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Potsdam native raising funds to create military documentary

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POTSDAM - Two Army veterans are seeking funds to film, a new documentary highlighting the dedication and work that goes into becoming a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

In order to make the first episode of a series that Ethan A. Morse and Neal Schrodetzki are calling “The Unknowns,” they first must raise more than $15,000 to fund the project.

They have created www.kickstarter.com, a website that allows people seeking funding for various projects to promote their project on-line and collect sponsors from all over the world.

Mr. Morse, a Potsdam native, served as a sentinel for approximately nine months, stationed at Arlington National Cemetery from April 2005 to October 2006.

Mr. Morse, who was homeschooled, said he joined the miliary following 9/11, thinking that he would eventually end up in Iraq.

However, instead of going to Iraq, Mr. Morse ended up at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Looking back on it, I don’t know how I did it,” he said. explaining that working as a sentinel was no easy task.

“We worked a fireman’s schedule,” he said, explaining they would a 24-hour shift and then are off for 24 hours. That schedule continues for five days prior to receiving a four-day weekend.

“The standards at the tomb are the highest in the army for uniforms and drills,” he said. “We always had to come back from our time off with our uniform in better shape than when we left.”

A typical 24-hour day, he said, consists of a number of half-hour shifts, actually standing guard at the tomb, which contains the remains of an unknown soldier from World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

The number of shifts varies on the number of people assigned to the tomb at any given time, with guard changes held every half hour during the spring and summer and every hour during the fall and winter. When the cemetery is closed, guard changes are held every two hours.

“Usually there are five to seven of us every day,” he said, explaining that when not on active guard duty there is a catacomb beneath the tomb, where they stay and prep their uniform for their next shift on guard.

Mr. Morse said he trained for approximately nine months before being awarded the “Tomb Guard Identification Badge.”

“I was badge number 548,” he said, adding the Tomb Guard Identification Badge is the least awarded badge in the Army.

“We both understand what a project like this will mean to America,” Mr. Morse said. “The sacrifice of the Unknowns represents the selflessness that makes our nation great.”

Mr. Morse said he met Mr. Schrodetzki while he was stationed at the tomb.

“Neil Schrodetzki filmed my last walk with a small camcorder, and we shook hands,” Mr. Morse recalled. “He said this was the first of many.”

In order to make the film, the U.S. Army has granted Mr. Morse and Mr. Schrodetzki unprecedented access.

“We’ve been granted access to Arlington and The Tomb in a way the public has never seen before,” Mr. Morse said.

And while the $15,000 goal set by the pair has already been met, Mr. Morse said additional funds are needed and would be appreciated, noting $15,000 is what they’re estimating it will cost to film one episode of what they’re hoping to be a 17-episode documentary series.

“There are 17 pages of knowledge that recruits need to memorize and learn,” he said, adding he understands the number of episodes may change when the show is picked up by a major network.

“If we talk to the Military Channel and they say they only want 13 episodes, we’ll have to be flexible, because they would be the ones funding it,” he noted.

The filmmakers gave not pitched the project yet. “We’re not at that point yet,” he said. “Part of that is making sure we are the ones who produce it.”

Mr. Morse said they want to have the first episode complete before they take the project to the next level.

“If we spoke to Discovery Channel and they liked the idea, obviously they would be better equipped to produce it,” he said.

The $15,000 they’ve collected on the site so far will be used to get themselves and a four-person crew from Los Angeles to Washington D.C., where they would work for three weeks on the first episode.

Sponsors are thanked for their contributions with gifts ranging from your name appearing in the credits for sponsors who donate anywhere from $1 to $4.99 all the way up to a day on the set and a personal tour of the Arlington National Cemetery with Mr. Morse for sponsors donating more than $1,000. Other sponsorship gifts include copies of the show, hats, T-shirts, polo shirts and collector’s coins.

A complete list of sponsor gifts, as well as detailed information on how you can help and a video highlighting the project may be found on the project’s Kickstarter page. The deadline to contribute to the project is 12:30 p.m. May 3.

On the web:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/1032309605/the-unknowns

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