‘An unapologetic gut punch:’ The invisible injuries of soldiers depicted in “Thank You For Your Service”

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(DreamWorks Pictures)

By Caitlin M. Kenney

This new generation of war movies for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is blunt, in your face, and “Thank You For Your Service” pushes the bar even higher as it explores the invisible injuries impacting troops and their families.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel, who followed the lives of the soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division when they came home from Iraq. The movie was directed and written by Jason Hall, who received an Oscar nomination for his “American Sniper” screenplay.

When I was invited to attend an early screening of the movie, I wanted to bring my husband along to see this film because I knew that I needed to get his perspective on how Hollywood would tell his story as a post 9/11 veteran.

Since coming home from Afghanistan, my husband hasn’t been one to watch too many war movies because they can make him feel down for the rest of the day. So I was actually surprised when he agreed to join me.

“Thank You For Your Service” opens with a violent incident while on patrol in Iraq in 2007 and then turns to the struggle four soldiers have once they are home. Over the course of the movie, they confront their injuries, both visible and invisible, the decisions that were made in combat, and fight to get treatment for one another from their overburdened Veterans Affairs hospital.

The movie was unlike any my husband and I have seen in how it portrayed redeployment, Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as how a person comes to terms with themselves.

It was like an unapologetic gut punch on realities many veterans have.

My husband was so moved by the movie, especially the ending when the full story of what happened to these soldiers in Iraq is revealed.

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Haley Bennett as Saskia Schumann and Miles Teller as Sgt. Adam Schumann in “Thank You For Your Service.” (DreamWorks Pictures)

As a veteran spouse, I personally appreciated the focus on how the families and caregivers worked to understand what was happening and advocate for their loved ones. The movie portrayed military families with the same realism as the rest of the film, in that they are not always perfect, but they are strong fighters in the face of trauma and medical care bureaucracy.

Without a doubt, this movie will make you walk away feeling like you need to take a moment and check in with yourself and your friends. The movie has some very graphic combat scenes and some terrifying scenes of visual hallucinations. But among all that suffering, I saw veterans and families who were trying to reach out for help from friends and professionals, which will hopefully resonate with those who have their own struggles.

I think this movie, whether veterans love it or not, will start a conversation about experiences veterans and their families have when they return from war.

“Thank You For Your Service” deals with suicide, drug abuse, traumatic injuries, and violence. It is rated R.

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney | Caitlin@ConnectingVets.com

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