A new documentary seeks to be a window into the lives, struggles and, yup, even the victories of caregivers of wounded troops.
The 56-minute film, "The Weight of Honor," follows the lives of the caregivers of several veterans over a five year span. While all of the veterans are wounded, some are visibly impacted while others are dealing with those hallmark "hidden" injuries of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Filmmaker Stephanie Seldin Howard said she came into the project more than five years ago when she realized that while the recuperation of injured troops is a compelling the story, the one that was truly untold was that of their caregiver family members.
The resulting project became a five-year journey to document the lives of both spouse and mom caregivers.
As we know in the military community, no one really knows what they sign up for when they marry a service member. That becomes even more true when an injury comes into play. Who gets married to spend the rest of their days caregiving?
Gina Hill and family
For most of us, injuries are an after-the-wedding factor. And that means the journey does not always have a happy ending.
This film does not sugarcoat anything. It allows the profiled caregivers to bluntly discuss the challenges and triumphs of how the injury has impacted their lives. It does not show only happy endings.
And yet it is not a pity party, either. It shows victories even in the midst of the hard reality. And, more importantly, it shows real life.
"I don't want viewers to feel pity -- that's not what these women [in the film] want," Howard said. "I want people to come back feeling inspired, but also to go to their communities and say 'hey, can we get together as a community, seek out these families, and what can do we to help them?'"
The film is careful to avoid politics. However did not want to ask or answer any questions about whether or not we should be at war or the value of service. There is no commentary here. Instead, she simply shines a light on what is happening for the caregivers she features.
Linzi Andersen and family
Howard said her target audience is, first and foremost, those in the civilian community like nurses and social workers who have a chance to regularly interact with wounded veterans, but may not have stopped to consider caregiver issues.
Beyond that, however, she hopes the film also impacts the general civilian community.
"Let's face it, most Americans have really not connection to anyone who is the military right now," she said. "They have no idea what these caregivers are going through."