On June 26, the Oregon National Guard will present producer Suzanne DeLaurentiis with its Oregon National Guard Commendation (ORCOM), rarely given to civilians, for her charitable endeavors to help wounded soldiers.
DeLaurentiis grew up near Fort Dix in New Jersey and spent much time with those who lived and worked on the base, cementing her affinity for the military at an early age. She later spent time as a singer and dancer with the USO. DeLaurentiis moved to Hollywood, where she has flourished as a producer and filmmaker.
She co-founded the Cinema City International Film Festival in 2007. A few years ago, a documentary called "This is War" was accepted to the festival. Made by the Oregon National Guard, it told the story of Guard members fighting overseas. Unit members came to the festival to see the screening. The unit and DeLaurentiis became close, and she started working with some entities devoted to helping wounded and transitioning soldiers, including the Guard's new Re-Integration Team, which helps returning soldiers get back to a sense of normalcy in their lives. All the proceeds of the festival's events go to such charities, which also include the Marine Corps Association.
On her interactions with the soldiers, DeLaurentiis commented, "There is no political angle here. It's just brave men and women doing their jobs. To interact with them gives me encouragement and hope - and if they see that we appreciate them, then they appreciate that. I have become very invested, and made good friends." In fact, some of the Guard members DeLaurentiis has gotten to know have since died in battle.
While the military doesn't have its own category at Cinema City, military-related films are always welcome. Since the 2009 event fell on Sept. 11, works dealing with the attacks were especially encouraged. The people behind "This is War" are working on a similar film about Afghanistan, which DeLaurentiis hopes to assist with.