George Ciampa knows all too well how quickly people forget the sacrifices made on their behalf.
The 88-year-old served honorably in World War II, and he’s dedicated the last few years to creating documentaries to help people honor the men and women of the U.S. Military.
His latest project will chronicle a proud tradition that has yet to take root in America, but one that lets people across Europe say thanks to the U.S. soldiers who fought for their liberation.
The documentary, dubbed They Will Never Forget, tracks the European citizens who care for the graves of U.S. soldiers, “adopting” the sites to keep their sacrifices and memories alive. The adopters, some as young as 14, place flowers on the graves, gather information on the deceased and contact the families of the dead to learn their personal stories.
Ciampa, who worked in display advertising at the LA Times before shifting gears to the film realm, has turned his golden years into a crash course on filmmaking. His documentaries have found him taking history teachers abroad to teach them about heroism during World War II (Let Freedom Ring: The Lesson Is Priceless) and recall the fighting exploits of some of the U.S. military’s bravest heroes (Remembering the Fallen Heroes of the Mighty Eighth).
His films have been shown on PBS stations nationwide, and he’s been honored by the GI Film Festival for his work. He simply wants to keep vital memories alive, honor the sacrifices of his fellow veterans and help today’s teachers better understand the country’s military history, particularly regarding World War II.
U.S. military members are “our finest ambassadors,” he says, and he’s glad that people want to honor that via the adoption program he’s capturing in his new film. Ciampa may have gotten a late start on a film career, but he’s learning a cruel lesson about his craft. The hardest part is often the fundraising. He’s poured plenty of his own money into his past projects, and he isn’t taking on the work to make a profit. He just can’t afford to fundForget by himself this time.
He keeps his costs as low as possible, serving as both the creative force behind his projects as well as the person who brings them to the public.
“I’m the president and the shipping clerk,” he says.
Ciampa will wrap the project should enough donors (click on his site’s Donate Online page) and sponsors rally behind him and his cause. For now, he’s negotiating new deals to bring his previous documentaries to the masses, working with schools to share them with students and personally answering messages sent by people touched by his films.
He has served his country both as a soldier and filmmaker, but his work on the latter front is not done.
“Young people need to know the high price of freedom,” he says.