Sunday, November 14, 2010

Finding Understanding In HBO's "Wartorn: 1861-2010"

Life is strange and unusual sometimes. Or perhaps-right on time.

Again this year, I was sitting in my work vehicle in the Sonic Drive-In in Tompkinsville, Ky., on Veterans Day listening to the radio and eating my lunch. And again, I flipped channels several times and I came upon this radio show where the segment was about war and war veterans which is not "unusual" for Veterans Day, I suppose. But the radio show was something that I could really relate to. The interviewer was asking the producer of a new HBO documentary, "Wartorn: 1861-2010,"! questions about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other questions about his recently released documentary. The producer's name is James Gandolfini, who is better known as "Tony" from the HBO's hit series, "The Sopranos." I watched the documentary on cable television's "Demand" this past Saturday afternoon.

Through out the whole documentary, I couldn't stop thinking about my late father, Ret. Army Major Vester Brooks Smith (World War II and Korean War veteran) of Memphis, Tenn., and North Mississippi, who also suffered from "PTSD," but wouldn't have ever admitted it. The film shows cases where soldiers who had returned from war committed suicide, became alcoholics and began to suffered from mental illness-anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia. The film also shows that a lot of recent returning war veterans have even ended caught up in America's legal and prisons systems because of their disorder.

Although, I am not a war veteran myself nor have I ever served in the military, I feel that, I, along with my late mother and siblings who are still living were also affected by father's "PTSD." My mother always said, when my father came home to Memphis from the Korean War after being in combat for a year, that he was not the same person when he left. I once called into the "Gordon Liddy" radio talk show after the Iraq War had begun back in 2003 and I warned his listeners and the American people of the effects of "PTSD" and how it not only affects the war veterans themselves but their families also. Mr. Liddy said that he did not agree with me or nor believe in "PTSD." Although, I disagreed with Mr. Liddy, it is now proven that this disorder is very real and not only does it affect the individual themselves and their families but society as a whole also.

My father didn't talk about the wars that he fought in very often not unless he was drinking. Then, he'd open up. And it wasn't always pretty either. However, "Wartorn," is a fascinating documentary that gives a dark account of the damage that "PTSD" causes in American veterans returning from war. This documentary does a excellent job of educating viewers as that "PTSD" is real and that our solders are authentically affected by it whether people want to believe or not. In the past until recently, there has been a prevailing notion that "PTSD" in previous wars prior to Vietnam that it didn't exist-"Shell Shock" as it was known in War War I and "Battle Fatigue," as it was known in World War II and the Korean War. General George Patton during World War II was said to have slapped a young solider who suffering from battle fatigue and sent him back to the front line. These suffering soldiers were said to have a "lack of gut fortitude," and this was placed on their military records as a stigma.

From the beginning of the documentary where it starts with the Civil War in 1861 all the way to the Iraq War of recent times, I think "Wartorn" is a well produced film and it will have a positive impact on our government, military personnel and military officers and prompt them to continue to pay closer attention to the signs "PTSD." And hopefully, military medical communities such as the VA (Veterans Administration) will continue to look for new treatments for the disorder. I think we owe this to our returning solders, their families and to the American society.

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