Filmmaker visits Texas to keep decorated marine's legacy alive

Filmmaker visits Texas to keep decorated marine's legacy alive

Filmmaker visits Texas to keep decorated marine's legacy alive

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by JOE CONGER

KENS 5

Posted on July 4, 2014 at 9:27 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- He is credited with holding off thousands of Japanese soldiers in World War II. And Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone did it alone.

Now, a filmmaker traveling through Texas is working to keep that Marine's legacy alive and help support vets with PTSD.

"Everybody was totally impressed with what he had done," said Diane Hawkins, who grew up watching the parade-- an annual event, recognizing hometown hero, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone.

"As a very young child, you really don't understand war and understand what's going on," Hawkins said.

It was World War II, and the marine was a legend. His story known not just by his neighbors, but by nearly every Marine, even today: How Sgt. John Basilone, armed with a machine gun, single-handedly held-off an estimated 3,000 Japanese troops at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

For his actions, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor and a hero's welcome at home.
Hawkins had seen the newsclips, the magazine covers and the comic books from the 1940s that honored Basilone.

But she yearned to know more about "Manila" John-- a marine whom she knew as "Uncle" Johnny--the uncle whom she had never met.

"It was interesting to walk around and they'd say, 'oh, you're the niece of John Basilone,' and it happens 'til today," said Hawkins.

"You started to feel what he was about though others, as well," she added.

Hawkins now runs the Sgt. John Basilone Foundation, and is attempting to produce a full-length feature documentary, based on eyewitness accounts and her own personal journey, retracing the footsteps of her famous uncle.

That journey has taken her across the globe and most recently, to the Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville, Texas, to talk with America's veterans.

“In meeting these men I realized through my uncle's spirit that he was showing me that he received the Medal of Honor, but there are so many men out there that deserved to be recognized. Their stories need to be told," Hawkins said.

Hawkins said that includes the stories that many vets have buried, along with their buddies.
The hours spent talking with veterans for her upcoming documentary has made Hawkins very aware of the hazards of battle fatigue.

And she wonders if beneath the glitz and glamour of selling war bonds, Sgt. John Basilone didn't suffer from what is now known as PTSD.

She believes post-traumatic stress disorder may have played a role in her Uncle Johnny's decision to return to the Pacific war front.

“I do think he probably had a very hard time readjusting. I think it was very hard for him to be congratulated by a politician who was looking for a camera, and knew his men were back there, that he himself was restless," said Hawkins.

Basilone died during the assault on the island of Iwo Jima in February of 1945.

Hawkins says the Foundation is committed to helping returning vets with PTSD. And she hopes by telling her famous uncle's story on the big screen, the public will come to know the tremendous war-time pressures these brave men overcame.

Hawkins hopes to have the documentary presented by March of next year, in time for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

"It's a legacy of my Uncle John, but it's also a memorial and a memory to these men -- the World War II veterans--who gave us our freedom and our peace and part of the greatest generation," said Hawkins.

For more information on the Sgt. John Basilone Foundation, click here.

To check out the Sgt. John Basilone Facebook page, click here.

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