Chris Edman's documentary will premiere May 16 in Rosemount
Serendipity can lead to some amazing things. For Chris Edman it lead him to The HighGround, a veteran's park in Neillsville Wis.
Last year, Edman didn't know anything about The HighGround. And then one day last winter at the Rosemount American Legion, someone showed him a HighGround newsletter. The country's largest manned veteran's park was looking for someone to do a video for them. Turns out Edman is an award-winning videographer.
At first glance, Edman knew it was a project he needed to take on. While he's not a veteran, Edman has a deep respect for those who have served. He spends a great deal of his time trying to serve veterans and their families as commander of the Post 65 Sons of the American Legion. This was a way he could honor veterans using his talent as a filmmaker.
To start out, Edman contacted the park's general manager, Kirk Rodman, about doing the video. The organization wanted a video to accompany the walking tour of the grounds. Rodman told Edman they didn't have much of a budget for the project. Edman said he would do it anyway.
"I never thought I shouldn't do it," said Edman, a year later.
He first travelled to the site in March 2011 with a camera for the spring clean-up and fell in love. The HighGround is a privately funded memorial park that pays tribute to the dead, and honors the survivors, their service, and their sacrifices. It also pays tribute to families and friends who support troops. The park includes tributes to Vietnam veterans, female veterans, Native American Vietnam veterans, WWI veterans, WWII veterans, Korea veterans and families that supported and lost loved ones through the Gold Star Tribute and Fountain of Tears.
After seeing it all, Edman told Rodman he would like to do something a little more than just a video for the walking tour and Rodman gave him the go ahead.
In June of last year Edman brought a camera crew to Neillsville. They took video for five days. The footage included aerial shots of the 146-acre site in a small plane. To get the video Edman taped a camera to the bottom of a SkyHawk airplane. His favorite shot came from that footage.
Then came the hard part. Edman had to edit more than 60 hours of footage into an hour-long DVD.
The result is an 83-minute documentary about The HighGround. The documentary explains the history of the HighGround, the symbolism behind each of the tributes and includes reactions from veterans on their service and what the park means to them.
"We got some pretty neat stories," said Edman.
Along the way, Edman received a lot of help. His wife and children were patient with him as he worked on the project. He had the help of his crew. His dad helped with the filming and his friend Jenna Green did the voiceover work for the documentary.
"It turned out better than expected and I have a lot of people to thank for that," said Edman.
Now that the project is complete Edman is antsy to know people's reaction to it. He hopes people will like it and that it will compel them to go to Neillsville to see it. He also hopes sales of the DVD will raise money to continue the mission of the organization.
"I can't believe more people don't know about it and I hope we can change that," said Edman.
He's going to try and start that in his hometown. Edman will premiere The HighGround at 7:30 p.m. May 16 at the Rosemount American Legion, 14590 Burma Ave. The event is free and open to the public.
History of the park
The HighGround is the brainchild of Tom Miller. A Marine who served in Vietnam, Miller promised himself as he watched a friend die that he would find a way to honor his life as well as the others who died as part of the war.
In 1983 Miller started work on the project with the support of Vietnam Veterans of America. The project started as the Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Memorial project but over the years it has evolved to pay tribute and honor all soldiers and the friends and family who support them.
The mission of the park is to heal and educate. Learn more at www.thehighground.org.