By Debbie Gregory.
Screenwriter Chris Roessner, an Army and Iraq war veteran, turned his war experiences into the controversial Netflix film, Sand Castle.
The Canton, Ohio native grew up in rural Texas and joined the Army when he was 18, a few months before 9/11. Less than two years later he was deployed to Iraq, where he spent the next 14 months serving with a civil affairs unit attached to the 4th Infantry Division.
Roessner describes his deployment to Iraq as “the best and worst thing” that ever happened to him.
Roessner received the Tillman Foundation’s “Make Your Mark” award, and used the opportunity to address the criticism and stereotypes about his generation, often referred to as millennials.
Stereotypical millennials are lazy and entitled. But Roessner believes you can’t support the troops if you’re trashing the generation that’s actually doing the fighting.
“I’m of the opinion that one cannot disrespect our generation and respect the military at the same time. Those two thoughts are in opposition.”
He continued, “We are a group that has been asked to shoulder two of the longest wars in our country’s history, to weather a great recession, to surmount crippling student loan debt.”
There are many combat veterans who have criticized his work as narrow at best and “anti-war” at worst. But Roessner maintains that he wrote his story from his experiences, and encouraged those with a different view to write their own story.
“If I approach this film thinking that my job or my goal to write the film that resonates with every Iraq or Afghanistan war veteran, I would’ve never started,” Roessner said. “But I hope you write your film; I hope you write your book; I hope you do whatever you possibly can to have your story told.”
Roessner had been home from Iraq for more than seven years before he began working on the screenplay.
“Initially, I just wanted it to be cathartic,” he said. “I had no dreams whatsoever of it being made. I just wanted it to exist, so I at least knew that I tried to make some sense of this thing.”