Here’s our chat with Donna:
The Insider: How did you get involved with Home for the Holidays?
Donna: I learned about [Home for the Holidays] on the Veterans in Film and television facebook page actually and thought that was a cool thing. Just decided to enter on a whim and they picked me.
Are you happy with the final product?
I really love it. I just got to take a look at the final cut of it very recently and I love it. I think the reason it works so well is it’s just a simple, easy story and when I was writing it that’s kind of what i was thinking about. [. . .] It doesn’t try to tell a lot. It just has a simple message, which I think a lot of people will find very touching and heartwarming.
What message does it convey to you?
The soldier featured in it manages to hang on to a certain thing to keep him going while he’s gone. When that comes to fruition, he really gets kind of renewed. It’s my hope that people can look past their experiences and toward renewing things.
Where did the idea for this come from?
I know a lot of veterans have a tough time reintegrating when they get back. It’s hard to immerse yourself in a culture of fighting, and come back to a culture of not. [ . . . ] I know integration is a challenge for a lot of service members when they come back; it’s a pretty universal experience.
What would you say to someone who knows a returning veteran?
I would say take the veteran’s lead on that. When they want to talk about things, they will. And when they don’t, they much prefer you go about business as usual. [ . . . ] If you just conduct yourself as if there’s not something terribly unusual, it will help them regain a sense of normality quicker.
Was there someone who helped you?
My husband is a veteran. We met on a deployment, went to vegas, got married, and went back to deployment. We’re in a unique situation where I know all of his experience and he knows all of mine. So there’s a lot that doesn’t have to be said.
Have you gotten a chance to see some of the other pieces?
I think they’re great. They picked a nice conglomeration of stories.
Do you have a favorite Disney movie?
That’s a really tough one. I grew up on the older ones. There is something special about Disney that they can keep releasing older ones that are new to audiences. I really liked Dumbo a lot when I was growing up. I remember wearing out that one. Also Fantasia’s fantastic. When it came out again, then they remastered it, we rented out a theater. My mom has MS and she can’t watch movies in the theater because of the light and the flickering. It triggers her vertigo. So we rented out an entire theater so they could keep the lights on and she could see it, because she’d never seen it on the big screen.
What has this experience been like?
It’s pretty amazing. It’s an opportunity that you just don’t get. It’s been pretty incredible just to be thrust into this and the people I’ve worked with have been fantastic.
What would you like people to take away from viewing your film?
Maybe just understand that each vet is coming at it from their own distinct angle. And there’s no cookie cutter answer and no one size fits all reintegration. So take the individual veterans as they are, always thank them for their service.
Visit ABC.com to see even more of the Home for the Holidays videos.