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Bragg soldier stars in Iraq documentary

Posted March 13, 2009 3:56 p.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2009 6:26 p.m. EDT

— Filmmaker Jake Rademacher knew his two brothers were in the Army and serving in Iraq, but he didn't understand why.

He turned his effort to answer his questions into an acclaimed film, "Brothers at War," which opens this weekend in theaters near Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and Fort Benning, Ga.

"My brothers are putting their lives on the line. Why are they doing it? I had to know," Rademacher says early in the film.

He traveled to Iraq in 2005 and documented what he saw while visiting his brothers, Maj. Isaac Rademacher and Staff Sgt. Joe Rademacher.

"Jake was kind of slipping away from us because he didn't understand what we'd been through," said Isaac Rademacher, an operations officer in the 38th Cavalry Regiment, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade at Fort Bragg.

Joe Rademacher is a sniper-school instructor at Fort Benning.

What Jake Rademacher found was more than he could have imagined, Isaac Rademacher said. There was the ugly side of war, but there was also a brotherhood – between the Rademachers and among the troops.

"He did such an incredible job of putting the soldier's story on the screen," Isaac Rademacher said.

The film provides an intimate portrait of war and how it affects troops and their families, ranging from the intensity of the battlefield to the emotion of tearful goodbyes on the home front.

"I may be walking out that door for the last time and abandon the people I love the most," Isaac Rademacher says in the film, referring to his wife, Jennifer, and 4-year-old daughter, Hunter.

He has deployed three times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan in the last six years, spending a combined 39 months in combat.

"Brothers at War" has been screened at the Pentagon and a few other locations, drawing standing ovations from troops and their families.

"I haven't seen an audience yet that didn't like it," Isaac Rademacher said. "Jake has screened it for Walter Reed (Army Hospital), and he's screened it for 800 soldiers at Fort Hood, (and) all of the soldiers seem to speak up and say, 'I can relate to that.' "

Actor Gary Sinise, who played "Lt. Dan" in "Forrest Gump" and stars in the television show "CSI: New York," was so moved by the film when he saw it that he signed on as executive producer to help promote it.

Opening up on camera isn't something many warriors are willing to do, but Isaac Rademacher said he's glad he did.

"I hope that what I've done brings more credit to the military and the service of our soldiers," he said. "It shows the American public what we're all about in a way that's never been done before, and for that, I think it's worth it."

Still, he said he finds his sudden fame awkward.

"It's weird, and I'd be good to slip back into my soldier life," he said.

The film is showing at the Carmike 12 in the Westwood Shopping Center, off McPherson Church and Morganton roads in Fayetteville. On Saturday, Sinise and Jake Rademacher will do a Hollywood-style red carpet appearance at 6:30 p.m. and will answer questions from the audience after the 7 p.m. show.