Director Patricia Foulkrod has a diverse background—PBS news, Disney, independent films—as do her crew of filmmakers and producers of this Sundance Fest nominee. But the one thing they all have in common is the need to shatter the lip service that many Americans, and certainly politicians, pay to our servicemen and women. Yellow ribbons and Support Our Troops signs are all the fad, you see, offering busy civilians with important people to see and places to go a false piece of pride that they are somehow doing their part. Yes, you, Mr. and Mrs. Denial—shame the fuck on you.
Most Americans have no clue of the hell on Earth the soldiers (and civilians) in Iraq are going through—and they don’t want to know. Fortunately for our collective, tidy piece of mind, our administration doesn’t want us to know either—and unlike during Vietnam, watchers of American Idol and consumers of Nonfat Caramel Frappuccinos do not have images of dead soldiers splattered across their TVs each night. Lucky us.
Of course, no one thrills at seeing young boys and girls getting their faces ripped off (which is exactly what’s happening), but if you don’t see it, it’s pretty damn easy to pretend it isn’t happening.
Enter The Ground Truth—a documentary of personal stories told by Iraq veterans about their experiences during their time of service, and after they came home from the war. There are no politics involved—no one says that he or she supports or opposes the invasion; they are still soldiers, after all, and committed to their country, though many of them are shattered with feelings of bewilderment and betrayal.
And rightly so. These men and women are suffering, badly, most with missing appendages, all with severe post traumatic stress disorder, and yet they speak in dignified, heartbreaking detail of seeing friends and enemies—and innocent women and children—destroyed by this war. And the pictures you haven’t gotten to see yet are here—irrefutable, undeniable, and absolutely true.
The soldiers also tell of coping with life back in the U.S., where people on the street don’t know they’re veterans (unless someone asks where a missing hand went—and then responds with surprise that the Iraq War is still going on), where they cannot get the VA funds or psychological attention they need, where the bureaucracy writes them off as “personality disorder” cases, where their spouses deal with almost daily mental breakdowns and violent outbreaks. These people live among us now—and they are invisible. One mother and father share the story of their veteran son, who hung himself from the basement with a garden hose several months after returning home physically unscathed; the torture of the soul rarely reveals itself to those around us.
Yes, it’s devastating. Yes, you will cry (or at least you should). But don’t you dare turn away. These are the troops we all claim to support—some of us want them home, others want them to stay. Regardless of on which side you sit, you—and I—are responsible for these soldiers, responsible for sending them, responsible for caring for them when they return. Wearing a ribbon and slapping on a bumper sticker doesn’t cut it, “patriot”—and you owe them a listen. So put off your Sunday football game and Mystic Tan date for an hour, and hear them—see them. It’s the least you can do, after what they’ve given up for you. (Stacy Davies) On DVD from Focus Features
While this film will be screening in LA, San Francisco and other cities from Sept. 15-17, during the week of Oct. 4-11, there may be local screenings near you. See www.thegroundtruth.net for more info. Official DVD release is Sept. 26.