Movie Concept: The Veterans

@SlyStallone @Schwarzenegger @HarrisonFord

Want to see a movie in which the above actors play retired veterans endeavoring to draw the nation’s attention and Congress to address the high suicide rate of veterans.

Stallone’s a decorated Vietnam veteran (a.k.a . Rambo) whose only son committed suicide after returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Harrison Ford is a widower, and father of Air Force veteran and reservist. His son didn’t experience the horrors of being on the ground, bullets and bodies everywhere. However, his son was honorably discharged in 2008; coming out of service right into the Great Recession, finding his decade and half of active duty wasn’t transferring to civilian careers. Working full time as a shift supervisor at a big appliance and electronic box store while attending night school to become an RN. Not used to those under him failing to show up for shifts and talking smack, he’s struggling with the culture change, having to repeatedly fill in for employees not showing up for their shifts.

Exhausted, he finds himself snapping more frequently at his wife and for kids. He’s called into to his academic advisors office and informed that he failed to pass a required class in the nursing program. He did well in all the practicum work but his exam scores fell just below the minimum required passing score. And as this was his second attempt at the course, his enrollment is under review, and pending expulsion from the program.

Upon arriving home his wife hands him a letter, it’s an eviction notice from the property management firm due to repeatedly being behind on rent. Shouting as he walks out the door “I need to fucking clear my head so I can think without being effing nagged.” in response to his wife’s u inquiry of where he was going.

After maintaining sobriety for 12 years,, he walks out with a fifth of whiskey. Drinking it in his car, he returns home to see his 12 year old son with a model of a fighter jet in his hand telling his younger brother he’s going to be on the Air Force like Daddy. He snaps at his son… “You’re too stupid to go into the Air Force. You should become a plumber like Uncle Pat.”

He stumbles down into the basement den and begins to convulsively sob. He didn’t mean to say that…his son isn’t dumb, he’s actually smarter than his old man. He weeps bitterly over his words. He really was just afraid for his son, and didn’t want him to wind up where he is now. He looks at the eviction notice again. Thinks back to how he snapped at his wife. When did he become this man? He looks at a photo of his wife, three sons, and Missy…his only daughter. Kisses the photo and holds it in his hand as he passes out.

The next day after going coming home from work, he arrives home seemingly in good spirit. His wife asks what are they going to do. He tells her that he’s got it covered. How she asks? He grabs her face, kisses her gently, I promised you that day, I will always take care of you – and I will. I’ve just got to make a few phone calls. The next day she hears him making phone calls to the Air Force. Discussing retirement and relief options. The next few days all seems well. He’s chipper. Tebder in words and dress to his wife and kids. He affirms her once again… “I’ve got it covered.”

Thursday night, the kids are in bed. The wife is watching TV when she hears the sound of a firearm go off. She finds the body of her husband covered in blood. The photo of them all curled up tightly in his other hand. Words, freshly written on the back. “I always will love you…”

A laptop sits on the table. An Excel spreadsheet open. All the calculations are there, retirement survivor benefits, pension, life insurance payouts, annuities. All the calls made….were for this. Estimate for morgage and the Toyota Sienna they always dreamed of. At the bottoms were the words “I’m sorry. I always will love you and the kids. And I promised you, I would always provide for our family.”

Pan out and we see Harrison Ford tears streaming down his face sitting before his Congressional Representative handing them a paper highlighting the statistics of veteran suicides.

***

Stallone, feels he’s gotten no where in having his concerns addressed regarding his son’s suicide. He has researched and found one of his former unit commanders and come to his place of employment. Stallone asks him what the hell happened over there. They get a bit heated. But the retired colonel recognizes the man has lost his son, is a veteran himself. Departing in futility, as he is walking out. Stallone exclaims to the Colonel,

“I thought we promised to do them better than was done us.”

That evening, the Colonel’s wife asks him what’s got his mind so preoccupied today. He tells her of the visit from the father of a former soldier. Father of a soldier killed in action? No, a suicide…good soldier though. I recognized the name. “Such a tragedy…”

That night the Colonel’s sleep is troubled. He pulls out the card the father gave him and goes to the memorial site the father had made. The statistics are there…and another name the Colonel recognizes from his unit.

That day while in his office, the Colonel make a call. What do you mean? Freedom of Information form? Where the bloody hell do I get one of those?

The Colonel makes a second phone. A young Lt he’s stayed in contact with over the years – a lawyer to boot. The Colonel explains how he was approached by a former soldiers father regarding the soldiers suicide, and how he recognized the name of another soldier under his command. That he wants to know if any others from his unit have committed suicide. He called records and was given some crap about needing to file a Freedom of Information act. She informs him she’ll help him file one.

Months go by when a packet finally arrived at the Colonel’s house. He opens the packet and begins going through the pages. There are more than two. There are dozens. Dozens of young men and women, who were under his command, ….suicide. Names he recognized. Names he didn’t. But too.many names…

Before he reaches the ends, he reaches his own end. Slamming his fist into the side table, shattering the glass, causing the lamp to fall over, and cutting himself in the process. His startled wife comes in sees his bleeding hand and retrieves bandage wrap from the kitchen and begins to bind the Colonel’s hand as she inquired what happened.

The Colonel balks, “I’m fine…. they’re not!” As he tosses the stack of papers onto the couch. Later, the Colonel shows his wife the documents. He points to one showing that his former unit has one of the highest rates of veteran suicide. That the suicides are nearly equal to the units casualties.

Holding his wife against him, he says “I thought I did a good job of keeping my soldiers safe. I’ve failed them. I’ve failed the men under my command.” His wife reminds him that it was war, and that it’s Veteran Affairs that failed them. To which he replies..no… I’ve failed them.

He calls the father back and asks to meet again. This time there conversation goes much differently. There Colonel wants to know more, he wants to know how he failed this man’s boy. And so many others.

He calls back the former Lieutenant and enlists her help in finding the addresses of the parents for each soldier listed. He begins to write a letter to each one. Apologizing to the parents personally, asking their forgiveness. He contacts a military colleague who is now a state representative. He asks what they could of done better. His friend comments that he had his office request a copy of the records as well. And is very sorr about the xx lost from his unit. The Colonel corrects his friend, who replies that his lists xx. One number more. The Colonel’s asks if his friend can send him a copy. Upon receiving the copy from his friend, the Colonel sees a new name. He collapses on the couch beside his wife and weeps. “It’s not over yet. It’s still happening.”

The Colonel gets in contact with the family. They share about their sons nightmares, therapy, repeated job losses, and so on.

That day the Colonel makes a decision. With the help of his former Lt friend, they begin to track down the line location of all the soldiers that were under his command in Afghanistan. He begins to reach out, calling a few, and seeking to meet for lunch with the closest ones. Most seem to affirm they’re doing alright. A few simply hang up. And several agree to meet for lunch. The fourth lunch, the former soldier reveals that he tried to take his own life last year….but failed. Maybe he was too much of a coward. The Colonel affirms him that he is no coward. They agree to meet again.

The Colonel calls back the first father (Stallone) and explains to him how he’s been reaching out. And one of the soldiers he had lunch with attempted suicide the year before. He exclaims that he wants to get the man help. And begins asking Stallone for information for resources and programs that could help the other soldier. Stallone gives the Colonel several contacts, crisis lines, trauma programs, veteran affairs contacts. The says “Thank you”… the Colonel replies “For what?”. Stallone says, “For doing something. Maybe if someone did what you’re doing now, my boy, would still be here.”. The Colonel replies with a chill, “If me…”. Stallone replies “You’re doing it now. My son is dead. Nothing I or you can do to chan that. But what you’re doing now…ju may change that for another dad.”

The Colonel gets a return call from one of the resources. Harrison Ford, who has been organizing with others to see legislative action taken to address the epidemic of soldier suicides. All three work to testify before a Congressional committee on the concern of soldier suicides and the need for national action.

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