Tuesday, Sept. 24: Opening Night film spotlights Vietnam War veterans, encourages the healing of post-traumatic stress through the artistic transformation of a wounded warbird helicopter by SoCal entrepreneur-turned-artist
San Diego CA— The GI Film Festival San Diego, now in its fifth year, opens with a heartfelt documentary short, “Take Me Home Huey” featuring the transformation of a U.S. Army Huey helicopter into a colorful, inspirational sculpture by contemporary artist and Southern California resident Steve Maloney.
The film, directed by Alicia H. Brauns and Christine Steele, delivers a powerful message of healing and captures the poignant project that reunites some of the Vietnam War veterans who used this very helicopter — #174 — in wartime until it was shot down on Valentine’s Day 1969 during a medical rescue mission and resulted in the death of two of their service brothers.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated that approximately 7.3 million Americans who served in Vietnam from 1964 and 1975 are alive today. However, many Vietnam War era veterans do not share their stories or experiences, and are affected by post-traumatic stress (PTS). In the film, one of the veterans says, “The military teaches you how to fight, but they don’t teach you how to come home.” The traumas of war can leave battle scars which can lead to loneliness, doubts of worthiness and responsibility, and suicide. Projects like “Take Me Home Huey” are very important to help veterans process their experience and begin or continue their healing journey.
About Huey #174 and ‘Take Me Home Huey’ film
Maloney considers himself a “new artist,” who turned to his encore career as a contemporary artist after decades as a successful entrepreneur creating and managing successful businesses in retail and machinery.
In 2012, Maloney, who resides in Rancho Santa Fe and Palm Springs, California, was given the opportunity to create an art piece to be featured in the Palm Springs Air Museum. Inspired by the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War, the sculpture aimed to honor Vietnam War veterans who never received a respectful welcome home after their service overseas. Best known as the “Helicopter War,” the Hueys played crucial roles in the Vietnam War in getting members of our military to safety, making it the perfect element for the “Take Me Home Huey” sculpture. The project featured in the film was created in partnership with Light Horse Legacy, an educational 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that restores and flies old military helicopters to encourage interest in aviation and support and heal veterans experiencing PTS.
“As a Vietnam War veteran, it was important for me to respectfully honor our surviving and lost veterans while telling a unique story of that formidable time through the power of art,” says Maloney. “Light Horse Legacy was a prominent resource in securing the Huey which was found decommissioned in an Arizona scrapyard. They also located the veterans who were aboard the helicopter before its final flight.”
As the battered helicopter becomes whole, stories of Vietnam veterans and their families parallel the healing journey of Huey #174, and viewers begin to understand what veterans must face finding relief from the trauma sustained during the war. The film inspires dialogue about post-traumatic stress, survivor’s guilt, and the importance of never giving up, especially for the veterans and loved ones who have lived with the long-lasting personal effects of war and the tragic crash of #174 on Valentine’s Day 1969.
“The art primed the pump,” says Maloney. “Huey #174 encourages veterans, specifically Vietnam War-era veterans, to open up about their wartime experiences they were forced to keep to themselves for so long in fear of losing their post-war jobs and being judged. Talking about the experience is the best way to heal from post-traumatic stress. There are so many untold stories that came from individuals who come to see the art and the film. I was proud to listen and help reunite the veterans with each other and the Huey.” Maloney is also currently working on a book which will allow him to share more experiences not captured in the film, including the journey of Huey #174 as an art exhibition in various cities throughout the United States and the people he met along the way.
“Take Me Home Huey” is directed by Alicia Brauns, Christine Steele, and Steve Maloney. The 56 minute film made its World Premiere at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2017, and is the opening night film for GI Film Festival San Diego, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. The screening is followed by a panel discussion featuring Maloney and the filmmakers, and a dessert reception. For tickets to the opening night screening and festival passes, visit GIFilmFestivalSD.org.
Celebrating five years of military storytelling and community building, one film at a time
The six-day festival features 34 films, including documentaries, narratives, features and shorts, which will primarily be screened at two locations: Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park and UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center. Since 2015, the films selected for the opening night screenings for GI Film Festival San Diego reveal the untold struggles, triumphs, and experiences of service members and veterans, including documentaries like “American,” “The Registry,” “The 2 Sides Project,” and “USS Indianapolis: The Legacy.” “Take Me Home Huey” continues this tradition for active duty military, veterans and allies to experience the unknown story of #174, its role in the Vietnam War, and the men who served onboard.
Family Movie Night Returns Sept. 6
Excited and eager festival-goers will have an opportunity to take part in the GI Film Festival San Diego’s popular Family Movie Night on Friday, Sept. 6 aboard the USS Midway Museum. This year’s feature film is the action-packed “Captain Marvel.” Guests are encouraged to dress in their best superhero gear to fly “higher, further, faster” with an opportunity to meet Brigadier General Jeannie Leavitt, the film’s military adviser and first female combat pilot. Family Movie Night attendees are also encouraged to bring new socks to donate and support local military families and veterans in need.
Many of the festival events have discounted opportunities for active duty personnel and veterans. Partner organizations will have complimentary tickets available for local military, veterans, and their families, including Elizabeth Hospice, Challenged Athletes Foundation, SAY San Diego, the Armed Services YMCA San Diego, Courage to Call, and more. Individuals tickets and All Access Passes are now available at GIFilmFestivalSD.org.
EVENT CALENDAR INFORMATION
GI Film Festival San Diego 2019
Tuesday, Sept. 24 through Sunday, Sept. 29
Screening times vary.
Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park (for Sept. 24-27)
UltraStar Cinemas at Hazard Center (for Sept. 28-29)
All Access Passes and tickets available on GIFilmFestivalSD.org.