Inside SportsCenter’s ‘Going Home’ video salute to soldiers’ family reunions at sports venues

Editor’s Note: Because of rights restrictions, the “Going Home” video was unpublished.

When Chris Bloxom was asked to produce ESPN’s Fourth of July holiday tribute piece featuring soldiers returning home to sports venues to surprise their families, he avoided the urge to add fireworks to an already emotional topic.

“I’d seen the reunions so often, my first thought was a music video — just add music to the clips,” Bloxom said. “But it didn’t seem like something I wanted to do. I wanted to add intrigue to the piece, not just string together five minutes of YouTube clips.”

The feature has been widely praised since its Sunday debut (including several athlete tweets) and can be seen through the July 4th holiday in regular SportsCenter rotation.


While the piece included two songs (All I Want by Kodaline, Home by Daughtry) and 50 reunion clips, the “intrigue” became Staff Sergeant David Martinez from Peoria, Ariz. Bloxom and the ESPN production crew met Martinez last month in Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Forces. Martinez is the thread who ties the piece together. Scenes of his detailed — albeit Bloxom-produced — “journey home” from overseas are spliced among those of actual emotional reunions.

“We needed a real soldier, so they [the Army] put out the request for us, and apparently got a lot of replies,” Bloxom said. “He had three tours in Afghanistan, so he really qualified. And I didn’t want to approach it like a normal feature where we would find some good reunions and go do interviews to see how they felt — there was no interview answer that would rival the actual clips of the real emotion — so I did the feature completely trackless [without voiceover] to try and maintain that raw emotion and not break the viewer out of the moments.”

“I heard through our Brigade Public Affairs Officer that ESPN was requesting someone who was Airborne/Ranger and Jumpmaster qualified, with children and I kind of won,” said Martinez, who is a sports fan, admitting to watching everything but basketball and golf. “The shooting went very well — I have never done anything of that nature, so it was an awesome learning experience and Chris and his crew were great to work with. It was pretty awesome.”

Features producer Bloxom, a Houston, Texas native who joined ESPN after graduating from Baylor in 2002, filmed Martinez’ packing-for-home scene at Fort Bragg’s tent city, constructed for training purposes. He captured the family “Skyping” in a nearby model home. Bloxom managed to get the plane footage during the regularly scheduled practice paratrooper drop, even though a four-minute window narrowed to 17 seconds.

“He couldn’t hear me because of the propeller noise, but I yelled to our cameraman, ‘This is our one take,’ when I saw 50 troopers lined up ready to charge onto the back of the plane,” Bloxom said.

Martinez’ simulated journey from Afghanistan to North Carolina elicited positive reaction from literally all corners of the globe.

An Okinawa, Japan-based sportswriter for Stars & Stripes emailed ESPN, saying: “This made me cry a river. Thanks to whomever put this together. What a tribute.”

  • K deCordova

    Wonderfully done. A great tribute to our men in service and their families.
    I just kept waiting for the scenes of women coming home.

  • Jeanne and Ron Pall

    We loved it, cried like crazy, shared it with everyone we know. Excellent work Chris! Probably the best story ESPN has shown. Thank you!

  • Blu Berner

    As a former Marine I know the feeling of coming and going. I have watched this dozens of times and get emotional everytime. Thanks ESPN! I agree with so many others that believe this is the best thing you’ve ever done.

  • Darol

    Great piece, but you forgot to mention Pat Tillman as a athlete/veteran. Please mentioned him as an athlete and veteran who paid the ultimate price for freedom and democracy!

  • A Brannigan

    I love this tribute. It is so emotionally touching. Thanks to all the service men and women for sacrificing themselves for our freedom. Also, to the families that support these troops!!!!

  • F. SMITH

    Although your segment on “COMING HOME” was heartwarming it totally lacked diversity. As an honorably discharged U.S. Air Force vet of African American descent I am troubled by the blatant omission of the African American military family from these segments. Your network isn’t the only television media outlet that is guilty of this sham. Oh yeah,the media might throw in the token African American service member’s coming home moment in a segment such as yours but, it is nothing more than window dressing. African Americans have fought in and have served in every war since the Revolutionary War up to the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And for us to be ignored by the media when it comes to military members reuniting with their families after combat tours, is a travesty.

  • Kurt

    Second time Iv’e cried today. What a great film.

  • Fthood

    Nice piece by espn, as a veteran I feel we deserve this, not just holidays but everyday. If you see or know a veteran think him or her for there service, no matter what day it is.

  • A. Moreno

    F. Smith, what are you talking about? I just watched it, twice, and there are at least 2 African American homecomings. Best clip I have seen in a long time. By the way, my son is a United States Marine!

  • K Obrock

    Agree 100% with Blu. Have watched it several times and get emotional each time. I am saddened that some will detract and must find a negative. Am so proud and thankful for all of our troops and their families.

  • M.Cerda

    Not everything in life revolves around sports or black,white,red,or brown…ESPN represents what life is about and that is Family…my son being a Marine regardless of what race he is, represents the U.S of A Family. Thank you ESPN for this beautiful segment.

  • David Martinez Sr.

    Proud of you from a far Staff Sergeant Martinez. Congratulations on your accomplishments and on your upcoming baby girl. I wish you and your family the best.

    Love you.

  • John Quinlan

    Very Classy ESPN. A great tribute to our military. So nice to see such inspirational positive stories. Love your family

  • Peggy B

    Beautiful

  • Mark De

    Wow, impossible to hold back the tears. What a great tribute to the true heroes of this country. Good job ESPN.

  • Darren

    Such a heart felt video, brings tears to me each time….thank you! Bless all the men and women who have and are serving!

  • Paul Kamikawa

    Great piece. Best part is when the soldiers get to see their children again. Thanks to the military for all they do to protect us.

  • Carlton

    Awesome. We can’t do enough.

  • Emely

    I cried so much during this tribute. It was well put together. Gave a wonderful message all across.

  • Mary Ann Blackman

    ESPN, Thank You….Very touching and very beautiful!!!! My husband and I did not have a dry eye and realize how many families are sacrificing every day. Thank you to all of the families and a great tribute to our military….

  • SNichols

    Thanks ESPN for a job well done! Our son is a Marine and will be home in 25 days after being away for a year.God Bless America, our troops and ESPN for caring.

  • Ron

    How can I access this story via your website again so I can share it with others? I shed many a tear watching it over and over on TV.

    Thank you,
    Ron

    • http://frontrow.espn.go.com/author/ttdfan87/ Sheldon Spencer

      Ron:

      Unfortunately, the video had to be unpublished due to rights restrictions. Thanks again for reading Front Row.

  • John Gramiccioni

    I saw the coming home video on 7/5 and went back today (7/6) only to find it was unavailable.

    Will it be available again and how can I get the working URL???

    Thank you.

    • http://frontrow.espn.go.com/author/ttdfan87/ Sheldon Spencer

      John:

      Unfortunately, the video had to be unpublished due to rights restrictions. Thanks again for reading Front Row.

  • D Freedman

    Awesome & necessary. I cried harder each of the 6 times, as did my mom. The tears are bittersweet, so lucky, blessed and grateful, that these service men & women leave behind so much, so we can feel safe, protected and free.
    HOME OF THE FREE…BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE,
    God Bless all, especially wounded warriors.
    Wow this video makes me proud to be an American.

  • Cindy

    I wanted to commend ESPN for the wonderful tribute to our servicemen returning home for Independence Day. Very touching and a great reminder why we are able to celebrate our freedom. Great job!