As part of ABC’s annual “Home for the Holidays” campaign, and in support of Disney’s company-wide “Heroes Work Here” initiative, which served as the foundation for a recent Veteran’s hiring event at Walt Disney World featuring a keynote address by First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, ABC will honor our military veterans with several new elements this year by premiering five short films written, directed, and produced by U.S. Veterans highlighting the creative work from our military servicemen and women.
Five talented U.S. Veterans with aspirations to work in the entertainment industry were selected to create digital short films which will be thematically centered around U.S. Veterans coming home this holiday season. As part of the initiative, these five U.S. Veteran storytellers and their short films will be mentored throughout the creative process by experienced creative teams from some of ABC’s most successful series. The five short films will begin to debut on ABC.com MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18, which will serve as the kick-off for the “Home for the Holidays” campaign.
In addition to the five digital short films, “Home for the Holidays” will continue its tradition in welcoming our veterans’ home through holiday greetings from some of ABC’s biggest names. This year, the seven-time Grammy award-winning group, Lady Antebellum, will record a cover of “Celebrate Me Home,” which will be the official anthem of ABC’s “Home for the Holidays.”
The five “Home for the Holidays” digital short films and U.S. Veterans are:
THE LETTER by CAPTAIN REBECCA MURGA
Mentored by Jeannine Renshaw (executive producer, “Grey’s Anatomy”) and Armand Mastroianni (Director, “The Celestine Prophecy,” “Touched By An Angel,” “Stephen King’s Dead Zone”)
Captain Rebecca Murga served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, and is currently working on a documentary In Los Angeles, California, called “Patriots: The Story of Latinos in the US military”.
Rebecca’s film tells the heartwarming story of a little girl who writes a letter to Santa. She is angry at Santa because every Christmas she doesn’t get what she asks for. This year, the only thing she wants is for her mother, who is deployed to Afghanistan, to come back home for Christmas.
YELLOW RIBBON by SERGEANT DON’RE WALKER
Mentored by Wendy Calhoun (writer and supervising producer, “Nashville”) and Dwight Little (Director,”The Practice,” “Free Willy 2”)
Don’re, from Compton, California, served two separate tours in Iraq with the U.S. Army. He is currently the military liaison for Columbia College in Hollywood.
Inspired by his relationship with his daughter, Don’re’s heartwarming, emotional, scripted story celebrates the power of hope starring Tamala Jones (“Castle”).
LAUGHTER UNDER FIRE by SPECIALIST (SPC) COLIN WELLS
Mentored by Jonathan Stark (co-creator, “According to Jim” writer, “Cheers,” “Ellen”)
Colin served with the Army in Afghanistan as an Infantryman. He currently lives in Burbank, California where he focuses on his comedy writing.
A documentary short told from the filmmakers’ experience in Afghanistan, his time served in the Army, and how laughter brought his battalion together. SPC Wells’ documentary short shows firsthand the power of laughter under extreme conditions.
THE DANCE by STAFF SERGEANT (SSG) RYAN CURTIS
Mentored by Ted Sullivan (writer, “Revenge”) and Sgt. Wayne Isham, Army Veteran, 94th Combat Engineers (Director “Metallica,” “Michael Jackson,” “Bon Jovi”)
Ryan, from Los Angeles, California, served with the Army in Iraq and Egypt. Originally from the Boston area, he works as a freelance director/director of photography.
A touching story about a young soldier, severely injured in action, who’s determined to surprise the girl he loves with the dance they never had.
A HOMECOMING by FIRST LIEUTENANT (1LT) DONNA BACHLER
Mentored by Dee Johnson (executive producer, “Nashville”) and Directed by Jon Huertas, Air Force Veteran (plays Detective Javier Esposito on “Castle”)
First Lieutenant (1LT) Donna Bachler lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband, whom she met while deployed.
Donna’s film is the story of a young veteran who excitedly awaits the return of his best friend, the warrior and hero he served with. It’s an emotional reunion with a surprise ending when these best friends are reunited.
ABC Primetime Series will feature veterans in cameo roles and/or as part of storylines in upcoming episodes of “Modern Family” and “Last Man Standing.” “The Neighbors” is offering a verteran the opportunity to shadow one of their directors. Daytime’s “General Hospital” will incorporate a storyline featuring a U.S. Veteran in its upcoming episodes, while “The View” and “The Chew” will lend their support through various themed episodes throughout the holiday season.
ABC News is joining the initiative across all of their programming throughout November and December, including:
“Good Morning America” News Anchor Josh Elliott will have a special report about Captain Rebecca Murga, who wrote, directed and produced “The Letter” featured on ABC.com. Captain Murga is a documentary filmmaker who served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. It airs on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 18 on “GMA” (7:00-9:00 a.m., ET). Elliott recently traveled to Afghanistan for “Operation Homecoming,” a series of reports on military families, the impact of being separated for extended periods of time and amazing family reunions.
“Long Road Home” – ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz files a moving update on two soldiers, Tomas Young and Robert Miltenberger, who she has covered since the early days of the war in Iraq. While on a mission to rescue fellow soldiers pinned down in a war-torn neighborhood of Sadr City, Young was paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet. For the last 10 years he has struggled physically and emotionally. In this report, Young is reunited for the first time with Staff Sergeant Miltenberger, who won the Silver Star for saving the life of Young and five others on that fateful day in Sadr City. It airs on FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13 on “Nightline” (12:35 a.m., ET) and “World News with Diane Sawyer” (6:30 p.m., ET). In a highly-acclaimed and searing book released in 2008, Raddatz profiled a group of soldiers, including Young and Miltenberger, who fought, were wounded and died in the battle for Sadr City. The story was the topic of three “Nightline” reports, including a special edition of “Nightline” that detailed the battle in vivid detail.
“The Things They Carry” – Few can capture the breadth and truth of the experience of being on the front lines better than those who serve, and soldiers in Afghanistan have recorded an unprecedented amount of video with the cell phones and digital cameras they carry every day. “Nightline” has special footage from military men and women documenting their lives, service and sacrifice in Afghanistan, from moments on the battlefield and messages home, to the poignant thoughts and prayers honoring those who won’t be going home. The report airs on “Nightline” (12:35 a.m., ET).
“Second Tour” – ABC News Digital’s original series profiles military veterans pursuing unique ventures as civilians, including starting new businesses, leading grassroots organizations and launching a second career. For more “Second Tour” stories visit http://abcnews.go.com/US/Second_Tour/.
ABC Radio will distribute a special interview with Lady Antebellum and veterans’ holiday wishes to 1800 radio affiliates for use in local programming and highlight five documentary films made by veterans in the award-winning weekly magazine show “Perspective.” Listeners will be directed to ABC.com to view the films.
NewsOne, the network’s affiliate news service, will interview Lady Antebellum about their recording of the Kenny Loggins song, “Celebrate Me Home,” and distribute it to over 200 ABC stations and clients worldwide.
In addition, ABC News is launching a special “Producer for a Day” program for military veterans. Each ABC News program and platform will host servicemen and -women who will become part of their teams, from story development to the edit rooms, curating video, planning social media engagement and more. Veterans will have an opportunity to spend time with executives and reporters throughout ABC News and to learn more about how breaking news and enterprise reports are produced.
Support for the “Home For the Holidays” initiative was provided by the veteran organizations, Veterans in Film and Television (VFT), Got Your 6 and American Corporate Partners (ACP).
About Disney’s ‘Heroes Work Here’
Supporting the U.S. Armed Forces has long been a Disney tradition, and Disney’s Heroes Work Here continues that proud legacy with a company-wide initiative to hire, train and support military veterans. Disney introduced the program in March, 2012 with a commitment to hire at least 1,000 veterans by 2015. Having exceeded that goal in the first year alone, with 1,300 veterans hired, the company announced in March, 2013 that it would create opportunities for another 1,000 former service members over the next two years.
Disney’s Heroes Work Here initiative also features a public awareness campaign to encourage employers across the U.S. to hire former military service members. The campaign includes the free Veterans Institute workshop at Walt Disney World, as well as public service announcements highlighting the skills and experience of veterans who work at Disney. The PSAs direct viewers to the White House’s Joining Forces initiative (www.joiningforces.gov) and have aired across Disney’s media properties including ESPN, ABC and ABC Family, making more than 500 million impressions.
The third component of Disney’s Heroes Work Here initiative is philanthropy. Disney’s philanthropic support of veteran and military organizations has exceeded $1 million since the launch of Heroes Work Here, and through the Disney VoluntEARS program, employees have engaged in several service projects with veterans organizations in communities around the country. On November 14, Disney hosted the ‘Veterans Institute,’ a complimentary workshop designed to inspire and help companies employ servicemen and women transitioning to the private sector. The event featured keynote addresses from Disney Chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger, First Lady Michelle Obama and ABC News Anchor Bob Woodruff, as well as experts from Disney’s Heroes Work Here, government officials, veterans, and non-profit veteran’s service organizations, who shared their experiences, best practices, and tips for making a successful transition from the military to the civilian workforce.
In addition, The Walt Disney Company is proud to continue its strong support of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Program, whose mission is to collect and distribute new, unwrapped toys as Christmas gifts for less fortunate children.