Members of the 101st Airborne on location with Oklahoman Mike Boettcher, behind the camera.
Courtesy Prodigy Public Relations
This Veterans Day, many Americans will pay their respects to the brave men and women who have fought for their country. While there’s no shortage of war films to help you understand what it’s like to be deployed, few are as powerful as “The Hornet’s Nest.”
“The Hornet’s Nest” isn’t a scripted film starring seasoned actors. It’s a real-life documentary with a cast of unsung heroes — an emotional, action-packed look at what it’s like to be an American soldier.
The immersive feature film follows Mike Boettcher and his son, Carlos, as they join troops on dangerous missions deep inside one of Afghanistan’s most hostile valleys.
Tulsans might remember Boettcher, a native Oklahoman, from his time as a reporter at KWTV and his coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing. Now an Emmy, Peabody and National Headliner award-winning journalist, Boettcher and his son recently won the “News Story of the Year” Emmy for their coverage of battles shown in the film.
With captivating footage and true stories to work with, “The Hornet’s Nest” directors and producers David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud carefully crafted an emotional piece of cinematography. The duo has worked together for more than 10 years and shared a relentless commitment to make the film.
“We knew instinctively the film was important because we had people who had been killed in action during the filming,” Salzberg says. “You can’t raise the bar as a filmmaker and of human responsibility higher than that.”
One of the film’s distinguishing features is its lack of political agenda. Instead of swaying audiences right or left, the documentary aims to tell the stories of real people, their deployments and their families back home.
“We pushed to make it an experience you felt, not watched,” Salzberg says. “We’ve been told by many combat veterans that the only thing you don’t get is the smell. We wanted it to grab you by the shirt and take you on the missions.”
It certainly does.
Oklahoman Scott Morgan, who was deployed from April 2010-April 2011 as a military police squad leader, worked with the “No Slack Battalion” featured in the documentary. He was tasked with Afghan police training and handling enemy personnel and civilians during major operations like those depicted in the movie.
“The wonderful people who made this film refused to twist it in any way,” Morgan says. “The story tells itself.”
Through intense battles, unwavering friendships and remarkable displays of valor, that story allows the audience to experience the lesser-seen parts of war: fear, reward, brotherhood and even death.
It is difficult to watch the troops lay their fellow soldiers to rest, but it’s easy to understand their closeness, as well as the physical and emotional scars many endure when they return home.
For many, Morgan says, “The Hornet’s Nest” is a gift.
“This film has been one of the greatest things that could have happened for us after returning home,” he says. “There are stories of guys who were on the verge of suicide who saw the film and decided they needed to keep on living.”
According to Morgan, the film helps veterans move on because it gives their friends and family a better understanding of what they’ve gone through. It also keeps veterans connected to their comrades.
Perhaps the film’s most important contribution is its immortal preservation of lives lost at war.
“This film keeps alive the memories of our brothers and sisters who died,” Morgan says. “Some of them have children who have no actual memories of them, and now they can put in a DVD and see their father every day. I can think of no better cause to get behind.”
If you’re looking for a way to honor the troops this Veterans Day, grab a copy of “The Hornet’s Nest,” available at Walmart, Amazon and iTunes. American Hero Channel also will host a limited TV run through Veterans Day.
As Morgan explains, “Not everyone gets the opportunity to serve their country, but they always want to try and understand what it is they’re thanking a service member for. If you see this film, you’ll understand.”