Her name is Laura, a veteran of the Afghan war and soon to be a veteran of the Iraq war. Laura is on stage sharing her story of war to an audience, the very war that haunts her on a daily basis. Laura is just one of the 24 veterans that we hear from in the Independent Film “The Welcome“, a film by Kim Shelton and Bill McMillan that brings together veterans and their family members to Ashland Oregon to be welcomed home. Though this welcome is not a parade or celebration, instead these veterans will take part in a five day retreat, where the healing begins.
The veterans and family members will come together to share their stories of war and express their thoughts; while being guided by Michael Meade and his knowledge of spiritual healing and poetry to bring some peace to their minds. Within moments of the first meeting, the veterans are given the floor and they waste no time expressing the pain they brought back with them from war. For some of these veterans, this pain has lingered since returning home from Vietnam, but they now find themselves sharing their stories pain with a new generation of war veterans.
This is a very powerful and deep film, a film that brings us (viewers) another way of healing without the potent, addictive medications that has many times caused more harm than help for our combat veterans. This is a film that shows what can happen when veterans from past and present wars and their family members come together, share their traumatic experiences, put it on paper, and share it with the civilian population. Their stories are real, their pain can be felt, their experiences are different, but they will capture the ears of any audience.
“The Welcome” is a film with so many powerful moments, moments that brought chills to me. One moment is when the group goes into singing after veteran Eli experiences a difficult moment trying to be heard. How about when veterans share their experiences, you can see the struggle in the faces of the others listening as they fight to hold back images of their traumatic time in combat. However, one of the greatest moments is when these veterans and family members who have gone through so much during this retreat, come out to stage singing to the sold out audience at the Angus Bowmer Theatre.
“The Welcome” is a very powerful film that all viewers must open their hearts and minds to. While watching this film I felt as if I was there with them all, but in my case I was there to learn more. I am not a combat veteran, though I know that being a veteran and a good listener, I can still help a fellow vet. Vietnam veteran Bob Eaton said something that was so important 25 minutes into the film. He said “We as Vietnam veterans understand what you are going through and we are here to help. You should let it out, don’t worry about it, you guys are young and so you have a lot more years to work it out and get through it”.
What better people to help guide our combat veterans today, than those who have experienced combat in past wars. Your guidance and wisdom can truly help veterans who struggle to find someone that understands.
Special Thanks to Producer Bill McMillan