With the war in Afghanistan entering its 13th calendar year and U.S. popular support for the war at a new low, this is a good time to catch up with the 2011 Where Soldiers Come From (geographically and inside their heads) by Heather Courtney.
The protagonist soldiers come from a place (which is also the filmmaker's hometown) made to feel almost as out of time and place than the remote war-scarred areas of Afghanistan, a small snowy town on the tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Their displacement seems to give the young soldiers a disconnect with the U.S mainstream, including propaganda, but at the same time, a lack of opportunities. Not knowing what to do with their lives, recent high school graduates join the National Guard enticed by small signing bonuses and promises of college aid, but without much desire to fight.
That decision takes them on harrowing journey to Afghanistan, sweeping for roadside bombs during the day, and drinking Nyquil at night, while trying to talk to friends and family back home through bad video connections.
The three main characters, artist Dom, all-around-nice-guy Cole, and up and down Bodi take different journeys, healthwise and otherwise, repeatedly encountering blow ups around them while sweeping, plunging them into the dark corners of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The film is extremely intimate; efficiently follows the long timeline of before, during and after; and brings about true wisdom from more of the victims of this long, long war. In this case, they were reluctant, self-inflicted youths followed around by a brilliant filmmaker, documenting their painful journey into adulthood which took them in but will never leave them out of war.