Freedom on a disc

A Glendale man serving in Iraq is featured in a documentary film and book project that producers hope will give the public a better understanding of those who serve in the military.

For Col. James D. McGinley of the U.S. Marine Corps, the film, “Warriors . . . In Their Own Words,” gave him the chance to talk about the challenges the troops faced in 2006 in Ramadi, which is in the Al Anbar Province in Iraq.

“It was extremely dangerous,” he said, adding that it’s completely the opposite today, as shops are open and people are walking or driving freely. “One of the things I was doing there was working with the governor. Our task was to set up the first provincial joint coordination center, which functions like an emergency 911 center in California.”

The center coordinates efforts between the police, highway patrol, Army and department of border enforcement, he said.

“To take a team of Marines in there to work with the Iraqis, to be able to relate that story was a very important part of the film,” he said.

McGinley also discussed leadership under combat circumstances and suffering the loss of a fellow Marine, he said.

The film is a series of interviews with men who are serving or who have formerly served in the military, for the most part, Marines, from World War II until now. Some of those interviewed came back severely wounded.

“The film relates tales of both courage and service and what people are willing to sacrifice on behalf of the nation,” McGinley said.

McGinley summarized a lot of the feelings and thoughts the filmmakers were trying to relate, director Rex Pratt said.

“His expertise and leadership experience helped add an additional layer and perspective of understanding to the film,” Pratt said.

All proceeds from the DVD and the book, which are available at go to Lives Out of Combat, a nonprofit charitable organization, Pratt said. Lives Out of Combat donates the funds to the San Diego-based Freedom Is Not Free, a support group that provides assistance to wounded veterans and families of military personnel who have died during military service.

The filmmakers were trying to help veterans in need by raising funds for the program, and to change the way America views its warriors, Pratt said.

What Pratt tried to bring out in the film, he said, is that the world has always had warriors, and today’s warriors have the same characteristics as warriors throughout history.

Phronie Sanders, a neighbor of McGinley, has seen the film and said there is a something in a warrior’s DNA, a chemistry, that a lot of people don’t have.

“I think when you watch this program, it is so humbling and inspiring that they have this drive and selflessness to put themselves out there for something they really, really believe in,” Sanders said. “As one of the producers said, some people are meant to be 911 and some are meant to call 911. Man, that’s it in a nutshell.”

The film shows the great commitment, bravery and patriotism of the men and women who serve during war, said former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian, who is a friend of the McGinley family.

“Much credit goes to Col. McGinley; he could be practicing as an attorney, and living in comfort here, but instead he is out in harm’s way to protect us as Americans,” Zarian said. “They are all putting their lives on the line while we are here enjoying our freedoms.”

The film shows examples of true patriots, said Brigadier Gen. Mark MacCarley, a Glendale lawyer who is stationed in Hawaii with the U.S. Army Reserve. While growing up in Burbank, he was a cadet major in the National Guard’s California Cadet Corps Unit at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School, which he graduated from in 1969.

“These men in the film are willing to set aside practically everything to support and safeguard their country,” MacCarley said. “The American people should never feel the spirit of patriotism has been lost. It’s still present in American men and women from all backgrounds, from the plumber to the lawyer, from stevedore to the doctor.”

The project was a joint effort with the book’s photographer, Cheryl Cohen, Pratt said.

“We felt that since she was going to be photographing warriors that expanded from World War II to present day, we should do a documentary also,” Pratt said.

Pratt looks at the experience as an incredible gift.

“I’ve personally been enlightened and better understand why a person becomes a warrior and why they choose to serve in a life-and-death calling,” he said. “And my goal with the film was to share that experience with the viewer.”

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