This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to see the movie Korengal, directed by Sebastian Junger.  The film is based on the same experiences and footage that Sebastian and Tim Hetherington captured in the film Restrepo, which first aired in 2010.  Sebastian and Tim endured approximately one year embedded as journalists with Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army in the Korengal Valley.

The primary difference between this film and Restrepo is that this film focused primarily on the emotional and psychological aspect of what these soldiers faced during their 15-month deployment to Afghanistan and how they felt about their upcoming return to America.  The film is full of very poignant story lines, including the interesting description of how a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy may be implemented in situations like this platoon encountered.

At the end of the film I was lucky enough to chat with Sebastian and listen to a brief Q&A.

Korengal with Derek Herrera and Sebastian Junger in Santa Monica

What became quickly apparent was that Sebastian has an incredibly unique perspective based on his life experience.  He is a smart, charismatic and eloquent man who was willing to spend a year in one of the most kinetic combat zones in Afghanistan to truly understand what war fighters experience during a combat deployment.  Because of this, he has as much credibility as any war reporter I have met, and is the most effective person I have seen in bridging the gap between recent generations of combat veterans and those who have not had similar experiences.

Sebastian has continued to serve in this capacity and has dedicated a significant portion of his life to advocating for veteran’s issues, which I find particularly inspiring at a time when our community has such incredibly high rates of suicide.  To this end, Sebastian has given a TED talk explaining why veterans miss war, and he filmed The Last Patrol, which documents a long walk he took (DC to Pittsburgh) with two veterans from the unit he filmed in Restrepo.  The Last Patrol will air on HBO this fall, and if past performance is any indicator, the film will be another incredible true story that will provide an insightful glimpse into what some of America’s veterans experience when they return to the nation for which they fought and sacrificed.