Art Imitating Trauma

After watching Lone Survivor, combat veteran Mikey Piro reflects on how he prepared himself for an experience that he knew was likely to trigger his PTSD:

Overall, I focused on being mindful and present when facing the visual and auditory triggers throughout the movie. No matter how good a makeup artist is on a movie, it is still not the real thing. It is close enough to make me remember.  Thankfully, though very convincing, it was easy to tell myself these were actors. That is not to say I did not jump a few times at sudden explosions or cracks of gunfire. And unlike when I watched “Zero Dark Thirty”, and perhaps because I just recently watched it, I did not face the anxiety of anticipation of the final and emotional events in movie.

What deeply impressed me about the movie was its being an antidote to Zero Dark Thirty (spoilers below).

Exposed to real danger in a way no one in Washington ever was, these soldiers were given a chance to commit a war crime to save their asses, and chose not to. They chose not to, even as they knew the consequences of abiding by the rules of combat could easily lead to their deaths (and it did).

The movie does not shrink from pointing out how excruciating this choice was, how tempting it would have been to have killed civilians in cold blood. But it also reveals something deep about the American military character and tradition. Unlike the war criminals in Washington who tore up the Geneva Conventions as a “no-brainer”, these heroes risked and lost their lives to maintain American honor. If you want to know the difference between patriotism and Cheneyism, this movie is a good place to start. While Cheney and Bush betrayed America’s core values with near-trivial abandon, these soldiers on the ground gave their lives to preserve them.

Mikey notes:

I think most importantly the film made me proud to be a Veteran and a Grunt. I hung up my boots and blue cord long ago, but I still love the Grunts and Scouts.  They hold a special place in my heart.  The “get it done” attitude in the face of steep odds is something I feel I still carry in my corporate job.  When work does get stressful, my perspective and approach to dial down the swirl around myself and others is valuable.  I don’t think I am able to do that without my time in combat and I feel my co-workers appreciate my “other 1%” view on it too. (At least I hope they do…)  I have heard this experience from my other friends who have moved on to the civilian workforce.  I walked out of the theatre sombre, but with my head held high.

Subscribers can listen to the Dish’s podcast with Mikey here.