I Was There film class

Program Director and instructor at the I WAS THERE film workshop Jeanette Sears(right), helps Private John Velis(left) and Staff Sgt Aaron Ziegler(center) as they start filming a short film they are calling Invisible Heroes about one soldiers life from military service to homelessness. The workshop is for active duty and retired military to help participants deal with PTS.

Josh Bachman |Herald

About 3O soldiers and local veterans tried their hands at filmmaking last week, as part of a workshop aimed at helping current and former service members use film as an outlet.

The “I Was There Film Workshop” came to Fort Hood from Feb. 1-4, where participants gathered in small groups to plan and shoot a short film. Subjects of the films ranged from homeless veteran awareness, to women’s challenges in the military, letting go of personal demons, a film about being a superhero as a soldier, and a comedic look at expectations of the military verses reality.

The program previously came to Fort Hood in February 2014.

“The workshop was fantastic. I think that all of the participants enjoyed their time ... Many of them made films they were passionate about and everyone was enthusiastic about the process,” said workshops director Jeanette Sears.

The workshop is an initiative of the Patton Veterans Project, a nonprofit organization started by Benjamin Patton, grandson of World War II Gen. George Patton, geared toward helping soldiers and veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress and other conditions.

Staff Sgt. Murray Outlaw, with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was part of a group which focused on sexual assault as the theme of their short film during last week’s workshop.

Outlaw said the filmmaking process offered the opportunity for participants to share and hear many different perspectives.

“It’s mainly talking and putting your views to someone else to see what they think, so people get a better understanding of different people’s life outlooks and aspects of their life,” he said.

Participants also were able to watch videos made from past participants at other military bases.

“I think that opened up some of the guys’ eyes,” Outlaw said after viewing the other films.

Last June, Spc. Samantha Jasso participated in the workshop when it came to Fort Drum, N.Y., where she is stationed. It made such an impact on the soldier that she decided to travel to Texas to participate in last week’s workshop at Fort Hood as a mentor to other soldiers going through it.

Diagnosed with chronic adjustment disorder, depression and anxiety, Jasso said she personally felt like making a short film was a way for her to share her struggles with other soldiers who might be dealing with similar things.

“It’s OK if that’s something you struggle with. Nobody chooses that. It’s something that’s happened to people, and they’re trying to work through something,” she said.

As both a participant and a mentor, Jasso said she observed soldiers from various walks of life opening up about their struggles with each other.

“I believe this program can help people start the healing process, and that’s what it helped do for me,” she said.

“I was keeping a lot of stuff to myself because I was thinking I was the only one. I think that’s one of the reasons why this program is effective, because you realize everybody may have different military experiences, but there’s some kind of connection in everybody’s story.”

The four-day workshop culminated in a screening of the newly created films on Thursday night. About 60 people attended the viewing, including Lynda MacFarland, wife of III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland.

For more information on the project, go to iwastherefilms.org.

Contact JC Jones at jcjones@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7464​

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