By: Michael Althouse
For those of us who have not served in the military, it may be difficult to fully understand the experiences of combat. There are extremely few circumstances in civilian life that mirror a solider in a combat zone. When a civilian like myself is working with combat veterans, it is therefore useful to try to increase our understanding of the combat experience. While it will be impossible to entirely comprehend what the veteran has gone through, a deeper understanding can help us better relate to the veteran’s struggles, their activities post-deployment, and possibly more easily recognize actions as symptomatic of PTSD and other combat-related disabilities. One simple tool to gain this deeper understanding is to view films that accurately portray the combat experience. The following is a short list of recommended viewing, with notes explaining their selection.
This documentary follows a group of soldiers during 2007 in the Korangal Valley of Afghanistan. The film intersperses the footage from Afghanistan with post-deployment interviews of the soldiers involved. This technique allows the viewer to both see the events a soldier experienced in combat while simultaneously learning how that experience effected them physically and emotionally. The film does not hold back any punches: some of the soldiers in the film die. For those of us who have no reference point for military combat in our lives, the experience of watching this film can be and incredibly jarring introduction to the realities of combat life.
Now, After is a short film made by SSG Kyle Hausmann-Stokes after he returned from Iraq. The story is told from a returning soldier’s point of view, and graphically depicts how the effects of combat can interfere with daily civilian life. This film is particularly useful for those seeking to better understand the often times confusing actions from sufferers of PTSD. It may be surprising to see how routine moments in daily life can trigger flashbacks to a veteran’s time in service.
60 Minutes Presents: Honoring Our Troops
On May 24, 2012, the news program 60 Minutes dedicated an entire episode to stories from veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. The film contains some on-the-ground footage, but it is mostly told through interviews of the veterans recounting their experiences in combat and returning home. The second segment of the episode in particular recounts the difficulties many combat veterans face returning to civilian life and coping with disabilities.
These films are a useful starting point for anyone wishing to better understand the experience of combat veterans. While it will not give the viewer a complete understanding of the experience, the films will impart a sense of what combat veterans have faced, and how it has affected their lives.