By Michael Moore
Last week I received a call from one of my buddies who is in the Army Reserves up here. It was the same news he’s given me on at least four other occasions in recent months.
The news? That another one of our local Iraq/Afghanistan War veterans has committed suicide since returning home from the war(s).
That’s five suicides of local troops that I know of in just the past few months -- young men who’ve returned here to Northern Michigan after one (or four or eight) tours -- and then find themselves unable to cope because they have no job, no grounding in the reality of civilian life, no support, and no one to talk to about what they’ve been through.
But this call last week was different. My friend in the reserves said that, not only had another Iraq War veteran taken his life, his family doesn’t have the money for the funeral. My army friend didn’t ask that I write a check, just that I spread the word around that the local vets were passing the hat so he could receive a basic burial.
The VA will only bury you in a veterans cemetery, not in your hometown next to your loved ones. If you want to be buried in your town, the county can only kick in $700. The VA will provide the grave marker.
I told him to stop passing the hat; my family would pay for the burial.
Now, look -- I know that you all know my position on these wars, so I don’t need to go into that here, especially not today, the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Some of you feel different than I do. But, regardless of our positions, I’m sure we agree that to send our neighbors off to war and then, when they return, ignore them, is shameful.
So perhaps you’re wondering at this point, “What does this have to do with a film festival and a movie theater?” One of our missions at the Traverse City Film Festival and State Theatre is to be a place where the community can come, not just to watch movies, but to share ideas and work to better the lives of people in our area. We believe that any time art can contribute to that, we are all better off as a society. And while there isn’t much a movie theater or film festival can do to provide better assistance, counseling and support for veterans, there is one thing we can do. We can hire them.
FINDING A JOB
One of the most difficult things for our troops when they return to civilian life is finding employment. So today, I am making a public request to our fine business community in Northern Michigan to join with me in adopting an Affirmative Action Policy for Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans.
The policy is simple: When you have a job opening, encourage veterans to apply and, if qualified, hire them. We are asking local business owners to post this policy on their premises (we’re providing posters and buttons online and at the theater). We’re asking local business owners to let their customers know that they are a business that is friendly to Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.
We want to see as many storefront windows as possible bearing this sign:
“We are an Iraq/ Afghanistan Veterans Affirmative Action Employer”
Here is what we have posted on the front door of the State Theatre:
“WE HIRE VETERANS. The Traverse City Film Festival and State Theatre’s affirmative action policy encourages veterans, especially those from the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars, to apply for open positions at the State Theatre. We are also posting our open positions (like the one below) with local veterans groups and at active and reserve duty headquarters.”
Why are we doing this? Because we believe the best way to thank our veterans for their service is not to say it to them, but to do it.
So, here’s the current job opening we have at the State Theatre -- and we highly encourage Iraq/Afghanistan War vets to apply:
“HELP WANTED: PROJECTIONIST We are looking for an Iraq/Afghanistan War veteran to fill our job opening for a full-time projectionist immediately :
- We seek to hire a veteran. - We will train you. - Must love the movies, the community and working on nights and weekends.
- Salary is a livable wage for Traverse City. Benefits include medical, mental health, dental and vision care. Inquire at The State Theatre.”
Thank you, Film Fest and State Theatre supporters, for joining me in this effort to make a difference in the lives of our troops and their families.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore is the force behind the State Theatre and TC Film Festival.