Photo (CREDIT: Gold Star Children Productions): 13-year-old Cierra Becker, who lost her dad in Iraq, with 43-year-old Jennifer Denard, who lost her father in Vietnam, hug a teddy bear and talk the deaths of their fathers 40 years apart at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. in Gold Star Children, an hour-long documentary film examining the experiences of children who lost parents serving in the U.S. military.
Holmdel, N.J. (October 24, 2014) – On Saturday, November 15, 2014, 1 – 3 p.m., the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation will host a screening of the documentary feature film “Gold Star Children: Two Generations Sharing Loss and Healing”, followed by a conversation via Skype with producer and director Mitty Griffis Mirrer. The event is open to the general public and will be held in the Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center’s testimonial theater located at 1 Memorial Lane, Holmdel, NJ (Garden State Parkway Exit 116 on the grounds of the PNC Bank Arts Center). There screening is included in general Museum admission: $7 adults; $5 senior citizens and students; and children 10 years of age or younger and veterans and active military personnel are free. For more information, visit www.njvvmf.org or call (732) 335-0033.
The one hour-long documentary film draws attention to military families and those impacted by war, but also inspires and helps non-military Americans understand, support and get involved with our military families and the children left behind by our fallen warriors.
“Gold Star Children” takes an intimate look at American children who've lost a parent to war. The film is a first-person narrative told through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, who lost her father in the Iraq war, and the adult-children survivors of the Vietnam War. The film follows the parallel journeys of two generations of grieving children – recent war orphans who’ve lost parents serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and here at home, with the now adult children who lost parents serving in Vietnam.
The film was created by Mitty Griffis Mirrer, of Providence, Rhode Island, a gold star child herself. Mirrer’s father, US Marine CAPT William A. Griffis, III, died in the Vietnam War hours after her birth. Griffis is honored on the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Her prior films include a documentary series on her own family’s journey to Vietnam in 1997. The series aired nationally on Tribune broadcasting stations.
This touching and hopeful film brings together the voices of today, with historical context, giving meaning and shape to how America understands those who pay the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country through the voices of the children and families they leave behind. The term “Gold Star” children is based on the pin presented by the military at funerals to the families of fallen troops. Viewers will watch as children cry, laugh and share their experiences across two generations and find hope and healing.
The isolation carried by those who lost a parent in Vietnam, and their struggle to understand the deaths of their fathers in a war that most Americans did not want to fight, is explored. At the same time, children who lost parents in today’s conflicts face a public that support the troops but feel like others can’t relate to their experiences as bereaved children.
“Grief went underground during the Vietnam War,” says Mirrer. “The film shows we’ve learned lessons from that war and we’re now bridging the disconnect and providing vital community support for families. We are giving a voice to the people who are living it, and most notably our youngest survivors.
They find help and support with the Vietnam-Era survivors featured in the film and through nonprofit organizations like Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and Snowball Express that work to bring these two generations of Gold Star children together. TAPS also offers a Good Grief Camp for children grieving the death of a service member.
“It’s an honor to screen “Gold Star Children” at the Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center and New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Following our tours and ceremonies, we’ve had many veterans and their families share personal stories with us. For many, it’s the first time they have verbalized their pain and loss,” says Sarah Hagarty, M.A., Curator, Vietnam Era Museum & Educational Center. “Our Museum is the ideal venue to host the screening and to reach a greater audience and raise awareness of the issue and need for community support.”
About the Producer & Director
Mitty Griffis Mirrer is an independent documentary filmmaker, award winning journalist and military survivor who has spent the past decade gathering the voices of widows, widowers and children of war from two generations. In 1997, Mirrer earned a Regional Edward R Murrow Award for her documentary series on her own family’s journey to Vietnam. Through the documentary series, Mirrer began to understand the loss of not knowing her Marine father, William A. Griffis III, who was killed in Vietnam in1970. More importantly, Mirrer began to understand the greater impact on her life of never talking about his life or his death. The inspiration for “Gold Star Children” came when Mirrer volunteered as a mentor to a child whose father was killed while serving In Iraq. She recognized the needs of this child and all of the children who have lost a parent to war. Mirrer produced and directed “Gold Star Children”, which follows the parallel journeys of two generations: today’s war orphans, and the now-adult children whose fathers were killed in the Vietnam War. Together in this film, two generations of Gold Star children grieve, love and hope. Mirrer also founded Gold Star Children, a non-profit, to use film and interactive media to raise awareness for children who have lost a parent to war. “Gold Star Children: Two Generations Sharing Loss and Healing” is available for sale as a digital download at www.goldstarchildren.org
About New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Foundation
The New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation offers a meaningful and engaging experience that recognizes the sacrifice, courage and valor of Vietnam Veterans and encourages and fosters a thorough understanding of the Vietnam Era including the political, historical, social, cultural and military aspects, which affected the United States, and especially New Jersey. For more information and to support the Foundation, visit www.njvvmf.org.