For Memorial Day: War is not the Answer

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On Memorial Day, as a way of honoring fallen heros and those who’ve returned hone from war, take time to watch these emotion-filled documentaries — most of them telling the true stories of combat veterans — that remind us that conflict resolution through peaceful negotiation is the better choice.

Where Soldiers Come From

International Film CircuitFollow three Midwestern high school buddies who, after graduation, enlist in the National Guard, and find themselves deployed to Afghanistan, where they serve valiantly — but their psyches are changed forever. Read Review

Body of War

The heart wrenching story of how 22-year-old Tomas Young enlisted to serve his country and, on the first day of his deployment in Itaq, was paralyzed for life. The film, presented by Phil Donahue, is a convincing argument that young American soldiers are the real victims of the Iraq War. Read Review

Soldiers of Conscience

Profiles of eight American soldiers, four of whom believe that killing is wrong and refuse to kill, and four of whom believe that killing in times and under the conditions of warfare is necessary and acceptable. This well-balanced documentary shows that most combat personnel grapple with the morality of killing, and that whether decide to kill or refuse to do so, the issue has lasting effects on their lives, outlooks and future behavior. Read Review


Filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers’ Lioness profiles a group of courageous women soldiers who were deployed to Iraq as support personnel–mechanics, cooks, and clerks–but found themselves in actual combat situations. Known as Team Lioness, they are the first generation of American women to return home as combat veterans, and their debriefing in this film is enlightening. Read Review

Living in Emergency

Filmmaker Mark Hopkins pays tribute to the dedicated doctors, nurses and support personnel who work for Medicines Sans Frontieres, the international NGO that provides health care in third world countries where medical treatment would be otherwise unavailable. Subtitled ‘Stories of Doctors Without Borders,’ the film follows several doctors as they save lives — and sometimes cannot — while coping with adverse and often dangerous conditions created by extreme poverty and political instability, including situations of civil war and genocide. Read Review


Documentary filmmaker Janus Metz, following young Danish soldiers on their first tour of duty in Afghanistan, chronicles the platoon’s experiences from the time of their testosterone-driven pre-deployment celebrations and sad goodbyes with family and friends who have obvious concerns about their safety, to their first terrifying shoot out with the enemy and ongoing defense against attacks, through their encounters with local people whose lives are torn apart by the ongoing conflict. Read Review


National Geographic filmmakers Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger follow a platoon of U.S. soldiers, the Second Platoon, Battle Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during their 15-month deployment to Afghanistan’s remote Korengal Valley. Without comment or personal intervention, the filmmakers show what it’s like to be at war. The soldiers are in constant danger, under extreme stress and always fearful. Tim Heatherington was subsequently killed while filming in the Middle East. Read Review

Full Battle Rattle

Somewhere in the Mohave Desert, the U.S. military maintains a rural compound of several fake Iraqi towns. American soldiers are sent here to practice battle tactics and learn to deal with Iraqi people before their deployment to Iraq. The towns look real enough, with accurate street plans and architecture. And, they’re inhabited by a full cast of Arabic-speaking actors playing mayor, rebel, Sunni, Shiite, terrorist, loyalist, wife, mother, teenage boys and girls, grocer and all the other characters who’d live in a real Iraqi town. After a brief deployment here, the young soldiers are sent to deal with the real thing. Read Review

Hell and Back Again

Filmmaker Danfung Dennis followed Sgt. Nathan Harris and the Marines of Echo Company on their deployment to Afghanistan. The result is Hell and Back Again, a war documentary that spans the globe from Afghanistand to North Carolina, while centering on Sgt. Harris’ particular — yet no doubt typical — experiences during his deployment in Afghanistan and after returning home from war. Read Review

The Battle for Marjah

Journalist Ben Anderson spent two months embedded with U.S. Marines as they fought the in the largest (to date) offensive in the Afghanistan War. Called Operation Moshtarak, the strategy called for capture of Marjah, a small town with a large Taliban population. The film is Anderson’s chronicle of that operation. Read Review

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