ST. GEORGE — A documentary short film entitled “Radioactive Veteran” will be making its world debut at the Docutah International Documentary Film Festival Tuesday at 6:20 p.m. on the Eccles Mainstage on the Dixie State University campus. It is a film with close ties to Southern Utah, as it relates the history of the military’s nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site and its impact on one military veteran and his widow.
Directed by Iraq War veteran and recent law school graduate Mark Wampler, the film tells the story of Donald and Mary Guy.
A synopsis of the film states:
Donald was a Marine in the early 1950s when the military ordered him to the Nevada Test Site, where they had begun conducting nuclear testing. Along with thousands of other Marines and soldiers, Donald was assured he was safe as he gazed at the billowing mushroom cloud and marched through the desert toward the atomic blast. Within only a few years, however, Donald began experiencing serious medical issues resulting from radiation exposure and soon became disabled. For the rest of his life, he fought for disability benefits with Veterans Affairs, but in 2009 he died before receiving his due compensation. Over the next seven years, his widow Mary continued his fight for justice.
Wampler started working on the film while he was studying in the Veterans Law Program at North Carolina Central University School of Law, a press release for the film said.
“When I learned about the injustice so many atomic veterans have faced, I was shocked,” Wampler said. “As a Marine veteran myself, I couldn’t remain silent.”
After representing Donald and Mary Guy in 2007, Craig Kabatchnick, a veterans attorney and one of Wampler’s law professors, became convinced that the story of America’s radiated veterans needed to be told on a broader scale, information from the film’s website said.
In 2013, Kabatchnick published a law review article entitled “Radioactive Veterans: A New Look at the Nuclear History of America” and started assembling the resources to create a documentary film that would reach a wide audience and give voice to the many radiated veterans.
Wampler joined the team as director, working with Kabatchnick all through law school to research and film. Earlier this year they were able to complete the filmmaking crew – including filmmaker and producer Bradley Bethel – and finish the documentary film.
“We’re very proud of it,” Wampler said of the completed documentary.
All of the crew members involved with “Radioactive Veteran” are equally passionate about telling Donald and Mary’s story in order to bring attention to the thousands of other affected military veterans. They hope those who see it will join their charge to demand justice for all veterans.
“There are some stories that are so important they have to be told, whatever it takes,” Bethel said in a press release. “I feel that way about Donald and Mary’s story, and so I became determined to help make this film happen.”
For Kabatchnick, it is more than just a film; it is the beginning of a legacy he wants to leave for generations to come.
In his law review article of the same name, Kabatchnick wrote:
We are all students of history, a search for truth through extensive research and writings, but we are also in the process of becoming a part of history. You can never ask more from life. We will all be leaving behind a legacy for those who follow behind us.
Kabatchnick hopes to lead a congressional charge to help get all the radiated veterans the benefits they are due, he said.
The film includes interviews with area residents that touch on downwinders and how the tests that took place roughly 100 miles from St. George affected the population here.
Wampler said that it only made sense to include the perspective of the downwinders as they told the story of the military personnel who worked at the Nevada Test Site and were ordered to charge the blasts. The giant mushroom clouds that rose from the desert could be seen from the front porch of many who lived in Southern Utah and Nevada.
“Radioactive Veteran” is a 24-minute documentary short. The film will debut Tuesday at 6:20 p.m. on the Eccles Mainstage. Two additional screenings of the film will take place Friday at 9 p.m. and Saturday at 4:05 p.m. Both Friday and Saturday’s screenings will take place in the Eccles Concert Hall.
- What: “Radioactive Veteran” at Docutah International Documentary Film Festival
- When: Tuesday, 6:20 p.m. | Friday, 9 p.m. | Saturday, 4:05 p.m.
- Where: Dixie State University Eccles Fine Arts Center, 225 S. 700 East, St. George
- Cost: All-day pass, $15; single movie ticket, $10
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.