Hollywood has represented war as glorious, gory, cool, comedic, surreal, and of course, heroic.
But what is truly impactful are not cinematic battles or stirring strings accompanied flag-planting—but instead—real portrayals—of being a soldier.
Perhaps the best film to have revealed the raw emotions of being a soldier—is Platoon.
While arguably an ensemble piece, Platoon is largely told through the narration—and very genuine feelings—of newbie Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen).
Chris volunteers for combat in Vietnam and immediately realizes he is ill-prepared for this cruel world—one which he does not think he can survive for an entire year of service.
The soldiers of the platoon battle the jungle, fatigue, the enemy, civilians, each other, and also their inner selves—trying to find humanity—in an inhumane existence.
Physically and emotionally exhausted, Chris confronts a disabled villager, and finger on the trigger, is on the verge of committing a criminal act.
Another soldier remarks, he’s just scared, to which Chris replies, what about me? And breaks down in sobs.
Rarely has a war film had its hero—admit his fear—which makes Platoon so remarkable.
So, as our veterans are honored this week—Hollywood’s steady stream of vainglorious war films—should not affect our perception—of what real service must be like.
Instead, films such as Platoon can help us to understand and better appreciate the great sacrifices of our soldiers—which for some will long continue as emotional wounds.
With that, our gratitude for their service—should equally be unending.