“The Ground Truth” begins in familiar fashion, as director Patricia Foulkrod shows us new Marine recruits being put through the paces of basic training. The sequences will be familiar to anyone who’s seen “Full Metal Jacket” or other films of that ilk, but Foulkrod goes a little further, interviewing the soldiers themselves to show how recruiters often use deception and outright lies to snare young men and women with no other options into the military. This comes dramatically to the fore when these same troops hit the ground in Iraq, often with inferior equipment.
There’s little that needs to be said about events in the war that have already been discussed exhaustively. What sets “The Ground Truth” apart from standard network news coverage and even previous documentary efforts is the scope of footage Foulkrod has access to. The shots from USMC basic training can’t have been easy to obtain, to say nothing of the ground and bomber-level coverage of actual combat. The scenes, which include uncensored images of dead and dying soldiers and civilians, are harrowing.
But even more disturbing is the reception given the troops by their government upon their return to civilian life. Soldiers are thrown back into the world with little if any evaluation as to their psychological fitness, and after a year or more enduring the more or less constant threat of attack, many of those coming back from overseas, while they may be physically unhurt, harbor terrible psychological wounds, wounds which the VA is woefully unprepared to deal with.
Far from being a mere polemic, “The Ground Truth” is bolstered immeasurably by Foulkrod’s almost exclusive use of interviews with actual veterans. Their testimony goes further than anything else in giving weight to the claims being made. The veterans discuss their experiences being broken of their individuality in basic, as well as matter-of-factly describing the horrible deeds committed by some of their number, and the injuries – both to body and mind – many of them still deal with to this day.
Anyone unwilling to admit that most of what’s on display in “The Ground Truth” is accurate isn’t going to have their minds changed here. Assertions that the cause in Iraq is just and we’re doing right by the men and women we send to fight for us will continue to be stated, no matter how increasingly inaccurate they’re proven to be. The movie is heartbreaking, yet all too familiar these days.