A raw look at the combat and homecoming experience from American veterans who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “This Is War” chronicles the trials of combat vets both abroad and at home.
This is Bravery. This is Heroism, This is Patriotism. This is War premieres on March 13th.
Ian Mearns did two tours in Iraq. The first one was bad, the second one was worse, but his greatest challenge was dealing with the leftover fear, rage and anger once he got home.
Many of the men and women who enlist in the armed forces do so knowing they might die, but somehow meeting death face to face still comes as an absolute surprise.
“My training just kicked in.” We hear that a lot. It calls to mind decisiveness and instinctual reactions to uncommonly dire circumstances. For an Army medic, it’s about worst case scenarios and hoping on some level that your expertise rarely is called upon.
What do you do with rage when you don’t have any place to point it but inward? When there is no satisfaction in revenge and no way to put things right? Marcus Freeman spent nearly a decade as a combat medic, fighting the insurgencies in both Iraq and Afghanistan with his healing power as much as with his weapons. But some wrongs can’t be righted, they only can be reckoned with. And when you can’t do the reckoning, the price you pay can be tremendous.
Being under constant assault in a war zone wears a person down in both expected and unexpected ways. Sure, it wears you down physically, psychologically and emotionally, but it also can wear down your soul, taking chips out of your humanity.
Duty is above the letter of the law. It’s a way of calibrating what you want to do with what you’re responsible for and matching that up against how you see yourself as a person. Joe Alotto had wanted to be in the military since he was a little boy. Having become a soldier he knew his duty primarily was to hold himself accountable to the expectations his fellow soldiers had of him, and the expectations he had of himself. When you’re a soldier, though, sometimes you have to bet your life that you’re doing the right thing, and that your comrades are as well.
Violence is a necessary part of combat, and that is something every Marine understands when they step on the yellow footprints that first day of bootcamp. Few people crave it outright, but they all accept the very real dangers endemic to service, even when they join during peacetime. Once the war is on, though, it becomes necessary to embrace the danger and the violence and lose your sense of self for the greater good. But really accepting your mortality is on some level the easiest part. Acknowledging the mortality of your brothers and sisters is another thing altogether. After all, protecting yourself is only valuable insofar as it helps you protect others. Right?
Fighting has to be somewhere in your nature if you want to be part of a warrior class. Notions about having the killer instinct probably are overstated because killing isn’t always what circumstances requires of a warrior. The will to fight, however, is more than a mere prerequisite. For Kara Lydy, fighting was a way of life from early on. Overcoming adversity was a part of her day to day routine nearly from her moment of birth. But when you come up fighting, you can get the impression that toughness and hard work are enough, that being a superior soldier is all that’s required of a member of the American military.
Training is a way of honing skills, of teaching your body to think without you, so you can concentrate on the crisis at hand, but you can’t train character, you only can amplify it. For Cody Jones the commitment he made to himself was part of a larger perspective, a way of lining up the world so that it made sense easily and immediately. When you give yourself a couple basic rules but then live up to them without fail, that’s what makes you reliable. At the top of Cody’s list was an injunction that doing things right was more important than anything else.