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New Documentary ‘Searching For Home’ Reveals Raw Courage Of Vets Across Generations
Courage, usually a central word in selling any war story, requires the proper packaging for the American public to pay attention. Even when the story is controversial, like “American Sniper,” if polished properly by the film industry, the movie can be the highest grossing movie of the year.
The courage on display in the new documentary about veterans living with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, “Searching For Home: Coming Back From War,” was powerful enough to move many in the crowd to tears, but I question whether or not the general public will be willing to share in this journey.
The film, directed by Eric Christiansen, weaves a montage of stories crossing generations of conflict from World War II to present day. The film touches on the perspectives of families, mothers, and wives with male figures largely absent from these stories. The stories are raw and display the various levels of healing veterans go through after returning from combat, while masterfully pulling on the common themes of war coming home with the veteran, resiliency through peer support, and social dysfunction.I attended the East Coast screening of the film hosted at the University of Southern Maine in Portland on Oct. 3 with several of my veteran friends, their wives, and girlfriends. The auditorium was nearly filled with civilians, members of various veterans groups, and charities. The director’s stated goals of being based on the truth, healing, and hope of the veterans community were all clearly represented in the support of the community who came to the viewing. Rowdy bikers from various groups intermingled with mothers of veterans who run charities and wore cocktail dresses. Pretenses were gone, and the atmosphere was one of shared sacrifice and support of the veterans who served.
The documentary follows a generally linear plot line, from how a service member becomes interested in serving, to entering the military, going to war, and the inevitable return and post-war life. Each story is different in its own way, with generations facing their own challenges, and individual people with their own views and experiences. However, the stories are intermingled to get a clear view of America, as service members are as diverse as the nation they represent. The courage displayed by those sharing their stories is where this documentary shines.
The stories of the Payeur family are very compelling, focusing on Army Cpl. Mike Payeur, who was injured by an improvised explosive blast in Iraq, and his mother Pam, an excellent example of support at home. Pam discusses many things, but one was her son’s tattoo “nineteen” on his neck, and how it feels to know her son had to kill 19 people in order to live. She described the “head fuck of coming home to Maine” at the Portland airport for Mike. She said he looked like a deer caught in the headlights coming down the ramp. “He doesn’t belong here,” she said.
Payeur discussed how killing was something he will never regret. He told stories of people with yellow ribbons on the backs of their cars looking down on him for feeling that way. His thoughts on these hypocritical points of view are the same as those I hear from many veterans and share in many ways.
A World War II airman’s story of his ongoing struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder was disheartening to some I spoke with after the film, thinking that it may never subside. His family was quoted from journals, longing for the kind and gentle man they had sent to war to replace the person who had returned. He spoke of troubles with employment, his anxiety constantly forcing him to change jobs because, “more responsibility, I couldn’t handle it.”
Staff Sgt. Sandra Lee gave her account of combat and being the victim of military sexual trauma while serving on an Army civil affairs team in Iraq. Her story of resiliency through treatment was powerful, culminating with her marching and standing united with other victims of military sexual trauma in New York City. I felt that there was far more to tell here as far as her ability to continue accomplishing missions after the assault, but was left with the feeling that it was her decision to keep that story closed.
The stories from the Vietnam-era veterans tie a great deal of the documentary together. Not only do they provide some of the most compelling statements about reintegration, but their efforts to heal and then share in the process with the post-9/11 generation are phenomenal. The stories in the film show how the common bond of service empowers the older generation to guide so many young veterans in their recoveries. These men speak candidly about the pain of finding their way home in a place that did not want them initially, and the hope they gained from helping those who came after them.
Overall, the film returns to a simple theme: Find your battle buddies, stick with them, and remember they come from various generations.
What sets this documentary apart are the raw testimonials mixed in throughout the narrative. Graphic storytelling that crosses generational and social lines makes the absurd nature of conflict sink in for the uninitiated. It forces the civilian to see how they may not have been as supportive as they thought.
What this documentary doesn’t do is make everyone feel great about themselves, or any of the wars in general. That is part of why it becomes a challenge for anyone to watch. I encourage veterans to see this because it will let you know that you are not alone, and provide you some form of hope. I challenge civilians to find the courage to watch it, and open their eyes to what it means to be a veteran of our nation’s conflicts. For all of the courage shown on the battlefield, it is the least we can do.
“Searching for Home: Coming Back From War” will air on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on KCET in Southern California and at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time nationally on Link TV. It will also be available on iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Video, and most major video on demand systems on Veterans Day.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.
Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."
"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.
On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.
As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.
Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.
"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.
This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.
Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".
In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"