Veterans / Remembering / Wreaths Across America
Veterans in December
Below is the text of a speech I delivered today to honor America’s veterans at a local cemetery as part of the Wreaths Across America program. I was honored to have been asked to speak at the event.
How do we know what veterans have been through? What they’ve experienced? Too often, people only know, or think they know, through movies and television. Movies like American Sniper, The Hurt Locker, Restrepo, Lone Survivor, and Twelve Strong all work to give people an idea of what happened in Iraq or Afghanistan just as other wars like Vietnam, Korea, and World War II have their set of films and TV shows.
Most often these stories depict the most glorious or sensational actions. While watching them may be entertaining and somewhat informative, the actors, directors, writers, and producers seldom have any military experience, much less combat experience. It’s true there are often technical advisors but many tradeoffs are made for the sacrifice of a cinematic story over the gritty reality. Sit with a veteran during any military movie and watch the eye rolls, hear their under-the-breath protests, and out loud pronouncements of “BS.”
The people who make these movies are not bad people or trying to misrepresent things. A movie is a representation of something else and in making that representation, fiction creeps in. Just as a painting can be beautiful, it is not what it portrays. Rather, it’s a depiction of what the painter perceives.
So how else do Americans learn of the veteran’s experience? Documentaries are certainly informative although the audiences tend to be small. While there are dedicated watchers of the History channel they do not number significantly.
Many people like to talk with veterans and ask them questions. We veterans can be funny creatures though, often hesitant to share wartime experiences. Many fear being misunderstood, that stories or events considered in the calm telling stateside may seem bad or even evil. Many times they’re uncomfortable with the memories themselves and reluctant to revisit the nightmare by sharing it with others.