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'Restrepo' documents bonds of Army brothers

All kinds of races and creeds could be found in his Army platoon. They came from all over.

But Marc Solowski calls the bond he shared with the men of the 173rd Airborne Brigade a brotherhood.

"You get real, real close as soon as the bullets start flying," said Solowski, whose platoon had the task of securing the 6-mile-long Korengal Valley in Afghanistan.

"When you realize everybody has got each other's backs and will sacrifice their life to save your life, that's brotherhood."

Restrepo, an award-winning documentary that chronicles the platoon's yearlong struggle, opens Friday at the Regal Citrus Park Theaters in northwest Hillsborough.

The film and the remote outpost where Solowski toiled take their names from Pfc. Juan Restrepo, a platoon medic killed in action.

Solowski, a 2004 East Lake High graduate, still has family in the area and shares a particular interest in the Tampa-area screening. Now stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., he anticipates the movie having a profound impact.

"We're real people," said Solowski, who received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. "We're sons, we're brothers."

Solowski could not have envisioned that his experience would wind up on the big screen. He was a student at Florida Community College in Jacksonville when he enlisted specifically to be in the Infantry/Airborne division.

His mother and stepfather took him out on their boat and tried to convince him to join the Coast Guard.

"But he was pretty determined," said his mother, Lynn Legg.

Starting in June 2007, filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger made a total of 10 trips to the Korengal. Restrepo had no running water, Internet, phone communication and, for a while, no electricity or heat. It essentially was just sandbags and ammo — and brotherhood.

"In this group, brotherhood means the feelings you might have for another person does not affect how you deal with them in a life-or-death situation," Junger explained. "Brotherhood means there's an understanding that you put the safety of the group above your own."

Junger said Solowski was one of the first soldiers to open up to him. He particularly recalled being next to Solowski during battles.

"One day, there were three or four attacks. It was very intense," Junger said. "And after that, there was Marc reading a surfing magazine. I thought how incongruous for him to be thumbing through a surfing magazine in the middle of Afghanistan."

From all accounts, Restrepo delivers the human side of war in unvarnished, unflinching truth. Winner of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Documentary, it strives to bring home war's reality without politicizing it.

"Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, it'll change the way you look at soldiers," Solowski said.

And hopefully it will change the way we look at their efforts, courage and bravery. Sometimes, we lose sight of that during our daily lives.

The stakes are too high to forsake our brothers.

That's all I'm saying.

'Restrepo' documents bonds of Army brothers 08/03/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 10:55pm]
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