On Thursday, HBO debuted a brilliant documentary that gives a harrowing account of the impact of PTSD on American veterans returning from combat duty. It was no coincidence that it was released on Veterans Day and was perhaps the most dignified and thoughtful way to honor those who have given service to their country. I believe that the film warrants the attention of every American.
In addition to the grizzly accounts of individual soldiers and their families who have been decimated over the decade of warfare that our country has been engaged in, Wartorn: 1861-2010 does a tremendous service in educating viewers as to the pervasive existence of this dreadful by-product of armed combat.
Somehow, the prevailing notion has been the idea that PTSD is unique to recent generations of soldiers, perhaps a "softer" batch than those that came before them. This is very likely due to the fact that our society has only recently begun to address the issue and take even small steps toward identifying and treating the ailment, as well as creating a culture where it is acceptable for the injured to seek help.
The film chronicles accounts of civil war suicides, World War I "shell shocked" veterans and other historic indications of PTSD's inherent presence in armed conflict. It features interviews with World War II veterans diagnosed with "nerves" or even "lack of intestinal fortitude" who tell of clear signs that were discouraged as marks of cowardice, ultimately leading to destructive paths for the vets, their families and communities.
Wartorn, shows the all-too-often ignored side of combat and the immeasurable and permanent cost to civilizations constantly embroiled in such destructiveness. It should be required viewing by every member of Congress, every American President, every military advisor and re-shown on each occasion that they contemplate banging the drums of war before exhausting diplomatic alternatives.
This thoughtful and blunt examination of a once taboo subject should remind us that the cost of putting Americans into armed conflict extends much further than dollars spent and lives lost. It infects individuals, families, communities and society at large for generations after the treaties to end battle are signed. Produced by James Gandolfini, better known as Tony from HBO's hit series The Sopranos, the film is currently being broadcast on HBO and is available anytime through HBO in Demand.