07 March 2018

'Journey to Normal' Film Features Iowa Red Bulls

In its Iowa premiere, the 2017 documentary "Journey to Normal: Women of War Come Home" will be shown in an exclusive, one-time engagement on the Boone, Iowa campus of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) at 7 p.m., Thurs., March 22, 2018.

A Q&A session with producer and director JulieHera DeStefano will follow the 93-minute film.

Hundreds of women service members were interviewed for the film project, and plans call for their stories to be archived and made available to researchers via the non-profit Journey to Normal website, producers say.

"Since 2001, over 280,000 women have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan," the documentary says. "Journey to Normal shares 8 of their stories so that we might reflect on the individual experiences of all who serve."

Two of the eight women featured in the film are originally from Iowa. Featured in the documentary are:
  • Jessica Astorga Dayton, a U.S. Air Force nurse from Dayton, Ohio
  • Abby Brookbank Allen, a U.S. Army National Guard combat medic from Ida Grove, Iowa
  • Ivonne Daly, a U.S. Army Reserve surgeon from Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Jill Finken, a U.S. Army National Guard attorney from Souix City, Iowa
  • Christine Mau, a U.S. Air Force F-15 pilot from Mountain Home, Idaho
  • Judi Reeves, a U.S. Army Reserve surgical technician from Middletown, N.Y.
  • Devon Reyes, a U.S. Army Military Intelligence officer from Fort Knox, Ky.
  • Amy Sinkler, a U.S. Army truck driver from Chadbourn, N.C.
The event is the last installment in the inaugural "In Their Boots Film Festival," a three-month series of film presentations intended to foster conversations about military service, veterans issues, and social reintegration. The event is co-sponsored by the DMACC-Boone student group In My Boots 5k, and the Central Iowa non-profit Paws & Effect. The festival is made possible by a generous grant from Humanities Iowa.

"Because we train service dogs for veterans, we recognize that 'coming home' from a wartime deployment can be a journey, not a destination," says Nicole Shumate, executive director of Paws & Effect. "Reintegrating into our society and with our families doesn't just happen overnight, and it doesn't happen without hard work and continued support. We are extremely proud to celebrate the lives and stories of the veterans depicted in 'Journey to Normal'—and all who have walked these paths."

In 2010-2011, in what was described as the largest deployment of Iowa troops since World War II, the Iowa Army National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT) sent more than 3,000 citizen-soldiers overseas as part of the "Afghan Surge." The 2-34th BCT is headquartered in Boone.

Randy Brown, a Central Iowa-based freelance writer and editor of "Reporting for Duty," a collection of U.S. Army public affairs reports from the Iowa brigade's deployment, says that "Journey to Normal" uniquely captures some of what it was like to deploy to Afghanistan—and what it is like to return to family, friends, school, and work following a wartime deployment. "All of these stories are important—individually and collectively," says Brown. "To most of us, this is a depiction of war far more 'real' and relevant than popular movies about snipers and drones."

Interviews with at least three "Red Bull" soldiers are featured in the documentary. Each appears multiple times on-camera, in settings both downrange and "back home." Abby Brookbank was a combat medic assigned to 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment (1-168th Inf.), and was based at Forward Operating Base ("FOB") Gardez. Jill Finken was an attorney assigned to the brigade headquarters, which was based at Bagram Airfield ("BAF") during the 2010-2011 deployment. Martha Kester, a chaplain with 334th Brigade Support Battalion, also makes a number of appearances throughout the film.

For more information about "Journey to Normal," visit here. A Facebook page is here.

To view an early (2011) trailer about the film, visit here.

There will be a freewill donation pasta dinner fund-raiser preceding the movie, starting 6 p.m. in the DMACC-Boone food court area. Proceeds will go to support the "In Our Boots 5k" run, walk, and ruck fund-raiser event April 14, 2018. The 93-minute movie "Journey to Normal" will be shown in the adjacent auditorium starting 7 p.m.

A Facebook page for the "In My Boots 5k" student group is here. A website is here.

A registration page for the April 14, 2018 5k run, walk, and ruck event is here.

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