By Christophe MorelJune 30, 2017
BENELUX, Belgium (June 30, 2017) -- "I knew that this story would be one of the biggest, most ambitious stories that I was ever going to do," said Staff Sgt. Adam Harder about his video 'The Man from the Bottle.'
With the 16 minutes long production, the AFN operations manager and broadcast journalist won the Defense Media Award (DMA) in the long form production category in April 2017.
The DMA program, which replaced the Thomas Jefferson Awards, Visual Information Awards and VI Productions Awards, honors excellence among military and civilian broadcasters, graphic artists, journalists, photographers, public affairs practitioners, mass communication specialists and videographers.
This time, the DMA honored an investigation into a story which sounds like an urban legend, a story about Vince Speranza, a veteran who served as an infantryman and machine gunner in Bastogne during World War II.
As Harder explains in the video, it all began with a local Belgian beer. "I was in Ath, in a restaurant," Harder explained. "The owner, Jean-Luc, knows that my friend Eli Rios and I are in the U.S. military and said 'hey, I have got this beer'. It's called Airborne. If you look at the bottle, there is a little cartoon American troop merrily prancing with a helmet in his hand and it's full of beer." Harder described.
A very personal story
So it's in this restaurant that Harder learned about Speranza, the man from the bottle. Jean-Luc told Harder that Speranza helped a dying friend in a church. "He went to his buddy and asked him can I get you anything? And the only thing his buddy asked for was a beer because they were in Belgium. He checked all the pubs for beer and finally found a tap that worked despite everything in the bar being blown up. All the glass in the pub was broken so he decided his helmet was the only way to get the beer to his dying friend. He took his helmet full of beer back to his dying friend. And then he started doing that for all the other people who were injured," Harder explained.
While researching the story, Harder discovered that Speranza was still alive, though he initially couldn't find much information on the web. "I emailed another journalist from Illinois who was the only other reporter I'd seen do a story on Vince. He was able to get me Vince's email. To my surprise, Vince emailed me back within 24 hours which I have to admit, I was impressed by given that he was 92 at the time." Harder said.
In December 2015, Harder met Speranza and his granddaughter in Bastogne. Though he was to be the producer, he brought someone with him for extra shots. The video shows the veteran talking about what he actually did during the war, in a field or in a church. "This is a very personal story so I wanted to give the viewer time to get to know the character," Harder said.
After the shooting, Harder took a long time to capture the real essence of the story. He had about nine hours of footage. "I had two cameras worth of three days of footage, I had a ton of shots! It probably took me a total of 40 hours to put it together, at least" Harder indicated.
The award is meaningful for the 26 year old journalist who received compliments from Speranza. "This award made me feel like I had told his story properly, and that's all I really wanted to do. I wanted to be sure that his amazing story was just as amazing to everybody else as it was to me," Harder said.
Now Harder hopes that he will find another great story to tell. "I think that every single person on earth has a story that's very interesting. And if you are a good journalist, you can find a way to tell it," Harder concluded.
You can find "The Man from the Bottle" on Youtube or at https://www.dvidshub.net/video/502348/man-bottle-telescoped-version.