Of Men & War, a new documentary set to air on Memorial Day, will show how post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] has left a mark on the lives of the troops who are returning from war.
Thirty percent of the 834,467 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, who are treated through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, suffer from PTSD. As a result they can suffer from memories of the war long after they return. Some are said to end up angry, on drugs or suicidal. “Rage and anger carried me through everything,” says one veteran in the special.
The documentary will shed light on what the troops deal with long after the fight is over. Laurent Becue-Renard, the filmmaker, shows how these soldiers endure the disorder, which includes how it affects their families and themselves and how treatment can play a significant role in helping soldiers get their life back on track.
The film took 11 years to create, from 2003 to 2014 and Becue-Renard said he made this film because of his grandfathers who were in the First World War, but refused to speak on their endeavors.
“Of Men and War is my way of honoring them,” he said. “It took 11 years between my first idea for the film—when the Iraq war began in 2003—and its completion in May 2014. I spent 14 months in the therapy center and returned many times in the four years that followed. Filming therapy was a way of acknowledging people who had decided to move forward with their lives. Some days I’d leave the therapy room overwhelmed. How was I to make sense out of this mess? How could I communicate it to an audience? I became convinced that from all this mud, I could eke out rays of light. In doing so, I could find meaning for the protagonists in ‘Of Men and War’ as well as for its viewers.”
The war can bring about night terrors, mood swings, paranoia and rage among other side effects.
“The return to civilian life is not what they thought it would be,” said Fred Gusman, Pathway’s lead therapist, who also pioneered PTSD programs at the Veterans Administration in the late 1970s. One veteran says that he “woke up mad” and “took things out” on loved ones. “When you come back you feel like you should have died over there. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to just fall down over there and not get back up.”
“The day I came home from Iraq was the last time I saw my daughter,” said one soldier. “I was given a restraining order.”
Others expressed that even with the disorder, it’s not easy to get help. “What we have is embarrassing,” a soldier said. He continued, stating that it makes him feel “small” and “defective.”
The documentary will air as part of the POV (Point of View) series on Memorial Day, May 30 at 10 p.m. ET on PBS.