DETROIT — Cornelius Porter III wants you to understand. After serving five years in the United States Army, the former military field artilleryman is working to dispel stereotypes and educate the masses on what veterans go through while finding their way back to society.
Porter’s newly completed documentary, “Back Home – A Tale of a Warrior’s Battle,” is the filmmaker’s poignant attempt to promote understanding and smooth the transition for his fellow comrades.
“They’ve left the war, but the war hasn’t left them,” explained Porter who earned a bachelor of public affairs degree from Wayne State University and is now on his way to his alma mater’s law school in the fall.
A 2013 Gold Kahuna Winner at the Honolulu Film Awards, the documentary explores the social, physical, and psychological challenges of fellow Wayne State University students Steven Patterson (U.S. Army) and James Simon (U.S. Marine Corps) as they attend college and readjust to family life after combat tours in Iraq.
Recounting horrific warfare experiences of loss, injury, and sacrifice with a military stoicism that belies the post-traumatic stress that continues to impede their daily functioning and interpersonal relationships – the soldiers take viewers on a disturbing journey that is a veteran’s reality.
“For us vets, for us combat guys, the war really doesn’t start until you come home,” Simon said during the documentary.
Possessing a first-persons recount of civilian assimilation, and a certificate in filmmaking from the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan, Porter carried with him the desire to produce a documentary, but needed direction and connections.
The former soldier turned to his college’s Blackstone LaunchPad program for help. Funded with a grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation that Wayne shares with Walsh College, Blackstone LaunchPad provides new venture assessment, mentoring, and networking services to the campus community to encourage entrepreneurship as a viable career path, help individuals start new companies, and take untested ideas to market.
“Blackstone LaunchPad gave me guidance and stayed on me to do the business aspect of my documentary,” Porter said.
With a student veteran population numbering more than 500, Porter found the subjects of his documentary though Wayne State’s expansive veteran’s organization. “At Wayne State our attrition rate and graduation rates for vets is above the state average,” said Porter who credits the university with providing outstanding services for its student veterans.
“We are honored to have an opportunity to help guide a project that promotes understanding of the difficult obstacles facing our returning vets. Their dedication, passion and sacrifices are insurmountable; we owe them a debt of gratitude,” said Aubrey Agee, Wayne State Blackstone LaunchPad senior program administrator.
Porter’s documentary has won rave reviews from students, professors, and friends who have had the opportunity to view his work on Wayne’s campus, at Oakland University and at its sold-out premiere at Emagine Theater in Royal Oak. His marketing plans include distribution to additional colleges and universities, churches and eventually selling his documentary on Amazon.
“I am happy and pleased to have served,” Porter said. “Civilians never see what happens to guys when the war is over. You feel lonely and feel that people don’t understand you and you feel distant even when people are all around. My family didn’t know I felt distant. I had better communication with those I actually served with.”