Arts & Entertainment

Award Winning Documentary Addressing Veterans and War Trauma Shown September 7

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RAHWAY, NJ—The subject is one frequently in the news although not readily understood, Post Trauma Stress Disorder, PTSD, and it is the topic of “Thank You for Your Service,” an award-winning documentary that explores the nation’s superficial understanding of war trauma, including PTSD, and the flawed policies surrounding it.

A special screening of the movie will be shown on Wednesday, September 7 beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Stage Theatre, 360 Hamilton Street, in Rahway, co-sponsor by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

“This documentary succeeds in calling attention to the mental health issues that many of today’s Veterans face upon returning from war, as well as calling for a new approach to these problems,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen. “It’s a film all Americans should see to gain an understanding of what our veterans are going through, and to begin a dialogue on what we can do to help.”

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The film is being presented as part of Chairman Bergen’s UC HERO initiative for 2016, which assists veterans. For more information, go to: http://ucnj.org/uc-hero/

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion involving  the film’s director Tom Donahue, producers Ilan Arboleda and Matt Tyson; Janna Williams, the founder of VET4U and a resident of Roselle; Richard Thompson, Union County Director of the Office of Veterans Affairs; Lt. Steven Brozak, a Westfield resident and retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps, having served in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Caribbean. The panel will be moderated by Chairman Bergen. Admission is free, however, those wishing to may make a suggested donation of $3. The theatre is located at 360 Hamilton Street in Rahway.

“Less than 1 percent of the population serves in the military now, and that is part of the reason why the public is so largely unaware of the issues they are facing,” said Donahue, who hopes the film creates enough awareness to spark the creation of a Behavioral Health Corps as a division of the Department of Defense.

In fact, Donohue has created a website dedicated to the creation of the agency (and about “Thank You For Your Service) and hopes everyone who sees the movie will visit www.bhcnow.com to get involved. (Trailer: https://vimeo.com/156195376 ).

“I believe very strongly in the power of documentary filmmaking to affect change,” Donahue said in a recent interview.

The issues that many of today’s veterans face, including PTSD and suicide, are personal ones for Donahue, whose father and many relatives were Army veterans. Also, one of Donahue’s closest friends committed suicide when he was 21-years-old.

The film opens with a quote from an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times in 2012 entitled A Veteran’s Death, a Nation’s Shame: “For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands.”

“Thank You for Your Service” interweaves the stories of four Iraq War Veterans with interviews of top military and civilian leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson.

The film examines why the military was not better prepared for the impact of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq on U.S. service members, the lessons forgotten from past wars, and the need for wide-scale reform to prevent the loss of a generation of brave men and women.

The movie has been called “gripping, wrenching, and persuasive” by the Village Voice and “a film every American should see” by the Star Ledger. The Military Times said it is “generating Oscar buzz.”

The documentary is currently being shown at film festivals around the country, and is scheduled for theatrical release in early October. It won “Best Documentary at the GI Film Festival in DC, and the “Impact Award” at the Illuminate Festival.

Donahue has produced and edited numerous features and documentaries that, combined, have won more than 25 awards at such prestigious festivals as Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, SxSW, Venice, San Sebastian and TriBeCa. Donahue also directed the Emmy-nominated Casting By documentary (2013, HBO), which featured interviews with Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Al Pacino and others.

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