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America’s Patriots & Veterans: Help Us Make the Movie That Hollywood Won’t!

Meet the Team

Every member of our team – vendors, law firms, independent contractors or project interns – are all dedicated and valued members who are crucial to the success of this project.

Mark

Mark T. O’Rourke, Esq.

Producer / Managing Member

Saratoga Springs, NY

Over the years, as a Boy Scout, U.S. Army R.O.T.C. cadet, member of the U.S. Army, and as a grateful citizen, I have proudly visited numerous American battlefields and historical sites where our very freedoms were courageously fought for and secured by patriots that are often not sufficiently remembered.

I am a member of the National Eagle Scout Association; the American Legion; the New York State Fraternal Order of Police; Ducks Unlimited; the NYS Bar Association; and St. John’s University Law School’s Alumni Board of Directors.

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Growing up, many of my neighbors were hardworking, humble, and serious people who I gradually learned were heroes who, just 40 plus years earlier, had landed at Normandy on D-Day to liberate the European continent while others had courageously served across the vast Pacific Theater during WWII. The inspiring examples of these quiet individuals will always remain with me.

For my Eagle Scout project, I supervised the creation of a memorial to honor America’s Vietnam Veterans in East Northport, NY. I was very grateful to achieve this goal as it meaningfully filled a void in my hometown’s main park where there were prominent memorials for veterans who had served in the nation’s past wars but notably, not Vietnam where my mother’s first cousin had made the ultimate sacrifice twenty years earlier.

As a high school junior, I proudly participated in the American Legion’s Boys State program in New York that was administered by the U.S. Marine Corps. This formative experience instilled in me a deep sense of civic duty, patriotism, and the importance of principled citizenship.

As a high school senior, as a participant in the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, I had the privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, an experience that cemented my desire to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

As a U.S. Army R.O.T.C. cadet at Villanova University, I learned the importance of servant leadership from some of the finest officers and non-commissioned officers to have ever worn the uniform.

Later, as a young U.S. Army officer, I had the privilege of reverently presenting an American flag to a grieving father to honor his son, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam and the Persian Gulf Wars. This moment imbued in me an awareness of how important a veteran’s service is to their family and friends.

Shortly thereafter, I also had the privilege of briefly serving overseas in the Middle East and Southwest Asia in support of Operations Southern Watch and Vigilant Sentinel. This experience powerfully reinforced my love of America’s example as a beacon of liberty.


Duggan O'Rourke

Duggan

Project Morale Officer (PMO)

Duggan became a cherished member of the project team a few years back, back when he was just a playful puppy. From day one, it was clear that Duggan had a unique talent for keeping Mark, the architect behind this independent feature film, on his toes. Whether it was with his boundless energy, curious antics, or unwavering loyalty, Duggan continues to bring an infectious spirit to the creative process during team meetings.

So, why this project?

Simple. The words of one of my childhood heroes, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, have long resonated with me:

“We are forever indebted to those that have given their lives that we might be free” and “May all of you, as Americans, never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism.”

I always have been profoundly grateful to be an American and  wanted to be worthy of the freedoms that were given to me because of the sacrifice of selfless patriots, most of whom I will never know their names or stories.

Writers & Historians

Robert Burris

Los Angeles, CA

Screenwriter

Bob Burris has been a guiding force behind such high profile network television shows as Warner Brothers’ “Growing Pains”, on which he served as supervising producer; executive producer / showrunner on Disney’s “Thunder Alley” and the Dave Chappelle vehicle “Buddies”, created by Matt Williams (Roseanne, Home Improvement); executive producer / showrunner of “In the House” starring LL Cool J; supervising producer of “Just the Ten of Us” and executive producer / showrunner of the Disney Channel’s original series “The Jersey” as well as contributing to numerous pilots.

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As a feature film writer and producer, Burris has written and produced the inspirational film “1000 to 1,” produced the feature documentary “Sample This”, written a remake of the classic comedy “The Toy” for Columbia Pictures, the original thriller “Sometimes the Devil Wins” for Troika Pictures, the historical drama “First Allies” and worked on “The Governess” for Bob Yari Film Group, “PPP” for Screen Gems, as well as numerous rewrites on a number of successful family films. He is currently developing feature film and television projects with production partners in China, Germany, Greece, Israel, and U.S. based entities. He has also directed numerous award-winning commercials and the live action segments of the PBS children’s show “Mack & Moxy.” Before launching his career as a writer/producer, Bob was an executive at NBC and ABC, working in promotion and programming. He has worked extensively with the Warner Bros. Writer’s Workshop, nurturing and developing aspiring television and screenwriters, teaching craft and helping them shape their work. Bob’s father was a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in the Korean War.

James Kirby Martin, Ph.D.

Houston, TX

Historian & Senior Advisor

James Kirby Martin has served for many years as the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz University Professor of History at the University of Houston. During the 2017-18 academic year he taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point, holding the Charles Boal Ewing Visiting Professorship in Military History. Over the years he also taught at Rutgers University and The Citadel. Martin is the author of several books, mostly dealing with the era of the American Revolution. Among these are “A Respectable Army”: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763-1789; Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary Hero: An American Warrior Reconsidered; and Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution. He is currently finishing two more books, one on the remarkable American Revolution; and, one on George Washington and Revolutionary leadership.

Martin has served on the Fort Ticonderoga Association Board of Trustees and the Fort Plain Museum Board of Trustees, and has been active as a historian consultant to the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.

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Among other activities, he has also worked with Bob Burris in writing movie scripts relating to the Oneidas and the Revolution; the Battle of Dresden; and George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy of 1782-83.

Martin received his B.A. from Hiram College (summa cum laude) and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. He began his teaching career at Rutgers University, where he earned the rank of Professor of History and also served for a period as Vice President for Academic Affairs. In 1980, Martin moved to the University of Houston, having accepted assignment as the Department Chair of History. Martin helped to found the “Papers of Thomas Edison” project at Rutgers University and served on its board of advisers. He was also served on the advisory board of the Papers of William Livingston project. Martin has served as general editor for a book series, the American Social Experience (New York University Press), and as a consulting editor for a book series entitled Conversations with the Past (Brandywine Press).

Jim’s father, Paul Elmo Martin, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Corps during WWII where he served in North Africa and later in the invasion of southern France during 1944-45 where he worked with the French Resistance in the urgent effort to drive the Third Reich out of France. About a month after V-E Day, Lt. Col. Martin, who was seriously injured in an automobile crash in southern France, is a bronze star recipient. Lt. Col. Martin died in 2010 as was buried with full military honors.

Jim resides with his wife Karen in Houston, TX; they have three daughters and ten grandchildren.

Kevin Weddle

Col. Kevin J. Weddle, Ph.D.

U.S. Army, Retired

Carlisle, PA

Historian and Senior Advisor

Colonel (Retired) Kevin J. Weddle, Ph.D. is Professor of Military Theory and Strategy at the US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Weddle, a native Minnesotan, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and served 29 years as a combat engineer officer. Throughout his career, he has worked in a variety of command and staff positions in the United States and overseas and he is a veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.

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Colonel Weddle’s assignments included service as a platoon leader, assistant battalion operations officer, company executive officer, company commander and tours of duty at West Point, Germany, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon. He also served as operations officer for the 555th Combat Engineer Group, battalion commander of the 299th Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, and was selected for brigade command before joining the US Army War College faculty. At the War College he was the director of the Advanced Strategic Art Program, served as the Deputy Dean of Academics, and held the General Maxwell D. Taylor Chair in the Profession of Arms. He has also earned the Army War College’s Excellence-in-Teaching Award. He has led numerous military and civilian groups to battlefields in the United States, Europe, and the Mediterranean, including Gettysburg, Antietam, Grant’s Overland Campaign, Vicksburg, Saratoga, Normandy, Dunkirk, Ypres, Agincourt, Waterloo, the Somme, Gallipoli, Sicily, and Anzio.

Colonel Weddle holds masters’ degrees in history and civil engineering from the University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. He has written numerous articles for popular and scholarly journals and his first book, Lincoln’s Tragic Admiral: The Life of Samuel Francis Du Pont (University of Virginia Press, 2005), won the 2006 William E. Colby Award and the Army War College’s faculty writing award, and was runner up in the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize competition. His most recent writing of a strategic history of the entire Saratoga campaign, titled “The Compleat Victory” for the Oxford University Press was released in early 2021 as part of the “Pivotal Moments in American History” series. “The Compleat Victory” has won three major awards including the: Gilder Lehrman Military History Prize, Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award, and Society of the Cincinnati Prize. He is also a licensed professional engineer.

He is married to the former Jean Buechner of St. Paul, Minnesota and they have one daughter, Anne.

ABOUT

The Team

The project’s talented leadership team is comprised of preeminent military historians; U.S. military veterans, and those who proudly hail from military families; veterans of the motion picture and entertainment industry; and, by individuals who grew up, were educated, lived, and worked in New York’s Upper Hudson Valley.

Investor Outreach

Alex Johnson

Washington, D.C.

Senior Advisor

Alex Johnson is the President of InState Partners where he leads a dynamic and experienced team of state affairs professionals from across the country. Offering comprehensive state government affairs and strategic counsel, he works to ensure that clients are well informed about state political environments and current policy issues.

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Alex has worked in politics for over 20 years working on campaigns, PACs and political committees. Previously, he served as the founding director of both the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) and the Republican Lieutenant Governor Association (RLGA). More recently, he served as senior vice president at FP1 Strategies and founded a boutique state affairs firm.

Alex received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Marquette University. He currently serves on the executive committee of the board for the America Council of Young Political Leaders.

Patrick Toomey

Saratoga Springs, NY

Senior Advisor

Patrick Toomey is the Restaurant Director of The Adelphi Hotel, the crown jewel of Saratoga Springs’ historic downtown. In October 2019, Saratoga Living magazine named him the “Saratogian of the Month”. Patrick is an invaluable asset to the project given his substantial network in the Saratoga region. His considerable community standing will help anchor the project’s strong and diverse finance team. He is a native of Saratoga County and a graduate of Saratoga Springs High School.

Todd Vandervort

Albany, NY

Senior Advisor

Todd H. Vandervort, President and CEO of The Vandervort Group, LLC, has more than 30 years of experience providing legislative, regulatory, and procurement services to a broad-based client list, including large and small businesses, and trade associations.

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Todd specializes in health care, information technology, fire service, and small business policies and initiatives. Prior to working at The Vandervort Group, Todd worked for the James E. Strates Shows, a family-owned traveling carnival midway.

Todd serves on the President’s Council of the Business Council of NYS, Inc.; he is the Chair of The Business Council Contract Procurement Committee and Vice-Chair of The Business Council’s Information, Technology and Telecommunications Committee. In addition, he serves on several key committees of the Business Council, including the Government Affairs, Environment, Transportation, and Small Business.

In addition, Todd serves on the Empire State Society of Association Executives Government Affairs Committee, the NYS Forum’s IT Procurement Committee, and is a member of the NYS Economic Development Council.

Todd previously served on the Capital District YMCA Board and is one of the founders of YMCA’s Circle of Champs program to help kids with life-threatening diseases to lead a normal life. In addition, Todd has been a member and Past President of the Sarah Wells and William Bull Stone House Association in Orange County for the past 22 years.

Todd was raised in Guilderland, NY and Fayetteville-Manlius, NY (Syracuse) and graduated from Hartwick College with a degree in Political Science. Todd is the father of two children. He enjoys spending time with his family, as well as golfing on the weekends, and skiing in Vermont.

Jane Vandervort

Albany, NY

Senior Advisor

Jane graduated from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in May of 2023. Jane received a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree Summa Cum Laude with a double major in Political Science and Citizenship & Civic Engagement (CCE), and a Minor in Project Management.

Matthew Walter, MBA

Washington, D.C.

Senior Advisor

From 2014 to 2019, Matt – a seasoned political strategist specializing in state-level government and political communications – served as the President of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). His career in Republican politics has included work in state government, political parties, campaigns, and policy. Walter earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and French from State University of New York College at Geneseo; a Master of Arts degree in American Political History from the College of St. Rose; and a Master’s in Business Administration in finance from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Matt gained a deep appreciation for the significance of the Battle of Saratoga when he was a resident of Saratoga Springs, NY and a frequent visitor to the Saratoga National Historical Park.

Matt’s considerable experience: assistant press secretary to the majority in the New York state senate (2001-2006). From 2007 to 2010, he held several director-level positions for the New York Republican State Committee. He served as election day operations director for Chris Gibson’s successful 2010 campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Matt also served as campaign manager for Rick Lazio’s 2010 bid for New York Governor. In 2011, Walter became the managing director for communications and political affairs with RSLC, a national 527 group that aims “to elect down-ballot, state-level Republican officeholders.” In this role, he expertly managed political and media plans as well as the media roll-out for the RSLC’s Future Majority Caucus, an innovative program to recruit women and candidates of color to seek state elected office as Republicans. During this time, he also served as the issue advocacy director for the State Government Leadership Foundation, the strategic policy partner of the RSLC.

Matt hails from a proud military family: his father is a U.S. Air Force veteran; his uncle, a decorated U.S. Air Force pilot who served in Vietnam; his grandfather served in the U.S. Navy as a Gunners Mate on transport ships that ferried General George Patton’s forces from North Africa to the European theater during WW II; and, his great-grandfather fought in WWI. Matt’s niece is currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy and his cousins served in the U.S. Navy’s Medical Corps.

Creative Team

2024 Mward Bw Resized

Melissa
Rathbun

Digital Marketing
NewWard Development, LLC

Saratoga, NY

Adam
Mason

Digital Advertising

Saratoga Springs, NY

Legal Team

Bob Wise,
Esq.

Wise Entertainment Law

Mark Ustin,
Esq.

Farrell Fritz, PC

Stacey Goldstein,
Esq.

Farrell Fritz, PC

Pina Campagna,
Esq.

Carter, DeLuca & Farrell

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