The film is lovely and its portrayal of returning Veterans heart felt. My experience working clinically with Veterans is often brutal as we resonate with the brutality of their own experience. If we, as providers, can bring our Veterans even minimal relief, it is worth our discomfort; any effort on our part considering the enormous sacrifices they have made for us by fighting our ugly wars is our responsibility as providers and as a nation. That said, I prefer not to attend “Military” movies, especially those made in Hollywood. My work is so very important to me and the only way I can continue to serve our Veterans is by preserving myself. Managing my own fatigue and burn out is crucial to taking hold of the task at hand. So, when Michael called the Resilience Center to offer us tickets to his film, I declined initially. After-hours for me, are for non-war related activities, not an artistic rendition of my daily life.
Michael, however, convinced me that this film was different so I agreed to attend. His film, “Almost Sunrise,” was playing at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival at Lincoln Center, also a significant film festival for me. And Michael did not let me down, the film was different. Finally, an honest and real look at the transition our Veterans are making once returning to the Nation. Finally, a conversation between civilians and Veterans that is honest and real in moving us towards healing, not more voyeuristic spinning of wheels. Bravo on a wonderful film and thank you to the Veterans for offering themselves in such an intimate way.
I look forward to sharing this film widely on my college campuses as I endeavor to create a climate at Universities, through the VA VITAL Initiative, that attends to the needs of returning student Veterans who are making their initial forays back into the civilian world while students using the GI Bill. As a community, whether in the academic world or elsewhere, it is our duty to help these precious humans find their footing. Michael’s film can help us do just that.
Yvette Branson, PhD
VITAL Initiative Coordinator
(Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership)
VA New York Harbor
And the Resilience Center for Veterans & Families
at Teacher’s College, Columbia University