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Veterans ski in Iraq to heal, bring closure

Memorial Day is about more than the sales. Take a moment to dig deeper into the holiday’s meaning with an extended sneak peek of the film, Adventure Not War.

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Over this Memorial Day weekend, U.S. Army veteran Stacy Bare is visiting Telluride, Colorado to show his film Adventure Not WarThe timing couldn’t be more perfect.

“I think going to Mountainfilm to show this film on Memorial Day is pretty special,” Bare said. “Even though the three of us in the film made it through war alive, there are always a lot of emotions during this holiday as we think about all of our friends we’ve lost, both American and Iraqi.”

Released last year, the film tells the story of three U.S. veterans who return to Iraq to ski the country’s second tallest peak, Mt. Hagurd, and along the way, heal wounds and experience the country and its culture without the shadow of war.

On the ski trip, Bare was joined by Robin Brown, a former pilot who was shot down over Fallujah in 2003, and Matthew Griffin, who fought in Mosul as a U.S. Army Ranger.

In thinking of Memorial Day, Bare said he recalls going to Lincoln, Nebraska, and attending the Memorial Day parades and ceremonies with his grandfather, who served in World War II, and after, they’d visit the American Legion to be around other veterans, where there was joy in camaraderie amidst the sorrow that comes with the day.

“The point is to honor the sacrifice that people made in these locations—not just American troops but our allies in Iraq, Bosnia, Angola, and Abkhazia (Republic of Georgia),” Bare said. “We want to highlight the beauty of their country and how their communities there are trying to come together and rise up after war, which is a horrendous experience.”

For many brands, the holiday means big sales—REI’s and Backcountry’s biggest sale of the year, as two examples. But we can’t forget that the weekend bears more significance, especially for veterans.

“I hope people take some time to think the sacrifice service members made, why those wars happened, and double down on being kind and appreciating the rights we have.”

Returning to Iraq was the first part of Bare’s project, which started in 2015. By 2022, he’s hoping to highlight the communities in Bosnia, Angola, and Abkhazia (Republic of Georgia), whether through film or photo series.

The project has garnered wide-reaching attention. Adventure Not War was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and a handful of others. It was even honored in Iran at the Tehran International Sports Film Festival. It received awards for Best of Festival and Best Mid-Length Film. Bare said his crew wasn’t able to attend, but they received a message on Facebook right before the social media crackdown that they had been honored. He said they were told that an Iraq ambassador received the awards on their behalf.

“That was a beautiful moment for us,” Bare said. “The people of Iran giving us an award speaks to what we’re trying to do, which is highlight the shared community in skiing. There’s a lot of opportunity to grow that connection.”