April 5, 2008


*Contains spoilers*

The hubby and I went out tonight and saw "Stop-Loss". I'm glad that I saw it with him, because if I'd been alone or with one of my girlfriends I fear that when the movie ended, I would have been crippled with grief and just sat in the theater crying until they kicked me out. As it was I had a hard time pulling it together.

Stop-loss, in the United States military, is the involuntary extension of a service member's enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond the normal end term of service (ETS) or the ceasing of a permanent change of station (PCS) move for a member still in military service.

From the director of the film, Kimberly Peirce:

"Everybody signed up because they wanted to, because they believed in defending their country," Peirce said. "If they wanted to go back to war they would have re-enlisted. People who are stop-lossed don't want to be stop-lossed or they would have re-enlisted. "»

Military families are appreciative (of the film) because they're the ones being affected as well. More than 81,000 soldiers have been stop-lossed, but think about how many family members that means."

Although the film was designed to shed light on America's stop-loss policy, Peirce said it is also meant as a commentary on the brotherhood and camaraderie between soldiers, and she gained insight into the military experience when her brother joined the Army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"We were IMing (instant messaging) when he was in combat, and he was explaining to me what his daily life was like," she said. "It was really helpful. But it was interesting. There was a limit to what he wanted to talk about because as we would delve into things, he would say, 'Hey, look. I'm a professional soldier. I'm not paid to think. And if I think too much about what you're asking me, I could get killed tonight.' And, given that that was my baby brother, I didn't want to talk about it."

So, she travelled the country talking to other veterans who could help her paint a better portrait of the military experience, and she said the research seems to be paying off.

"They're just so proud of it, the soldiers who participated," Peirce said. "So many soldiers have just come up to me and thanked me and said, 'Oh my God. It's so authentic. It's so moving. It's so important.'"

How the fuck can anybody think that what is going on right now in our military is okay? In the movie, the main character referrs to stop-lossing as a 'back-door draft' and that's exactly what it is. Mandating that people who are contractually finished with their military service go back into combat because at this point, people don't want to sign up for the military.

There are several reason that I found this movie particularly unsettling. We go through our everyday lives, and we may meet people who have served in Iraq, but do we really think about the consequences of the service they are performing to fight this "war on terror"? We may think, well, they did enlist. What about the things that happen AFTER they return? What about being stop-lossed and being sent back, and the consequences they experience from that service? What about not having the right to change your mind about what is right and wrong, not being able to make your own decision about what you think is worth fighting for? What about the families of these soldiers, hanging on by a thread, just pushing through and waiting for their loved one to return, only to find out that they're shipping out again in a month? What about soldiers that lose their brothers in combat and are totally lost, then end up killing themselves, leaving behind families who only days earlier were excited they were back home? What about people who are blind, mutated, lost limbs, scars, loss of function? It's almost too much to even think about or comprehend without completely losing my mind, which is part of the reason that maybe people DON'T think about it.

It's not just soldiers who are affected. Countless families, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters and children have to deal with the way their loved ones return home. What are we even fighting for anymore? Does anyone know? How do we "win" this war? What is the outcome we're looking for? I don't even know. We're in another country, we're occupying them and we're fighting, but for what? How is this possibly any kind of solution??

There is a scene in the movie where one of the main characters, who is just back from Iraq, gets drunk and is delusional and digging a hole in his fiance's front yard and laying in it with a gun as if he's still in combat. The whole horrible thing can be summed up by the ending of this movie. Ryan Philippe's character spends most of the film AWOL after being told he's been stop-lossed. He's losing it, he doesn't know what to do. He thinks of running to Canada or Mexico. But ultimately he makes the decision to turn himself in. Why? Because, his time in combat and what he's been through has affected him so much that he realizes he's never going to get past it, so he may as well go back so that at least if he survives it, he will be able to see his family again.

How's that for a 'Thank you'?

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