While many in America will be fully engaged in barbecues and reveling in the three-day weekend, producers of the documentary “The Unknowns,” which releases on Memorial Day, have given us a reminder that the national holiday is not just another day off.
“Memorial Day comes around every year, and unless you know someone who was killed fighting for our country it becomes just a nice day off,” producer Ethan Morse told this reporter via email. “We wanted to show the general public the behind the scenes of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier so they could get a better appreciation of why they even have the day off.”
In “The Unknowns,” also produced and directed by Neal Schrodetzki, along with co-producer Matthew Little and executive producer Mark Joseph (“Max Rose”), film viewers follow the training of the Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknowns monument. The site at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. An unidentified U.S. serviceman who died in France during World War I was interred at the monument in 1921.
“Our country was built on sacrifice, everyone says freedom is not free, but Tomb Guards live that saying every night and day to honor our nations fallen and missing heroes,” said Morse, who enlisted in the Army and was trained as an Airborne Infantryman before being assigned to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. He eventually earned Badge #548 for his dedicated service to The Unknowns, was honorably discharged, and began producing for Ryan Seacrest on 102.7 KIIS FM, and the KTLA Channel 5 morning news show in Los Angeles.
He explained, “After 18 months of training, honoring and remembering The Unknowns 24/7 365 days a year, as filmmakers it seemed like the only story worth telling. World War 1 happened almost 100 years ago and we wanted to remind the younger generation that ‘The Great War,’ [also known as] ‘The War to end all Wars’ was not just a page in a history book. It was a real war, with real sacrifices, sacrifices that Tomb Guards honor every day no matter the weather.”
Making the documentary, which Morse said was filmed “like a reality show,” was not easy.
Schrodetzki called the Army every Monday for months until they agreed to allow them to film. Morse had the Society of the Honor Guard pushing on its end as well.
“This is a documentary unlike any other,” Morse said. “We filmed it like a reality show but we tell the story through the training [and] not following only an individual soldier. In doing so, we allow for the audience to be drawn into the mission of the Tomb Guards to honor our nation’s missing and fallen heroes.”
“The Unknowns” is opening in 30 theaters nationwide on Memorial Day and “many of them are sold out,” producers stated. “Because of that, we have almost 100 other theaters requested and filling now.”
Those wanting to see the documentary can visit the film’s website at www.TheUnknownsMovie.com to see if there are screenings in their area and reserve a ticket. Tickets are available for pre-sale only, and it is suggested to “buy them as early as possible” because the filmmakers say that you will not be able to buy a ticket at the box office.
At the website, potential viewers can request a screening in their local theater for the entire summer and receive two free tickets to the screening.