By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders.
An Alive Day is like a tragic birthday, the day a war veteran suffered a life-altering injury that should have killed them. For Army First Lt. Dawn Halfaker, it was the day she lost her arm. Participating in HBO's documentary Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq, is one way Halfaker is coping. Keeping in touch with her Army unit is another.
Army First Lt. Dawn Halfaker on Alive Day Memories
"That's what gets you though in my opinion," she said. "I think we can all relate. To be honest, my Alive Day just passed shortly. The most e-mails and text messages and things that I got were all from people that I served with, mainly my platoon. They don't forget. They don't forget what you all went through together. They don't forget that day. They don't forget seeing you life lesson the ground and doing everything they can to stop the bleeding. I think that's what's going to carry me through for a long time."
Giving an interview for the documentary, Halfaker shared her perspective on going to war. "I really think that war is one of those things that when you join the military, whether it was after 9/11 or before, this is what you are training for. So you always wonder, 'Am I ready to go into battle? Am I ready to lead the troops?' Or whatever your job may be. 'Am I ready for combat? Will I be able to do what I need to do when the time comes?' When the day does come, you wish you didn't know. So I think that what's so powerful about this film is it sort of shows the untold side of war. I think if you were to take a cross section and pluck anybody from any war, anybody who has ever fought, they would be able to watch this and finally say, 'Wow, this is what it really is like. This is what you don't see.'"
Speaking with James Gandolfini on camera was sort of a crap shoot, but she trusted the filmmakers to portray her story honorably. "I think the way this has come together, none of us had any idea how it was going to turn out. We showed up and they were like, 'Okay, yeah, you are just going to tell your story.' But it's a real tribute to Jim to be able to sit down with a stranger and jus address a topic that's very obviously intimate to all of us and feel comfortable because he did. He made us all feel comfortable. That's why I think it 's so powerful is because you really get a sense for who we are as people and then what we've been through. So I think that HBO just did a wonderful job with that."