By Bradley Griffith
“Thank You for Your Service” is not your typical war movie. In fact, it’s not a war movie at all. It’s not about guns and bombs and tanks and deserts. It’s about how the soldiers who return from all the guns and bombs and tanks and deserts have a such a difficult time coping with any life other than one lived in combat. The movie is based on a true story.
Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) and his two best friends, Billy Waller (Joe Cole) and Tausolo “Solo” Aieti (Beulah Koale), are on their way home from a tour of duty in Iraq. The boys are understandably excited to be returning home to their family and friends, though with some trepidation at what awaits them.
Adam returns to his wife, Saskia Schumann (Haley Bennett), and two young children. Adam quickly realizes how much he has missed with his family while in the Army. He doesn’t know that his daughter doesn’t like chocolate and finds it almost impossible to confide in Saskia about his time in Iraq. He feels like an outsider in his own home.
Billy is returning to his fiancée. They are to be married in a few weeks with Adam and Solo as his groomsmen. When they arrive at the airport everyone has someone there to meet them and welcome them home. Everybody except Billy. He takes a cab home to find his house, and his bank account, completely empty. His fiancée won’t take his calls.
Solo’s wife, Alea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), is there to welcome him home. They quickly decide they want to try to have a baby. Solo hasn’t told her that he wants to re-enlist, to take on another tour in Iraq. His mind is so scrambled that he only feels right when he is on the battlefield. But the Army won’t let him re-enlist because of his PTSD.
The friends are all dealing with their own demons, mostly caused by PTSD and the combat they saw. Several times they briefly discuss the battles in the war that damaged them the most. These stories are told utilizing short flashbacks scenes, though they aren’t totally explained until the climax of the movie.
“Thank You for Your Service” is a film about the toll that soldiers must endure to protect our freedom. But it’s not just the soldiers that suffer, for some their entire families are damaged and torn apart. And that’s just for the lucky families where the soldier returns home alive. The movie shows how the actual casualties of war continue long after the soldiers return home.
Maybe the saddest part of the film is how the soldiers are treated when they return home. Adam and Solo need counseling and therapy. They managed to swallow their pride, which is very difficult for a soldier, and go to the local Veterans Administration facility and ask for help only to be told that if they are approved they will get to see a therapist in six to nine months. That’s disgraceful and should not be tolerated by any grateful nation.
There are a few funny moments of humor between soldiers to balance the gravity of the serious issues being depicted. One great thing about “Thank You for Your Service” is how the filmmakers made the movie heartbreaking and sad while also heartwarming in certain scenes. It’s a movie that is more informative than entertaining, but it’s an essential story that needed to be told.
I don’t know how much of the movie is actually true, though it’s a virtual certainty that there are many thousands of soldiers dealing with these same symptoms and issues brought on by the service in the United States military. For some the physical injuries are worse, but for others, the psychological damage of combat never goes away. “Thank You for Your Service” does a great job of illuminating the struggle of our war heroes, and how we are letting them down when they return from their service.
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Rated R for strong violent content, language throughout, some sexuality, drug material and brief nudity.