I saw the HBO special, Alive Day, with host James Gandolfini the night it aired. Probably a few weeks ago. Honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it.
Our country is at war in Iraq but our country is not at war at home. Alive Day is a documentary. Gandolfini interviews 10 soldiers and marines who are now veterans of the Iraq war. What is amazing about these vets is that they have survived a war with limbs missing, serious stress problems, half a brain (literally) and a variety of other ailments. In years past, these soldiers/marines would not have had a chance of survival. Now, due to modern technology, we can save their lives. These 10 veterans are only 10 of the thousands who have come back not the same people physically or mentally when they left. They fought for our country. They all believe in what they did and the role they signed up for. Are we going to take care of them for the rest of their lives? We should. And what have we gained being in this war except for possibly the access to oil that we can dependent on for longer, if that. Watching these veterans weep, talk, and try to deal with the cards they have been dealt for the rest of their lives tears your heart.
Then this past weekend I saw Across the Universe. Across the Universe is a movie set in the 1960’s pre-Vietnam, through Vietnam and not quite post Vietnam. The movie is a musical and the songs are all Beatles songs which are used to tell the tales. Very clever. The music was written in that time period and some of the songs certainly tell about that time. The characters highlight some classic characters of that time. A Princeton drop out who ends up being drafted because he is no longer in college, a Brit who had a Father that he never knew but happened to run through his Mother’s bedroom after WWII, a singer making her way up and out of the East Village who appears to be Janis Joplin, her side kick, Jimmy Hendrix and their inter-racial relationship, Prudence, the lesbian fresh from Ohio and Lucy, the fair-eyed blond from a wealthy Connecticut family who is rebelling against the times and her Mother (although a small character) who gets what is happening but is just scared for her kids. Cinematography and singing is fantastic. But what I left with was thinking about the HBO film. After all, Vietnam is another war that changed a generation of people and we probably shouldn’t have been in. Or at least, nobody had the balls to pull the plug early on.
There is a line in the film when the Princeton drop out returns after the war and his friend, the Brit, says to him that he doesn’t look so bad from the war. His response is basically, I am fine from the neck down but completely fucked from the neck up. Again, why? History has done nothing to prove otherwise, like that was a war that we didn’t win but it was a good thing we were in it because now…Will it be the same thing with Iraq?
Today I saw a preview of a movie where a wife goes off to war and the husband is left with the two kids. The mother gets killed and her husband is left with 2 girls who he now has to raise alone. I sobbed through the preview.
Thank god we have a military that protects us. People who want to serve. They are our heroes. But our President has put our military, our honor, our security, our country at risk and our armed forces just followed. After all, that is their job. It will be interesting to see in the future, if the Armed forces doesn’t say, hey, wait a minute, we can’t win this way. It isn’t the armed services way but you never know. Think how different things would be if Colin Powell had stood up and said, this is never going to work, we can’t do this. He couldn’t because he was trained that in the military, you follow the orders of your commanding officer. Maybe he feels differently now when he looks at himself in the mirror every morning and reads the front page.
I go to boot camp for exercise, have done it now for about 3 years. It is run by former marines. All of them were in Afghanistan and one just came back from Iraq 6 weeks ago. I am always curious their take on the Iraq situation. I asked Reuben, who I have worked with the entire time I have been there, if he has seen the HBO special. He hadn’t but this past Monday he said he finally sat down to see it. Love HBO on demand. He said it was really hard for him to finish watching it. There are so many soldiers that he knows that are in the same situation as the 10 people interviewed by Gandolfini. He thinks that every school in America should make their students sit down and see that show. War is glamorized and truthfully, war is awful, evil and it is not what you think it is. Maybe after seeing Alive Day, more Americans would protest this war.
Many more movies are coming out about Iraq. We have been in the war long enough that it is possible. When will there be protests? When will there be outrage? When will somebody stand up in Government and say enough is enough?
I can’t get those 10 veterans out of my mind. We owe it to them to stop this madness. We have changed their lives forever. We have also destroyed a country and all the people living there. And for what?
I grew up during the Vietnam war. Think of the soldiers going off to war today. At least they can decide. It is their choice. During Vietnam, no one had a choice. It was either get drafted or go to Canada never to return to the United states again or go into the peace corp or go to jail.
Boys who were intelligent enough to realize that to die or be maimed in Vietnam was pointless ended up criminals.
When the war was over and some of the boys who ended up with mental conditions from what they saw during combat, got warehoused in the VA hospitals only to be straitjacketed with drugs or tied in seclusion rooms for days and and sometimes beaten by ” VA mental health” aides.
I volunteered at the VA in Bedford Ma. and it was heartbreaking. The former soldiers were so drugged up from their pychotropic drugs that they would sit motionless outside on the grounds smoking endlessly.
If they acted up they would spend days in a room tied down.
Most had other physical problems that were not addressed and many had teeth missing, because when you are so drugged dental hygiene is difficult and the Va would just pull teeth out .
I saw the Alive Day hbo special. If I am not mistaken that when you are on active duty your health care is budgeted differently from when you are a veteren. (In the 1980’s and 1990’s when you were on active duty the Pentagon and the Department of Defense had a larger
budget from “The Military Healthcare Services.”) I feel these boys will really get the short end when they are released from active duty and have to rely on the VA for their horrible medical problems, not caused by disease but by our decision to go to war.