A documentary portrays the pain of PTSD

A young woman who grew up with her father's PTSD has tracked down some of his fellow soldiers for a short documentary that captures the agony of wartime injuries that won't go away.

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Kara Frame, a multimedia intern at National Public Radio (NPR), produced and directed I Will Go Back Tonight, a 20-minute video that combines images of young infantrymen whose company was overwhelmed by an enemy force in Vietnam with present-day interviews of some of the survivors and their families.

The 90 men of Charlie Company, 1st Mechanized Battalion, 5th Infantry, accompanied by armored personnel carriers, their "tracks," entered the Ben Cui rubber plantation the morning of August 21, 1968, knowing they were in for a fight. They didn't know the force awaiting them about 40 miles north of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was perhaps ten times larger than their own. 

By noon, C Company was reeling, several of its leaders killed or wounded,  dozens of men down and several of the tracks knocked out. It turned into a rout as the survivors tried to pull back under fire.

"This is the event that my husband lives with every day," Tom Frame's wife Chris tells her interviewer, struggling to hold back tears 45 years after the battle in the rubber trees. Tom Frame is tortured by the thought that, in its disorganized retreat, one or more soldiers could have been left behind alive.

Artie Torgesen is interviewed from his jail cell after he killed his wife during a flashback in July 2008, nearing the 40th anniversary of the battle in Ben Cui. "Sherry was my best friend," he said. "What happened was a nightmare that I'm never gonna wake up from."

He is serving a 30-year prison sentence.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about those men," Tom Frame says. Explaining her sense of duty to hold their marriage together despite the pain of PTSD, Chris Frame says, "You wouldn't leave somebody if they had a physical illness. This is an illness you can't see from the outside."

The title comes from one of the men, Abe Cardenas, who said he is often asked when he was in Vietnam. "When I was in Vietnam? It was last night. It was five minutes ago before you asked me. And I will probably go back tonight."