On Saturday, September 28, Mid-Continent Public Library will host its annual Veterans Salute to honor those who have served our country. Growing up, I knew that my father had been in the Navy, but not because he ever spoke of it. I knew because of the huge Navy tattoo that he had on his forearm. I never found out exactly when he served, although I believe it was between WWII and Korea. He never served in combat, however, and for the longest time, I didn’t know of any close relatives who had.
Then one day, I stumbled upon my grandfather’s obituary to find out that he was a lieutenant in WWI. This was also something that no one ever spoke of. I’m probably not alone with having this type of silence in my family. Many service members who went through frightening or traumatic experiences do not want to talk about them. This can sometimes make it hard for loved ones to know how to support them.
For those who want to better understand what veterans face after they come home, here are some movies that explore this topic:
- The Best Years of Our Lives: This 1946 film was one of the first to explore the challenges of soldiers transitioning back to civilian life. Fred, Al, and multiple amputee Homer must confront a world that has changed while they were gone. But nothing has changed more than they have and that might be the biggest obstacle to overcome.
- Flags of Our Fathers: This movie tells the story behind the famous photograph of a U.S. flag being raised during WWII at the battle of Iwo Jima and how the soldiers in the photo were trotted out as heroes to promote the war but were left struggling once the spotlight was gone.
- The Men: Released in 1950, Marlon Brando stars in this story of a man who becomes a paraplegic after being shot in combat. He and his fiancé must find a way to deal with the fact that he may be disabled for the rest of his life.
- Born on the Fourth of July: Another tale of the Vietnam War, this Tom Cruise classic follows the true story of Ron Kovic, who enthusiastically volunteers for the war, only to end up in a wheelchair and facing an uncaring VA. Kovic ultimately uses his voice to become a vocal opponent of the war.
While films can never truly express all the incredible hurdles that a returning veteran must overcome, they can help us to understand how these unspoken experiences will affect them for the rest of their lives and how to help them moving forward.
Visit mymcpl.org/Veterans-Salute to see the full list of events at this year’s Veterans Salute, which includes a pinning ceremony for all attending veterans as well as numerous veterans organizations that will be on site to chat about their resources and services.