Young Marines documentary filmmakers honored for connecting vets to youth

Harl and Davis

Col. William P. Davis USMC (Ret), national executive director and CEO of the Young Marines, and David Harl, president of Pinnacle Productions, received the Major Norman Hatch Award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation for a 60-minute documentary, “Tomorrow’s Leaders.”

Davis and Harl attended the awards ceremony on Saturday, April 30, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. They received a gold medallion, an engraved brick to be installed in the Museum’s Semper Fidelis Memorial Park outside the museum, and a cash prize.

The documentary explores youth leadership training by learning from the past. Cameras followed youth members of the Young Marines as they honored and met America’s veterans in Washington DC, Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Iwo Jima. Cameras captured the poignant meeting between youth and the remaining WWII Navajo Code Talkers in Arizona.

Davis said the film, a passion project that began shooting in 2018, helped bridge the gap between multiple generations of Marines and showed children and teenagers that leadership is about motivating others around them.

By honoring military heroes past and present, the documentary showcases youth accomplishments in their mission to keep and preserve military legacy by recognizing and supporting veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and heroes of the War on Terror.

“Tomorrow’s Leaders really shows the impact of veterans sharing their experiences with youth to shape a better tomorrow for our country. Young Marines are especially engaged with veterans across the country, learning history firsthand,” said Davis.

While shooting at Iwo Jima, Young Marines learned about the sacrifices WWII Marines made in the theater of war and the contributions many made when they returned home and took off their uniform. “Many of them continued to serve the community as leaders in some fashion. They were surprised to hear about how many veterans were getting service awards from organizations later in life,” said Davis.

The film initially premiered at the National Museum of the Marine Corps Medal of Honor Theater in February 2020. Filmmakers called the process of editing the movie “brutal,” as they decided what portions to leave on the cutting room floor to make an hour-long film.

“It was an honor to produce the film and meet and work with the youth as we traveled the world together,” said Harl, who filmed and produced the documentary. “These young people are so impressive. They are the ones who tell the story and interact with the people and events that changed history.”

The Marine Corps League, the Iwo Jima Association of America, and the American Legion sponsored the film. Now, filmmakers are working to show the movie on a cable TV outlet.

The Young Marines was founded in 1959 and is headquartered in Dumfries. The organization has more than 6,100 boys and girls aged 8 to 18, with 2,100 adult volunteers, in 237 units in 48 states, Washington, D.C., and on military bases in Japan.

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