When I stepped into the press room that was set up in one of the auditoriums on Fort Hood I was expecting a typical press junket. The ride over in the bus should have tipped me to the fact that my experience would different than any that I had before, but those are stories that I keep all for myself. None the less I wasn’t expecting to have the very deep, emotional experience I have ever had. The week before I had been in a room with other military bloggers, entrepreneurs and influencers as we sat and listened to two of the soldiers who had been there that Sunday, as well as the director of the mini-series. We watched an extended trailer, and while there was an important emphasis placed on the families that were a part of this story, I didn’t feel it. The trailer shows parts of home life, the typical military experiences of goodbyes and phone calls. The phrase, “not another war movie” was thrown around. But all this still did not prepare me for what The Long Road Home really is.
I was privileged to be at the Fort Hood premier of The Long Road Home, sitting in the very auditorium the 1st Cav deployed from, sitting amongst the families of those depicted in the movie, and alongside the men that were really there. I count myself lucky in my life, because if we’re honest who wouldn’t want to find themselves sitting at a star-studded event. But, as I sat in that press room it became very clear to me that this was not about them, and that everyone standing in front of me had been forever changed by their experience filming this series. It was the first time I had ever found myself crying while trying to ask a question. More on that on my podcast this week, so make sure you check that out.
Back to the reason we were there. National Geographic has outdone themselves, by joining with Martha Raddazt, author of the book, and screenwriter Mikko Alanne. Everything they had said over and over again last week at the conference I attended, and tonight in the press room was true. The powerful story that was on the screen had very little to do with other war movies I have seen. So much time was spent on the families. It was true, this was different. The down side of all of that being true is that I was sitting there watching my life on the screen. The words coming out of the mouths of the kids on the screen were almost exact reproductions of what has happened in my life. That feeling when your cell phone goes off in the middle of church because no milspouse in her right mind ever turns her phone off for fear of missing THE call. The real anger I felt when the issue of “rumors” was addressed. It was because all of those things had either happened in my life or in the lives of the people I know.
As the lights in the auditorium slowly flickered on, after watching the first two episodes, there were tears and hugs around the room. Couples held hands and slowly walked out silent, families held each other close and friends gave each other hugs. Sitting and watching feels like going through something. Its a lot to process, but the process is important. We are heading into eighteen years of this. We hear constantly that the American public is tired, that they are forgetting. I get it. But I hope that the words echoed by many that took part in the creation of this series ring true. That this remind everyone of what military families go through still. That people can stop and process that these are people, and that you don’t have to be pro-war to be pro-military.
I hope you watch, in whatever way you need to. Take your time and really watch what is happening on the screen. You will be changed, that I can promise.