I wanted to spend this time discussing an element of the trek that we could never really talk about. What it was like with them and why To and I are so grateful to have had their involvement.
On our walk from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, I used this blog to describe to you our experiences, our struggles, and, most importantly, how Tom and I were changing. How could I describe the changes that were occurring in such a way that every person–Veteran or not–could understand the importance of what was happening? It was very important to me that people who could not be with us physically could experience the trip with us.
Unique to our trek was one, very key element: A documentary crew was there–filming–during the highs and lows. A documentary crew was there when we wanted them there and when we needed our space. A documentary crew was there capturing, in ways our words could not convey, how our trek was changing us and those we met. It is a tremendous Post Script to the story we’ve told and shared.
Having the crew with us was, quite honestly, a tremendous experience. It was tremendous not in that they were making a film about us, but in that they were dedicating their time and efforts and talents to create a message to help Veterans and their families. Veterans who suffer in silence. Veterans who have honorably done their duty and find themselves misunderstood and misrepresented by the very people, agencies, and government who swore to serve them as wholly and vigorously as they, the Veteran, had served. Families who have lost their sons and daughters to a more dangerous foe than the insurgents’ improvised devices–the Veterans own hand. Families whose sons and daughters returned to find their lives so influenced by Iraq and Afghanistan that their own living rooms became an extension of those war torn hell holes.
The crew followed Tom and I across the whole trip, interviewing the people we met, filming the changing seasons and landscapes and obstacles in our way, and learning for themselves how to tell the tale of two Veterans that are not extraordinary in the issues that they have, but are in how we chose to heal ourselves. I do not think–and never have–of Tom or myself as extraordinary. We’re really not. We both got to a point where we said and thought, “Enough is enough. I’m too tired for this anymore.”
So we walked across the country. It’s weird how that exhaustion manifested itself into desperation and then into action. And then into a film.
The documentary crew that found its way to us so often–Michael, Marty, Gideon, Clar, and Claire–recorded that action and the true impact it was having. People feel that Tom and I changed because we had some experiences and then changes just happened. This is far from the case. The changes we experienced–the clarity, the resolve, the maturation of understanding–did not occur overnight, by accident, or on our own. It was generous families and people that invited us in to stay with them and helped us break down our lack of trust in people and society. It was the long miles that taunted us and tore our feet apart, but still encouraged us with every one left behind. It was the ability to focus and be tremendously honest and vulnerable that allowed our true selves to rise back up from the forced hiatus we took from life while dealing with the inner-fallout of war..
They filmed it.
When my daughter, who turned 2 years old while Tom and I were in the Mojave, sees the film as an adult, she will know exactly why she was raised the way she was. When Mike Ulanski’s kids grow up, they’ll know their father and mother and their own childhood differently. When the viewers see the generosity of Charles Black and Roy and Tina House, they will feel grateful that good people still exist. When they see the enthusiasm of some of the communities we walked through, they’ll feel proud of their neighbors. When they see and hear the faces and voices of the families whose sons and nephews and loved ones have committed suicide they will be outraged, horrified, and heart broken. When people see the dedication of Veterans helping Veterans, they will feel content.
But on that last one their reactions are misplaced. This film will not communicate the importance of Veterans helping Veterans. It will show the love and respect we Veterans have for one another. But its “care” message, if you will, will not be how Veterans should be relying on Veterans. It will be how it is all of our responsibility, regardless of Veteran or non-Veteran status, to fix just what in the hell is going on. How when we go to war, the bottom line budget projections on war do not communicate the cost of the human soul and the family loss. Our leadership uses the budget for war as a competitive advantage. They sell us on the savings and they sell us on the bullshit. Let’s be real here, OK? When we go to war, two sides compete. They battle and fight. They utilize propaganda and sabotage. They try to endear themselves to the populace (win hearts and minds). They use battle tested tactics and cutting edge technology to gain the upper hand. And then they vote to determine which side won and if they get to send our citizens into war in all of our names. They explain why soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines are going. They leave out how they’re going to help us come home.
This film does explain how we can get home. And that is, quite honestly, why our time with them was so important. Our trip home shows the trip we all are on postwar. When we destroy a factory, city or a Nation in war, we rebuild it and install infrastructure. We rebuilt Europe. We rebuilt Japan. We’re trying to rebuild the Middle East. We spend trillions–think about that–on rebuilding economies. We spend a pittance by comparison on people. This film shows how just a little effort, a little desire, and a lot of blisters can create a force so strong it changes lives. It shows how people on the brink of destruction invest in themselves and those around them for the most important postwar reconstruction–the self. It shows how Veterans give and give and give. It shows how some gave all. It shows how every person has a life of purpose. And that, after all, is how we walked: With A Purpose.
Please support this project. If you’ve donated, please accept my thanks. If you haven’t, please do. If you won’t, please choose something you’re passionate about to donate to. And if you will, please, at the minimum, share this with your friends so they can make up their own minds on if they want to help.