I sat in the Conference Room at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance For Survivors) with the Senior Management team in Washington DC. I have done this a hundred times and truth is I don’t struggle much with “the pitch”. From my time in High School theater and throughout my professional career, it had been my pleasure to do the “song and dance” to entertain and inform on matters, product or song that I completely believed in without a doubt.
But this time, my heart was halfway in my heart. I was about to show our film “The Fence” to two Gold Star Family and one of those people was Bonnie Carroll the Founder of TAPs. Her husband was one of the highest-ranking Generals to ever die in the field of battle in Bosnia… just months after they were married. And after all, my buddy and Business Partner, Jimmy Driscoll had never served, had no experience with the particular trauma of a loved one’s death in battle. Some would say that in one sense, we had no right to even try to tell the story of the days and weeks after the death of a loved one in war.
The room was dimmed, and our story began. I held my breath throughout most of it. I knew we were treading into a sacred place. Having dealt with people whose lives had been traumatized, I kn it was very important that we never re-victimize or be casual about another’s trauma.
Forty-two minutes the story of an angry and hurt father, “Marty” who was able to move towards forgiveness and reconciliation with himself, finished.
Bonnie, a Gold Star Wife, West Wing player during The Bush years, who had dedicated two decades of her pain and sorrow and redeemed it into a mission of care for families in the most tragic moments of a Warfighter’s death of Bonnie, was quiet for a good twenty seconds and she turned to me and said to me wit h a bit of incredulity in her tone: “How did you guys do this?”
I was half-startled. First, we hankfully, we had not disappointed or caused harm. In fact, we had had nailed the moment that every film and stage actors hopes for – with no direct experience with the brutal story, we had become the story and delivered a truth. Bonnie’s question confirmed it.
Here is one of the first versions.