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Saving Veterans' Lives a Mission for Former Tallahasseean

Marty Klein

A former Tallahassee man is back in his old stomping grounds this week. But the visit is actually part of his life’s work to save the lives of people like himself.

The gentleman in question is an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician. That’s one of his songs playing in the background.

“My name is Marty Klein and I am a blind veteran. I lived in Tallahassee for 10 years. I love coming to Tallahassee every year for about a month,” he said as his song “Veterans Anthem” faded under his words.

Marty Klein’s period of military service was a life-changing experience in more ways than one.

“I was in the service from 1967-70 and was during the Vietnam era,” he recalled. “I was fortunate enough not to go to Vietnam, but I ended up losing my sight from the disease I incurred while serving.”

Klein’s personal situation, combined with the growing plight of subsequent generations of vets, led him to his present mission in life.

“Most of my life these days has been focused on this movie, ‘Why Can’t We Serve?’ that I raised the money for, produced, directed and wrote the script for. My attempt with the movie is to help reduce the number of veteran suicides taking place in our country right now,” he explained with palpable passion. “It’s a staggering, ongoing tragedy and my movie is my best attempt to try and make a difference.”

Klein insists the film has more than a single message.

“It basically shows the challenges of war and the results and what we can do as a society to make a difference. But it also ends with incredible inspiration when we get to realize the amazing capacity of people who have disabilities and all their talents and diversity. And I think that’s a real important part of the movie! Of course, we’re trying to make a difference for veterans, for the disabled soldiers. But in the process, we’re also trying to change the culture around how people are seeing people with disabilities in our society.”

That Klein adds is in addition to creating a much stronger and more positive link between military vets and the community at large.

“’Thank you for your service’ is a nice beginning, but the next statement would be, ‘How about we get a cup of coffee and get to know each other?’ he remarked. “Because that’s where people get uncomfortable and the movie is trying to encourage people to get past the comfort place into a place of real connection.”

Klein actually debuted the film in Tallahassee last year.

“We showed the full movie at the Unity Eastside (Church),” he recalled. “We’ve gone on to show it at a number of different places in New York and St. Petersburg, Florida. I feel more proud today than I did when I first showed it because I wasn’t sure. When you make a movie, you don’t know how people are going to respond to it, but the responses have been really beautiful! And I think the more people who see the movie, the more chance we have of actually getting the military to make a policy change that could help.”

And now Klein is bringing the film back for another Capital City screening.

“The movie ‘Why Can’t We Serve?’ will be playing at the Tallahassee Film Society at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13 and it’s free for veterans. I want to make that point because the more veterans who get to see this movie the more power there is behind it. But we would like everybody to come out to see it because we believe it’s an important movie and needs to be seen.”

Before next week’s showing at the All Saints Cinema, Klein says there will be preliminary event this Thursday evening.

“On March 7th at the United Methodist Church at the corner of Mahan and Capital Circle (Tallahassee Heights UMC) at 6 p.m. we’ll have an hour-and-a-half of open discussion about the movie and the movement. So if anybody wants to come ahead of time, everyone is welcome to that as well.”

And it will be a perfect opportunity for Tallahasseeans to welcome Marty Klein home and thank HIM for his service. On multiple levels.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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