Sopranos star James Gandolfini returns to HBO tonight to host Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq, a documentary that features interviews with wounded Iraq veterans. It debuts at 10:30 p.m. ET and repeats frequently.
Gandolfini interviews 10 of the “more than 27,000 wounded” Iraq veterans, and they “reveal their feelings on their future, their severe disabilities and their devotion to America,” and discuss “the physical and emotional cost of war through memories of their ‘alive day,’ the day they narrowly escaped death in Iraq,” according to HBO. The network notes that “[f]or the first time in American history, 90% of the wounded survive their injuries, but a greater percentage of these men and women are returning with amputations, traumatic brain injuries and severe post-traumatic stress. More than half these injuries are too severe to permit a return to active military service.”
The veterans who appear in the film were all found by the producers after they left Walter Reed. Executive producer Gandolfini explains in an interview, “I first went to Iraq in November of 2004, and then I went to Walter Reed Hospital. And it was after that the idea came up about doing something to help these guys. … We were going to film at Walter Reed. The Army was very into it, the generals and everything. And then, from what I understand, someone high up pulled the plug on it. What a shock.”
“They want to get the story out. They’ve been through so much, and I guess they feel like no one is listening, and no one cares,” he said. “And we need to pay attention to them. They’re not just disposable people. We need to get our heads out of the sand and wake up. These are our kids over there, and they’re getting killed for what we don’t even know. We should be proud of these kids who are over there risking their lives. And we should take better care of them.”
One of the film’s subjects, Dawn Halfaker, tells the Huffington Post that “the film is so much more powerful because it’s apolitical. And by being apolitical, it’s being political, it’s sending a message. It’s saying this is what war is, regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican. I would say the film gives more visibility and recognition to the human side and how people are forced to move on with their lives after war.”