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Shepherds spotlights Oregon soldiers

Documentary will benefit national veterans' group
by: COURTESY OF Charles Eckert 
Soldiers of the Afghan National Army, as seen in Gary Mortensen’s documentary “Shepherds of Helmand.”

In his second documentary about the Oregon National Guard's involvement in foreign conflict, filmmaker Gary Mortensen captures the stories of six soldiers and their 2008 mission to Afghanistan.

'Shepherds of Helmand' is the story of one of the most decorated units in Oregon National Guard history, a group of 17 volunteers deployed to train a battalion of the Afghan National Army and to conduct narcotics patrols in the deadly Taliban stronghold, Helmand Province. There, they ended up engaging the Taliban near the Helmand River.

A screening of the 90-minute film will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, at Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd., followed by a question-and-answer session with soldiers following the film. Tickets are $5 at the door.

'Shepards of Helmand' is narrated by Donald Trump Jr., and the film also features two songs by the Grammy Award-winning Zac Brown Band.

Benchmade Knife Co. helped fund the film. All proceeds from the sale of the DVD will benefit Honored American Veterans Afield, a national organization committed to working with disabled veterans to help them transition back into a healthy and active life.

'My goal is not to make a political film,' says Mortensen, who lives in Tigard. 'This is about what the soldiers face in the field, how it affects them then, and what they face when they return home. These are their stories, not mine.'

Mortensen's first film, 'This is War - Memories of Iraq,' drew much acclaim, winning awards at several film festivals (and featured in the June 17, 2010, edition of the Tribune).

- Jason Vondersmith