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Lima Company documentary debuts before emotional audience

"Combat Diaries: The Marines of Lima Company" opens with footage of a November 2005 ceremony honoring the fallen members of Lima Company.

The film is a first-hand account of Lima Company's seven month stay in Iraq, which ended with a highly publicized return to Rickenbacker Air Force Base in which thousands of people lined streets to welcome the Marines home. The film is also narrated by members of the reserve unit. Executive producer Caleb Medders says the film is unique among modern war documentaries because it is told first-hand by soldiers who fought in the war. Medders says the film was made without a political agenda.

"The film is about the Marines and their deployment, and how it affected the families and the community, as well," Medders says. "Our intentions were to make it non-political. If you have an open mind, I think you'll be really, really pleased."

One scene of the movie features Lieutenant Colonel and Ohio State University student Trevor Smith recounting hearing the news that fellow Marine and Pickerington native Dustin Derga had been killed in combat.

"(Lima Company member) Gunner Hurley came over all the tracks, and he just had that look in his face," Smith says. "You pretty much knew what he was going to say, and you just that feeling. And he said 'Corporal Derga didn't make it.' That was probably the toughest thing to deal with."

Derga was the first member of Lima Company to be killed in action. 15 other members of the company were also killed while serving in Iraq, nine of which came in a single roadside bombing last August. Several surviving members of the company were on hand for the screening. Sgt. Major Dan Altieri served as a first seargant in Lima Company. He says he hopes the film will give people a perspective on what is happening in Iraq.

"I think the world should see it," Altieri says. "I think that everyone should get a chance to see what young men do in combat, men especially from this area, Ohio and the Midwest. I hope that this opens everybody's eyes up to what's actually going on in Iraq, and how young Marines and sailors and given their all and put their part in for society, in this case as patriots for their country."

The film can be seen Thursday at 9 pm on the A & E Network.