When I was in the Army, my job was to tell the stories of those with whom I served. As a Veteran, it took me a while to realize my mission hadn’t changed. It took an exceptional program with a story that demanded I tell it in order to make my mission clear.
I started working with Xtreme Sports 4 Veterans early in 2011. I did a little media relations work for them, but the more I learned about the group, the more I realized their work needed wider attention than I could bring through work in local media. The approach they took—building a community of Veterans through extreme sports—works better than it logically should, and it was so simple it could be adopted nearly anywhere, as long as people knew about it.
I needed to do something I’d never done before, but if successful, would garner national attention. I needed to make a documentary about their work.
With a fellowship from The Mission Continues to ensure I didn’t starve while pursuing my goal, I threw myself into the work completely, filming Xsports4vets’ activities through the summer of 2011, and interviewing everyone from Veteran participants to neuroscientists about the program and its effects. Now, nearly a year later, A Brotherhood Reforged is nearly ready for its world premiere. Along the way, my work came to the attention of the Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles. They saw enough merit in the film to invite me to premier the film there as their featured Veteran filmmaker, an honor beyond anything I’d ever expected.
There will be a special advance screening in Missoula, Mont., April 21, followed by the world premiere in L.A. during the Awareness Film Festival, May 3-6.
Dan West served for nearly twelve years in the U.S. Army with his final deployment to Iraq in 2008-2009. He served a Mission Continues Fellowship in 2011 with Xtreme Sports 4 Veterans.