Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...

~Scott Truitt, FOUNDER


Friday, March 11, 2011

On Saving Private Ryan

Continuing our discussion of movies that have inspired and informed our gratitude for our freedom and those who serve to defend it, it seemed appropriate to next tackle Saving Private Ryan. When we asked which films had informed and inspired you most, this was by far the most popular answer. Why is that?

I think there are several reasons:

For starters, Saving Private Ryan was probably the most accurate depiction of military conflict that we civilians had ever seen to that point in movie history. Saving Private Ryan was released in 1998, and up to that point most military combat in movies had been fairly glorified and Hollywood-ized. There had certainly been graphic movies before. But none to that point had quite managed to capture what combat felt like to the people who were in it. I remember hearing before I had gone to see it, people asking, “Have you seen Private Ryan yet? Man. The first 20 minutes will blow your mind.” I also remember seeing interviews with Veterans who were there at Omaha beach, and hearing them say that Private Ryan was the most realistic depiction they had ever seen of what it was really like.

In the opening 20 minutes, we see the Troops storming Omaha beach on D-Day. It’s absolute mayhem. The water is red with blood. Bodies are everywhere. We see limbs flying off, Soldiers lying with their internal organs spilling out around them, bullets and bombs flying everywhere, and the disorientation of Soldiers trying to navigate the beachhead to a place of cover. We see everything from brave focus and determination to mortally wounded men screaming for their mother as they lie dying. And we see the randomness of combat – that you might be talking to a guy right next to you, and a split second later he’s dead -- shot in the head while you turned yours away. We also see the great degrees to which people respond to combat – the heroism in the face of great danger; the crippling terror; the confusion; the barbarity; and even still, the humanity, and everything in between.

There were no glorified slow motion shots in Saving Private Ryan; no heroic advances, no infallible characters. The men in the movie were as real, and as fallible as they could be; just there to do their job, and try to make it home alive; caught between believing in what they were doing, and at the same time realizing the futility of war.

The mission to save Private Ryan is a metaphor for all of the sons, brothers, and fathers who were lost in WWII. It is a focused, powerful reminder that families everywhere lost, and still lose loved ones in war. And it reminds us of the terrible price that is paid by a relative few, so that the majority of us can live free and safe. Of the seven men assembled to find Private Ryan and return him to his family, only two survive the mission.

In the final scenes of the movie, as Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller lies dying at the edge of the bridge, his final words are to Private Ryan. He says, “Earn this.” In the final scene, as an elderly Ryan is visiting Miller’s grave some 54 years later, he says, “Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I've earned what all of you have done for me.”

This is Spielberg’s challenge to us all. To earn what these men and women have sacrificed so greatly to protect and defend for us.

Have we? Are we?


  1. I like what you are doing with spreading the word on how to say Thank You to our military. I have always made it a point to nod and say thanks or stick my hand right out there and say thank you for what you do!

    On the movies. I really like "Band of Brothers" It is more graphic but I think it shows just how fearful war time is and how hard it is. Hard? I mean the weather, terrain, and physical obstacles. It's not just hard mentally.

    well my quick 2 cents

    Please be praying for our military in Japan as they have been though a lot with the earthquake. I have family over there and finally got to talk to them at 3:30 this morning. The base is not in the path of Tsunami waves but the cont. 6.1 - 6.5 shocks (4 or 5 an hour) are rocking them hard they have no power and no water and a lot of damage as you can imagine.

  2. Why are we afraid to speak to each other? Why can't we take a few minutes from our busy day and thank them properly - with words - not empty drive-by gestures? Sorry - I just think this is more insulting than uplifting.

  3. Well, I want to add my voice to those others who have thanked you for this wonderful idea.. I will be sharing it with my family and friends and, of course, using the gratitude gesture myself from now on. Sometimes it's not an easy thing to walk up to strangers, for whatever reason, and I don't think it's disrespectful to demonstrate gratitude in any form to those many among us who have earned it!! Thanks again! Roxanne Joy

  4. As a Vietnam vet, I would have been honored and gladly accepted any sign, gesture or words of thankfulness when I arrived back in "The World." I was finally recognized just this past year, on Veteran's Day, at my place of employment. All the prior years passed without a word... My thanks are visiting the Wall in DC, seeing all those names, and being thankful I made it and have a family to love.

  5. ok,im a twelve yr. old girl and I am writing this because both my parents were in the U.S. Navy.I myself am looking into it,but I haven't decided which branch yet.The real reason im writing on here is because,well I want to help.I dont care what it is,I just want to help.I will do anything for the people that are fighting for our freedom.Thank all of you that have served already,that are out there serving right now and those who will be serving soon.Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


One of the things that we at The Gratitude Campaign are most grateful for is our Freedom of Speech. But with Freedom comes responsibility. We ask that you keep your comments constructive and respectful to others. Disagreement is fine -- in fact, we celebrate it. Let's just show that we can disagree peacefully and respectfully.

Out of respect to the families of those who have served and struggled, please do not use last names when referring to Service Members. Posts with last names may be removed.