HBO will air “Wartorn:1861-2010,” on Veterans Day (Nov. 11). It is worth watching.
The Army has given unprecedented access to the piece, which focuses on the emotional wounds and combat stress suffered by American soldiers. The piece runs the gamut from Gen. George Patton (in)famously slapping a soldier hospitalized with “nervous exhaustion” to current Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli saying soldiers with these invisible wounds need to be removed from the battlefield with the same urgency as a soldier who has lost a limb.
The documentary, hosted by James Gandolfini, captures the way in which many troops who suffered battle fatigue in previous wars were shunned, labeled and even ostracized. It’s not hard to imagine why, when you had hard core leaders like Patton making declaring he “won’t have the hospitals cluttered up with these sons of bitches who haven’t got the guts to fight.” In fairness to the legendary general, these wounds simply weren’t understood in his day and were mistaken for cowardice or weakness. As a result, many rescinded into shame and seclusion to battle their demons alone.
It’s good to know this is no longer the case, yet the battle continues to rage.
The documentary pulls no punches. It is centered on current tales of suicide, violent behavior and despair. But it also offers hope as we see a military and society working to help and heal these troubled warriors.