Continuing our conversation on movies that have informed and inspired our gratitude for those who serve, I suppose I could have chosen any number of the movies that people listed as their most inspiring. But for some reason, The Pacific is standing out to me right now as worthy of discussion.
Like many of the other movies listed, I think that Spielberg and Hanks’ HBO series The Pacific tells the full story of those who serve and have served, with sometimes brutal realism, shocking imagery, and very frank, to the point, but at the same time very human writing.
There is one scene in the whole series that is standing out to me right now, that I think illustrates an important point that was clearly relevant at the end of WWII and, unfortunately, is still relevant today.
In the final chapter of the movie series, one of the Soldiers that the series had followed through his combat experience in the Pacific campaign has returned home following the Japanese surrender, and is attending a job fair to transition back into civilian life. The clerk checking him in asks him if he has any experience in a long list of skills that might translate well to the private sector. After responding, “No. No. No. No.” again and again, she finally asks him what the Army did train him for. He responds, (and I’m paraphrasing here) “They trained me to kill Japs. And I got pretty goddamn good at it.”
This Soldier, like many others in the film, is clearly struggling with Post Traumatic Stress – although they didn’t call it that in 1945 – and completely lost as to how to transition back into his old life. He is a shell of the man who left home to defend his country. And he has no idea what to do, or who to be now. Unfortunately, it seems, not much has changed on that front. This is still a huge problem for those returning from combat zones today. They still feel lost. They still have PTS. And we’re still not supporting them as we should.
Sting said, “History will teach us nothing.” I hope we can prove him wrong. (I suspect he hopes so, too.)