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PBS Airing Debt of Honor November 10, 2015 as Part of its Stories of Service
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Image: An American soldier collapses in his hands from the strain of fighting along the Taegu front, South Korea, 1950. (credit: courtesy of Bettman/Corbis)

– NEH and PBS Join Forces to Spark National Conversation About Disabled Veterans –

– Documentary by Award-Winning Filmmaker Ric Burns Illuminates Struggles and Triumphs of Disabled Veterans in American History –

(New York, NY, August 4, 2015) – PBS announced today that DEBT OF HONOR: DISABLED VETERANS IN AMERICAN HISTORY, a new documentary film by six-time Emmy Award-winning director Ric Burns, will premiere nationwide on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 9 p.m. (check local listings), as part of PBS’ Stories of Service. In an effort to share the film with the largest audience possible, including military personnel and veterans and their families, the National Endowment of Humanities is partnering with PBS and Washington, DC, public television station WETA to hold a series of screenings in schools and with other organizations to highlight local stories of disabled veterans. 

DEBT OF HONOR examines the way in which the American government and society as a whole have regarded disabled veterans throughout history, beginning in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and continuing through today’s conflicts in the Middle East.  The film combines personal stories, told by distinguished disabled veterans, with deep history narrated by leading scholars in the fields of disability studies, history and psychology to illustrate the human cost of war and the enormous sacrifices of military service. These sacrifices are brought to life through hundreds of carefully curated still images and archival footage from across the country.

“The goal of this film is to try to understand the realities and challenges that disabled veterans have faced throughout history and continue to face today,” says Burns. “There is a real necessity to bridge the gap between civilians and those who have served in the military. It is our hope that the film will encourage a candid discussion in communities across the country, and create understanding and awareness of the sacrifices involved in military service.”

Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Officer and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS, said, “PBS has broadcast numerous documentaries and programs that highlight the reality of life in the military, as well as in-depth shows that focus on some of the challenges confronted by returning veterans. We look forward to sharing the film with all Americans timed to this coming Veterans Day.” “As a Vietnam veteran, I believe this initiative will help in bridging the divide between the military and public,” says NEH Chairman William Adams. "NEH is committed to projects that use the humanities to inspire public discussion of the important issues of our time, and this new film offers a compelling way to open up meaningful dialogue about the service and sacrifice of disabled veterans.”

Lois Pope, a noted philanthropist and the film’s underwriter, says, “This film is about the human costs of war. It should serve to remind and educate all of us about the courageous men and women who have sacrificed parts of their bodies and minds fighting for our country.”

A poignant tribute to the history of disabled veterans in the U.S., DEBT OF HONOR is an unflinching portrait of the realities of warfare and disabilities. The program features illuminating interviews with some of the country’s most prominent disabled veterans, including U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (Illinois); former U.S. Senator and Veterans Affairs Administrator Max Cleland (Georgia); former Garrison Commander of Fort Belvoir, Col. Gregory Gadson; and actor, motivational speaker and Iraq War Army veteran J.R. Martinez. Gadson, a double amputee veteran of the war in Iraq who shares his experiences on camera, calls DEBT OF HONOR “one of the most accurate and balanced productions I have ever seen. It should be mandatory viewing for all high school civics classes.” 

The diverse group of scholars and military and medical experts who have participated in the film includes Beth Linker, University of Pennsylvania professor and author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America; David A. Gerber, director emeritus of the Center for Disability Studies at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York; Dr. Charles Marmar, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University and director of the PTSD Research Program at NYU Langone Medical Center; James Wright, president emeritus of Dartmouth College; and David Blight, professor of American history at Yale University. Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provides a thought-provoking perspective to the film.  

DEBT OF HONOR: DISABLED VETERANS IN AMERICAN HISTORY is a production of Steeplechase Films.  Directed by Ric Burns.  Produced by Ric Burns, Bonnie Lafave and Nat Rosa. Co-producer, Josh Woltermann. Edited by Mikaela Shwer. WETA is the presenting station. Funding was provided by Lois Pope. National Outreach supported by a grant from The National Endowment of Humanities.

DEBT OF HONOR is part of PBS Stories of Service, a multiplatform initiative that explores veterans’ experiences and provides a deeper understanding of our country’s military history.  Stories of Service was announced in May 2014 as part of an initiative with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to share veterans’ stories, provide a deeper understanding of our nation’s military history, and increase dialogue as our nation’s veterans transition to civilian life.  The initiative includes national, multi-platform content as part of Stories of Service on PBS, and funding by CPB for local station productions, national productions, and community engagement as part of Veterans Coming Home

About PBS
PBS, with over 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches more than 103 million people through television and over 33 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website,, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About Ric Burns & Steeplechase Films
Steeplechase Films is the award-winning production company founded by Ric Burns in 1989. Director, writer, and producer Ric Burns began his career co-writing and producing the celebrated PBS series The Civil War (1990) and has since directed over 30 hours of award-winning films, including Coney Island (1991), The Donner Party (1992), The Way West (1995), Ansel Adams (2002), Eugene O’Neill (2006), Andy Warhol (2006), We Shall Remain: Tecumseh’s Vision (2009), New York: A Documentary Film (1999-2003), Death and the Civil War (2012), and Enquiring Minds (2014).  2015 will see the release of American Ballet Theatre: A History; Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History, and The Pilgrims

About WETA Washington, D.C.
WETA Washington, DC, is one of the largest producing stations of new content for public television in the United States. WETA productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week With Gwen Ifill, The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize, In Performance at the White House and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including the premiere this past September of The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at

About Lois Pope
Lois Pope is a noted philanthropist and founder of the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., Leaders in Furthering Education (LIFE), and the Disabled Veterans LIFE Memorial Foundation, which spearheaded the creation of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.  Dedicated on Oct. 5, 2014 in Washington, D.C., the memorial is the nation’s first permanent public tribute to the four million living disabled American veterans and all those who have died. 

About NEH
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

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