Tulsa TV Memories      


GARY CHEW/Sacramento

After WWII, when my folks and I would visit my maternal grandparents in Kansas, I had to sleep in my uncle's bedroom.

Dear Johned by his first wife while on duty in 1940s Europe, he moved back in with his mom and dad to restart life as a stateside, single, war vet.

During the night, I can still remember the scary sounds my uncle made while sleeping, and the noise his teeth made gnashing intermittently with unintelligible fragments of half-spoken phrases. My child's mind could only imagine that a big monster was chasing my uncle in a really bad dream. I saw the shadow of that monster today in a documentary titled "Restrepo."

The film is not an entertainment. But, if you wonder what it's really like for our troops on the ground over in Afghanistan, maybe you ought to see it. You won't get any of what "Restrepo" is about on your early evening network newscast. That kind of coverage was scrubbed after the Vietnam War.

Wherever you decide to sit in the cinema, you've got a "front row seat" watching visceral excerpts of a 2007, 14-month Afghanistan deployment for the 2nd Platoon, Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Aiming at the mountains

Cameras in hand, filmmaker/journalists, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington---with a certain amount of their own bravery--- followed these guys into the perilous Korangal Valley to capture the essence of modern day GI life: taking and returning fire, daily, several times with the Taliban; going on risky recon missions and dealing with local people's concerns about cultural differences and the region's politics and religion, etc.

Junger and Hetherington, using video shot, as well, by men of the platoon, document the grunts' hard labor digging-in on the craggy Afghan terrain, goofing off, being bored to death and feeling the anguish of witnessing comrades die in firefights. (No lingering shots of wounded or dead military personnel.)


PFC Juan "Doc" Restrepo, their medic, was the first to fall. The platoon bestowed his name on the mountain high ground brought under its control, making, at the time, war more difficult for the enemy. "Doc" was the platoon's inspiration, and from that emotion, coupled with the daily slog to survive, the camaraderie fairly flowed.

After the deployment, Junger and Hetherington did the one-on-one interviews. One of them reminded me of my childhood experience hearing my uncle having his post-traumatic stress nightmares. Recalling a horrific event while in the Korangal Valley, a foot soldier tries to mask his sense of trauma. Sucking it up, he speaks profoundly about it by saying something to this effect, "I can't forget about it. I don't want to forget about it. It makes me appreciate everything I have."

Everyone in my family knew better than to ask my uncle about his dreams or what he saw and did in the Battle of the Bulge. And, although he never recounted any of it...none of us thought my uncle would forget. My guess is he remembered them till the day he died, when he was about 55.

Why is it that the many motion pictures made today containing heavy violence but not related to actual, contemporary warfare, are so well-received at the national box office...while the few films dealing with current warfare, having been released since the new century began, are financial flops?

The answer to that question may lie with the old saw, "That's Entertainment."

I'll now put in, yet, another plug for two recent films you should see (if you haven't yet). Both depict contemporary war. First, Paul Haggis's "In the Valley of Elah" (link to my 7/112007 review.) The second is, by any measure, a must-see movie, winning 2009's Best Picture Oscar: Kathryn Bigelow's, "The Hurt Locker."

"Restrepo" official site.

Now in limited release, coming soon to Tulsa.

See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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