Inspired by true events, and based on the 2013 book Thank You For Your Service by American journalist David Finkel, comes the powerful movie Thank You For Your Service, from American Sniper director Jason Hall. Starting off in Iraq’s war zone back in 2007, Thank You For Your Service not only delves into the psychology pertaining to war itself, it goes so much deeper, exposing what really happens to soldiers after the fanfare involved in homecoming subsides.
Miles Teller stars as Adam Schumann, a real-life Army veteran with three deployments under his belt. As Schumann prepares to leave Iraq, bidding farewell to the Army so he can return to a “normal” life with his wife Saskia and his two children, the stoic soldier tries to hide his overwhelming sense of guilt. Unaware that he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Schumann blames himself for one of his fellow soldier’s severe injuries, and carries the burden of feeling survivor’s guilt. How did he make it out of Iraq alive when not everyone in his unit was as fortunate?
Schumann’s wife, played by Haley Bennett, has waited over eleven long months to have her husband home again, but the man who returns to make her family whole again is a shell of his former self. As she tries to pry more information out of him, desperate to understand why this third deployment has changed him so much, Schumann pulls away. He doesn’t want to talk about the demons that haunt him, and as he retreats, Saskia grows bitter that he won’t open up to her. How can he explain what he’s feeling when he doesn’t even understand it himself?
In the meanwhile, two of Schumann’s “brothers” from his unit also learn that leaving Iraq doesn’t equate to leaving the war. With no visible wounds, Schumann’s friends have difficulty assimilating back into their former lives. Schumann doesn’t know how to help himself heal, but knows in his heart that his friends are in even more desperate and life-threatening situations than he is. As he tries to help one friend seek treatment from the Veterans Affairs hospital, the bureaucratic red tape Schumann experiences is beyond frustrating. I found myself feeling angry on his behalf, thinking, “He almost died serving in the Army, and this is how the Army pays him back?”
The movie exposes some ugly truths about how we as a nation treat those who’ve sacrificed so much. Many soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) aren’t given the medical and psychological attention they deserve, and when they are “lucky” enough to be seen, it’s often after being forced to wait at least six to nine months. How are these soldiers supposed to resume their normal lives when their well being isn’t a top priority? It was infuriating watching the desperation these soldiers, especially those who were brave enough to vocalize that they had thoughts of ending their own lives, faced when they returned home and sought help.
Another aspect of returning from war that is also highlighted is how family members aren’t given the adequate tools to help their loved ones when they return. Schumann’s wife is excited to have her husband home again, but soon learns his emotional scars have left him unable to fill that void that existed during his time away. Unequipped in terms of even knowing where to begin to help her husband deal with his PTSD, Saskia tries her best to be patient, but becomes frustrated. Why aren’t families given the training about learning how to recognize signs of PTSD and TBIs?
At one point during the film, my heart sank as Schumann’s friend Solo, played by Beulah Koale, expresses how he envies the soldiers who’ve returned with missing limbs. Those soldiers have visible injuries, but no one can see that his own TBI has left him unable to remember what the date is even after being told.
The movie is powerful, and I think it’s a must see for everyone of adult age so people can begin to have an inkling of the sacrifices our service members make on and off the battlefield. It was eye-opening and sobering for sure. The acting was exceptional, and Miles Teller was absolutely the right choice to play Adam Schumann.
My friend Kris saw the film with me, and shared, “This movie offers a humbling glimpse of how soldiers deal with the ramifications of the life or death decisions they have to make during war. It’s a haunting reminder that just because they smile, that doesn’t mean there aren’t layers of pain buried deep within, and even though their injuries may not be visible, that doesn’t mean their injuries aren’t just as deadly. This movie made me shake my head as I thought about the intense problem our nation has as it inadequately deals with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. There’s a stigma associated with those injuries, but our nation desperately needs to acknowledge that people suffering from them need our help, not our judgement and red tape. The statistic about 22 service members taking their own lives each day is 22 too many.”
Movie times: click here
Genre: Biography, Drama, War
Director: Jason Hall
Actors: Haley Bennett, Miles Teller, Keisha Castle-Hughes
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
Rating: Rated R for strong violent content, language throughout, some sexuality, drug material and brief nudity