong, unless they choose to inflict pain and suffering based upon on their beliefs.  Then I have a supreme issue.

I’ve made a conscious choice to have faith in a higher power even if it emanates from within.  It gives me strength and hope.  That works for me.

Whether Jake’s statement was made with religious intent I don’t know, nor do I care.  That’s not the issue.  He speaks of a condition, a sentiment, an action shown too little by humanity.

For myself, if but once in this life, I hope for such a statement bestowed upon me.  That I, as the soldiers I have witnessed, follow a path filled with kindness, honor, mercy, and thanks – that I be capable of grace on earth.


USA Cares…another real critic…and friend.

Roger Stradley, with the amazing organization USA Cares, recently posted on their blog his review of Brothers At War. Simply put, we’re humbled and sincerely appreciative of the comments he made. Reading something like this makes it clear for us, once again, that all of the work that went into creating the film was worth it…many times over.

Thank you Roger for your kind words.

Here’s the full text of his review. The original post is here.

Brothers At War; A Must See

They are images that we have all come to know, and to think we understand. The young soldier sitting on top of his vehicle, armored vests on, pouches positioned all over his chest, helmet on with goggles and night vision device mounting frame and a steely eyed look far to distant for only being 19. The young carrier pilot, giving the snappy salute, thumbs up, then reaching to hang on as a catapult launches his jet down a very short runway off the end of the carrier and off to war.

These images are becoming almost a part of our lives, the war enters yet another year, and today, I listened to a young lady who was being recognized as “Student of the Month” at our local Chamber of Commerce, matter of a factly announce, “my dad is getting ready to go on his sevenths deployment”. She said it without hesitation, and without trepidation, it was just something she had grown up with. “My dad is going off to war…again”.

How could we possibly understand what these families are going through, how would we know, if we are like so many American families still untouched by this war on terror?

I would offer this recommendation. Buy the movie, “Brothers At War” DVD, it is in Walmart, Target, Barnes and Noble and Best Buy and on Amazon. Jake Rademacher, the Director and Producer does more than tell a story about one family, he tells the whole story about one family, but it becomes a family you belong too, and you begin to sense the connecting lines back from Iraq to home and back.

I am not a professional movie critic, but like most of us, I know what I like. I like this movie. The language is a bit rough in spots, but it is the language of soldiers, one that I heard for nearly thirty years that I served. The camaraderie that you sense, between brothers and brothers at arms tell the story about how much they care about each other, and how fiercely they will fight to protect their own.

A Marine Staff Sergeant is shown to be a tough son of a gun, while leading and training an Iraqi infantry platoon, but when in the middle of a firefight loses some of them, you can tell that it wasn’t just a “job”, it was one of his men. He is instantly the consoling and calm voice as medics work to save the man’s life. You don’t find out what happens to the young Iraq soldier, but you do see the pain in the tough Marine. It is more than a just a job. Jake does a great job in making that point clear, and he does it skillfully and poignantly.

As Jake peels back the connections within his own family and that of his two brothers who are both soldiers and have served in Iraq, you find out that the family has already lost a son. You become a part of a family that is caught between conflicting emotions, one of pride for the soldiers and one of pain for the brother lost.

Listening to the ladies in their lives you see that each of them finds themselves in love with a man who is yet changed again, by what they have experienced and what they have seen. Both women, along with a mom and dad, deal with the changes by doing what we all do, smile, cry and lots of hugs. But when you see the new dad, fresh off the plane from Iraq, patiently avoid hugging his own daughter; because he knows he will scare her, you are reminded of the hidden costs of their service.

There are lots of films out there, but none as good as this one. It is one family, through the eyes of a brother, a brother who knows that this war is not over.

Take the time, here is the supporting website, Brothers At War, and watch the movie. You will be better for it. The fact that Jake has offered to assist USA Cares makes it even better, but that isn’t why I wrote this blog. I met Jake last December in a restaurant near the Sana Monica pier, and the man you see in the movie, is the man that will sit and eat pizza with you. He is one of us.

So why am I writing this beside the obvious reasons? Because.

While watching the Super Bowl, along with millions of other Americans, I realized at the end, that while the football game was either really good, or really bad, depending on who your team was, I was saddened by the lack of appreciation that they showed for the reason they were allowed to play the game in the first place. With the exception of a brief image of young men standing at attention in Iraq or Afghanistan, a precision team who carried our nation’s colors and a glance at the four ship flight of fighters streaking across the night’s sky, it was if maybe our nation wasn’t at war on two fronts, and that just maybe if you ignore it, it might go away. It won’t.

Jake, thanks for making the film. Thanks for taking the risk and for the effort you took to tell the story of not only your family, but of all the families who serve. You have done a service to all of those to whom we are so indebted.

Just so you know, in just the first week of February, 2010, USA Cares spent over $31,000 on our Veterans and their families, all in grants and all for validated needs. Many were in support of those who struggle with PTSD, and because of us, are receiving life changing treatment as they work to gain a “new normal” in their lives.

The story Jake told is valid, and he did a great job. Get the film.

Roger Stradley
USA Cares