Thursday, September 15, I had an experience that few people get to have. I attended the Washington, D.C. opening of THE GROUND TRUTH, a motion picture about the human cost of the Iraq war. "Are you one of the actors in this film?" a reporter asked me as I went into the screening. I was a bit surprised by the question and replied, "No, this isn't a made up story, it's our lives." Two years ago when I sat down with the filmmaker, Patricia Foulkrod, I never imagined that I would be watching myself in a movie that opened in eight major American cities. But I am proud to have part of this film because the views of many Iraq Veterans are not represented in the mainstream media. But they are represented here.
I have been disillusioned with public perceptions of the war for some time. The president constantly uses us as window dressing for his photo ops where he says that he honors us by "staying the course." The media shows a sanitized and distorted view of Iraq. Even if the media showed the destruction and the body parts, the viewer would not get the whole picture. They wouldn't smell Iraq, they wouldn't taste it, they wouldn't go to bed with it still caked to their clothes and they wouldn't still wake up screaming months or years later because of what they had seen or done. Yet, when people find out I am a veteran of this mess they usually say "thank you for your service" or they tell me that they are proud of what I did over there. But they don't usually ask me about that service. I don't want to hear how proud people are of what I did over there or be thanked. I did nothing in Iraq I consider honorable. I was a scared kid riding into a battle I didn't understand. Our convoys streamed past thousands of starving children and people needing medical attention. Our tanks fired into villages and we battled among civilian populations that had committed no crime aside from being born in Iraq. There was no honor in this, only destruction and suffering saddled on a people that had already suffered more in the preceding fourteen years than most Americans suffer in a lifetime.
The media reports the war as though it is completely tangible and quantifiable. The news media reports the number of American dead, the number of Iraqi civilian dead, and perhaps the number of American wounded. But we usually don't hear the voices of veterans who did not return home "well adjusted." We don't hear about the veterans that are mad as hell and want the American people to hear their stories along side the party line. I am proud to be part of THE GROUND TRUTH, in large part because it tells our stories. A country, such as ours, that claims to support its troops and claims to be proud of their service owes it to the veterans to listen to them and hear their stories, even the ones who disagree. I encourage anyone who reads this blog to visit the film's website www.thegroundtruth.net, purchase the DVD and sign up to have a house party where they will show the film to their friends. If you want to honor the veterans, listen to us.