By Jason Yon
Miles Teller is rapidly becoming, in my opinion, one of the best actors of our time. Earlier this month he drove home the dramatic biopic, “Only the Brave,” and last year he played an integral role in the comedy “War Dogs.” With a limited release in October and a wide spread release in November of this year, “Thank You for Your Service” is Teller’s greatest performance yet, supported by lesser known actors Beulah Koale and Joe Cole.
Written and directed by Jason Hall, the screenwriter of “American Sniper,” “Thank You for Your Service” tells the true story of three Army servicemen and the struggles they faced upon returning to civilian life after serving in Iraq.
Based on a true story, “Thank You for Your Service” follows Adam Schumann upon his return home from a third deployment in Iraq, along with his squad mates Billy Waller and Tausolo Aieti.
Schumann rode shotgun in the lead Humvee column with Aieti driving and Waller in the back with Michael Emory. Schumann’s job was to spot roadside IED’s to protect the column. One day, an IED escapes him and it strikes his truck, forcing his team to disembark and scale a building. On the roof, Emory is shot and Schumann attempts to carry him down the stairs to safety while Emory’s blood and brain matter drip down Schumann’s face, causing him to drop Emory.
On a separate mission, Schumann is told to stay behind by Sgt. 1st Class James Doster who ends up burning alive in a Humvee, worsening Schumann’s declining mental health.
These events leave the three soldiers mentally scarred as they return home and struggle to re-integrate into civilian life.
Although it was a fantastic movie, “Thank You for Your Service” is difficult to watch. Watching good men suffer from invisible wounds and falling down in society is very painful. Thoughts of suicide, hallucinations, substance abuse, triggered aggression, and severe depression are among the effects of post-traumatic stress exhibited by Schumann, Aieti, and Waller. It is truly heartbreaking when, at the conclusion of the film, the words “Based on a True Story” come up. To know that real people, experienced these things and worse on a daily basis is a tough thing to face.
Not only are these soldiers left with debilitating mental scars, but their journeys back to civilian life are not made any easier by seemingly anyone. Civilians pry, asking insensitive questions like, “Did you kick ass over there?” or “How many did you kill?” If a soldier begins to recognize that they need help, the brass either coerce them to not fold and appear week or they are simply kicked out of the service.
For those who can muster the bravery to admit they need assistance, one of the few places they can turn to is the Department of Veterans Affairs, a backlogged and inefficient support network. Schumann and his squad-mates experience all of this in their efforts to regain a sense of normalcy at home.
“Thank You for Your Service” is a brilliant exploration into the world of damaged veterans on the homefront. The title itself almost seems to signify some sarcastic gratitude for the sacrifices of contemporary servicemen and women, or the complete lack of recognition. Veterans come home hurting and can barely operate properly in society as functioning people.
Many are forgotten and it is not uncommon for them to end their lives. While this movie cannot solve this problem, it certainly brings the issue to the forefront in a fantastically written and acted film. Hopefully audiences recognize this not only as a great movie but also a cry for help from American veterans.