I have a confession to make. I joined the Marines and went into Bootcamp right after high school. If that surprises you, then what do you think when I tell you that I dropped out?
The sounds of summer are coalescing around me. They have always felt the same to me. Hot and oppressive, full of shouting and sorrow, fear.
World War One is a period of time that doesn't receive a lot of attention in the movie industry. Maybe it is because the powers that be got involved for less-than-noble reasons, so it wouldn't seem right to try and make a film on the matter. But for the hundreds of thousands of everyman soldiers that thought and died in battle, this was just them following orders, even if they didn't always agree with them.
My torn coat flaps in the vicious breeze as I walk slowly back home, my four year old brother running and skipping ahead, oblivious to our suffering. Pain shoots through my empty belly as I jolt and shake with each jagged step. My skin feels burnt, despite the cold, as I stride to what I humbly call my home. Disappointment reddens my face every time I walk the broken garden path to my front door. The door is dull and weathered, the lock all but broken. My sunken eyes blur as I notice the torn curtains and empty closets. I check for letters then hurry inside to start dinner for my little brother. My father is in the army. He will not be back for supper. I pour water into an iron pot and open the pantry door. I stare at the same thing I stare at every day. Nothing. I stifle a sob, not wanting the carefree nature of my brother to be corrupted by my hopelessness. My mother is dead. She was shot protecting the daughter of two complete strangers. The fruits of a country too long at war. She will not be home for supper.
On 6th June, 1944, allied forces undertook what became the biggest seaborne invasion in history. In what was known at the time as "Operation Neptune," 160,000 American, British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and other allied soldiers stormed a 50 mile stretch of heavily-fortified coastline in Normandy, in Nazi-occupied France, landing in amphibious craft and immediately coming under heavy fire. The operation has been re-imagined in countless movies, TV shows and video games—perhaps most famously in Steven Spielberg's 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.
I have been working with ex military vets who have kindly shared their horrific war stories with me. As Soldiers... We soldier on. This was a repeated phrase used by many of our heroes. I have been connecting with soldiers and turning their stories into monologues working with a company called Iconic enterprise. With the stories, I have written them into performance pieces for our event to bring awareness to these outstanding people. I have shared three of my monologues below to help bring awareness of the pain and suffering our soldiers are put through, many suffering from PTSD.
The Corps probably has—it probably had long before I’d gotten there, too—I don’t know what punishments the cadets inflict upon themselves today, but in 2002 the approved method of masochism were area tours, colloquially referred to as “walking hours.” An Area Tour was the most common punishment for both minor and major infractions; the severity of punishment rose in accordance with the egregiousness of the crime. The punishment was to spend time, reflecting on your misdeeds, walking back and forth across the center of the campus. You hefted your rifle upon your shoulder, walked about one hundred paces, switched shoulders, faced about, and repeated the exercise for as many hours as your sins warranted. Being late to class garnered you five hours or so, or missing formation ten, or something like that (it seemed arbitrary to me at the time).
The tale, as far as I know it, started in 1979. It started with Saddam Hussein. It started with conflict, with war, with struggle, hostility, bloodshed. It started with death. My grandfather, then 25 years old, was in combat for six years. He was married and left behind six beautiful young children. I talked to him the other day about the Iranian Iraqi war and he had told me that he had fought in the defensive position and shot down Iranian fighter aircrafts to protect his base. He had told me that at some point during the war, the Iranian military had surrounded his base, and that for three days, they were left to starve. The soldiers had to resort to eating grass and drinking muddy water.
Two nuclear explosions. 80 million dead. More war crimes than any other event in human history. Entire continents turned upside-down. That's World War II in a nutshell.