hell and back again

Constant gun shots, bullets pelting from the sky, blood, and death; these are the four main things that veterans were in touch with when they were out on duty. When they return to their home country, soldiers keep these things in their mind. Escaping what one experienced is not easy because it sticks in one’s head. Cheers of happiness become part of the agenda when soldiers are about to see their town and/or family for the first time since they were at war. The Peace and Justice Center’s Cost of War Speaker and Film series first movie, “Hell and Back Again”: A film by Danfung Dennis, was based on the problems experienced by a soldier who just returned from war.

Soldiers have a sense of believing in the cause regardless of whether they think there’ll be a solution soon or not. The issue with soldiers is that they don’t stop battling when they return to their home country; soldiers who get injured in battle fight for a cause when they are deployed, and they fight for a quality of life when they get back home.  One of the main strategic difficulties that soldiers face when on duty is trying to build a relationship with people from the country they have arrived to and convincing the nationals that the army is only there to help them. A common tactic that they use is apologizing for all the troubles that the soldiers have caused and explaining that everything that is being done is for their wellbeing.

“Hell and Back Again” shows how soldiers may physically leave their place of duty –in this case Afghanistan– but mentally never get to leave the place where they served. War takes a part of them and gives them a new perspective that they didn’t have before. The film accurately portrays how the soldiers feel when they are in battle. We –as an audience– never get to see the enemy which gives us the same sense of insecurity as it does to the soldiers. The first and third person point of view has something in common: paranoia which makes them both feel uneasy regarding the outcome of each battle being witnessed by the soldiers and the audience.

As one gets to see how the main character of the movie –a sergeant in the United States Marines Corps– returns home, one notices that he has fallen in love with a part of war: his handgun. Leaving for war and then coming back left him unbalanced to an extent in which he needs to feel safe at all times; even in his sleep. The film further demonstrates how post-traumatic stress disorder can shatter a man’s life and can affect his every thought and move. This feature is a perfect portrayal of how the effects of war are not only left in the battlefield, but are also planted in the soldiers’ minds.

Julian Geoffrey Lopez