Director Tom Donahue brings to the GI Film Festival San Diego a documentary about the journey of four Iraq War Veterans with “Thank You for Your Service.”
This documentary hits to the heart of the struggles of veterans returning from Iraq. Struggling with different forms of PTSD, their lives are in a holding pattern. Soldiers who went through traumatic experiences were shutting down and having bad dreams. They didn’t want to talk to strangers who had no experience with PTSD about what they were going through.
Soldiers also believe there is a stigma attached to asking for mental health services. They leave their platoons and go home to families who immediately notice the changes in their love ones. There is such pain on the faces of these soldiers who are struggling to get back to a life and the families who love them.
The documentary allows us to listen to their stories of sheer pain at a level no one but a soldier could possibly understand. From watching friends die on a rooftop fire fight in Fallujah to the men of a platoon that caused civilian casualties – these soldiers may come home but it’s only to fight another war – the one inside themselves.
The military once had programs to help returning soldiers assimilate back into their American lives. Through rehabilitation and therapy, no soldier was discharged until they were ready. Those programs were stopped after World War II.
What are these soldiers to do? With the help of programs such as Save A Warrior, John Clark makes it his mission to help these men suffering from PTSD in all its forms. From meditation to a sweat lodge to climbing a pole and standing up facing fears, these men learn to embrace every aspect of their experiences and know they are not alone.
But more needs to be done and be done now. These soldiers do not need to wait one more minute to know their service was/is important. The only way to make them believe it is by providing the services necessary for success in their life now and in the future.
Tom Donahue has produced works that have won over twenty-five awards from Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, SXSW, Venice, San Sebastian and Tribeca film festivals.
Hearing the stories of Kenny Toon, Phil Shaub and Lu Lubello are nothing short of heart wrenching (tissue is highly advised). Sharing their experiences and allowing viewers to be a witness to it all is more courageous than I could even begin to express to them.
It is disheartening that those in high office of our military haven’t grasped that these four men are a drop in the bucket of soldiers who need help. As a mother of an Iraq war veteran who struggles with PTSD, it was difficult to watch this documentary but absolutely necessary to do so.
There is a call for more help for our soldiers as well as a need for a Behavior Health Corps staffed with medical personnel who have studies, understand and deal directly with those suffering from PTSD.
I cannot think of any parent who would disagree with the BHC coming to fruition. Our military history is one of sacrifice and, in many cases, thanklessness. Thanking a soldier for their service should include making sure they have every chance to succeed in their lives after returning home from war.
I want the words “thank you for your service” to have heart and soul behind it!