When Tom and I first planned Veterans Trek, we wanted to create a film to document our journey. We wanted to show Veterans, their families, and the non-Veteran community the sights and sounds of a trek across America. We also wanted to share in our healing from war. Lucky for us–for all of us–the charge of creating that film became the responsibility of talented and dedicated filmmakers, and not two dudes with long beards.
Everyone…Almost Sunrise has arrived.
The documentary debuted this weekend at the Mountain Film festival in Telluride, Colorado. The reactions of those who watched the film reaffirmed that every step we took on the walk and every minute the filmmakers spent editing and crafting the film were so very worth the effort.
The audiences we shared the experience with were as diverse as our Nation. Young and old. Veteran and non-Veteran. Hippies and Colorado cowboys. All who came to watch became witnesses to an odyssey that took Tom and I from naive young souls who joined the military to fight with brave soldiers in defense of our ideals, to bearded trekkers traversing the country in search of healing from our war experience. Those who came up to us after the film concluded spoke of their love and gratitude for the story the film told, as well as their motivation to help other Veterans in need. It was, needless to say, inspiring for all those involved.
For the film crew and us, Almost Sunrise is an opportunity to share a message too many Veterans fail to understand: when we feel like all hope is lost, when we’ve allowed anger and depression and regret and guilt to consume every living cell in our bodies, when we’ve allowed the memories of war to usurp the present moment, we must hold on. It is very easy to let the pain of the past overcome the promise of the present. It’s easy when you’ve seen what human beings are capable of to become cynical and, as cynicism is want to do, turn that cynicism inward. Trust me when I say that I understand how that happens. What I have yet to discover is why.
For those who followed our trek, you may remember a friend we made along the way. Wolf Walker met Tom and I in the Garden of the Gods and taught us a valuable lesson: we hold the key to our own redemption. By reclaiming our power–our selves–we can confront and overcome the issues that prohibit us from living life as fully and successfully as we soldiered. The message seems so simple. It’s simplicity allows us to disregard it as false. Well, it has been my experience that the most simple truths are usually the ones we fail to remember at those critical moments when we need them. Wolf Walker’s message reminded us that by simply acknowledging the pain, accepting it, and becoming owner to it, we no longer serve it.
Wolf Walker joined us in Telluride and shared in the awesome experience of viewing and sharing the film with hundreds of eager viewers. Away from the crowds, however, he took a moment to provide Tom and I with a gift and, as fate would have it, another lesson. He provided me a warrior choker. The choker he made me was trimmed in red. He explained that red was a unifying color. Humans bleed red. Animals bleed red. The earth bleeds red. He wanted me to remind me that I am part of everything that makes this world and that I am part of the “mystery” he taught us about on our trek. It was a beautiful and gracious gesture that allowed me to understand that when I see red–cliched, I know– I should use that as an opportunity to remind myself that I am a valuable member of this world and that to be the person I want to be, I need to stay connected. That’s the thing about anger–it’s sole objective is to separate and destroy with extreme prejudice. We who struggle with it are hard-wired to default to it. I wish I could just cut the fuse that leads to the powder keg, but I can’t. In fact, there would be no challenge in that. The challenge Wolf Walker created was for me to remember that I am part of something greater than myself. By extension, I have a responsibility to expose those I meet to the idea that we are joined. Remembering I am part of world in which I am connected overwhelms the separation anger tries to create.
I plan on blogging regularly again and will share future developments and reaction to Almost Sunrise along with other plans Tom and I have to help Veterans and their families. Next week, we’ll be in New York for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. I hope the audiences there are as gracious and enthusiastic as the wonderful people in Telluride. Check out additional info on the documentary and what we’re doing next by going to www.sunrisedocumentary.com
Until then, consider this:
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.”
So, we’ll talk soon. Feel free to re-read some of the blogs 😉 We have a lot of catching up to do. Until then, we’ll see you on the new trail.