MEDIA ADVISORY: U.S. Military Veterans Present Films Focusing on ‘Healing After War’ and Treatment of PTSD Through the Eyes of Survivors

MEDIA ADVISORY:  U.S. Military Veterans Present Films Focusing on ‘Healing After War’ and Treatment of PTSD Through the Eyes of Survivors
September, 2016 Client News

WHAT: The second evening of the GI Film Festival San Diego presented by Sullivan Solar Power features five films with themes ranging from World War II, healing after the war, and a film block entitled “Remembering Vietnam.”

Thursday’s line-up includes the West Coast Premiere of “Almost Sunrise,” a film that follows two Iraq War veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, both tormented by depression for years after they returned home and pushed to the edge of suicide. The two embark on an extraordinary journey – a 2,700 mile walk across the country from Wisconsin to California.

In the “Return to Dak To,” director Christopher Upham, shares the personal story of five men who return to Vietnam to explore and explain their feelings 40 years after participating in one of the most bloodiest sieges in the war’s history. Upham was one of the few who survived the 61-day siege, and “telling stories is his way of coping with the war.”


AFTER THE FILM SCREENINGS: In the spirit of bringing military veterans together, the Armed Services YMCA San Diego and the “Almost Sunrise” production team will hold a meditation session the morning after the screening, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 at 10 a.m. at the Armed Services YMCA San Diego at 3293 Santo Road, San Diego, CA 92124 in the Family Youth Enrichment building. Tom Voss, a military veteran who is featured in “Almost Sunrise” will lead an introduction to meditation and “The Power Breath” designed to unlock a happier, more relaxed state of being with higher levels of awareness, focus and clarity. This session will be free and open to festival attendees, and the community. Space is limited to only 24 individuals and participants are taken on a first come, first served basis. For details, call the Armed Services YMCA San Diego at (858) 751-5755.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: According to PTSD United, 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives, which equates to approximately 223.4 million people nationwide. Up to 20 percent of these people go on to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and as of today, that equates to approximately 44.7 million people who were or are struggling with PTSD. In the past year alone the number of diagnosed PTSD cases in the military jumped 50 percent. This statistic is only the reported and diagnosed cases.

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016


  • Interviews with Filmmakers and Designated Event Spokesperson(s): Between 5:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.
  • See below for details.
  • Film Screenings Begin: 6 p.m.

WHERE: The Village Theatres, 820 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118 (Coronado)


  • The following “Almost Sunrise” filmmakers and subjects will be in attendance and will be able to discuss their film and the importance of healing after service. (Available between 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.)
  • Michael Collins, director, “Almost Sunrise”
  • Tom Voss, veteran and film subject, “Almost Sunrise”
  • Anthony Anderson, veteran and film subject, “Almost Sunrise”
  • Marty Syjuco, producer, “Almost Sunrise”
  • Christopher Upham, U.S. military veteran and director, “Return to Dak To” (Available between 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.)
  • Ken Hopkins, veteran and featured in the film, “Escape from Firebase Kate” (Available between 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.)
  • A.J. Brooks, advisory committee member (Available 5:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.)
  • Bob Lawrence, advisory committee member (Available 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.)
  • Phillip Sammuli, director of corporate relations, Armed Services YMCA San Diego and advisory committee member (Available between 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.)
  • Step and repeat entry.
  • Video of trailers available upon request.

The following is a full schedule of film screenings for Thursday, Sept. 15. Filmmaker Q&A and panel discussions will follow select screenings.

  • 6 p.m.: “The Unimaginable Journey of Peter Ertel” (West Coast Premiere) – Peter Ertel was considered “like family” by his Jewish employers by the end of World War II, but he had a remarkable past as a German soldier for five years at the beginning of the war. In the first-person narrative documentary “The Unimaginable Journey of Peter Ertel,” the man speaks of his experience in a hatred, destruction-driven time. The film features rare archival footage – previously unreleased– as the audience learns from this former agent for the U.S. State Department.
  • 6:30 p.m.: “Almost Sunrise” (West Coast Premiere) – This film follows two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, both tormented by depression for years after they returned home and pushed to the edge of suicide. The two embark on an extraordinary journey – a 2,700 mile walk across the country from Wisconsin to California, in order to reflect on their haunting experiences of war and to ultimately, save themselves. Will this epic pilgrimage allow them to begin the new life they so desperately seek?
  • 7 p.m.: “Remembering Vietnam” Film Block (Multiple films featured)
  • “Escape from Firebase Kate” (West Coast Premiere) – During the implementation of Nixon’s plan to end the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, 26 U.S. troops are caught in the transition. Unsupported by the South Vietnamese, the men are abandoned on a tiny outpost where they are surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese troops. After surviving a brutal three-day siege, they lead a daring middle-of-the-night escape through the jungle and evade enemy troops. “Escape from Firebase Kate” is their story, told by the men who survived in their own words.
  • “Tom’s War” (World Premiere) – Tom Geerdes served as an Army medic in the 11th Armored Calvary in Vietnam and Cambodia. Like many veterans, he returned home a changed man. At StoryCorps, Tom shared his long journey toward healing with his daughter, Hannah Campbell. This animated short features the audio from their recording.
  • “Return to Dak To” – This film is about the previously untold story that occurred at the end of the Vietnam War. Six hundred American soldiers in the 299th Engineer Battalion ordered by President Nixon fought during the 61-day siege, and half were killed. The other 300 men returned to the United States with no therapy, expected to assimilate back into civilian life. Forty years later, five men who are still haunted decide to return to Dak To, to further explain their feelings to themselves and each other.


  • Sullivan Solar Power Presents the GI Film Festival San Diego Wednesday, Sept. 14 through Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016.
  • The festival features 28 films for, about, and by service men and women and brings the stories of America’s military to life through film. Film screenings and related events will be presented in Balboa Park, Coronado, and Mission Valley.
  • This year, several of the films focus on lesser known true military stories that will satisfy any film aficionado’s appetite for a good story.
    The films come from around the United States as well as here in San Diego and range from feature length films to shorts, giving the audience an opportunity to view a variety of stories in a short amount of time. They are presented within themed blocks so audience members can fully immerse themselves in the festival experience.
  • Theme blocks include:
    • Facing Crisis
    • How We Heal
    • Remembering Vietnam
    • Salute to the Navy
    • WWII POW Stories
  • Out of the 28 films selected at GI Film Festival San Diego, 16 were presented at the GI Film Festival held in Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA in May 2016, including several “Best of Fest” winners.
    There are ten West Coast Premieres and two World Premieres.
  • The film festival advisory committee consists of members of San Diego military community representing organizations such as Fisher House San Diego, USO San Diego, Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center at SDSU, The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, Challenged Athletes Foundation – Operation Rebound, Elizabeth Hospice, Courage to Call, and Armed Services YMCA.
  • Tickets for individual screenings start at $10. All access passes are $85. Military and veteran discounts apply. Festival organizers are also working with partner organizations to provide complimentary tickets to local military and their families.
  • Visit for details and to purchase tickets.
  • Friday, Sept. 16 – The popular Family Movie Night features special preview screenings of the Warner Bros. animated adventure, “Storks” at UltraStar Cinemas Mission Valley at Hazard Center.
  • Saturday, Sept. 17 – Screenings will take place at UltraStar Cinemas Mission Valley at Hazard Center starting at 12:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 18 – The Local Film Showcase and other screenings will take place at UltraStar Cinemas Mission Valley at Hazard Center starting at 1 p.m. The Closing Celebration and Awards Ceremony occurs that evening at 6 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton San Diego Mission Valley at Hazard Center.

The GI Film Festival San Diego is presented by Sullivan Solar Power. Additional festival sponsors are National City Mile of Cars, One Reverse Mortgage, San Diego Opera, Scatena Daniels Communications, and GEICO Military with support provided by a grant from The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation. The festival is organized by KPBS in partnership with the GI Film Group and the Film Consortium San Diego.