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Independence man’s find leads to major motion picture
May 26, 2014

‘Memorial Day’ movie available nationally

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

INDEPENDENCE, MN – One person’s junk certainly turned into a treasure for Independence resident Joe Slavec.

Slavec, who owns Minneapolis Garage Builders, was on a job site tearing down a garage about five years ago when he ran across a footlocker. He asked the property owners if they wanted to save it, and Slavec was told to get rid of it.

Thankfully, Slavec’s gut told him he should take a look inside the locker. In it, he found the life story of a World War II veteran.

Slavec shared the find with his friend Jeff Traxler, who has an interest in military history. Traxler has a hunting preserve in Le Center that features a wall with military memorabilia from when he and Slavec served.

“We looked at it and thought it could turn into a cool little story or a book,” Slavec said. Several weeks later, writer Marc Conklin had expressed an interest in Traxler’s memorabilia. That led to a conversation about the trunk Slavec discovered.

“Then a couple weeks later, we had a script,” Slavec said. Conklin had taken the story and turned it into a screenplay.

Conklin took Slavec’s find and turned it into a story about a 13-year-old boy who discovers his grandfather’s (James Cromwell, who starred in The Artist and Babe) World War II footlocker and strikes a deal with him: He can pick any three objects inside, and Grandpa will tell him the stories behind each one.

The boy ends up joining the Minnesota National Guard 34th Infantry “Red Bulls” Division and experiencing friendships, losses and moral dilemmas that parallel his grandfather’s.

As viewers see Bud’s WWII tales from Europe, they also see how SSgt. Kyle Vogel’s experiences in Iraq have paralleled them – and how that day on the porch will affect how he ultimately deals with the dilemmas that unite all soldiers across wars and generations.

The film, titled “Memorial Day,” was shot in Minnesota, with production taking about 2.5 years and costing about $1.2 million. The original name of the movie was “Souvenirs.”

Slavec said the United States Department of Defense assisted in the production of the film with personnel and equipment.

The flick, released in 2011, has gone on to become one of the higher-rated movies on Netflix, and is available for purchase online and at retail locations.

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