It was summer of 2009 and Echo Company 2nd Battalion 8th Regiment was given new orders, to go deep into enemy lines to assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. We learn about this in the beginning of the film “Hell and Back Again” by Danfung Dennis, and we also learn that this will be no easy task as we (the viewers) are immediately thrown into the middle of the fire fight, fighting alongside Echo Company. For one Sergeant leading his unit, these images and sounds of combat will be a constant reminder of the battle when he returns home, but so will his wounds.
After more than eight years of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been more than 6000 U.S. casualties, over 32,000 physically wounded, and no telling how many psychologically wounded suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder who have yet to come forward. For Nathan Harris of Echo Company, he is one of the accounted who suffers from physical and psychological wounds (PTSD), but is receiving help. What I mean by help, is the several prescription drugs he takes daily to help with the pain from psychological and physical trauma, a Continuous Passive Movement machine for physical therapy, but most importantly the love and support from his wife Ashley.
“Hell and Back Again” is a film that will take the viewer on and off the battlefield, and It will not hide any secrets. We will witness the devastation of war, from the sounds of artillery fire and explosions, to Lance Corporal Sharp struggling to stay alive after being seriously wounded in battle. Sgt. Harris’ unit is attacked from all sides by the Taliban, as his unit moves about to return fire and press forward, the camera is right there to capture it all. “Hell and Back Again” is a film that was created to show the truth behind war and the struggles our soldiers endure when they return home.
Though this film is based on Sgt. Nathan Harris and his struggles on and off the battlefield, another story arises. Sgt. Harris’ wife Ashley also struggles with the effects of war, as her love and support will be greatly needed more than ever in her relationship. Ashley will take on a new role when her husband returns home once again from deployment, but this time with physical and psychological wounds. All too often the caregiver is overlooked in these stories, but as the transitioning soldier is in need of support, so too are the dependents. You will see what I mean as Ashley is by her husbands side at all times, and it’s because of this love and support that gives Sgt. Harris hope he will overcome his injuries.
“Hell and Back Again” is a real film captured by filmmaker/photojournalist Danfung Dennis as he takes his camera and puts himself in the middle of the war zone alongside Echo Company. This is a reason why I will always promote these Independent Films, because you will be given the real footage and real story of what our men and women go through in combat and back home. 52 minutes into the film, and you will see how emotionally torn up these Marines are when they return home and lay to rest their 13 fellow veterans.
In Memory of Lance Corporal Sharp, R.I.P
Special Thanks to Michael Cinelli