Mike Allen comes from a military family, but the 48-year-old Vienna man and Microsoft executive never served.
But that hasn’t stopped him from making a difference in the lives of returning soldiers and their families.
Allen, along with partner and film producer Brad Keller of Dallas, Texas, recently founded the nonprofit organization Homefront Heroes, which since late 2010 has been producing short documentaries detailing the stories of wounded soldiers and their families.
“When these servicemen and [service]women come back home, they aren’t coming back to their commands or any structured environment,” he said. “They are coming back to their families; families that make incredible sacrifices that are seldom seen or known about. The core support system for these wounded warriors — who are heroes — is their community and we felt like the word ‘Homefront’ best applied,” he said. “I felt like this was a way for me to be able to give back to these people who give so much for all of us. These are stories of courage and inspiration.”
So far, Homefront Heroes has produced seven shorts, each detailing a returning soldier and his or her recovery. One seven-minute film short, “He’s My Best Friend: The Crystal Nicely Story,” has been accepted this year by the GI Film Festival. The festival is ongoing this week in Washington D.C., and the short will be featured Sunday evening.
The Homefront Heroes short film “He’s My Best Friend: The Crystal Nicely Story,” is about Marine Cpl. Todd Nicely and his wife, Crystal, also a Marine.
According to Allen, when Todd Nicely was injured in Afghanistan in March 2010, many people did not expect him to survive. He became one of only three soldiers to survive as a quadruple amputee from an improvised explosive device. Crystal, a retired Marine, flew to be with him at the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
According to Allen and outlined in the film, her first reaction when she saw her husband was “OK, he’s still alive. He’s still with me.”
“Crystal knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but the Marine spirit would help them through it. The Nicely’s eternal optimism and drive has helped Todd recover and the film shows their amazing courage and spirit,” Allen said. “It’s an honor to be chosen as one of the films to be shown at such a prestigious event and we are thrilled that the Nicely’s story will now be shared with so many others.”
Allen said the GI Film Festival is considered by many filmmakers as a significant venue for the screening of military films.
According to its website, the GI Film Festival is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. It is the first film festival in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of service members through the medium of film. It is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. This year’s festival features 38 film screenings and 22 world premieres ranging from “gritty, intense combat films” to “patriotic tear-jerkers” to historical documentaries.
“I am so glad to be a small part of this,” said Public Relations consultant Stephanie Christopulos, who lives in New York and volunteers her time to Homefront Heroes. “None of us get a dime out of it. We all have day jobs and it’s strictly pro-bono, but the rewards are better than any monetary payment. Mike and Brad are both incredibly dedicated to telling these stories of courage and honor.”