National Endowment for the Humanities Awards Grant for Public Outreach of Ric Burns Debt of Honor Documentary

Award of $300,000 to support public events on the history and legacy of disabled veterans in American culture

Debt of Honor
WASHINGTON, (August 4, 2015)

Today the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced its most recent commitment to a humanities-based public dialogue on the experiences of veterans, through funding a major outreach campaign centered on a new documentary film by Ric Burns, Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History.

NEH is awarding $300,000 to PBS, in association with WETA Washington, DC and Steeplechase Films which produced the documentary that chronicles the challenges faced by disabled veterans through the history of American wars. The funds will support the planning and implementation of more than two dozen public screenings nationwide of the film followed by discussion panels focused on understanding the experience of being a disabled veteran returning from war. The screening sites, to be chosen by PBS, will be selected to include localities with significant veteran and military populations and will be announced in August. Toolkits to help facilitate the planning of the public events will be sent to public television stations, state and local humanities councils, and other partners.

“As a Vietnam veteran, I believe this initiative will help in bridging the divide between the military and public,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “NEH is committed to projects that use the humanities to inspire public discussion of the important issues of our time, and this new film offers a compelling way to open up meaningful dialogue about the service and sacrifice of disabled veterans.”

This grant is part of an NEH initiative, The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square, which is designed to demonstrate the critical role humanities scholarship can play in our public life.  The grant is also a part of the agency’s continued commitment to veterans and the humanities under its Standing Together initiative, which emphasizes the innovative ways in which the humanities can foster engagement with military veterans and their communities.

Debt of Honor examines the way in which the American government and society as a whole have regarded disabled veterans throughout history, beginning with the Revolutionary War and moving forward to include the current conflicts in the Middle East. An overarching theme in the film is that our country is more divorced from our military than ever before. The NEH grant helps facilitate public discussions that bring together diverse audiences, military and civilian, to reflect on the effects of war.

“I am grateful to the NEH for sponsoring this nationwide public engagement program,” said filmmaker Ric Burns. “There is a real necessity to bridge the gap between civilians and the military, it is our hope that this film will encourage a candid discussion in communities across the country and create an understanding and awareness of the sacrifices involved in military service.”

To see a short clip from the film, click here.

Media Contacts:
Paula Wasley: (202) 606-8424 |