Hollywood and New York are known for hosting “star-studded” galas, events where often vacuous but popular actors and actresses line the red carpet for piranha-like paparazzi.
A near-sellout crowd of real heroes and supporters gathered Monday at the start of this year's G.I. Film Festival to honor legendary businessman and military supporter extraordinaire Ross Perot and view perhaps the festival's most emotional film to date, "Chosin."
Perot has never forgotten his simple Texas roots or the sacrifices of America’s fighting men and women, especially those in the elite Special Operation community. Part of that appreciation is due to his service as a U.S. Naval Academy graduate where he was a standout cadet. The rest comes from his innate humanity and love of country – and those who fight for it.
A stand-up patriot and standout business man, Perot is well known for organizing and financing the rescue of two of his EDS company executives who were imprisoned by Iran in 1979.
Yet on Monday night it was his selfless devotion to seriously wounded veterans and their families that took center stage. For decades, Perot has quietly spent very large sums of his own money for everything from additional top-notch medical care for wounded warriors to memorials honoring Special Operations units and legends.
One former White House aide who served under Karl Rove in the Bush administration described to the dinner audience how when it comes to helping veterans and active duty military, “Ross Perot just won’t take no for an answer.”
So it was more than fitting that "Chosin," a documentary directed by Brian Iglesias and produced by Aton Sattler, was shown as part of the evening honoring Perot. A 2010 winner at the GI Film Festival, Chosin is one of the most gut-wrenching and emotional documentaries on combat you will ever see.
Iglesias and Sattler are former Marine Corps captains who saw their own share of combat in Iraq. They cashed in their own retirement funds and traveled the country interviewing as many Chosin Reservoir survivors as they could find.
The battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War was one of the most brutal, heroic and costly battles in the history of the United States Marine Corps. For more than two weeks in the dead of a freezing winter 15,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines fought against overwhelming waves of Chinese Communist troops. The American casualties were horrendous, often only a few dozen men out of a company roster that had once mustered 250 survived the battle at Chosin. Fighting was often hand-to-hand, and the bodies of fellow American Marines and soldiers often reluctantly had to used as “human” sandbags.
"Chosin" could only have been made by men who have also seen combat up close and personal. Producer Sattler relates how the Chosin Reservoir Marine’s wives were the first sergeants guarding the doors to the “citadel.” He and director Iglesias were more than sensitive in how they went about contacting and filming the highly emotional stories they got from their interview subjects that took over a year of filming.
"Chosin" draws its incredible impact from the simple raw power of those interviews of Marine veterans. These are Marines who suffered in the most extreme conditions of combat and weather and still endured, fought on and then saved almost 100,000 Korean civilians.
This is a film that should be required viewing for every high school student in the country. If you want to know about the sacrifices, the courage, the horrors of combat and the personal, individual honor of the American fighting man watch "Chosin." It is simply one on the most powerful documentaries you will ever see on men in war.