Why Everyone Needs To See "Thank You For Your Service"

Why Everyone Needs To See "Thank You For Your Service"

A humbling experience for American civilians.

"Thank You For Your Service" may be considered a biographical drama, but it is nothing short of a true story.

Disclaimer: this article contains spoilers.

Miles Teller plays the role of Army Staff Sgt. Adam Schumann who is finally reunited with his family in Kansas after three tours in Iraq. The film opens up with the homecoming of Schuman and two other soldiers, Tausolo Aieti (played by Beulah Koale) and Will Waller (played by Joe Cole).

Each one of these stories brings so much to light for civilians. There are plenty of long-term effects that come with military duty, one of which Americans associate the most with military veterans: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What does having PTSD really mean? How do civilians recognize the symptoms? How do we respond to them?

The sound of a pen clicking, the knock on a door, or in this movie's case, the hushed whir of voices and echos in a mall food court-- all possible triggers to a physical tantrum. However, what we may not consider are the other consequences veterans face, many of which are personified by Tausolo Aieti and Will Waller.

After spending the plane ride bragging about his excitement for his future wedding, Waller arrives home from his tour to find his house, bank accounts, and life completely drained. His significant other left with no explanation, took everything and refused a number of his calls.

Schumann tried his best to keep Waller going by providing him with not only a house, but a home, yet Waller still shot himself in the head at the front desk of the bank where his ex-girlfriend worked after being refused an explanation. His suicide leaves everyone wondering if there was more that could have been done to prevent it.

Is fighting a war to protect your home worth it if you have no home to return to? Was there a way out for Waller? Is there a way out for other veterans in the same situation?

Tausolo Aieti was convinced from the very beginning that the military saved his life. From a civilian standpoint, this leads many to believe Aieti was mixed up with the wrong crowd and headed down a very dark path in life. Joining the service gives people like him a purpose. It provides discipline and financial security.

It could also mean getting blown up seven times and losing your memory, unable to remember your son's name or even what day of the week it is. It could mean losing a limb or two or three or four on duty, and waiting in line for hours – just to hope a doctor can see you within the next six to eight weeks.

When the military has become your crutch, what happens when you can't re-enlist? Where do you go? What do you do?

Upon his arrival home, Schumann comes face to face with the wife of one of his deceased comrades who begs him to tell her what happened to her husband, James Doester. Following some eye-opening experiences at home – including visiting the veteran who was sniped under Schumann's watch, who Schumann then carried and accidentally dropped while exiting the ambush – it isn't until the end of the movie when he had been home for several months that he's finally able to face her.

Aside from living with the guilt of someone else's life being ended and their family completely altered forever because of a personal decision, Schumann also faces the difficulty of living with the fact that Doester died because he told Schumann to stay back and recover while he took his place in a mission.

"I should have been there," he tells himself and others repeatedly. How do you move past something like that? How do you forgive yourself? Is there a way to find peace?

As a civilian, there's no way for me to know the answers to the questions this story poses, but as a civilian who has personal ties to a soldier, I can only hope that the passion and determination these servicemen have to make it home safe is even half as much as they have for their job.

At times, military personnel are faced with making unfathomable decisions that they and those their decisions have affected have to live with for years to come. They lie awake at night questioning their identity, their purpose in life, and whether or not anything in life is really worth it when they're constantly fighting death.

The sad reality is that there's nothing one can say or do to make these crisis thoughts leave a soldier's mind. Families wonder day in and day out what they can do to make the situation easier, and it's so hard to accept the fact that the only people who can ultimately change the situation are the soldiers themselves.

The only thing we can do is provide a sense of much needed stability, through unconditional love and support.

Something extremely humbling (aside from the film) is Adam Schumann's outlook on civilians saying, "Thank you for your service" to soldiers they see in public.

To him, and many other soldiers alike, the phrase has lost all meaning. However, there is an alternative way to show appreciation – a phrase he didn't realize held so much power until it brought him to tears:

"This man grabs my hand really hard, looks me right in the eyes, and he says, 'Welcome home, son,' and turns around and walks away. I sat down in my truck, and just started to cry.

Outside of family, no one said that to me, and it hit me hard. If you're going to say anything to soldiers, say, 'Welcome home.' That's all you have to say."
– Army Staff Sgt. Adam Schumann

To all active and retired veterans, Sgt. Schumann included, welcome home.

If you haven't had the chance to see Thank You For Your Service, book your tickets soon.

If you're a veteran seeking help or a civilian looking for more information on how you can help veterans and families of veterans, please visit the link above.

Cover Image Credit: People//Wordpress

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Marco Rubio, Do Your Fucking Job And Stop Letting Kids Get Slaughtered

Marco Rubio basically got a standing O for showing up to a test he bombed, because that's where America is right now, I guess.

It has been a week and a half since the Parkland Shooting, five months since Las Vegas, a year and a half since Pulse, six years since Sandy Hook and almost nineteen years since Columbine. Yet we are still no closer to effective gun control. 19-year-olds affiliated with white supremacist groups are still able to buy AR-15s without a single red flag going up. Children are still dying in mass shootings. Politicians are still being bought out by the NRA and refusing to take preventative measures.

Marco Rubio, you have been a representative for Florida since 2000 and have done very little to prevent the Parkland shooting. In fact, you have a history of trying to loosen gun laws, ultimately. Most notably, you voted against a bill that would prevent people on the terrorist watch list from getting guns less than a month after Pulse. You opted instead for a policy that would require a measly three-day waiting period.

You continually claim stricter gun laws will do nothing to protect us from mass shootings (even though they work in every country that has them), but you've barely even tried (tweets don’t count, just by the way). In fact, you've rejected a number of bills aimed at making it harder for people to get guns used in these mass shootings (usually based on party lines). And your constituency is over it.

You also claim that shootings like Parkland are the cause of mental illness. However, not only have you done nothing pilot efforts for getting accessible comprehensive mental health care but, according to Orlando Weekly, you also voted AGAINST a bill that would prevent people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns.

I guess this is just what happens when you receive $3.3 million from the NRA, according to the New York Times. Or maybe it's because you're too scared of losing Republican support. It doesn’t matter to me either way; I'm just sick of your shit.

This isn't good enough anymore. Not for me, not for students in Florida schools, and not for the victims and their families. Your thoughts and prayers are doing jack shit. We want action. We want a policy change. We want you to do your fucking job.

So here is my proposition: if you propose a bill that will actually do something to stop mass shootings, you might just get to keep your job for another six years. And I mean a real policy suggestion. I don’t care if it's imposing age restrictions, ID laws, or even mental health care.

All I'm asking is that you stop with the passive responses to tragedy or dodging criticism with NRA sponsored answers and protect us and our children and our families from totally preventable mass shootings. All I'm asking is that you do your fucking job.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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We Need To Rethink Gun Control, This Isn't Normal And It Needs To Stop

We need to move beyond knee-jerk reactions.

Yet another mass shooting.

This is something we're all pretty used to. I've come to realize just how numb I've become to this, how I have to fight to not let this be something I simply shrug at and move on from. I grew up with active shooter drills that grew more and more complex as the years went on.

My generation, I suppose, is uniquely numb to the possibility of dying in a massacre; we all went to school post-Columbine, post-9/11. I personally don't even remember Columbine, and 9/11 is one of my earliest memories. Both have always been givens to me. Of course we have troops in the Middle East fighting an unknown enemy. Of course I might get gunned down during any given school day.

One of the most consistent commentaries on this the last couple years has been about the cycle of shootings, calls for gun control, and then forgetting. After Sandy Hook and the utter lack of any meaningful action that followed, most of us resigned ourselves to the fact that nothing was going to change. If the slaughter of 20 six and seven year old children and six of their teachers didn't drive us to do something, nothing would.

But herein, I think, lies the problem. There is a major shooting; then cries to "do something". While understandable, this approach misses two important realities.

The first is the fact that most gun deaths in this country are not in mass shootings. These events attract the most attention because they are so shocking and public and thus considered newsworthy. But we have forgotten the thousands upon thousands of lives lost to suicide and urban gun violence every year, which far outstrip those taken in mass shootings. By focusing our response to gun violence entirely on mass shootings, we attempt to prevent an anomaly while ignoring an everyday occurrence.

The other problem here is the impulse to "just do something". We should, of course, do something about our obscenely high gun violence rate. But most of our knee-jerk legislation winds up doing nothing to stop gun violence and simply puts more black and brown men in jail. If we're serious about doing something about gun violence in this country, we're going to have to actually address the root causes of that violence- something that requires far more patience, effort, and investment than simply banning whatever looks scary, filling our schools with cops, or blaming mental illness.

This, of course, is not an attractive thing. It's far easier to make a big show about gun control, push some nonsense statistics and analysis, cite policies in other countries that seem to prove their point, get the liberal base to tweet about it, and then not actually do anything. But to continue to approach gun violence like this is irresponsible.

That's not to say there's no role for gun control here. There is a need for smart, reasonable, empirically-based gun policy, including expanded background checks and enforcing the existing laws against domestic abusers owning firearms. These sorts of policies need to be combined with intervention programs like Ceasefire, as well as with more fundamental solutions to economic, educational, and racial inequality (yes, I am implying that capitalism and toxic masculinity are largely responsible for gun violence).

And one last thing: our culture of violence certainly does not help. Our collective cultural conscience is convinced that the way to solve our problems is through force and violence. (If you don't believe me, take a look at the way violence is depicted in our movies and television, particularly the sorts of outlandish scenes you find in films featuring Steven Seagal, James Bond, Bruce Willis, or any other famous action character/actor.)

And when the church of all places - the group of people who follow a crucified savior who overcame death by submitting to imperial violence and then rising from the grave - is filled with people drooling over guns, we must take some time to examine our hearts. As John Piper so wisely put it,

The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends. There are significant situational ambiguities in the answer to that question. The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, “I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me”? My answer is, No.


Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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