‘Sgt. Will Gardner’ provides opportunity to give back to veteran community

Members of the military should expect to come home to praise, easy living, and a loving family. Many, however, return to homelessness, disrespect, and poor treatment.

‘”Sgt. Will Gardner”, released Jan. 11 in select theaters and video on demand was designed to raise awareness for the struggling veteran community. 

This film follows the journey of Iraq War veteran Will Gardner, played by writer and director Max Martini, who travels across the country by motorcycle in hopes of reuniting with his young son. Will’s head trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) makes it hard for him to reintegrate in society. Throughout the film, the viewer experiences Will’s harsh flashbacks and interactions with friend and war buddy Sam, who has been killed in action and is now only a figure of Will’s imagination.

“I was doing a show called ‘The Unit, and I went to Iraq and Afghanistan and met an Army Ranger who was having a difficult time during his combat tours,” said Martini. “When he returned home he had an equally difficult time reintegrating. So I thought I’m going to make a movie that gives to charity and could actually make a difference in someone’s life.”  

Unfortunately, Hollywood becomes too absorbed in their wealth and politics that many production companies won’t invest in movies that are for a cause.

There’s nothing that screams sales to buyers. It’s a passion project,” said Martini in an interview with military.com.

30% of the movie’s profits go towards three different veteran organizations: Warrior’s Heart, Higher Ground, and the Gary Sinise Foundation. Each organization receives 10%.  

According to a study done by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA), an average of 20 veterans a day resort to suicide as a result of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD. The government and citizens of the United States are not intervening enough to help this statistic be reduced.

Military health organizations and groups such as the VA should focus more on providing healthier ways for veterans to cope with mental issues. Instead, veterans are given an endless supply of heavy drugs such as modafinil, benzodiazepine, and opioids to “help” their conditions. Giving mentally ill veterans these drugs only plunges them deeper into depression and their gloomy thoughts.

It is also extremely difficult for former military to receive full or even partial benefits from the VA for disability.

“It took a year for the VA to make a decision for my disability rating, and a year for my first primary care doctor visit,” said retired Chief Navy SEAL Douglas Norway. “It’s worse than pulling teeth. Guys who are still active duty get better service. It’s once you get out that you start hitting walls.”

Programs provided by organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Patriot Point, and, locally owned, Virginia High Performance help veterans deal with PTSD, TBI, and combat stress through nature retreats, hunting trips, weight lifting sessions, and massage therapy. These programs give veterans treatment in a healthy, peaceful, and natural way.

By watching “Sgt. Will Gardner,” everyday American citizens can help the warriors of this country get the help they need and deserve.