"There's three times they tried flying me out, and all three times I died on a helicopter."
September 13, 2007 12:14 PM   Subscribe

"Everyone I've talked to knows the exact date when they've been hit."
"Yeah. It's burned into your memory."
James Gandolfini interviews 10 wounded Iraq war veterans in Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq [review]. The documentary is viewable online.

"Alive Day" is what wounded soldiers call the day they didn't die.

Bryan Anderson, Crystal Davis, Dawn Halfaker, Dexter Pitts, Eddie Ryan, Jay Wilkerson, Jake Schick, John Jones, Jonathan Bartlett, and Michael Jernigan tell their own stories. (The profiles have before-and-after photos.)
posted by kirkaracha (27 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
In other war news two of the soldures who wrote this NYT op-ed just died
posted by delmoi at 12:27 PM on September 13, 2007 [3 favorites]

At 32 minutes in. The blind vet who, after his divorce, had an oculist grind the diamonds out of his wedding band and set them into one of his prosthetic eyes... hardcore.
posted by anthill at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2007

I started to watch and then just couldn't continue. These are soldiers who survived, yet all I hear in my head - still - is John Kerry's question from his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
posted by twsf at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2007 [4 favorites]

This is so painful, moving, heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time. I was only going to watch a few minutes and finish later tonight, but I couldn't break away. I'll have to watch it again sometime because I missed some of it through my tears.

Thanks for posting this, kirkaracha.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:51 PM on September 13, 2007

Thank you for posting this. It is very moving
posted by ferdydurke at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2007

Yeah, I can't watch more right now - it's bad form to cry at your desk, I've heard.

Maybe it's because I never watch the network news anymore, but the footage shown of soldiers goofing around, or pulling wounded (dead?) comrades out of wrecks, gave me a strong flashback to seeing the Vietnam war on the television news when I was a kid. My friends and I even played a game where one of us would pretend to be a reporter (usually Cronkite), and the others would pretend to be Vietnamese villagers being interviewed - it was that much a part of our consciousness (we were all about six or seven years old at the time).

I know there's a lot of footage like this on youtube etc., but does it ever get shown on the regular TV news anymore?

Thank you for posting this.
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on September 13, 2007

Saw Halfaker's interview the other night, and found it strangely unaffecting. Then the Dexter Pitts interview began and I realized I couldn't sit and watch them all in a row the way the movie intends. Thanks for this.

I'm reminded that, in English, to testify is to 'bear witness.' The witness bears her testimony like a burden, and then unloads it on her audience, who bear the burden a little further. The load is lessened by sharing it with others, but you can't deny that these are heavy stories to hear.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:11 PM on September 13, 2007

It's good to look at reality instead the constant rhetoric.
posted by semmi at 3:13 PM on September 13, 2007

I have been waiting to see this--thanks a bunch! I had no idea that it was watchable online, and for free no less!
posted by unwordy at 3:50 PM on September 13, 2007

Absolutely heartbreaking, I'm going to start crying in a few minutes. Thank you for this post.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:11 PM on September 13, 2007

I'e just finished watching it. I'm quite quiet inside now, sitting here in my warm, safe apartment.

...I suppose it makes sense, in a way, that it took such personal, raw stories to close the distance between my well-reasoned and intellectualized thoughts about war and sacrifice and honor and my ... you know ... heart. But this did it. I'm not crying, actually. I'm stunned. I'm beyond crying. I'm humbled.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by minervous at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2007

Oh man! I was okay through the first interview, and then I got to the part in the second one where the Marine's mom is pointing to the scars of the surgery that replaced her son's skull with acrylic and titanium, and then I lost it.

Thanks so much for this post-- I didn't know this was online.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:37 PM on September 13, 2007

Normally threads on the blue related to soldiers go badly that it depresses me greatly. I'd really like to thank everyone so far.
posted by False Jesii Inc. at 7:42 PM on September 13, 2007

This is an incredibly powerful film and should be required viewing by every member of George Bush's White House but most importantly Rumsfeld and Cheney. I feel heartbroken by these stories but I am also so proud of the way these soldiers and their families carry their burden.

Thank you so much for posting this.
posted by bluesky43 at 8:07 PM on September 13, 2007

This is the saddest and most terrifying thing that I have ever seen.
posted by nasreddin at 9:21 PM on September 13, 2007

It's depressing if the army internally really does have the attitude that PTSD is due to personal "weakness", as reported by Dex. That's just ignorance, and makes it doubly difficult for the people that suffer from those problems.
posted by snoktruix at 10:10 PM on September 13, 2007

Wow. That was incredibly powerful. I have no words.
posted by homunculus at 10:12 PM on September 13, 2007

I had read reviews of this but since I don't have cable I was thinking I'd never see it. I'm thankful that HBO put it online so people could watch it, and thanks for posting it. The reviews all said that James Gandolfini did a great job of staying in the background and letting the soldiers remain in focus, and I totally agree. I really did appreciate that at no point did the documentary focus on him. People just opened up to him.

On a side note, it seems like James Gandolfini is really working hard to process his years of playing Tony Soprano. And who could blame him, really. Lately he's been very visibly reaching out to people he considers to be tough guys, though.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:56 AM on September 14, 2007

snotruix.. I haven't personally seen that attitude that 'PTSD is a personal weakness', at least where I am-- I work with a lot of iraq/afghanistan vets here in Korea (my 1SG is an Iraqand an Afghanistan vet)-- and those who have it, are pretty open about it, because they don't want people to be surprised if they freak out randomly at shit that doesn't affect those of us who haven't been deployed.

We accept the fact that PTSD happens, and can be very confusing and difficult for those affected to work through it. Neither me nor anyone I know or Soldier with hold anything against 'em for it. I only hope that when/if I do deploy n support of OIF/OEF, that I can handle it as well as my comrades have.
posted by SeanMac at 1:28 AM on September 14, 2007

Fuck George Bush.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:36 AM on September 14, 2007

posted by MapGuy at 9:37 AM on September 14, 2007

Thanks for the info SeanMac, that's good to know.
posted by snoktruix at 12:02 PM on September 14, 2007

Thank you False Jesii for pointing that out, but of course, the day's still young. I'm sure we'll hear from the depressants shortly, so, having learned my lesson, I'll not be following this thread...
posted by wafaa at 3:13 PM on September 14, 2007

In other news: Al-Jazeera man 'close to death' at Guantanamo Bay (updates this thread).
posted by homunculus at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2007

American war culture in a nutshell
posted by homunculus at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2007

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