As you may have read from me before, I have never served in the Armed Forces. I was an Air Force brat growing up, so I had some exposure to the lifestyle. I have also been a huge WWII buff for years now, watching and reading just about anything that I come across on the subject. But for the record, I speak from the point of view of a moderate-to-well informed civilian; which, at best is still nothing compared to someone who has experienced combat first hand.
Having said that I have made what, by civilian standards, is likely an above-average study of war. Being the movie buff that I am, most of my study has been through movies – both fictional and documentary. There are those who will look down their nose at any “study” that is done by watching movies, as opposed to reading the written word. But in this particular case I would argue that there are some things that, in order to be truly appreciated and understood, must been seen. Reading a description of someone raising a gun to an innocent civilian’s head, pulling the trigger, and watching them fall to the ground lifeless is one thing. Seeing it is another.
This past weekend my wife was out of town. I took the opportunity to catch up on some movies that I had been wanting to see that I knew she would not be interested in. One of these was The Pacific – the follow-up to Band of Brothers that follows three Marines from Guadalcanal on through the end of the WWII. As with Band of Brothers, The Pacific is historical fiction. While it is not a documentary, the filmmakers went to great lengths to make it as accurate as possible. And they included documentary interviews with Veterans who were there.
The other was Restrepo – a feature-length documentary that follows a platoon of US Soldiers in Afghanistan over the course of a full year. http://restrepothemovie.com/
Watching both of these movies in one weekend, one thing stood out to me the most: Despite 60 years of history between the two conflicts, and an array of new technologies at our disposal, some things haven’t changed at all. War is still war. Innocent people still die. Men still do unspeakable things to each other. Even the strongest among us are still brought to tears. And men (and women) are still irrevocably changed by the experience of war…
To quote Forest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”