The Guard Responds (Short Film)

16 Oct

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Smith’s Verdict: ****
Reviewed by Tanner Smith

In late April 2014 came a major tornado outbreak in the central and southern United States. Seven of the outbreak’s tornadoes were deadly, causing 35 fatalities. One such tornado cut an 80-mile path of destruction in Arkansas, hitting the towns of Vilonia and Mayflower the hardest, causing extreme damage. Many people lost everything. Many homes were flattened. And about 16 people were confirmed dead. More than five months have passed and there are people who were affected deeply by the storm, still trying to move on.

The six-minute documentary “The Guard Responds” tells about how the Arkansas National Guard was called on to assist local authorities with traffic safety, search-and-rescue, and medical evacuation in those areas hit by the tornado. But some members of the Guard were also affected by the storm. Some lost their businesses and homes, and one (airman Daniel Wassom) lost his life.

The film is a blend of older news footage (chronicling the event and the aftermath), new wreckage footage, voiceover narration by LTC Matt Snead (who also produced the film), and interviews from Guard members and civilians. Among the interviewees is former Faulkner County judge Preston Scroggin, who recalls what it like seeing the tornado while driving home. Also among the interviewees is Wassom’s father, Daniel Wassom Sr., who remembers his son as a hero in his eyes—Wassom Jr. died to protect his family while their whole house was destroyed.

“The Guard Responds” is about the aftermath of disaster, but it doesn’t just state the facts so that it becomes more of a reporting-news story than a short documentary—it uses footage, testimony, and masterful editing to tell a story about those who will take time of their lives to help. CSM Steven Veazey, one of the interviewees, puts it best in a truly moving final speech—“They put their lives on hold to help these other lives.” Even if “The Guard Responds” were a TV commercial for the Arkansas National Guard, I would still highly recommend it.

NOTE: “The Guard Responds” was directed and co-written (with Lt. Col. Keith Moore) by no stranger to my Shorts reviews, Sarah Jones. I realize I don’t give her enough credit for editing; she edited her own previous films (“John Wayne’s Bed,” “Turn Right on Madness,” and “An Ode to Angeline”) and also edited other Arkansas-made short films (including previously-reviewed “La Grande Fete”). She edited “The Guard Responds” as well; it’s definitely among her best editing work.

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