The Lone Survivor and Combat PTSD: What you can expect

The Prep

After my Weekend War Movie Blitzkrieg I finally got to see Lone Survivor. I felt my mental preparation all weekend, and then all day, set me up to experience Lone Survivor deeply. Earlier in the weekend I sat with many very uncomfortable emotions and let them linger so I would not re-experience them unexpectedly in the theatre.  It was not easy, but thankfully CPT and PET worked.  I gained a lot of interesting insights about particular triggers (I mean, I already know I dont like seeing other people cry, but there is some nuance developing.)  If this post is a bit rambling, I apologize in advance, I wanted to crank it out before too much time has passed.

Battle Buddies

I went with a civilian friend. He is more of a deep thought intellectual type and afterwards provided a good perspective on what had the greatest impact from movie to him. As I sat in the theatre, I could feel other people’s tensions rise and fall throughout the movie. Everyone was uncomfortable watching the events unfold. Some people laughed half-heartedly at one liners the SEALs made while they faced the impossible odds. Others squirmed in their seats with every new wound, and there were a lot of opportunities to squirm.

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.

Without a doubt a singular word I would use to describe “Lone Survivor” is intense. A large contributor to that intensity for me was the attention to detail.  The detail on props and uniforms brought the realism to a high level.   It is worth mentioning that “real” and combat definitely equate to intensity .  Everything on the set, from Plywood CHU’s to Iridium Phones to Marky Mark’s Under Armor chonies (underwear), is all typical and accurate gear for a service member of the period. In one scene you can even see the camouflage paint used on the M4 weapons was worn from use around the trigger.  That is attention to detail!

The other convincing point was the attitude, persistance and approach of the SEALs in the movie.   The dialog was realistic   Their treatment of each other under extreme duress was accurate.  With odds severely stacked against them, the never quit attitude, even to my civilian battle buddy, rightly did not seem fictional. Wave after wave of attacking Taliban kept the suspense high as the gunshot wounds and epic mountain falls cut away at the bodies of the SEALs, but not their spirits.

Pride

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.

<Spoilers>

I held it together for virtually the whole movie. I daresay my battle buddy squirmed and yelled while I was much more stoic.  But, I lost it when they tied the fictionalized account back to reality. The afterword displayed some information of the Pashtunwali code to explain the final fight scene where Afghans fought off Afghans.  However the next afterword the film showed a slide show Soldier by Soldier of the heroes lost in Operation Red Wings.  It was tastefully done and very emotional.  They showed many service pics along with a montage of wedding and family pictures. “Gut wrenching” is an understatement, but the pictures effectively closed the loop and powerfully brought home the message that this movie is a tribute to their ultimate sacrifice and all those who sacrificed in these wars.  I can honestly say that this movie inspires me to want to help my fellow Service Members and Veterans more.  I hope it does for you as well.

2 thoughts on “The Lone Survivor and Combat PTSD: What you can expect

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