Tuesday, November 24, 2015 • 02:16

Emmy Award winner to discuss film

January 31, 2014
On February 3, the Pauma Valley Lions Club will host a discussion with Kilma Lattin, a member of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, U.S. Army veteran and business executive. Lattin will present the documentary, "Defending the Homeland: Native American Veterans in the United States Armed Forces," that received a 2013 Emmy Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Pacific Southwest Chapter. Featured in the film are Pala veterans who share intimate details of their experiences in the United States Armed Forces.

The film is Lattin's brainchild that evolved from conversations he had with Gilbert Mojado, the oldest living veteran in the Pala Tribe, who served in World War II.

"In talking to Gilbert, I realized that if we don't gather our veterans' stories, sooner or later they'll pass away and we'll never know," said Lattin. "It would be an entire military history that would go undocumented."

The Pala Indian Tribe has the largest land base and population in San Diego County, with roughly 950 members. A substantial number of them have served in the military dating back to the Spanish American War, according to Lattin.

A former Apache helicopter pilot who received the prestigious Soldier's Medal for Valor, Lattin's vision was to compile a complete inventory of living and deceased Pala veterans. In 2009, he began to archive the information and chronicle the stories of living vets. He founded the Pala Veterans Organization that has become a unifying force for good.

"They take trips together and tell stories," said Lattin. "It's a medium for the vets to use to connect with their friends and family who have served. It's turned out to be a very good thing, being in a safe environment with others who, through experience, know exactly what you're talking about."

As veterans' shared their experiences, the stories began to multiply. Lattin realized the project had greater educational potential with a broader reach. He approached Pala Executive Committee Chairman Robert Smith with a proposal for the project. Funding was approved and Lattin coordinated a team of experts from the film industry. As the only veteran and tribe member on the film crew, he served as the chief advisor and was able to lend his unique experience to the film. Lattin also brought to the table two Bachelor's degrees (History and Communications) from UC-Santa Barbara, executive education from Harvard University, the JFK School of Government, and an MBA from the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. He also served three terms as an elected member of the Pala Executive Committee (2005-2011), assisting in the development of the Pala community and the drafting of social and administrative policy on the reservation.

The documentary was submitted to PBS and aired in San Diego, as well as other PBS stations throughout the country. The Emmy nomination and subsequent award were an unexpected reward.

"I want this film to serve as a new building block in our history, educating people in the role that Native Americans have played in the military, to move beyond the Code Talkers and into new and interesting facts, figures, and stories," said Lattin.

"All the credit for this film goes to the veterans of Pala, the Executive Committee for the Pala tribe and Chairman Robert Smith," he added. "This whole project would not have been possible without the veterans, their stories, their families and the executive committee and Robert Smith for approving the project. I am very humble and proud to be the one entrusted to get this done."

The airing of the film and subsequent discussion will take place at the Pauma Valley Lions Club on February 3 at the Pala Casino at 6:30 pm in the Sycamore meeting room.

For more information on the film, go to: www.defendingthehomeland.com

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