Not only will there be a feature-length documentary shown for free before its official national release, but three of the players and the award-winning filmmakers who chronicle their experiences will be on-hand to answer questions and respond to audience feedback.
Michael Uys and Lexi Lovell, who produced and directed this collection of the experiences of five veterans of foreign wars from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom, say they are looking forward to being in the same room with audience members and seeing their reactions to the film.
One of these five veterans is Vietnam veteran and Richmond County native Perry Parks, who is sponsoring the event.
“This is a very human story, and some of the images of war in the film might be shocking to some,” Uys acknowledged.
“I think this is a very honest approach, though,” Lovell added. “I feel like we need more honesty about what really happens, and the true cost of going to war.”
Uys said the filmmakers sought to make “a very pro-soldier” film, that still endeavors to contemplate “the complexity of being a soldier.”
He said the two will be filming the interactions between the three veterans who are featured in the film and will meet this weekend.
“Also, this is sort of mini-reunion, we know all of these guys, obviously, but they haven’t necessarily met each other,” Uys said. “This will be the first time they really meet each other, and get to spend time together.”
Along with Parks, two of the other veterans will be traveling to Rockingham to attend the showing.
Ed Wood is a World War II veteran who is featured in the film. He was severely injured while fighting in Europe, and will be flying in from Colorado Friday.
“I think the film is an honest attempt to give people who don’t have experience in combat some sense of its terrible reality,” he said.
He said he hopes the viewer walks into the Cole Auditorium with “an open-mind.”
“Not only an open-mind, but a recognition that the men, and now women, who have served in wartime since World War II, almost always end up with emotional difficulties that they have to live with for the rest of their lives,” Wood said.
Wood is a novelist, whose most recent book “Worshipping the Myths of World War II” from Potomac Publishing, found a warm reception, winning a national award from Choice Magazine.
This is also a homecoming for him, after growing up in Meyer’s Park, outside of Charlotte, and moving away in 1933.
“This is a return to the place of my birth, and I find that very moving,” he said.
He summed up the film’s moral by citing a poem by James Russell Lowell that, paraphrased, says government is not the answer to society’s ills - it is the common man who pays the bills.
“That’s what the movie’s really about - those of us who were there got the bill,” he said.
For Vietnam veteran Will Williams, who will be driving from Wisconsin to attend the showing of “The Good Soldier” with his wife Dot, acceptance is a major theme of the film.
“Acceptance is really important to a veteran,” he said. “Not forgiveness, but just acceptance.”
He was in a reconnaissance platoon in Vietnam, and some of his traumatic experiences of witnessing, and doling out, death are portrayed in the documentary.
“I want people to see how not just me, but all the vets in this film, experienced the same things in war,” Williams said. “We all came to the conclusion that war is not the answer to the problems in our society, and I would like for them to understand that when a vet goes into combat, it doesn’t just effect the veteran, it effects the vet’s family and the people they leave behind.”
Lovell and Uys live in Brooklyn, and Lovell said she is also looking forward to seeing the film shown in a Southern venue.
“All these guys are from the South,” she said. “And in the South, there is a tradition of service. Your grandfather served, and your father served, and it’s also become sort of an economic construct. I mean, it’s either flip burgers or fly a helicopter. Easy choice, right?
“But, obviously, we need to make other choices available to these young people.”
Uys said many veterans who return from war don’t talk about their experiences there, and don’t want to talk about it. He likened the soldiers in the film coming together over the weekend to one of the “rap sessions” veterans of Vietnam held in the 1960’s and 1970’s as a therapeutic way to deal with their trauma.
“A survey of the room will probably show that most people in the room either served or had a family member that served,” he said. “I am looking forward to people bringing their own personal history into the discussion, while of course paying attention to the guys in the film. When we cast these guys ... we hoped their stories would speak for the stories of many people, and make the idea more accessible because of the sense that this is a universal experience.”
Finally, Lovell said a benefit of the movie is to give young people a better understanding of what they are signing up for than the rock and roll-laced commercials and polished lines of an Army recruiter provide.
“If you want to serve your country — that’s fine,” she said. “However, I just feel like young people should have all the information in front of them when they make that choice, and this is one tool they can use to have a better understanding of what a soldier really goes through in combat.”