The world often forgets, regardless of how grateful one might be for a person’s service, of the baggage that comes with joining the military, losing men and women close to you, and seeing, and taking part in, a number of horrific events that shape who and what you are. United We Heal, directed by Ryan Rossman and Ryan Welch, dives into the struggles of veterans and their families as they discuss their experiences with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). While they often feel like they are weathering the storm on their own, the documentary aims to highlight that they aren’t alone.
Post Traumatic Stress is defined as “A disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.” This is something that tens of thousands of military veterans deal with in the United States and is too often overlooked. The term “hero” comes to mind when thinking about military members, and the idea that these individuals are just as human as the rest of the population rarely comes into play. While I knew that this issue existed, United We Heal brings the struggles of PTS so close to home that it becomes impossible to ignore. The filmmakers attempt to normalize the reality that these veterans bleed just the same as you and I, both physically and emotionally.
“…veterans…discuss their experiences with Post Traumatic Stress.”
The documentary relies heavily on the testimonies of former military members. The veterans do an excellent job of bringing to life and putting into perspective their past experiences and the world in which they currently live. Beautiful vistas play over the testimonies of how traumatic things have been. The juxtaposition of horrific stories and attractive visuals provide a level of balance that allows the world to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a silver lining that exists somewhere through adversity.
Interestingly, the veterans refer to what they are experiencing as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) while doctors, counselors, and loved ones simply refer to it as PTS, often adding that this is not, by any means, a disorder. The half dozen veterans regularly express how disappointed they are in themselves and how their struggles have brought others down, perpetuating a cycle of PTS that still lives on in the United States. While the reality is that suffering from PTS is nothing to be ashamed of, the military men and women interviewed here find it difficult to appreciate this sentiment. They seem to be under the impression that something is wrong with them rather than understanding that experiencing this is completely normal.
The message is about changing the future of veteran affairs and ensuring that these heroes not only receive the recognition they deserve, but the help they desperately need. United We Heal pulls no punches and presents everything to the world with complete honesty. It seamlessly melds beauty and pain to create a documentary dark on the outside but glimmering with hope just beneath the surface.
United We Heal screened at the 2021 Lighthouse International Film Festival.
"…allows the world to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel..."