A Film by Keith Famie

I have been asked – how did the film “One Soldier’s Story” and the foundation, Mikie’s Minutes, come to be?

The question is asked with a great deal of respect for SGT Ingram, but it still is asked. Please allow me to explain.

I was accompanying MSG Jeff Rector, a Vietnam veteran and the state of Michigan’s Casualty Assistance Coordinator for the US Army Reserve. MSG Rector handles military honor funerals.

I was offered the opportunity to meet MSG Rector and his team at Selfridge Air Force Base to film a ceremony where they would be receiving the body of SGT Michael Ingram, a casualty of the war in Afghanistan.This is where my journey and relationship with Michael’s family begins. It was a cold, late April Sunday morning.

The family and friends stood in the rain along with Jeff Rector’s team and sixty or so Vietnam veterans from Patriot Guard, who had escorted SGT Ingram’s family over 67 miles, from Monroe to Selfridge, on their bikes in that cold rain. SGT Ingram’s body was taken off the plane, with solemn and respectful ceremony, and the Patriot Guard again rode escort with the Michigan State Police leading the way.

This act of unconditional care and support solidified in my mind why we were honoring the Vietnam veteran by making the film Our Vietnam Generation. On Friday of that same week, we were invited by Brian Merkle of Merkle Funeral Home to film SGT Ingram’s funeral.

This was a sad day for the city of Monroe as one of their favorite sons was laid to rest – and, once again, MSG Jeff Rector and his team would perform the honors. Also attending were over 100 Vietnam veterans in support of the Ingram family.

Several months later, Michael Sr. and Julie, SGT Michael Ingram’s step mom, had come to my office to view some of the film footage. These would be the first images they had seen from those very difficult days.

It was an emotional time, and it gave me an opportunity to learn more about Mikie – which is what they preferred to call their son.

A profound story they shared involved how SGT Ingram had been injured and required surgery. This qualified him to go home, yet he flat out said, “No, I’m not leaving my boys.” Ingram stayed and worked through the pain – insisting that he do his job and continue to go out on patrols. This incredible character, sense of responsibility, respect for his fellow soldiers, bravery, and heroism is precisely what cost him his life.

His parents sat in my office and we talked for hours. They brought pictures and shared Mikie stories. I came to realize how precious this time was – to be invited into their son’s personal life and their personal world of grief. During our conversation, they mentioned to me how sad it is that our soldiers must use their own money to make a call home.

“Really?” I said. “You mean these guys who are in harm’s way every moment of their deployment have to pay for their own phone calls home? This makes no sense.” Then they shared their vision of creating a foundation called “Mikie’s Minutes” that would provide free calling cards for soldiers to make that call home. Imagine what that simple phone call, something we all take for granted, means to a soldier in the field, many thousands of miles from home.

Mikie’s father shared the last phone call he got from his son, and, well, let’s just say I got it.

I suggested that I could do a short documentary with their support that can help build awareness for the Mikie’s Minutes foundation. Working closely with the family, I filmed an interview with his mom Trisha, sister Chelsea, and step dad Ron, as well as his friends and a teacher from High School. But, the most amazing interview I did was with Michael Ingram Sr. The man truly loves his son, and they obviously had the most incredible bond. He did SGT Ingram great justice as he stood strong and told his story in the most eloquent manner. My eighteen year old son Josh assisted me with the filming – and I know that seeing my son and I working together had to be very difficult for Mike Sr. – a reminder of his loss.

After we filmed all that I felt I needed, I turned my editor, Joe Grant, loose to build the story. Music was selected that I felt gave meaning to every scene.

I enlisted designer Jim Tocco, of Designers & Partners, to work with the family to create a logo, promotional materials, and a web site for the Mikie’s Minutes fund.

Lastly, I met with singer/songwriter Steve Pichan and told him about SGT Ingram and the new foundation. I explained how a song would be ideal to help solidify the message of the foundation. He composed a very touching song with a story about a soldier needing to call home. The end of the song includes an actual voice message that SGT Ingram, Mikie, had left his mom Trisha.

I want to make certain that all who read this and see “One Soldiers Story” know what it means for this family to invite us all into their lives – to see first hand how precious life is and how very important our members of the military are to us. Thank you to SGT Michael Ingram’s family for allowing all of us this opportunity.

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