I discovered the documentary film, The Welcome, in a regular e-Letter mailing from Poets & Writers magazine, of all places. What does a poetry magazine have to do with veterans? The answer came quickly. The title, Veteran Poetry, caught my eye and the movie trailer that accompanied the article’s description really grabbed my interest.
I called The Welcome Home Project, talked with producer Bill McMillan, and ordered a copy of the DVD. It arrived in just three days. I set it aside for a couple of days, leaving it in view on the kitchen counter and pondering when and where I would watch this film. Alone or with someone? I decided to watch it alone in the privacy of my writing space. I finally popped it into the DVD player of my laptop, with my headphones on. I expected to see a film that would be very moving. I did not expect to see something this powerful, having to pause it a couple of times to collect myself.
The Welcome begins with a poetry reading in an auditorium. A young woman soldier describes the effects of a car bomb during her deployment in Afghanistan. Fade to black. People are gathering in an Oregon rural retreat. The film takes you on a journey of coming to terms and addressing the issues faced by many veterans. It takes you through a gathering of veterans and a few family members trying to deal with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and “trying to come home.” The workshop, conducted by Michael Meade, The Mosaic Multicultural Foundation, leads the participants in sharing, building community, reflecting and writing with the plan to share their writings at a public venue only a few days away, to build a bridge to a larger community.
Meade poses the dilemma faced by veterans. The tradition of all cultures is to welcome home the warrior, but that is not happening in our society. There is a lapse of memory that warriors need to be welcomed back and to find a place in community as meaningful valuable citizens. He leads the discussion about differences and guides the veterans though building a temporary community with some common ground. It isn’t easy.
There are some tense moments in this film. War experiences differ. Even race comes into question. After an emotional, verbal confrontation between two veterans and an attempt at resolution, Vietnam Veteran Bob Eaton says, “You put twenty four veterans with PTSD in a room together, I think we’re doing pretty good. We’re not killing each other.”
As the film draws to its end, the veterans are reciting their poetry and stories in front of a sold-out audience in Ashland, Oregon, on Memorial Day. The power of this documentary will move you to tears, and hopefully bridge the understanding of what so many of our veterans have gone through after serving our country. If you have a chance to see it, or better yet sponsor a showing of this film, you must.
The producer’s thoughtfully provide a strong word of caution:
Thoughts on showing the film to a group:
Before showing the movie to a general audience we think it is important that you let the audience know a bit about the film and offer a few words of caution. Due to the nature of the material discussed in the film it is not recommended for children under the age of 16 without parental supervision and approval. The film contains strong language and some graphic descriptions of combat. Also, due to the language and discussion about the military and the impact of combat, some veterans and family members may react strongly to the viewing of this video. You may want to offer information about local support and counseling services for veterans and family members viewing this film.
Here is the movie trailer:
For additional information and resources, visit The Welcome Home Project.
October 11, 2011, will be the 40th anniversary of my return from Vietnam. For 40 years, I seem to have been avoiding veteran’s issues. Having watched this profound movie, the question arises, “What am I going to do with this, now? How can I help?” After watching, you may have the same feelings and questions. All of us know a veteran—a family member, a friend, a spouse or loved one. Everyone can benefit from watching. It’s what you will do with the knowledge gained after the movie that will make a difference.
See you on the highway.
(Note: How appropriate that this review is posted on June 14th, Flag Day)