With an increase in gritty war movies recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about the affect these are having on the public.
Let me preface this by stating that I have served in the U.S. Army, and went on a combat deployment to Iraq as an infantryman. I don’t encourage war in any capacity, and I don’t think it is something that should be glorified, but with movies such as “Fury” and “American Sniper” receiving positive public and critical receptions (in the case of “American Sniper,” an Oscar for sound editing), war is being brought back into the public eye.
Like I said, I don’t think war should be glorified, and that is exactly why I am glad these movies are coming out — they are showing people a different look at what combat is like and the challenges it brings. When I got back from Iraq and left the service, one of the hardest things I had to adjust to was the fact that people didn’t care that there was a war going on (two actually). These movies have given me a chance to try and show people what combat can entail and open a dialogue with them.
“Fury” shows the dynamics between a tanker crew, and while I didn’t drive a Sherman in WWII, it does give you an example of what a lot of the dynamics are like inside a Bradley. The movie that mainly serves to prove my point is the phenomenal “American Sniper.” I only worked with special forces a few times, and didn’t rack up a triple-digit kill count, but it’s some of the other moments that really resonated with me.
One of the scenes when Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) calls his wife and then begins taking fire reminded me of similar situations I experienced. Often I would be talking to my wife, only to have us start taking indirect mortar and rocket fire. I would just close my laptop and tell her, “Oh, the Internet just sucks here,” because I didn’t want her to know I was huddled in a bunker hoping a round wouldn‘t land on me. This moment and a handful of others really struck home, and the fact that the media is discussing these movies so much makes me wonder whether or not people are starting to remember the veterans around us.
That scene — and the ones where Kyle is home with his family, especially — show us a different view of war, one not quite as glamorous as the images that video games and other movies may portray. When I first got back from Iraq and shortly after I was married, my wife and I would get into heated arguments about how I had changed and how I never seemed happy.
In reality she was right. I would just stare at her wondering how she could think this was an issue when I found myself reliving the day I had to watch a man get loaded onto a Black Hawk in two separate body bags. These scenes help show the stresses that many veterans have endured, and while at the end of the day these are only actors in a Hollywood-produced picture, I am glad that people are watching and having discussions about the content and implications of the movies.
War is abhorrent. I don’t want people to have to actually witness war to understand it, but movies are the closest thing the average person can experience to begin to get a handle on what it’s like.
Collegian Columnist Dom Lopez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.