UWSP student and veteran Tegan Griffith continues the discussion of unity as addressed in the film American Creed
Tegan Griffith will host a public discussion about civil discourse after a premier screening of American Creed Feb. 14 at the UWSP Dreyfus University Center.
She grew up in the small village of Wittenberg, about 30 miles east of Wausau. Like many young people fresh out of high school, Tegan Griffith wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She joined the U.S. Marine Corps at age 19, entering boot camp in December of 2005, and was deployed to Iraq. She then became one of the 2.7 million men and women to have served there, as did her father with the U.S. Army.
Now a student at UW-Stevens Point, Griffith is part of a new PBS documentary, American Creed, that also features former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Kennedy. The documentary explores what it means to be an American today, and whether there is such a thing as a unifying set of shared beliefs—in other words, an American creed.
The documentary airs on Wisconsin Public Television on Feb. 27. But a premier public screening will show at UWSP’s Dreyfus University Center Feb. 14, that Griffith herself will help host. After the screening, Griffith will lead a town hall discussion about civil discourse, centering on questions brought up by Rice and Kennedy in the film. The film starts at 5:45 pm.
Griffith spent seven months in Iraq at a base near Fallujah. Her job as a technical librarian was to make sure mechanics had the latest updates on their helicopters—an important task since mechanical failures could prove fatal. Though she never left base in that time, she saw plenty of loss. Even before she went to Iraq, she recalls rushing with others to help her staff sergeant, whose husband was killed when his aircraft was shot down. To be in the military at that time was to know people killed or wounded in action.
When Griffith left active duty in 2009, she had some trouble re-adjusting to civilian life. She later enrolled at UW-Marathon, and now attends UWSP, where she will graduate in May with a degree in Public Relations and Journalism.
She came to the attention of the producers of American Creed for her work with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, through which she’s traveled around the country to advocate for veterans, and even addressed lawmakers in Washington, D.C. The filmmakers followed her for a week in July 2014 after multiple interviews, to document as much of her life as she allowed. They followed her to a pool party, to the Harley Davidson store in Rothschild and to a Wisconsin Woodchucks game. “It was jarring to have that out there,” Griffith says. “Having them tell my story and not knowing how it was going to be handled. But they did a really good job.”
Griffith hopes viewers’ main takeaway from the film is that in today’s polarizing political climate, people can learn to have respectful discussions. “Condoleezza Rice has a great line in the film: ‘We’re growing apart’,” Griffith says. “We’re not having these conversations any more.”
Or, as Griffith says in the film: “Even if I don’t necessarily agree with their opinions, I still appreciate them because that freedom is the fabric of my uniform.”
American Creed debuts on Wisconsin Public Television at 8 pm Feb. 27. americancreed.org.