25th ID sergeants bring combat to the big screen

| August 20, 2010 | 0 Comments

Staff Sgt. Amber Robinson
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

Clothes hang out to dry as rain clouds gather over the Restrepo bunker high up on the edges of the Korengal Valley, Kunar province, Afghanistan, in June 2008. (Tim Hetherington | “Restrepo” movie still)SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — For the last nine years, American and allied forces have fought to help the country of Afghanistan become stable. 

Soldiers are working hard to balance humanitarian work with fighting an aggressive enemy, while living in very primitive conditions in some of the most obscure areas of the country. 

One such location is Outpost Restrepo, located in the mountains of the Korengal Valley, nestled along the northeastern border of Pakistan, where one of the most revered movie-documentaries of the war in Afghanistan was launched from this postage-stamp-sized security outpost.

Tim Hetherington, a British photographer and “Vanity Fair” contributor, and Sebastian Junger, writer of the “Perfect Storm,” worked together during Operation Enduring Freedom, in 2007 and 2008, to produce a film about the war in Afghanistan. It was shot on location with little effect lighting, no special effects, little-known actors and a less-than-grandiose budget for such a highly publicized film.   

The movie is about Soldiers — and nothing more. 

For 10 months, Junger and Hetherington documented more than 500 hours of Soldiers who dwelled on Restrepo, an outpost named for Pfc. Juan Restrepo, a medic the 15-man platoon lost within two months of its deployment into, what used to be, the most volatile area of Afghanistan. 

Recently, Mililani Town hosted a special premier of the film “Restrepo.” Sgt. Mitchell Raeon and Sgt. John Clinard, two Soldiers featured in the film, were part of the sniper team attached to the 173rd Airborne Division, out of Vicenza, Italy, at the time. Now, both are currently stationed with the 25th Infantry Division, here in Hawaii. Raeon is part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and Clinard is part of 2nd Bde. Combat Team. 

Junger and Hetherington contacted the two young Soldiers to appear at the premier for a VIP viewing and a question-and-answer session with the audience, following the film. 

“We were invited to the premier at the Sundance Festival in New York,” said Raeon. “Since then, we have spoken a lot about the film to different audiences.” 

As the film began in the dark theater, both Soldiers sat quietly with their wives, anticipating the first scenes of a time that both of them wish to forget.

“It’s weird,” Clinard said. “Seeing all of that again, it brings back a lot of memories. Some of (them) are good and some of them are bad.”

Sgt. Mitchell Raeon (left) and Sgt. John Clinard, answer questions from the audience at the Millilani 14 Theater in Millilani Town, after the Hawaii premier of the highly acclaimed movie-documentary “Restrepo,” Aug. 6. (Staff Sgt. Amber Robinson | 3rd BCT Public Affairs, 25th ID)Clinard had never seen the finished film and neither had either of the Soldiers’ wives. During some scenes, the only people laughing in the theater were Clinard and Raeon, who had intimate and comedic insight into the experiences caught on film.

“Some of it was tough to watch,” said Isabel, Clinard’s wife. “I sat throughout the whole thing clutching my purse … but it helps me to understand a lot.”

“I know that what (Mitchell) experienced was hard,” said Christina, Raeon’s wife. “I try to understand, but I know I never will understand completely. I know that it is still tough for him, and that no matter what, he will always have his experience in the back of his head.”

Directly following the film, Raeon and Clinard were ushered to two seats positioned at the front of the theater, and all patrons were encouraged to ask them questions about the film.  

Raeon and Clinard answered all inquiries with grace, candor and reflection. Although what they experienced was hard and left them changed, they are proud the film was made. 

“The producers told us up front that this was not a film about politics or about the war. This was about the Soldiers,” Raeon said. “And I think they did what they set out to do. 

“This is about us, about what we go through … what we do to make the time go by faster and what we have to do to handle the things we go through,” Raeon continued. “This was about Soldiers.”



“Restrepo” is rated R and will be playing at Pearlridge West Theatre, Aug. 20-22, at 8:15 p.m. and 10:35 p.m.; and Aug. 23-26, at 8:05 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.


Category: News

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