HOLLYWOOD (Christian Examiner) -- As the U.S. commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a new faith-based film, Faith Of Our Fathers, seeks not only to honor veterans of that war but also to help veterans and families heal of decades-old wounds from what some call America's "forgotten war."
Kevin Downes – who stars in it and serves as one of the producers – told Christian Examiner the movie already is having an impact on veterans who have seen advanced screenings. It hits theaters July 1.
One man whose father died in Vietnam wrote Downes a letter after he screened the movie, saying he had never opened his dad's box of war paraphernalia which contained such items as war letters and a dog tag.
"He was struggling to come to terms and find healing," Downes said. "He wrote and said, 'I believe God put your film in my life at the right time, because I need to come to terms and deal with whatever I am dealing with.' You could tell he was troubled with it."
Similarly, a man who served three tours in Iraq was brought to tears.
"He came to me with one of his medals, because he said, 'I want to encourage you, because you're going to save so many lives over the next couple of months with this film,'" Downes said.
It's the type of reaction Downes and the crew hoped for.
The studio behind it is PureFlix, which also released "God's Not Dead" and "Do You Believe?" It stars not only Downes but also David A.R. White and Stephen Baldwin. Singer Rebecca St. James, actress Candace Cameron Bure and reality show star Si Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" also have roles.
"My brother and I had two uncles who served in Vietnam," Downes said of his brother Bobby Downes, one of the producers. "Both of them came back, and one of them served three tours. It was our heart to make a film that honored veterans and let them know that they're loved – and do so in a film that crosses with the Gospel in a clear way, in a way that I've never done before in my films."
The movie is unique, Downes said, in that it shows the Gospel being presented in the midst of war, in "high-intense situations."
"You put two soldiers in a war, and all of a sudden you hear the Gospel in ways that's never been presented before," Downes said.
"Faith Of Our Fathers" follows the story of two strangers whose fathers were killed in the Vietnam War and who are searching for clues as to how they died. Their best hints are contained in letters their dads – who knew each other – wrote from the battlefield. The two sons take a road trip and end up at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and find healing in what they learn along the way.
"So many young men who went to Vietnam never came home," Robertson, a Vietnam War veteran, said. "Hey, they left families behind who never got to know those great guys. This story is about two sons on a road trip to learn about their dads. It's a story about Vietnam, but it happens in all wars, and I'm proud to be part of a film that helps bring peace to people."
Douglas L. Carver, executive director of chaplaincy at the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, said the film is "coming out at a strategically important time in American history as our nation is currently commemorating the 50th anniversary" of the Vietnam War. Carver served as the Army chief of chaplains from 2007 to 2011.
Kevin Downes said he hopes the movie helps "shed some light on the families of fallen soldiers and children who are left behind, and the struggles they go through." It's not a movie aimed only at veterans, he said.
"There's something for everyone," he said. "It's not just a military film."
Faith Of Our Fathers is rated PG-13 for brief war violence. It does not contain any sexuality or language. Visit FaithOfOurFathers.com.