Directed, Shot, and Produced By:
The idea for this project started back in March of 2018. I was given the unique opportunity to work with filmmaker Claire Brown in a practicum through my university. My fellow students and I were to produce documentary films for our professional portfolios.
It was around this time that I received a phone call from Gonzo, an old mentor of mine back in the Marine Corps. He told me that he battled depression over the last couple of years since his friend committed suicide, and that he was finding his way out through meditation. Gonzo was the alpha and a major influencer for me and many of my peers during my service. To hear him confess that he had been going through a depression had a huge impact on my own reflections.
To tell that story, I first must tell this one. Over the course of the prior year, I’ve been battling my own inner demons. A growing anger and pessimism clouded my life, and, under its influence, I almost pulled the plug on my own dreams and dropped out of school just three short terms from earning my Bachelor’s degree. Not to mention, I had been working towards this degree for eight years through combined Ameri-corps assignments and military service.
Fortunately, my wife reasoned with me to stay the course and finish my studies. I also came across Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, where the simple notion that ‘you are not your thoughts’ provided me a glimmer of clarity in a foggy time. It was at this same time that I received Gonzo’s phone call and decided things were happening too coincidently to be a chance occurence. America’s veterans were suffering in silence, and I learned that nearly 22 were killing themselves each day. Even still, there was positivity. Some of my comrades and peers were finding avenues to overcome, and that was a message that equally needed to be shared. I needed to tell this story.
Through my university, I got connected with Anthony, Sean, and Steve, and after long conversations regarding the veteran experience, I decided to tell the story of infantry veterans specifically.
“…hey, I’m weak in this place, but I’m not gonna stay there, I’m gonna grow it, I’m gonna get stronger, and it’s gonna get to this place where I literally cannot be defeated by anything.”
Aside from the technical filmmaking lessons, this film forced me to grapple with difficult thoughts and experiences that I had suppressed for some time now. Telling this story forced me to own up to myself and find growth through the process.
These four men’s experiences are, in my eyes, as humbling and powerful as they come. As infantry combat veterans, they were the tip of the spear in the military, and I hope to show them as the tip of the spear in facilitating positive change on the other side. It’s okay to acknowledge struggle, but instead of becoming a victim, we must hold ourselves and each other accountable to deal with and overcome, so we may achieve our full potential.
Please help share these veteran’s stories and spread this overarching message.
Organizations like Project Welcome Home Troops, Mission22, and so many others exist with a primary mission to help veterans that are struggling. We owe it to the men and women who have given service to their country to not forget them, and we owe it to ourselves to succeed in life.