Military movies traditionally focus the lens on the troops fighting overseas while skipping the story of the families at home.
Here are 6 movie scenes that remind viewers how hard the lives of military spouses and children can be:
1. “We Were Soldiers” – Notification of next of kin
Families of deployed service members live with the dread of a casualty notification officer showing up. Families from the Vietnam War and earlier conflicts had the same fear, but it was embodied in taxi drivers who delivered dreaded telegrams. In “We Were Soldiers,” Julia Moore almost loses it when a cabbie walks to her door. Luckily he’s not there for her, just directions to another house.
The trauma for real-world families can be visceral. “I’ve picked family members off the floor,” Army chaplain Capt. Gregory J. Broderick told the Army News Service. “I’ve sat and held them as they’ve rocked and cried. People have been so upset they can’t change their baby’s diaper.”
2. “A War” – Family members are never the only priority
Service members have to juggle the needs of the nation with the needs of their family. In this clip from the Oscar-nominated “A War,” the commander’s wife argues for her husband to say whatever it takes to avoid jail time after an errant airstrike. For Claus Pederson, the commander, the necessity of supporting his family’s needs has to be balanced with the needs of his troops.
3. “American Sniper” – The family never knows when the service member is safe, except when they know they aren’t
Troops usually know whether the current danger level is high or low. They get updated on local threats, know when they’re safe behind walls or in the most dangerous part of the battlefield, and are watching out for enemies.
For family members, the threat is always real and they never know if their soldier is in relative safety or outside the wire. The only exception is when they’re actively speaking to their loved one, in which case every background noise is terrifying.
4. “The Hurt Locker” – The soldier who comes home may not be the one who left
“Hurt Locker” was Oscar gold but hated-on by vets (for good reason). But it got some parts of the military experience right. In this scene, explosive ordnance disposal technician William James is playing with his son while talking through his own scars from deployment. The family will often want to help, but troops may want to talk only rarely or not at all.
For James, the best course of action was apparently to talk to the only family member who can’t possibly understand.
5. “American Sniper” – PTSD can be a tough problem for military families
While most movies overplay the symptoms of PTSD, “American Sniper” earned a lot of credit for portraying a vet afflicted by the disorder as mostly just stuck in their own thoughts, rather than showing them as a caricature of violence.
6. “Independence Day” – Military families face national crises without a head of household
While “Independence Day” is hardly a gritty war movie, it contains one scene that reflects a dark reality for military families. When Will Smith’s Capt. Steven Hiller learns that aliens have arrived on earth, he immediately heads to base to get ready for a fight.
When the U.S. was attacked on 9/11, most Americans were reeling from the surprise attack and military families had to recover while their loved ones went to bases to get ready for deployment. President George W. Bush even said in his speech for all Americans with a uniform to get it ready.