The Story page tells you about the Invalid Corps, who they were and what they did; it tells you about the film. What it doesn’t tell you about is how this film project began. There is so much involved in any origin story, but the best place to begin, I guess, is at the beginning. 🙂 It all started about five months ago with a film class and a blog post.
I love learning new things and as I’ve spent the last few years writing fiction I thought it might be an interesting aside to learn about writing for film. So I signed up for a video production class with Professor Adele Schmidt through Docs in Progress. What exactly is a production class? It means that the class was designed to include “hands-on opportunities to learn core filmmaking skills, including story development, video recording, and editing.” And the part that really excited me was this:
Participants will work individually on a video project (2:30 min. max) of their own choice (social media video, trailer, PSA, portrait of a person) combining existing and/or new footage such as interview and B-roll with stills and archival footage. Participants will use pre-existing media and/or record new media (interview, B-roll) with their own camcorder. Participants will use their own laptop and editing software (Final Cut Pro X preferred) to edit the project.
I would get to actually make a movie!
Of course, then came the problem, how does a blind person make a film? I wasn’t sure and will admit, it worried me. It worried me enough to convince my wife to take the course with me – just in case. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, I needed her assistance less than I anticipated. Yes, there were things with focus and getting shots “just right” that were challenging but I discovered that I could craft a story, direct exactly what kinds of shots and action I wanted, and be able to edit and organize what materials I had into a final, finished product.
It was exciting, it was thrilling, and it was fun.
But there’s more to the story. Why the Invalid Corps? The story of the Invalid Corps and their creation during the Civil War (though I am aware of the Invalid Corps of the Revolutionary War as well), came up as part of a discussion with my wife. As an archivist and librarian for a local disability non-profit, she provided content for their “Throw-back Thursday” blog posts, usually focused around some interesting and disability-related fact or image. A few months earlier she had written a few paragraphs about these soldiers and I couldn’t let it go.
The story was simple and yet there was so much to it: The Civil War generated thousands of casualties. It wasn’t unusual to have a 30% mortality rate after a battle. And of course this also created more soldiers with disabilities. Many of us are familiar with Civil War stories of the injuries and amputations that many of the soldiers suffered…60,000 of them in fact, but what happened after? “Federals and Confederates alike worried about the immoral and idle behavior that would arise if disabled soldiers did not return to work and provide for themselves.”
These men that were too disabled to return to their post but entirely too able to get into trouble with women and wine and cards. Or such was the concern. The answer came in 1862 when the Union’s medical officers decided to put “convalescent wounded and feeble men” to work around the hospital. It worked so well, a year later General Order No. 105, of the U.S. War Department made it official and thus was created, the Invalid Corps.
It is a story about disability that should be told, not just from a historical standpoint but to understand and recognize the efforts of men and women in uniform today.
“There are lots of people with disabilities who want to serve their country, and can serve…they may not be able to do exactly everything everyone else can do, but they can do within their abilities, and they can provide a lot of support.”
– Senator Tom Harkin (2013)
The Army’s Continue on Active Duty (COAD) program is putting military men with clear, visible disabilities back into combat, and retaining and retraining others for other forms of active duty. As of June 2013, sixty-nine amputees have returned to active duty. Also of note, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a 100-year old, 47,000-man (and woman) garrison is now commanded by Colonel Gregory D. Gadson. Colonel Gadson is a double-amputee. Perhaps even more impressive is Marine Corporal Garret S. Jones’ recovery and redeployment to a combat zone after losing a leg.
I want the world to know what happened that summer in 1864. I want to tell this story about disability, and sacrifice, about honor, and devotion to duty.
And to leave you with something a little fun, the director of the movie Battleship, Nick Berg, was so impressed with Colonel Gadson, he even gave him a role in the film. Below is a clip from Colonel Gadson where he talks about returning to active duty (and a few snippets from the film too).Posted on: January 6, 2015