- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2011

Nine-year-old Cierra and 41-year-old Jeanette have something in common: Their fathers were killed serving in U.S. wars. But separated by generations, the two grew up in radically different worlds for children of war casualties.

Filmmaker Mitty Mirrer captured their journeys of healing in the documentary Gold Star Children that will premiere Saturday at the GI Film Festival. She was struck by how different life is for children of service members killed in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the experiences of children whose parents were killed in the Vietnam War.

“The overall experience was you didn’t talk about it because you’d be afraid someone would be hurt,” Ms. Mirrer said. “To think 20,000 children had no one.”

By contrast, children of casualties today have support groups where they’re encouraged to air their feelings, she said. She wanted to compare the healing process for Cierra, whose father was killed in Iraq, with that of Jeanette, whose father was killed in Vietnam when she was 2.

“I felt like if you could understand the isolation and loneliness of a child, you would understand what the Vietnam veterans were saying about when they were children,” Mr. Mirrer said.

Similar feature, documentary and short films telling stories of U.S. military members are being shown at the festival, held May 9 to 15 at the United States Navy Memorial in Northwest D.C.

Communications consultant Brandon Millett co-founded the annual festival four years ago to highlight filmmakers artistically portraying the sacrifices and successes of service members. The 38 films being shown this year express the courage and selflessness of fighting men and women and the value of their work, according to the festival’s website.

Independently employed, Ms. Mirrer has won awards for her documentary series on her own family’s journey to Vietnam. She was inspired to write and direct Gold Star Children after mentoring a child whose father was killed while serving in Iraq.

Ms. Mirrer also founded a nonprofit under the same name to use film and interactive media to raise awareness for children who have lost a parent to war. She says her aim with the film is not to make a political statement but to tell stories of real people.

“It’s not pro-war, it’s not anti-war, it’s just a simple journey of grief and finding community for Americans,” Ms. Mirrer said.

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