Recently I sat down to watch the documentary Restrepo for research and personal interest. To put it mildly, I found it difficult to watch. I cannot begin to imagine how it was for those soldiers to live through 15-month deployments in that valley.
One of the goals I have for my writing is to accurately represent things that are often overly romanticized. For some reason, as a young man, I became obsessed with the Vietnam War—probably from having watched every episode of M*A*S*H with my dad when I was younger coupled with my dad’s stories as an E.R. surgeon, which offered gruesome detail of how people can be damaged and what it takes to put them back together.
Due to my father’s stories and authors like Vietnam Vet Tim O’Brien (do yourself a favor and check out The Things They Carried), often when watching films and reading stories on war, I felt that I was looking at something highly romanticized. Recently, however, I have noticed a trend away from romanticizing war. I think that’s going to have a positive outcome no matter how hard these shows are to watch. The more the general public (such as myself) understand the true nature of war (as much as we can without living through it that is) the more we will make effective decisions as voters on issues like funding for disabled veterans.
Considering heroism, I realize it’s not so simple as the Greek theater and most subsequent fiction paints it to be. In my opinion, Restrepo holds the reality of heroism. They are what we would expect: bold, brave, and strong; but are also dirty, worn down, and frightened. Long after the joy of being home fades, those young men will have their experiences furrowed through their minds like keloid scars.
The more we understand about these soldiers, the more we will know how we can help them when they come home. How difficult it must be for them to come home, try to take on a ‘normal’ job, go to a Saturday barbeque, or attend parent teacher conferences after leaving the better parts of themselves—friends, innocence, and hope—in the Korengal Valley…