The Ground Truth: Iraq War Veterans Speak Out


‘Truth’ of troops in Iraq gets past politics
by Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

The Ground Truth is a cinematic call to arms. It asks that we not only support the troops but also bear witness to their anguish, no matter what position we may have on the war in Iraq.
It is a documentary for those who proudly emblazon yellow ribbons, and for those who vehemently oppose the war. It should also be seen by those who may be uncertain what to think.

This troubling and gripping chronicle of the men and women who served in the military is profoundly moving. Through interviews with a half-dozen American soldiers who returned from fighting in Iraq scarred in myriad ways, we get a visceral sense of the heavy burden they have borne.

The film spanning recruitment through deployment in Iraq and back to U.S. civilian life is told from the vantage point of several strikingly articulate, candid and gravely disillusioned military personnel. Most sign up with hope and belief in the cause. Some regarded a military stint as a way of gaining career training, believing the recruiters who lured them with promises of top-notch medical and educational benefits…


Once there, some say, they were haunted by the sight of dead children. They return home alienated, guilt-ridden and depressed. Some come back missing a leg, an arm or otherwise disfigured. They contend that the government minimizes their physical and psychological pain.

While on duty, Marine Jimmy J. Massey lamented the toll of casualties including women and children from an attack on an Iraqi town. When his superior asks why he’s so glum, he explains that being responsible for so many dead and wounded Iraqis made it a “bad day.” He is sharply reprimanded by the officer, he says, with the rejoinder: “No, that’s a good day.”

This is undeniably one of the year’s most compelling films, and also one of the saddest. Unflinching, disturbing and fascinating, The Ground Truth never weighs in on the merits of the war, nor engages in Bush-bashing. This is how these soldiers feel and there is no denying their sense of outrage.

Documentaries like this one have a valuable place in the world of film. Clearly, this is not intended to be an objective news report. Still, you wonder why there were no interviews with soldiers who felt their time in Iraq was well-spent.

It is not clear whether director Patricia Foulkrod tried to find such people and was unable to, or decided to focus solely on the war’s gut-wrenching effects on the psyche.

The voices of these brave young people reverberate hauntingly. A Marine named Sean Huze is plagued by his experience in Iraq. Images of the destruction of villages and murder of innocents remain with him once he’s back home with his wife. “Your purpose (in the military) is to kill, make no mistake,” Huze says. “There was nothing honorable about what we did. And that broke my heart.”


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