Department of Arizona Area A Vice Commander Ben Headen salutes a group of Legion Riders as they roll in for a documentary screening in Sierra Vista, Ariz. (Photo via Thomas S. Perry)

Department-linked Arizona World War I documentary now screening

A documentary developed by a Legionnaire and a Sons of The American Legion member that spotlights both Arizona World War I veterans and the formation of the Legion has begun screening in venues across the state.

Will Williams and Thomas S. Perry are the creators of “Arizona Heroes of World War I,” a documentary in 15 chapters that covers the stories of the individuals behind the war. After meeting with the Department of Arizona in 2015, the duo decided to work in content on the Legion, its formation and some of the people behind that.

In November, the first public screening of the documentary was held in Tucson. “With the premiere of the film,” Perry says, “the Department of Arizona is gearing up to advance our Centennial Celebration, remembrance of the end to World War I, and launching and expanding our marketing and branding campaign.” Central to that is a Facebook promotion campaign that includes three-minute film segments and PSAs on the Legion; it has garnered 43,000 views and 70,000 postings.

Several more screenings have taken place across Arizona since the Tucson event. Attendance averages between 60 and 75. Williams and Perry actively solicit comments from viewers; one 16-year-old stated, “I never knew history could be this rad!” Another viewer added, “We are so happy we came. We never knew that Arizona was so involved and had so many real heroes.”

American Legion leadership, including department commander candidate Steve Aguirre and Department Area A Vice Commander Ben Headen, have also attended events, of which more are planned. Headen calls the documentary "a beneficial tool" for the department, and adds that the project has effectively placed them in front of school superintendents to continue the goal of educating young people about history. The department is moving forward with a plan of similarly covering other conflicts. And as a bonus, Headen says, "it has also benefited our membership growth."