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By MARTHA WAGGONER, Associated Press Writer Martha Waggoner, Associated Press Writer – Fri Mar 13, 6:58 am ET
RALEIGH, N.C. – Jake Rademacher finally got to go to war.
It wasn't the way he had hoped — his childhood dream to attend West Point was dashed when poor eyesight kept him out. Instead, he followed two to Iraq, filming them and their comrades for a film "Brothers at War," that opens this weekend in military towns in North Carolina and Georgia.
"My curiosity was more than intellectual," Jake said. "I had a personal reason to know what my brothers were going through. ... Another filmmaker who hadn't wanted to go to West Point might not have been as interested in going to a war zone.
"Wanting to be a soldier played into my willingness to go to the edge of the fight and be there when the bullets were flying by my camera. ... and bring the audience with me."
The movie intertwines the story of the three brothers and other family members, along with Gary Sinise, who helped find distribution for the movie and eventually became its executive producer.and families at home. The film's inside, personal look at the battlefield and the homefront attracted the attention of actor
"This is a brother who wants to know about his own brothers. That gives it a heart," said Sinise, who last year received the Presidential Citizens Medal. The medal recognizes U.S. citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation. He was recognized for his work with the USO and with a group he co-founded, .
"You watch this young filmmaker go from somebody who doesn't know what he's getting himself into into someone who learns a helluva lot about his brothers, who gets to know them better than he did before and by doing that, gets to know a lot about himself."
Jake, 33, is the oldest of five brothers and two sisters who grew up in Decatur, Ill. He went to Iraq in 2005 and 2006, before the surge and, over time, embedded with four combat units.
One revealing scene occurs between U.S. snipers as they wait for insurgents to emerge. The two men talk about whether flowers are an appropriate Christmas gift for a girlfriend — one says yes, one says no — and a teddy bear that one bought for his girl, with her name on the front and soccer number on the back.
On his first visit, he was stationed with his brother, now-Maj. Isaac Rademacher. But that assignment, which consisted of hanging out for days with reconnaissance troops near the Syrian border, drew the disdain of his other brother, Staff Sgt. Joe Rademacher, a sniper who didn't think Jake had experienced the.
Joe so repudiated Jake's experience that he declined to hug Jake when Jake returned from his first trip to Iraq. It's one of the more excruciating scenes in "Brothers at War," when Jake jumps on Joe, and Joe backs away.
So Jake took up his brother's challenge and returned to Iraq, this time to the, at one point being shot at as he filmed and narrowly avoiding a roadside bomb that injured two Iraqi officers.
Joe, 23, "felt like I hadn't gone deep enough into the experience," Jake said. "I hadn't been in a sniper hide site ... things so important to his experience. It was a surprise to me that myrejected my experience when I came home."
Isaac supported his brother's endeavor from the start, knowing how badly Jake had wanted to be a soldier.
"It did hurt his ego when I got in" West Point, said Isaac, 32, who recently was promoted to major and now is the operations officer for an armored cavalry squadron at Fort Bragg. "At the same time, he was happy for me. It's got to be hard to watch your younger brother succeed at something you tried to and it just didn't happen."
While he made the movie to teach civilians about war, Jake said soldiers and their families tell him it's helped them as well because it's allowed the troops to open up about their experiences.
The movie "illustrates and captures what it's like to be a soldier in Iraq," Isaac said. "A guy can sit there with his family and point at the screen and say there, that's almost exactly what I did over there. It gives you a start point to open that conversation."
*** Califstarheart ***