Is there a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces in your life? If so, tears likely came to your eyes when you saw Jeep’s Super Bowl commercial. Oprah Winfrey’s voice-over was a moving tribute to those who fight for us: “In your home, in our hearts—you’ve been missed. You’ve been needed. You’ve been cried for, prayed for.”
For those of us who have had loved ones in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other overseas bases in the past few years, the ad acknowledged that desire above all others: to bring them home safely.
“When you’re home, we’re more than a family. We are a nation that is whole again.”
Our 22 million veterans are indeed part of the whole that is America. But after they’ve gone through hell on the battlefield, they come home—and then what? Home looks different from the home they left. After seeing what they’ve seen, feeling what they’ve felt—they will never be the same again.
At Heritage’s Bloggers Briefing this week, Colonel David W. Sutherland, U.S. Army (Ret.), talked about that difficult transition from fighting for his life in Iraq to driving calmly down a road in Texas.
Col. Sutherland, executive director of the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services, was introducing the audience to the driving force behind a new documentary called Veteran Nation that seeks to empower Americans to support service members at home. “There is an overarching desire by the American people to want to help,” he said. “They just don’t know how. And it’s this film, the understanding of how, that builds public awareness.”
If you search for an organization that helps veterans, you can find 400,000 websites. So where do you start? Both the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs have concluded that linking those who want to help with veterans and their families is the single greatest and most important challenge they face.
That’s where Veteran Nation comes in—to educate people on these efforts and prompt discussions of where each of us can fit in. Sutherland said these connections are important because this support and integration is an undertaking for communities, not the government:
I fought for my family, my neighbors, my community, and my buddies on my left and my right. And I come home to my family, my neighbors, my community. I look for new buddies on my left and my right, and I don’t come home to big-government organizations. And that recognition, that ability to articulate that, is told so well in Veteran Nation.
The film is a 30-minute documentary that goes inside the war stories—and the homecomings—of our fighting men and women. It was produced by filmmakers at ColdWater Media and by volunteers from Esprit de Corps, a non-profit group led by Heritage’s vice president for foreign policy, James Jay Carafano.
Carafano, a West Point graduate, is a 25-year Army veteran who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, serving in Europe, Korea, and the United States. He was inspired to make Veteran Nation after learning about a group in Bozeman, Montana, that provides a healing environment for wounded service members. Warriors and Quiet Waters uses its community’s resources—in this case, fly fishing—to connect veterans with each other and support them.
“While not every town in America is blessed with rivers and scenery like in the movie A River Runs Through It, every town could muster what it does best to serve those who served,” Carafano has said. “All it takes is a commitment of contact, comradeship, and community to make a difference.”
Today, The Heritage Foundation will host a screening of Veteran Nation. But this is just the beginning—the movie was made to send into communities across the country. Esprit de Corps will provide you with a DVD of the film if you would like to host a screening wherever you are. Please visit www.servingourvets.org for information.