Behind the Scenes: Capturing the Stories of Three Modern Medal of Honor Recipients

The Making of the Spring 2019 Issue of Hallowed Ground Magazine
Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris while being filmed on location at Morris Island, S.C., for the Brothers In Valor project.

In the Fall of 2018, the American Battlefield Trust visited three historic battlefields with modern recipients of the Medal of Honor, where our extraordinary guests had the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of a Civil War-era recipient who fought in circumstances parallel to his own.

Take a peek behind the scenes with the historians, filmmakers, photographers, designers and editors who helped make these the Brothers In Valor project possible in a special issue of Hallowed Ground magazine.

Photo gallery & quotes from the crew:

Jeff Griffith

On Location: Morris Island

“I was honored to be a part of this project and spend time with Melvin. I found him to be quite humble about his experiences. While deservedly proud, I think he looks back and feels like he simply did what anyone would do — though that’s obviously not the case. I enjoyed his perspective when discussing the historical comparisons relating to this feature.”

– Charles Harris, photographer

Jeff Griffith

A Trust-Preserved Battlefield

“Seeing Melvin’s emotion standing on Morris Island was one of my greatest moments as a preservationist. That place so easily could have been lost to development without a tremendous coalition that came together, recognized its significance and worked to save it. And then to walk along those shores with this incredible man and be thanked for the minor role I played in protecting it was inspiring. When he said, “Everyone should have the opportunity to stand here; I didn’t even imagine that it was possible for me to come to this place,” I knew without a doubt that preservation truly matters.”

– Mary Koik, Hallowed Ground editor

Jeff Griffith

Charleston Location Crew

“What a gift it was to meet Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris. I could have stopped after the 45-minute sunrise ferry ride to Morris Island and been happy. But once we got to Morris Island, it was sheer inspiration listening to Melvin tell us about his incredible act of bravery as it related to William Carney of the 54th Massachusetts. You could feel him almost channel Carney and what his emotions would have been like before, during and after the charge on Fort Wagner.”

– Jeff Griffith, Hallowed Ground creative director


Mark Koik

In the Archives

“Seeing the treasures in the archives of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society was incredible. Some of the items were absolutely pristine, yes. But there were others that you could just feel how treasured they had been by their wearer. Since it is illegal to sell a Medal of Honor, the Society has a sizable number in its collection, given by descendants for safekeeping.”

– Mary Koik, Hallowed Ground editor


Jeff Griffith

On Location: Slaughter Pen Farm

“Being with Britt Slabinski at the Slaughter Pen Farm was a transformative experience for me. He had never been there before, yet immediately assessed the landscape and used his Navy SEAL (and Boy Scout) training to verbalize to the entire film crew where “his men” would have been and how they would have faced the enemy in modern days. And then was visibly shaken recalling the actual carnage on that small plot of land with Civil War tactics. This experience would never have been the same if it was covered with concrete, or simply read on a plaque. Interviewing and observing a Medal of Honor recipient there on the exact hallowed ground will be with me forever.”

– Jeff Griffith, Hallowed Ground creative director


Jeff Griffith

Impact of Personal Experience

“When I was about 12, my parents took me to Gettysburg for the first time. I’d never set foot on a battlefield before, although I’d loved reading about history. That experience fundamentally shifted my understanding, those things I thought that I thought I’d known, about those events. Going to Fredericksburg with Britt was the same sort of thing. Hearing him articulate the parallels between his own experience and that of a man almost 150 years before – “I wasn’t there with him, but I know exactly what he was going through.” — profoundly shifted and humanized those long-past events for me. I’ve been to the Slaughter Pen Farm dozens – maybe scores  of times, but I will never look at it the same way. I will never look at any battlefield quite the same way.”

– Mary Koik, Hallowed Ground editor


Shane Seley

Fredericksburg Crew

Rain had threatened all morning, but began to fall in earnest around lunchtime. Thankfully, our friends at Stephenson’s Ridge, a B&B on the Spotsylvania Battlefield, offered us a sheltered place for the team from Wide Awake Films to continue shooting.


Jeff Griffith

On Location: Gettysburg

“It’s rare when you meet someone and instantly feel awe and wonder about them. But Woody Williams has that. Not because there’s an air about him. Quite the contrary! Woody is still a West Virginia boy at heart, cheerfully standing in the cold waiting for the lighting to be perfect. And yet, he did something extraordinary that he has spent his adult life sharing with world and inspiring others. Although it’s been 70-plus years since he was in battle, those moments are clearly etched in his memory.”

– Jeff Griffith, Hallowed Ground creative director


Jeff Griffith

A Living Legend

“This is one of those jobs that you sometimes have a hard time believing you’re actually getting paid to do.  Listening to these American Heroes tell their stories is a privilege and an honor. I know it sounds cliché’ but it really is.”

– Mark Myers, videographer


Jeff Griffith

Windows to the Past

“Hearing him relate his experiences, while standing on a battlefield opened up a lucid window of continuity—that World War II and the Civil War were not especially long ago. And those who fought in them were people with feelings and emotions just like us today. I have had these type of thoughts before. But with someone who was relating his experiences, and telling of those who perished around him, it brought the past into sharper relief. This was an emotional arena that I had not experienced before.”

– Garry Adelman, American Battlefield Trust


William Hereford

Gettysburg Location Crew

“I've been to these Civil War battlefields many times in my career doing Civil War shoots or as a living historian. Yet, to experience these places through the eyes of - not just a veteran - but a veteran who's earned our nation's highest combat honor was to almost see the land through an entirely different lens.  The stories they tell of the past are made so present because these living men have walked in the shoes of the dead. Though the Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients were long gone, their modern brothers-in-arms brought them back to life, for the fleeting moments we walked those blood soaked grounds.”

– Shane Seley, producer, Wide Awake Films