Sunday, August 23, 2009

Movie Review: Last Letters Home (2004)

HBO movie website

Last Letters Home is a documentary that is built around the letters home to family of soldiers who were killed during the first years of Operation Iraqi Freedom in a partnership between, HBO, Time-Life and The New York Times.

What is here? Yes, there are grieving parents, brothers, sisters, spouses. But these are letters of soldiers proud of their work, parents proud of their sons and daughters and how they have grown. Officers and NCOs filled with worry, pride and care for those under their command. Soldiers looking forward to going home after their combat tour. Making plans and goals for the future. Telling tales of living life among comrades in arms, even in far away places. Hoping beyond hope that their families are not worrying about them. And stories of the two officers in dress uniforms with a chaplain coming to visit homes.

What is the purpose of something like this? Or the New York Times naming casualties as they are released in "Names of the Dead" and its "Faces of the Dead" feature, even as its audience largely pays little attention to the costs of war? Or Gary Trudeau (Doonsbury) sponsoring The Sandbox, where military personnel who have blogs that talk about life at war can be given a wide audience? In "Gates of Fire" by Steven Pressfield, he has a fictional scene where the Queen of Sparta gathers the wives of those who died at Thermopylae and tells them that those who were sent were chosen because of the ability of their wives to handle the loss. Reality is nothing so melodramatic, but a country that sends its sons and daughters to war would be so lessened if it did not remember them and consider the cost to those who have lost those they have cared about them. And not thinking of them in the romantic and fantasy of waving flags and fiery speeches, but in the practical sense of remembering that these are men and women, sons and daughters and they represent the dearest coin that our country can pay for causes that it deems worth the price.
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