I am rarely at a loss for words. I just finished watching “All The Way Home – Bravery on the Homefront”, produced by Edward Nachtrieb and I am speechless. It is an incredible account of disabled veterans and their struggle to not only face their challenges but to beat them.
Three years ago, Montana fishing outfitter Mike Geary was inspired by news reports to organize fly fishing trips for disabled veterans down one of the American West’s most isolated rivers. In this film, we meet a group of veterans that reflects the diversity of challenges facing our returning soldiers. Some, on leave from Walter Reed Hospital, bear the obvious physical wounds of war while others cope with hidden traumas that are invisible, yet dangerous. With a backdrop of the breathtaking landscape of the American West, they share personal stories of war and the resulting challenges for them and their families after their return home. At the same time, a team of volunteers works tirelessly to make the trip an unforgettably positive experience.
The strength of character on display by both the veterans and the volunteers who serve them is a triumph of the human spirit.
The film takes you, along with a handful of veterans, down the Smith River in Montana. Throughout their time on the river – all put together by an incredible network of volunteers – they share their struggles, their experiences, and their emotions. The film allows you to catch a glimpse into the heart of these men and you find yourself, at the end of the movie, just wishing for a follow up to see that they have kicked their demons out the door and are succeeding beyond anyone’s imagination.
Their physical wounds are healed or are healing. But the emotional toll of war takes much longer to heal. And sometimes never does. The volunteers that have put on this trip have given these veterans a chance to just relax and let their cares – their worries, their stresses, their pain – disappear.
We’re sitting around the campfire and one of the guys – he, uh, he flat out said it. He’s like, ‘You know what? Sitting around talking to you vets…this is the best thing in the world. You know. This is the best therapy in the world. Is just sittin around talking with guys – you don’t even know them. We’ve know each other for maybe 2 or 3 days. And just sittin’ around talking with people that understand. You know. What you’ve been through. Because they’ve been there and they’ve done that as well. It, you know, it’s really good therapy. For all of us.
Plus it’s relaxing and you get to catch a few fish.
– Matt Kemp – Montana National Guard, Iraq Veteran
We wanted to be able to acknowledge their sacrifice, pay tribute to their valor, and respect their service. To acknowledge what they did. This is our way of doing it.
– Mike Geary – Lewis and Clark Expeditions
It’s amazing in how something this easy can relieve so much pressure in a person. Here you’re just sitting on the water, just floatin’ and you don’t have nothin’ to think about except for the next fish you’re going to catch – and how big. And to me that’s the best thing you can ever think of. That’s therapy right there.
– Brian Knowles – Montana National Guard, Iraq Veteran
The movie is a study of contrasts. Contrast the darkness that these men faced and that many of them are still facing with the beauty of the Smith River. Contrast the overwhelming brutalness of their experiences with the laid-back, easygoing nature of a fly-fishing trip. Contrast the stark world of Walter Reed and rehab with the pristine beauty of Montana. Most documentaries about PTSD and war wounds are cold, detached, and distant.
This one is not. “All The Way Home” is an incredible look into the heart of these men who have been through more than most of us can comprehend and you find yourself hoping and praying that they all make it out to the other side.
A big part of me wonders if a large-scale implementation of fishing trips such as the one featured in “All the Way Home” would do more to help those with PTSD than all of the psychoanalyzation and therapy that we have in place now. How incredible would it be to try?
Ed Nachtrieb, the producer, has agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of “All the Way Home” to Soldiers Angels. You can pick up a copy of “All The Way Home” by going HERE. I would strongly encourage you to do so. Right now.