For my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I interviewed elderly citizens in the community and collected their stories into a book. Almost all of the men had been in some war. Usually Vietnam or Korea. Sometimes World War II. Not a single one of them wanted to talk about it. My Opa was a teenager in Nazi occupied Holland in World War II and had to write down his memories and email them to me because they were simply too painful to say. Another man told me in an interview that he spent some time in Vietnam and fell silent for almost a minute before saying, “That’s all I have to say about that.” I took an excerpt from my great grandmothers diary. She was also in Holland during the rise of Hitler. She told a story about one of her young children being held at gun point by a Gestapo officer for being too loud in the streets, and how she went into the Gestapo headquarters and demanded to speak to an officer, who apologized. She rode her bike with two babies strapped to her in the middle of the night to get to a farm house in another town where they would be safe. “You do what you have to do.” She wrote.
I had these men running through my mind during the screening of Restrepo. The moments captured on screen were so new and so real, and that is all they will ever be to us, as viewers. To those men, those are their memories, their stories. They will age with them, and they will change. The hurt will grow, or the edge of the blade will dull.
Honestly, I am not sure how to relate what I saw in the movie to the Schmidle piece. What I saw in Restrepo really made me think about Army life. When they were over there the question really wasn’t who was President, or who was Democrat or Republican. It wasn’t about any of the huge political questions. The second they were on the ground, the only thing that seemed to matter was the men to the left and the right of you. They were there for each other, and a loss of one of them was a loss to all of them. The way civilians see war and the way that it is are very different. They simply follow orders, and they look out for each other. They do what they have to do.