What I want you to know
Nov. 12, Sunday In observance of Armistice Day ME VFP is sponsoring a screening of What I Want You To Know at the Portland Media Center currently planned for 1 PM and co-sponsored by Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Peace Action Maine. It is a 90 minute film. Garett Reppenhagen (participant in the documentary) will attend in person, fielding Q&A portion. Documentary director, Catie Foertsch, will make livestream available. "A gripping, intimate account of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With searing candor, veterans share personal stories from their deployments and explore the epic tragedy of their wars. Stay tuned! Website Trailer
After the 9/11 attacks, the United States rallied a great coalition of allies and sent military forces into Afghanistan. Two years later, President George W. Bush told the nation that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and had to be preemptively stopped. Then the US invaded Iraq.
The 13 veterans featured in this film trusted their leaders and believed what they were told about why they needed to go fight and possibly die: to protect America, defend American freedoms, and help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. But what they found on the ground was shockingly different. The endless cycles of searching for IEDs and getting blown up. The raids against civilians in their homes that terrorized women and children, and turned more civilians into insurgents. The anger civilians felt against US troops as Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children were killed or maimed, by insurgents, the Taliban, or in some cases by US troops and US airstrikes. The despair and anger US troops felt as buddies were injured or killed and civilians turned their backs.
For twenty years, the wars rolled on. The inescapable conclusion these veterans faced day after day was that the lessons of Vietnam had been forgotten.
The veterans in this film, like so many other veterans of these wars, brought home physical and mental injuries that will be lifelong. They also suffered moral injuries from the terrible things they saw and did, and from their sense of having been betrayed by their leaders. Their suffering is compounded by questions they can’t stop asking themselves, even as people thank them for their service and tell them they’re heroes: Why were we lied to? What was it all for? What’s to stop it from happening again?
What I Want You To Know is a courageous and unblinking look at the cost and consequences of war, and the moral tragedy of sending America’s young men and women to fight wars their country has no need to fight.
The film’s executive producers, Travis Weiner and Tommy Furlong, are combat veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. They wanted to make a documentary film that would give veterans of these wars the opportunity to tell the American public about their deployments, their feelings about the wars, and the invisible wounds and moral injuries they brought home with them. America has already forgotten the wars, they said, while veterans and their families have to live with the effects, which for many will be lifelong.
After the Vietnam War, America had little interest in a reckoning for its failed war, and the country shunned and silenced its veterans. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are also silenced, but through a different mechanism. They’re called heroes, and they’re told they defended our freedom and should be proud of what they did for their country. Many veterans feel pressure to accept the mantle of ‘hero’ and ‘defender of American freedom’ and to keep silent about their true feelings because America doesn’t want to know about what veterans really experienced and how it affected them.
Each veteran who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan was willing to sacrifice their life for our country. We owe it to them to listen to what they think we should know about the wars they fought. We owe it to them to try, as much as possible, to understand what they went through and why they came back changed – and why so many struggle. We are responsible for understanding the nature of the missions we assign to our young men and women when they are sent to war, for comprehending the potential sacrifices they might make, and for recognizing the potential impact on civilians caught in the midst of these conflicts.
It's easy to say we want to help our veterans. Really helping veterans starts with being open to what they want to tell us. What I Want You To Know asks America to do exactly that: listen to the difficult truths our veterans want us to know.