Episode 89: Featuring Nico Marcolongo, Ryan Kelly, and Joe McClain

Nico Marcolongo & Ryan Kelly - GI Film Festival San Diego

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Ryan Kelly, US Navy Vet and local San Diego film maker joins Nico Marcolongo, retired US Marine Corps Officer on Rise Up Radio to talk about the upcoming GI Film Festival. The GI Film Festival which runs from Oct. 18-22 and features films that are directed, written and acted by military veterans. The mission of the festival is to use film therapy to bring healing to veterans and create a community where veterans and film makers can come together also to educate and preserve the legacies of our U.S. veterans. This year’s event features 34 films that tackle a wide range of topics, from World War II veterans, Pearl Harbor survivors, the Vietnam experience and more. Kelly who joined the Navy out of high school became a forensic photo and video expert working with police departments, lawyers etc. About five years ago he and a buddy decided maybe they could turn that skill into something creative and make films. “You see so much of one thing, that the creative outlets become really important. You go from seeing these tragedies nonstop to, oh I can tell stories now instead and have this creative release. It’s definitely translating from a lot of the veterans I meet and work with on films now, they’re finding this new way to express themselves and release a lot of this.” Kelly who has directed four films, won the 2015 San Diego Film Award for his work on “The Reunion”. His current film, “Refuge” will be screening at this year’s GIFF in Mission Valley. Marcolongo, a retired Marine Corp officer who served for 14 years is also the senior manager for Operation Rebound. He has been a member the Advisory Committee for the GI Film festival since the west coast’s inaugural festival. “One of the things about the festival that is really meaningful to me is it’s either about vets or vets make these films. It’s a form of expression for them. A lot of them had difficult experiences through the wars especially recently, and a lot of the topics are topical for today.” He went on to say it’s a great way to get out and really see and understand what vets go through. Both Kelly and Marcolongo discuss the films being shown this year, the stories being told through film, some of which many people are not even aware of. “Our military history has had a rich impact on this region and we don’t want that to be forgotten,” Marcolongo said.


Joe McClain - Help Heal Veterans

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Joe McClain, CEO for Help Heal Veterans, joined Rise Up Radio host James Carmody to unpack what Help Heal Veterans does and how they are providing free therapeutic kits to all veterans and military members receiving medical care. Help Heal Veterans, a non-profit organization, provides what they call Therapeutic Kits to injured veterans and military members. These kits include a wide variety of arts and crafts materials like models, puzzles, woodwork, painting, leather-work and much more. These kits help injured veterans and military members improve concentration, relieve symptoms of PTS, depression and help improve motor skills and concentration. They’re also used as recreational and diversion therapy for patients. McClain, a US Navy veteran served in the Navy for 30 years and went on to serve as Congressional Liaison for the United States House of Representative for the Secretary of the Navy. He is a third generation military member and tells Carmody he had one grandfather who fought in WWI, another grandfather who fought in WWII, and his father who was career Army, fought in Vietnam. He also has a son who is currently on active duty. He talks about his desire to continue to serve after getting out of the military saying, “When Help Heal Veterans was looking for a CEO, I answered the call. Help heal veterans is kind of a special place because it’s one of those things it’s what we do for a living. And how we help is not totally obvious to most folks. And it just reminds you that little things can make a big impact on someone’s life.” McClain explains each of the different kits available, how the medium is being used to heal and communicate with injured veterans and how they are helping to heal not only their bodies but their souls. He share examples of veterans who have been helped, and how people can get involved. Help Heal Veterans was founded in 1971. It’s founder was visiting the young Marines at Balboa Hospital, who were injured in Vietnam and when he asked one young man what he could do to help, the Marine told him he was bored so he went out and purchased arts and craft supplies, things that would help to keep their hands busy, and brought them back to the ward and handed them out. According to McClain, Arts and crafts have been a factor in healing for veterans along with occupational therapy and they have 8000 veterans around the country signed up who get these kits at no cost every month.



1. GI Film Festival San Diego 2017 is Wednesday, October 18th through Sunday, October 22nd at select venues across San Diego. This festival is unique in the sense that it is the one of only few that exclusively represents stories for, by, and about military service members and veterans. Visit their website to get a schedule and learn more about the GI Film Festival. 

2. To bring awareness to Help Heal Veterans and the impact they are making, visit their website. They are seeking help from local artists to help create kit design and to spread the word and help out veterans and active duty service members.