For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the kickoff of summer—a time for barbecues and vacations.

Originally established to honor Union Soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Civil War, this day has, for some, lost its deeper significance, becoming just another day off.

Should this attitude surprise us?

Consider this: less than 1 percent of Americans currently serve in the Armed Forces. During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the vast majority of us went about our daily lives, relatively untouched by the realities of war.

We worked, pursued our hobbies, spent time with family and were occasionally reminded by news reports that a small fraction of our population was engaged in life-and-death battles thousands of miles away.
Unlike previous wars, there were no nationwide rationing efforts, no draft and no mandatory blackouts on the home front.

The disconnect between civilian life and the experiences of those in combat was profound. Ask a soldier deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they’d likely tell you that the news coverage hardly captured the reality of what they saw on the ground.

It was against this backdrop, also shaped by my father’s service as an Infantryman in WWII, that I jumped at the opportunity to create the documentary, “The Longest Month.”

My friend and former Apache Helicopter pilot, Dan McClinton, approached me with the idea of documenting some of the crucial events, he saw during the Iraq War surge, which formed the basis of his upcoming book, “Crazyhorse.”

Conversations with combat veterans are nothing short of eye-opening and gut-wrenching.

During the interviews for the film, it was often difficult to keep a dry eye (or a straight face). Such were the dualities of life in Iraq during The Surge—from the sometimes absurd goings-on of camp life to the harrowing life-or-death struggles on the battlefield.

Picture living in a hostile environment halfway across the world, where temperatures soared to 120°F, punctuated by the constant threat of mortar and rocket attacks, then climbing into a helicopter, actively targeted by the enemy just beyond the camp’s perimeter.

This was the daily reality for Army Aviators during the 15-month deployment of The Surge.


As you hear these soldiers recount moments that will stay with them forever, the true essence of Memorial Day comes into focus. Whether it’s a crew pushing their damaged aircraft to its limits to take out an enemy that has downed many of their comrades or an air team doing everything in their power, to protect their wingman, you realize that, for these brave men and women, Memorial Day isn’t just a date on the calendar—it’s a daily reality.

Though it may be difficult to fully understand the significance of the day, the way a combat vet does—this Memorial Day, between the barbecue and the beer, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice of the fallen and the enduring impact of their sacrifice on the nation and lives of those left behind.

Kenn Christenson is the director/editor of “The Longest Month,” available now on Amazon Prime, Tubi, YouTube Movies, Plex and Freevee.

The post The Heartbreaking Tales Behind ‘The Longest Month’ appeared first on Hollywood in Toto.


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