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


Saturday, March 3, 2012

On "Home of the Brave"

I just finished watching the movie Home of the Brave (2006). What a powerful movie. So often in our want and need to check out from our daily lives we choose movies that are fantastical, or action-packed, to give us that escape or that adrenaline rush that we need to make us feel alive again. And there is certainly some of that in Home of the Brave; but there is also much more.

The movie chronicles the experience of four Soldiers returning from service in Iraq, and trying to transition back into their old lives. It was striking to me, and very telling, how many scenes in the movie reflect stories that I’ve heard from combat veterans – issues with getting proper benefits and treatment for injuries and wounds; feeling overly medicated to deal with post-traumatic stress and medical issues; struggling to deal with a world that seems so trivial and unimportant now; and one scene where being cut off by a random car in traffic brings out a combat-like reaction that is totally disproportionate to the situation. That scene was almost verbatim what I’d heard from a Soldier nearly three years ago.

There are certain phrases that we hear throughout our lives, some on almost a daily basis, that we eventually take for granted and don’t give much energy to anymore; “home of the brave” being one of them. We’ve all heard that so many times that we likely don’t give it much energy anymore; at least not as much energy as it is probably due. But what struck me in a very powerful way at the end of Home of the Brave was that perhaps that phrase isn’t limited to those who have bravely served in combat. That may be the most obvious, and perhaps most significant display of bravery that we can point to. But it is not the only example that exists, nor is it the only one that we need.

There is another bravery that we need right now, and that is from us – civilians. We need to be brave enough to support those who serve for us. We need to repay their bravery with ours. Now, you may be thinking, “What bravery is required of us? What can we do that is so ‘brave’?” The answer is we need to be brave enough to love and support those who need us, despite how challenging that might appear at times. Just as a Soldier displays bravery in helping a fallen comrade out of a hot zone and back to safety, we have a responsibility to help our Veterans and Service Members back to safety.

That means holding a space for them wherein they can safely make their transition back to the world without combat. It means holding our judgment of behaviors that appear out of the norm. It means allowing them the time and space to re-acclimate. It means respecting their experience and holding them in the highest esteem even when they appear to be at their weakest. It means acknowledging that we cannot possibly understand what they are thinking or feeling, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t try. It means offering understanding as best we can given our lack of direct experience, and not pitying them if they are struggling. And it means loving them when they are not being very loveable.

There is a scene in the movie in which Samuel L. Jackson is standing calm and controlled as another Soldier waves a pistol in his face. He is calm, partly because he knows that he must remain calm to diffuse the situation, and partly because he understands what the Soldier is going through. Brave. When these Service Members come home, it is our turn to be that brave. To stand calm, but supportive, with respect, and dignity, and compassion, and the most understanding that we can possibly offer, and to love them back to a place of safety just as they would for any fallen comrade, whatever that place of safety looks like for them.

That is how we as civilians can help earn the title, Home of the Brave.


  1. As my husband & his Reserve unit prepare to deploy, (& no, we didn't see it coming) I am reminded of my favorite "war hero", an Army Commander's wife named Susan.

    Just before 9-11, their young daughter's health problems were finally diagnosed. She had a fatal neurologic disease. No cure...they had two older sons too. Over time, Susan and her husband and sons, would have to watch their daughter & sister die.

    As they all were still reeling from this news, our nation was attacked on 9-11.

    Then one month later her husband got the dream assignment he'd always wanted; a battalion command. Only this command would be a wartime/combat command in Afghanistan.

    Believe it or not, just days after he got the assignment, Susan's young sister got very sick, and died from breast cancer at Thanksgiving. All Susan said in her grief was, "I sure wish God wouldn't give it to me all at once."

    Her husband offered to decline the command assignment or even to resign from the Army for hardship reasons. But Susan said "No way! You've trained for this all your career, and your men love you. Someone has to do this, and I want the job done right. So, GO!"
    So off he went.

    He returned alive but wounded, with pieces of bomb shrapnel embedded near his spine. He lost 4 men from his battalion right then, and Susan joined the casualty notifications w/a chaplain. Imagine telling women whom you know personally, that their husbands won't be coming home again.

    Susan's husband will always limp, he'll never run again, never coach another wrestling team, and he may always be in pain. He has understandably been bitterly disappointed. It has been difficult.

    To my knowledge, Susan has never complained. Not once.

    When I begin to feel sorry for myself b/c of the long absence coming, the burdens on me and the kids, or b/c of the huge paycut we'll financially suffer, I think of Susan, and I'm grateful and humbled.

    She's a great unsung hero.

  2. Spitfire:

    We'd love to talk to Susan. Would you email us from our web site and let us know how we can reach her?


  3. the following is a link to a story that happened in our town...I work across from the mall where the shots were fired by Michael Mason...and the immediate response by the police department was unbelievable...so many cars and officers...and then, the unthinkable...this war hero, paralysed for life..such a sad story...


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