Local veterans share what Veterans Day mean to them. Suchat Pederson/The News Journal
A special film screening of “Almost Sunrise” on Friday not only explored how veterans and other service members deal with trauma as a result of combat but offered some alternative methods to aid in the recovery process.
“Almost Sunrise,” shown at the Charter School of Wilmington, tells the story of two young men, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, who in an attempt to put their haunting Iraq combat experiences behind them, embark on an extraordinary journey – a 2,700-mile trek on foot from Wisconsin to California. More importantly, the film aims to take a realistic look at the effects of expression, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injury among veterans and service members.
“We’re not exploiting the situation. We’re not diving into it too deeply, but we are showing the realities of war, the horrors,” Voss said during a question-and-answer session via Skype. “I think it is much different than the commercials that you see on television and whatever message that you are getting from a recruiter. We’re proud to show something that we feel shows the complexity of this experience.”
Meera Garg, 16, founder of Help the Veterans and a junior at the Charter School of Wilmington, said the film screening allowed high school students, veterans and community members to explore some therapeutic solutions for veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress. Therapeutic remedies include meditation, breathing exercise, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and the use of service animals.
Mary McCann, 17, also a junior at the Charter School, said one of the biggest takeaways from the film was understanding the difference between post-traumatic stress disorder and moral injury. PTSD stems from trauma and fear while moral injury among veterans stems from the guilt of doing something wrong and the battle of forgiving oneself for it, she said.
Brian Di Sabatino, who is involved with the Stop Soldier Suicide organization, said while there are plenty avenues aimed at helping veterans with the epidemic of suicide, it only begins with recognizing a problem exists in the first place.
“The list of therapies and remedies is long, but until we can have an open conversation as a community about the epidemic, we’ll never even get to that list,” he said.
However, he is encouraged by the future. Garg and his son Jacob are both students in high school bringing awareness to the plights of veterans and saving lives in the process. Their efforts, Di Sabatino said, along with the film screening spark the conversation and help veterans with jobs, therapies and offer families hope where there was none maybe a week ago.
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who was in attendance, said he was moved by the documentary.
Coons has staff members who are two-tour veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. He plans to convey to them his positive and strong impressions of the film and encourage research opportunities available to co-sponsor legislation that strengthens access to meditation and mindfulness to alternative therapies after the viewing the film and experiencing the effects firsthand.
A former member of Coon’s staff, who served in the United States Marine Corps, used meditation to kick an addiction to opiate painkillers, recovering his sense of balance and purposefulness, he said.
“If you asked me five years ago about the value of meditation in these contexts, I would have been skeptical,” Coon said. “Having had both that experience of knowing a Marine veteran where it made a big difference and watching this film tonight, and what I’ve heard from other veterans, I’m encouraged and I’m inclined to be a strong advocate.”
Contact Alonzo Small at (302) 324-2856 or [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @P_AlonzoSmall.