For Vietnam veteran and award-winning actor/director Brian Delate, the traumatic events of 9/11 underscore the challenge for generations of servicemen and women —to bring closure and meaning to their own painful battlefield memories. By recalling his own personal story, and tapping into his passion for art, he is optimistic about restoring the lives of those who need extra help.
“It (9/11) was a very big trigger. It also got me putting pen to paper, and ultimately wanting to make a film,” he said in an exclusive interview with Veterans Advantage.
Delate is the director of Soldier’s Heart, the winner of “Best Narrative Feature” at last year’s GI Film festival. One could also call it a veiled autobiography of his experience in Vietnam.
“It’s a little indie film,” he says with the humility of one who is proud of his journey. “But when we put it up in front of veterans, it really seems to bring [them] home.”
And at the same time, it also reflects a life challenge for many returning from action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soldier's Heart stars Brian Delate, James Kiberd, D'yan Forest and Cady McClain "Soldier’s Heart" stars Brian Delate, James Kiberd, D’yan Forest and Cady McClain. Winner of the Best Narrative Feature Film Award at the G.I. Film Festival in Washington, DC, “Soldier’s Heart” is a unique, powerful and touching film about Veterans as told by a Veteran.
“It’s so important to create a bridge. They are a part of us, and we are a part of them,” he says.
It’s the story of Elliot, a Vietnam War Veteran with money woes, strain in his family goals and relationships, and an ongoing battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
But it’s ultimately a story of hope and renewal, thanks to the help of a fellow Vet, as Elliot “walks through his fears and embraces the possibilities of a life of hope – and maybe a life beyond his wildest dreams.”
Embedded throughout the film are some of Delate’s own experiences. The filmmaker grew up idolizing his father and uncles, WWII vets who returned home victorious and provided mutual support to their fellow Vets.
“There was a fever of victory at the time,” he recalls. “My father was very community-minded [and] they were very community oriented with each other.”
Delate also recalls his childhood dreams fondly and with a sense of irony. As a kid, he wanted to be a heart surgeon, and those dreams remain a metaphor for his current life goals. He speaks spiritually about a collective restoration of the “heart chakra.” He also cares deeply about the practical issues facing vets today, especially the reentry hurdles facing Iraq and Afghanistan vets, as they are sent back into American society with too little support.
And like so many of his brethren, he is proud of his service and believes in the eloquence of a simple “Thank you for your service” that we all can offer those who served.
Brian Delete Vietnam Brian Delate served in the Vietnam War (1969) as a decorated non-commissioned officer and since 1980 has worked extensively in film, theatre and television as an actor. “Soldier’s Heart” represents his debut as a writer/director.
Driven primarily by a desire to share his own experience, Delate was somewhat surprised by the movie’s universal appeal. At the screenings last year, he was approached by Vets of all generations, thanking him for his work. One striking encounter came from a lifelong friend who after seeing the movie spoke openly to Delate for the first time about his own experience. Another attendee struck by the film was an elderly Italian gentleman who fought for the Italian Army in World War II, Delate recalls.
The experience has led Delate to expand his dedication to community and sharing. Through a special Web site, http://www.restoreoursoldiers.com fellow Vets can post their own recollections, challenges and hopes, and exchange them in a safe environment among peers.
Not ready to rest on his laurels, he continues on his journey to help others through his art. He is currently writing and producing “Memorial Day,” a one-man show with the famed Actors Studio in New York City, bringing more of the PTSD culture to light.
It’s hard work, but ultimately one that’s important and satisfying for all involved.
“I feel more kinship than I ever did before,” he said.
Photo Credit: https://signalscv.com/2017/05/brian-delate-u-s-army-vietnam-veteran/