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'Brothers at War' Documentary Explores Iraq's Impact on a Family

4 years ago
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The Washington screening of "Brothers at War" Wednesday night brought the mostly military crowd to thunderous applause and to tears.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey introduced the movie as "a story about a great American family . . . a great Army family. It portrays not only the sacrifices that the men and women in our armed forces make, but it also ties into the impact on the families, and that is less well known."

In the documentary film, director Jake Rademacher follows the lives of his brothers Isaac and Joe, who have served repeated tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rademacher made two trips to Iraq, a total of almost six months, to record what Isaac did on a daily basis at the forward operating base.

Rademacher records life inside a Humvee in the 120-degree Iraqi desert. He also takes his cameras on patrols and captures a sniper shooting as well as a horrific ambush of an Iraqi military patrol. The Iraqi soldiers suffered severe wounds, but back at the base, a U.S. military adviser delivered a moving speech to them about how bravely and professionally they performed, and many in the audience found it hard to keep from welling up.

The movie is about the bonds of brothers -- blood brothers, and the brotherhood of soldiers in war -- as well as sacrifice. As one young soldier in the middle of the desert tells Rademacher: "I'd give my life for America any day. Wouldn't think twice."

The film
also documents the impact of the brothers' service on their families. "All I want is to do is hug my daughter, but the reality is she might not let me because she doesn't remember me," Isaac says on a plane returning to the United States for more training. "I need to reacquaint myself with my daughter."

General Casey told the audience, "It's clear to us that our families are increasingly the ones that are sacrificing so that the men and women of armed forces can do what it is they are doing to keep this country great."
Cindy McCain, wife of Vietnam veteran and former POW Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), co-hosted the event with the USO. When I asked her why she supported this movie so strongly, she said: "I met Jake when my son was in Iraq the first time. As a mom, I had no idea what he was doing, and I saw the movie and I could understand."

McCain also said she's a "blue star mom," and the film helps the public understand what it's like "to be a mom with a son deployed."

Mrs. McCain introduced her husband, who told the crowd, "It is my wish that every American family would have the opportunity to see this film."

The film's message is not anti-war, which some speculated was the reason Rademacher initially could not find any Hollywood bigwigs to finance it. Eventually, actor Gary Sinese and producer Norman Powell signed on. Looking at Jake Rademacher, Cindy McCain said, "Now we have someone in Hollywood who gets it." In remarks after the screening, Rademacher said that the film's success -- "In four weeks' release, it's already outsold all the other war docs from the last four years" -- is a way to "change Hollywood, to wake them up to the type of movies you want to see."

The Rademachers have served seven tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, General Casey told the audience. "That's a huge sacrifice and commitment for one family to make," he said. "And I just found out tonight that the youngest daughter, Hanna, has just enlisted in the Army and reports for basic training in April."

Follow me on Twitter @EmilyMillerDC
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