Aviation brigade uses spoof of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ to send positive message
Story and photos by Sgt. John Stimac
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Members of Task Force 38, with the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Shelbyville, Ind., put their own spin on the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” addressing suicide while making their audience laugh Dec. 4 at the Freedom chapel at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
Lt. Col. Dan Kozlowski, brigade judge advocate with TF 38 and an Indianapolis native, said he and Col. David Wood, the TF 38 commander, came up with this innovative approach to suicide prevention.
“We both considered the movie to be a favorite,” said Kozlowski. “There is a tendency toward depression around the holidays and we wanted to put out a positive message.”
Kozlowski said ‘It’s a Wonderful Deployment’ has been in the works for roughly three months.
“There are two big changes that we made to the original,” he said. “Our play is based out of a National Guard Armory in Shelbyville, Ind., and most of the characters are military related.”
In the movie, George Bailey considered suicide, a choice too many Soldiers have made or considered lately, said Kozlowski.
“Our message is no man is a failure,” he said. “Everyone’s life has value, and suicide is no answer to life’s problems.”
Sgt. Andrew J. Schnieders, command executive assistant with TF 38 and a Mooresville, Ind., native, said he was approached to volunteer for this production and was happy to accept because of the message the performance was sending.
Schnieders, who played the lead character George Bailey, said he has never been in a formal stage play with speaking lines, but was a musical actor and toured the United States before joining the military.
“It’s a refreshing way to display the problems that can overwhelm Soldiers, which lead to considering suicide,” he said.
The production gave Soldiers a chance to reflect on what the lives of their friends and families would be like without them, instead of sitting through a set of power point slides, said Schnieders.
“This play shows that our individual life is important to those around us, most importantly our family and friends,” he said. “The timing of this production was specifically geared toward the holiday period.”
Schneiders said this issue affects everybody, and military personnel need to be reminded during the holiday season that their lives are valuable.
Staff Sgt. Leeann Hiser, personnel noncommissioned officer with TF 38 and an Alexandria, Ind., native, said she enjoyed the play, and thought it was funny and put out a good message.
“Everyone is away from home and people get a little sad over the holidays; this brings everybody together, kind of like a family function,” said Hiser.
Schnieders said he hopes to create a positive memory for service members’ reflection when they go through troubled times during their deployments.
“If we can make a difference in just one person’s life, we have done our job,” he said.
Sgt. Andrew J. Schneiders, command executive assistant with Task Force 38 out of Shelbyville, Ind., and a Mooresville, Ind., native, and Capt. Christina Shepard, logistics officer with TF 38 and Clayton, Ind., native, act out a scene in the military version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” titled “It’s a Wonderful Deployment.” The play ran Dec. 4 through Dec. 5 at Freedom Chapel at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.