By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders.
While the war in Iraq continues to dominate the news, the actual veterans coming home from war still get relatively little coverage. HBO's documentary Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq gives some of them a chance to speak. Army Staff Sgt. Jay Wilkerson had very strong opinions.
Army Staff Sgt. Wilkerson on Alive Day Memories
"Since I was a little boy, I've always lived by five words: 'Words of reason measure success,'" he said. "I always believed what the president said and I went there. When I got there, the reasons were not just and the words were not acceptable nor successful. It's a total failure today and five years ago. It's still the same."
When George W. Bush claims that the troops will support his positive assessment of the war, soldiers like Wilkerson tell it like it is. "Collectively, all we are to President Bush are numbers. Personally, he knows no one's personal life. He never came personally and spoke to any of us about personally how we feel, how our hearts feel, how we feel about our families crying about us every night. Nothing."
Such statements will not be included in the film. The purpose of Alive Day Memories is to deal with the readjustment after a soldier's life is changed forever. James Gandolfini speaks to each soldier in the film.
"He made me feel like I was open to say anything and everything I wanted to say, and I had no boundaries," said Wilkerson. "That's what I was never able to do in Iraq. I was always told not to do that. He made it possible. So I opened my mouth and spoke and it was exactly what happened, word for word."
Many of the featured veterans have lost limbs. Wilkerson represents injuries that are not obvious to the naked eye. "What you do not see, you see the visual wounds but you don't see the hidden wounds. If you saw me on the street, you wouldn't know there was anything wrong with me. But I have a traumatic brain injury and you wouldn't even know that unless I told you. So the men and women coming back, even though they may not have visual wounds, they are injured, either by PTSD or other symptoms of the war."