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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Short film Fort Irwin shows viewers an authentic take into combat trauma

Film has a way of conveying an emotion that we have trouble expressing. It is through the art of something else that the viewer can learn and understand a strong feeling, especially when the subject is related to that viewer. Short films are often overlooked in favor of feature-length creations but have the capacity to tell a strong story, perhaps in many ways better than larger films. From Director Quinn Else (Turn On) comes Fort Irwin, a short film that showcases the emotional impact of war from the perspective of a real-life combat veteran.

Fort Irwin focuses on the emotions of a combat veteran, as he opts to face his trauma through a real-life combat simulation at Fort Lewis, the US Army's elite training ground. The films stars retired Army Sgt Cristian Vale as the film's lead. Over the 11-minute film, viewers sees a dynamic perspective to coping with past combat trauma.

What makes Fort Lewis unique is the film's choice to see this trauma from combat veteran. Sgt. Cristian Vale is a double amputee Iraq War veteran. While on deployment in Iraq in 2005, an IED was tossed out of a passing vehicle. Sgt Vale was thrown into the air and landed forcibly to the ground. Sgt Vale's left leg was compromised, and regrettably, his right leg was amputated due to irreparable damage from the blast. Sgt Vale also sustained multiple injuries from the explosion and would spend 13 months at Walter Reed Medical Center.

In Fort Lewis, we see Sgt Vale's character confront, and in some ways, relive the terrible moments of combat not unlike what he experienced. This is actually based on a true account from the director, who heard about the real-life simulations at Fort Lewis, and in fact, learned of their hiring of retired veterans and amputees. Their inclusion in the simulation would not only assist soldiers in training but in a way, have veterans face their traumas head-on. Additionally, Sgt. Vale's emotional state is depicted realistically and with few words, bringing clarity and authenticity against the tired tropes of PTS. There is no blatant exposition, but incredibly sharp observation that tells the viewer what needs to be known.

Fort Lewis is remarkable in its way to convey an authentic emotional feeling, while not leaning into pity or tired tropes. It's a way to firmly focus on war's actual effects and not bring the topic into a Hollywood exaggeration. More films like Fort Lewis should be made.

Fort Lewis is now available for free and is available to watch below.

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