News

New Film Chronicles Cross-country Bike Ride in Memory of Santa Rosa Soldier

By 
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 6:05 p.m.

The documentary film opens with Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams of Santa Rosa looking directly into the camera.

“If you are watching this, I’m dead,” Williams says. “That sucks.”

His father, Herb Williams, a Santa Rosa political consultant who has seen the 100-minute documentary, titled “The Long Ride Home,” said it still packs an emotional punch.

“It gets me right now,” Williams said with a momentary catch in his voice. “I miss him.”

A local audience will see the film in its California premiere during Vets Fest, a Santa Rosa International Film Festival event Sunday at the Glaser Center.

Herb Williams and Sonya Williams, Jesse’s widow, will attend the screenings at 1:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., along with director/producer Tom Wright and the two men whose cross-country ride is chronicled in the film, Kevin Mincio and Matt Sauri.

The screenings will be preceded by a motorcycle parade at noon from the Veterans Memorial Monument at City Hall to the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., featuring members of the Patriot Guard Riders and American Legion motorcycle units.

Vets Fest will include an art show, panel discussions and information tables staffed by Sonoma County veterans groups at the Glaser Center.

Mincio and Williams joined the Army in 2001: Mincio leaving a lucrative Wall Street banker’s job and Williams, an Eagle Scout and star rugby player, following his father into the service.

The two met at Fort Lewis, Washington and deployed to Iraq together in 2003-04. In 2006, before departing on his second Iraq tour, Williams asked Mincio to take care of his daughter, Amaya, should anything happen to him.

Williams, 25, a Bronze Medal recipient, was killed by a sniper’s bullet on April 8, 2007.

As part of Mincio’s pledge, he and Sauri departed from Williams’ gravesite at Santa Rosa Memorial Park on June 9, 2011 on a 4,200-mile and 95-day trip, arriving at Ground Zero in New York City on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

The documentary includes another Iraq veteran from Williams’ squad describing his experience with post traumatic stress disorder, an account that hushed an audience at the Seattle International Film Festival, where “The Long Ride Home” premiered on Memorial Day.

“It got me,” Herb Williams said. “It’s real life stuff.”

Sonya Williams is flying from her new home at Fort Benning, Ga. for the event.

Admission to Vets Fest is $10 and tickets may be purchased at the Film Festival website: www.sriff.org.

There are 150 free tickets for veterans available for each screening by calling Herb Williams at 527-0190.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)