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Viewer Q&A with Filmmaker & Soldiers

Read the transcript from the viewer Q&A with filmmaker Heather Courtney and the soldiers profiled in Where Soldiers Come From that took place on Veterans Day, November 11, 2011.

POV: This live Q&A with Where Soldiers Come From director Heather Courtney and veterans from the film will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. Pacific) on Friday, November 11, 2011. Leave your questions and comments below and we'll queue them up for our guests!

POV: We're just about to get started. Note we'll be moderating your questions and comments, so they won't appear immediately, but we will be able to see them all and we will get to as many as we can!

POV: Hello to director Heather Courtney! Welcome to this live chat with POV viewers.

heather courtney: Hi, thanks for having me on Live Chat!

POV: And welcome to Dominic Fredianelli, Cole Smith and Matt Beaudoin, who we've all come to know as Dom, Cole and Bodi. They're all typing from the same computer...

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Hello to all thanks!

heather courtney: Nice triptych!

POV: I know you're old friends, but I hope we'll be able to ask you questions individually...

POV: It's appropriate that we're having this chat on Veterans Day, and we have a number of commenters who wanted to pass along nothing but thanks.

Comment From Janet Deziel (Facebook)
Watched this last night. Thank you for serving. Wish you all the best.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Thanks!

Comment From BOB
Happy Veterans Day! Did you watch the film together last night?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Yes we did watch the film together at one of our friends bar with alot of people from the community along with cole's parents and closer friends as well. Went very well and was pretty surreal to see us all on national television. Plus alot of facebook support and text msgs after the film was over so its been great!

POV: That was Dom. They've promised to let us know who's typing...

POV: Heather, we have a question about how you came to making this film and telling this story.

Comment From Guest
Hi Heather. I loved the film. Are you from Michigan? How did that impact how you went about filming?

heather courtney: Yes, I'm from Michigan, in fact I am from the same area as the guys in the film.

heather courtney: I went back to my hometown to make a film about rural America, and then I went to a local National Guard montly training, and that's where I met the guys for the first time.

heather courtney: I think it did impact the filming, because since I was from there, I think maybe it was easier to get access.

heather courtney: And I had an understanding of the place ... I guess I would like to ask the guys how it impacted them that I was from there?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- It was easier that Heather was from Our area. She knew what types of things we were going through in the town emotionally, especially at a younger age in 19 20 trying to figure out what we wanted to do.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- It also helped because she had known my Dad and others in the community in high school so she fit in pretty fast.

Comment From dano51
Hello, Great documentry. .Thank you for your service. Freedom is not free.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Thanks!

Comment From Pauline McHugh (Facebook)
A Great Documentary. An Eye Opener. Taught me a lot about friendship, war, and the disadvantages of a small town (lack of work), but it also shows how important family & friends are to all soldiers. I wish All of you the Best of Luck in whatever road you take. Brings to mind that song from the Vietnam era "WAR, What is it good for, Absolutely Nothing". Stay Strong......

Comment From Sara Miller (Facebook)
This was an incredible documentary...the cinematography was breathtaking, the guys were so compelling, and as Heather discussed in the behind the scenes after the program last night, it really opened my eyes (as someone who doesn't personally know anyone in the military) to what these soldiers go through. I also bawled my eyes out every time Cole's mom started crying.

POV: A number our chat participants are asking about where you all are today?

Comment From Molly
Can you give us an update on what you are all doing now?

POV: Maybe we can ask one by one...

POV: First, for Cole:

Comment From Kathy Nantell
Did Cole get the tuition payment issue with the GI Bill figured out?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Cole- I did not receive any money yet, but its in the process of being worked out with The National Guard.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Cole-Right now, I am trying to pay off my student loans and get back into school, and I am currently working and living in Hancock. Actually, I got help when we did a screening at the National Guard Bureau, so I've gotten alot of support with the situation from screenings and people wanting to help

POV: Dom, we have questions for you as well...

POV: Could you let us know what you've been up to since the end of the film.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- I am still Hancock. I am trying to stay in Finlandia and continue studying under Yueh Mei. I will have another Art show at Michigan tech later this winter. I am also a Teacher Assistant for art classes at tech

Comment From Guest
For Dom: How has your artwork helped you emotionally mend from your traumatic experiences?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- Art has helped me with ways of releasing emotion that some other people without a source of venting may not.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: It helps get my experiences out in the open which then lets people as about my experiences, which in turn makes me talk about it. which is great for me with understanding

Comment From Ron
Dom- are you still making art?

Comment From Ron
is it for sale?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- I am still making Art, and none of my stuff is officially for sale, i still need to create a website, but if anyones interested haha so let me know.!

POV: Ron, for now, you can view a gallery of Dom's artwork on our companion site for Where Soldiers Come From: http://www.pbs.org/pov/wheresoldierscomefrom/photo_gallery_dom-artwork.php, and I'm sure Dom can tell you where to send a check.

POV: Our next question can be for Bodi, and you can tell where you are today as well.

Comment From Pam
Has watching the film, either when it first came out or even now, helped you to understand and cope better with what you all went through and what your families also went thru? I know that when you were in Afghanistan, you all wanted to be gone from there but as Bodi said in the film, it was easier in the sense that you knew the things you needed to do, kill or be killed. When in coming back home, you're changed but people still see you as Dom, Cole or Bodi and your direction is so uncertain

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- Hello, So, I gotta new girlfriend! we live in Calumet which 11 miles north of Hancock with my monster English Mastiff Tyson

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Looking for a job for the winter, health is good!, Looking foward to hunting season and the long winter.

heather courtney: Bodi has a nice girlfriend!

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- It has helped watching the film. To see and understand that we had changed and what we went through.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- It also helped the families as well, as we can share the film together and have it as a tool.

Comment From AliveinUP
Are either with TBI getting special support services locally or from the VA?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- Yes i still visit the Va frequently for check ups and things like that.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- I also visit the Va, and they are always there for whatever you need, and are pretty good with appointments and check ups.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: nothing really special unless you feel you need it.

Comment From Layla
What sort of treatments were you/are you on for it?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- Um, right off the bat we did cat scans and MRI's to make sure the brain was doing well.

heather courtney: Bodi, how do you deal with some of the symptoms of TBI on a daily basis?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- Memory is a day to day thing, cause my memory os kind of lost sometimes..and then with sleep, thats also a day to day thing, getting good nights rest or not is hit or miss.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- but hopefully as i get older ill be able to continue to get better.

POV: A note for chat participants that we have a number of resources on our website for the film related to traumatic brain injury: http://www.pbs.org/pov/wheresoldierscomefrom/traumatic-brain-injury.php

POV: From your comments, we're also seeing a number of you are from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and from organizations that touch on the issues raised in the film. We encourage you to identify yourself in your comments.

Comment From Iilmonen
Being a Yooper and the mother of a son who was deployed for 3 tours in Iraq, I watched this film sharing the same tears, fears and joys of the family members of each of the soldiers. I did, surprisingly, learn a lot from the soldiers' experiences which my son has not, at this point, shared with me. The openness of the soliders brought me a greater understanding of what my son felt and experienced during his tours.

Comment From Jaclyn Kleier
I just saw my younger brother off on his first tour to Afghanistan two weeks ago. Ironically, his name is also Dominic and he is also 20 years old. This film gave me a chance to see what type of conditions he is facing and what his daily duties may consist of. I am just hoping he doesn't have to deal with PTSD or TBI when he returns home, although I feel like I may be better prepared for it now that I have watched this.

heather courtney: I'm glad the film could help with understanding what your family members might go through.

Comment From Sara
What was the reaction like from the rest of the soldiers in your National Guard unit both during and after the filming?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Cole, Dom- Everyone has been really supportive so far. Even the high ranking people we showed the screening to in Washington DC really enjoyed the film.

Comment From Wes
What has been the response from Military viewers? Do they feel your portrayal/experiences to be accurate?

heather courtney: Yeah, as the guys said we showed it in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill, at a screening sponsored by Senator Carl Levin, General Craig McKinley, the Chief of the National Guard, and POV and CPB

heather courtney: A lot of high-ranking officials were there, and they all agree that it is very honest, and they appreciate the honesty.

heather courtney: I think they see it as a tool to use to get more attention for the need for more resources for veterans and their families, especially those in the National Guard, and more attention to silent war wounds like TBI and PTSD.

POV: We're going to have highlights from the Capitol Hill screening on POV's blog next week: http://www.pbs.org/pov/blog

POV: And a reminder that all of your questions are appearing in our queue and we'll get to as many as can in the short time we have left.

Comment From Ron
Have you guys gained any type of Celebrity from people having seen the film?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- Haha, sort of. Community wise we are well known. Coles Mom Mary is very popular.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom-People that seen the film in NY and LA even have came to Marys work and requested to sit in her section Haha. But, we have gained a lot of new friends and connections while traveling with the film, with people wanting to stay in touch

POV: Many of our chat participants have been asking about your status in the military...

Comment From Jack
Are any of you still in the Guard?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- None of us are currently in the guard. we do still have friends in with a few months left in their contract.

Comment From ScubaSteve
What advice would you give young soldiers to emotionally prepare for fighting overseas?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- Its very hard to prepare emotionally, because you cant teach someone how to think or feel until you are actually there experiencing it. But keep your chin up, do your job well and be proud of what you are doing even though there is many questions i am sure you will ask yourself. Keep your family close and friends and keep their heads up as much as you can. keep an open mind.

Comment From Sara
No question here, but best wishes to you guys in the future. Sincere thank you for your service from a fellow UP & Baraga County resident! By the way, the documentary last night was riveting yet emotional.

Comment From Johneusmc
Wonderfully accurate and well done. Gotta love pbs. I too am a veteran of the service. 3rd bn 2nd Marines I Co. I did 4 tours in 4 years 2 of those in almost costant enemy contact in the anbar province of Iraq. It took me at least 2 years to start to reintegrate to society and attenpt college again. Its definintely not easy and god bless those who served before me those who are serving and will serve in the future. But please bring em home and quit making up lies for political reasons. Id love to say more but that's enough for Veterans Day. Semper Fi.

Comment From Kay
I believe that the film did an excellent job of portraying deployments. Its hard to talk to people about the environement and then people who haven't gone throught it don't get it.

Comment From Amy Rye
Happy Veteran's Day, Dom, Bodi and Cole! Thank you ALL for your service and the sacrifices you have made! My very best to you always as you continue on your "journey" home. Heather, once again, BRAVO!

heather courtney: Hi Amy!

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Thanks everyone, thanks Amy. and everything you do with Family Readiness.!

Comment From Molly
Do you feel like your families had support during the deployment? (My husband is an active duty Marine who is about to deploy for the 5th time.

heather courtney: Actually Amy Rye who made the last comment, was the head of the Family Readiness Group during the deployment, and she did a great job!

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- Yes they did, I mean our families and the community were really close. We also left behind a lot of friends that were also there for our families. also the family readiness group our unit had was very useful as well.

heather courtney: Yeah, during the deployment FRG was great. And families gave each other support. I think that the FRG-type model should continue even after deployments, so famlies could get together for help during the time veterans are transitioning back to normal life again.

Comment From Nancy
How can communities be more supportive of returning soldiers -- beyond the welcoming parades and rallies -- the long-term?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- Um, i mean reunions with vets and the community are really helpful especially years down the road. Also, just packages and things like that while overseas...getting mail from supporters was always a morale boost, dvds, magazines, anything that raises morale, and it feels better getting it from people in your hometown.

POV: The POV companion site for the documentary also has an extensive list of resources for helping veterans and their families that Heather helped us compile: http://www.pbs.org/pov/wheresoldierscomefrom/links_books.php#general-support-for-veterans

POV: And we are out of time, but we've been flooded with so many great questions, we're making time for a couple more...

Comment From dano51
Where do you guys hope to be in 10 years?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Dom- Um hopefully continuing art, Maybe teaching or working with veterans with art, anything is possible.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Bodi- In good health, maybe a family, a steady job, Possibly working with vets

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Cole- Hopefully have college out of the way and have a real job..And then who knows ..

POV: Our last question is for Heather.

Comment From QuincyMine
Has there been any thought to a follow up project? The four year timeline of the film is already compelling, but people seem to have identified with your stories and want to see your progress since.

heather courtney: I hope to make another film in the U.P. again, but maybe the next one will be a fiction film, and I'll give all the guys cameos.

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: yay!

heather courtney: Unless, they want me to keep filming their lives documentary style for the next 20 years? would you guys be into that?

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: not so much

heather courtney: I hear ya

POV: Well, let us know if you change your mind...

POV: We'll have to end the Q&A here.

POV: Thank you all for joining us today and for sharing your thoughts and questions about Where Soldiers Come From.

POV: Special thank yous to Heather Courtney, Dom, Cole & Bodi for taking the time after the PBS premiere to join us today for this Veterans Day chat.

heather courtney: Thanks to everyone for all your great questions!

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Thanks everyone, and the support! happy veterans day! and thanks for watching! We all have facebook as well if there is any other questions we are pretty open to talking and chatting!

heather courtney: Bye! Tell your friends to go to the website www.pbs.org/pov/wheresoldierscomefrom

Dominic, Bodi, Cole: Thanks again! Bye

heather courtney: thanks guys!

POV: If we didn't get a chance to ask your question or post your comment, the conversation continues on POV's Facebook page at http://facebook.com/povdocs and POV's companion site for Where Soldiers Come From at http://www.pbs.org/pov/wheresoldierscomefrom, where you can watch the film again online (but only for a limited time).

POV: Thanks again for your questions and comments. This chat will be archived so you can replay it at anytime. Bye!





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Frustrated with how small-town America was often portrayed in the mainstream media, I wanted to tell a story about my rural hometown that countered those stereotypes.”

— Heather Courtney, Filmmaker

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