I just got back from Texas. I went to see a movie.

A movie named “Restrepo.”

Remember the airborne “sky soldiers” platoon we “adopted” on their first deployment in Afghanistan, 2007-08? (173rd Airborne 2-503rd, Battle Company.)

You Waldo County folk were so supportive and generous, bringing needed and crucial supplies to the “drop zone” at the Journal, filling boxes at the VFW, the students at Ames School and Troy Howard Middle School, (the latter, under the tutelage of teacher Andy Hicock, collected, packed, addressed and mailed dozens of boxes, with the aid of a generous grant from the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor).

All of this resulted in over 100 boxes of food, supplies and warm clothing — especially warm wool socks — for this small band of soldiers who were isolated in the most dangerous place on earth, the Korengal Valley in northeastern Afghanistan, smack up against the Pakistan border.

“Our” platoon included Maine-born-and-raised Michael Cunningham (my grandson), who grew up in Morrill and Belfast, attending Ames Elementary, Troy Howard Middle and Belfast Area High schools before moving to Texas. Following a year of college, he joined the Army and earned his way to the famous 173rd Airborne, based in Italy.

Cunningham, his base roommate. Juan Restrepo, and the rest of the 173rd headed to Afghanistan for a grueling 15-month deployment in what was called, “the valley of death,” the infamous Korengal, also known as “Taliban Central.”

The Korengal Valley, in Kunar Province, is so isolated from the rest of the country that it doesn’t even speak the same language. It’s also been a valley of choice, with its rugged, remote mountain passes, for the Taliban to filter back and forth from Pakistan.

And so, into this valley our platoon was sent, to the Korengal Outpost, (KOP).

War correspondent Sebastian Junger (who wrote “The Perfect Storm”), along with award-winning British war photojournalist Tim Hetherington, was embedded with them almost from the beginning.

Junger, at a recent book signing in Houston (for his new book on “our” platoon, “War”), told the audience that when he asked the Army for permission to be embedded with a unit in Afghanistan, he wasn’t sure where they were going to put him. When he was told they were going to embed him with 2nd Platoon, Battle Company of the 173rd in the Korengal, he said he didn’t think much of it at the time.

He was hoping to catch a couple of battles, but thought most of his time would be spent at the base with lots of downtime on his hands. As such, when he finally arrived at the KOP, he said it didn’t take him too long to realize that he had got himself in a real hornet’s nest.

“As I learned, not all infantry units in the Army are equal in their training and capabilities. Regular infantry, or line soldiers, are expected to be able to hold real estate once it’s been taken. The most dangerous and toughest assignments, as I found out, are reserved for the Army’s elite units. The 173rd Airborne is one of the Army’s best fighting forces, and within the 173rd, one of the best fighting units ever put together is 2nd Platoon, Battle Company of the 503rd.

“Of all the fighting that occurred in Afghanistan during the time I was there, one fifth of the fighting took place in the Korengal. And that one fifth was fought by only 130 men. The rest of the 70,000[-strong] NATO Force fought the other four fifths.”

Everybody in the audience pretty much gasped. A man sitting in the back said, “And yet you and most of the men survived?”

Sebastian replied by saying that what those men accomplished was truly extraordinary. “Yes, most of the casualties during that time happened in the Korengal. There wasn’t one soldier who wasn’t almost killed. More than a few ended up with a bullet hole in their helmet. More than a few found tears in their uniforms from bullets that had passed through or ripped the fabric but didn’t touch them. And yet not one of those guys was ever afraid of meeting the enemy head-on.”

Junger and Hetherington’s first four months of their embed with Battle Company resulted in a “Frontline” documentary on ABC, (still available online, including through YouTube,) two feature articles in Vanity Fair, and a front-page feature story in the New York Times Magazine, as well as news spots on MSNBC, FOX and others.

The soldiers would be the recipients of many medals for their bravery, some awarded in person by Admiral Mike Mullen, (including one of Cunningham’s three Commendation with Valor medals. He also has the Bronze Star). The unit has the highest of awards, including the Presidential Unit Citation and Meritorious Unit Award, but to them, the most important thing was each other.

The Taliban had high-point advantage over the KOP, surrounded by close, steep mountains on all sides. One of the first lost was Juan Restrepo.

The soldiers of Battle Company decided they had to counter the Taliban’s high-ground advantage. So a small platoon headed off over even more remote mountain “goat” paths, each packing an average 100 pounds of weapons and supplies, including shovels and pickaxes, to establish a foothold.

Finding a tiny prominence that would serve their purpose, they set to work to establish cover from enemy fire. They pickaxed the sheer rock all night, filling bags and piling them up for protection. The enemy fire came, as expected, at first light. The Taliban fighters were taken aback and furious at their presence. And thus began the routine: pickax all night, fight all day.

They built a “shanty town” that became home — a home with no running water, no heat, no power, no showers, far removed from the next base. As Junger remarked later, “We were, essentially, on Mars.” But this was”‘home,” and they named it for their fallen brother, Juan Restrepo.

In the long months to come, they were to lose more brothers — and brothers they truly became — in their shanty town and in countless ambushes on “routine” patrols to the villages to meet with the elders or ferret out the enemy.

Junger and Hetherington kept going back, being embedded a total of one year of the platoon’s 15 months. (They, too, were both injured.) They became trusted members of the company. The only difference was their “weapons”: cameras and pens.

Together, they wrote, directed and produced a movie — a documentary — chronicling a year of Battle Company’s 15 months in hell. Their goal was to keep outside influence from any aspect of the story. They wanted to tell the story of men in battle — period. No politics, no “agenda,” no actors —- but what war is, straight up, for the soldiers on the ground. They succeeded.

They named the movie “Restrepo.”

Submitted to the Sundance Film Festival in January, not only was it accepted, it took the top prize: the Grand Jury Award. Picked up by National Geographic for broadcast and theatrical rights, (it will be televised in November), it is now showing, in its initial distribution, to rave reviews in theaters across the country.

As it happened, it was scheduled to show at the Bijou Theater in San Antonio at the same time that Sgt. Michael Cunningham would be on leave (he’s now back in Afghanistan on a second tour) and in San Antonio for a family reunion and his brother’s wedding.

He had not yet seen the movie himself. He was bringing his financé from Italy, his father would come up from Houston, his mother and sister from California, his maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — all would be there. My daughter, Carrie, and her Coast Guard hubby and their three daughters were driving up from Florida and five or six of his “brothers” from Restrepo were coming in from their respective homes. It would be a grand night

And it was about to get grander. When the Bijou was informed that Cunningham would be there in person, the management asked if he would be their guest of honor to be introduced for a “meet and greet” and address the audience before the film and then conduct a question-and-answer session after the screening. They arranged for radio interviews and for the family to be brought by limousine to the theater.

I told everyone to “take lots of pictures.”

Then, just before Michael left Afghanistan, I got a Facebook message from him: “Gramma, you’re coming to San Antonio. No excuses. I’m buying your ticket.”

And so, I went to Texas — to see a movie.

And it was a grand night. The audience was awestruck by the movie and the spirited question-and-answer session ended with the last questioner giving more of a statement. She expressed her deep appreciation of our troops who fight for our freedoms and said this movie would be the movie that would tell the American people just what our troops are going through, what it’s really like for the soldier on the ground like no other movie has: “What you are doing for us! You are our people!”

Cunningham was given a standing ovation. Yes, a grand night.

I came home to an e-mail from Mike Hurley at the Colonial Theatre in Belfast. I have been coordinating with him and the “Restrepo” crew for National Geographic in an effort to get the movie here. And Hurley says we’re getting it. It will be a few weeks, but we are getting it. It may be the only screening in Maine on this first distribution. So keep watch. I’ll give you a heads-up.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt lives in Morrill.