A Patriot’s Day Brings PTSD Home (Movie Review)

Billie Jo YoumansBy Billie Jo Youmans7 Minutes

A Patriot’s Day tackles a tough subject on a low budget—an extremely difficult endeavor. The issue is desperately important, and the intentions are clearly sincere in this JC Film Production. The film plumbs the depths of war’s horrors, the reality of PTSD, and the challenges war veterans (and their families) face. It is an ambitious movie with the potential to soften hearts and open eyes.

The movie centers around Brandon Williams, a faith-filled family man who is moved to sacrifice his comfortable life for his country. His military service is portrayed, sometimes unrealistically from boot camp to reentry. The Boot Camp Drill Sargeant nicknames Brandon, Preacher, for having a Bible, and the moniker sticks. At another soldier’s request Brandon’s wife, Katherine, sends Bibles for the others as they prepare to face the uncertainties of war. One of those Bibles ties to the miraculous work of God at the end of the movie.

The stories of several soldiers unfold throughout the movie—along with the losses and heartaches you might expect. A close friend is killed, a returned soldier commits suicide, and another falls into drinking and struggles to fit back into his family. The search for God in the midst of inconceivable loss threads throughout the movie.

There are numerous military action scenes that could potentially bother viewers with PTSD issues, but the limited authenticity of the reenactments may dissipate some of the impact.

One necessary spoiler alert: Gary, the soldier with family issues, places a gun in his mouth in one scene. The flashbacks that follow this scene include gunshots that leave a chilling (but erroneous) conclusion.

The conclusion of A Patriot’s Day does pull some of the soldiers back together for a surprising and hope-filled ending. All in all, it’s a movie worth watching as a discussion tool for the issue of PTSD—and the answer we have in Jesus Christ.

A Bit Deeper Digging

If nothing else, let A Patriot’s Day reveal that PTSD is a real, life-altering, and heartbreaking reality. But PTSD is NOT outside the scope of God’s redemptive work. Many ministries are stepping into this area of deep need to bring the hope and light of Christ into the heartache. As part of the body of Christ, you, too, have a role to play … and God has already equipped you (2 Timothy 3:17). The truth with which A Patriot’s Day concludes is the Christian hope: “God always will finish the work He has started.” Here are some tangible ways you can help those who have endured trauma.

Be a safe place for someone to share. It is very difficult for people to speak of their traumas, and it is absolutely sacred ground to hear their stories. It is said that being heard is the first step in being healed. Weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) but rely on the Holy Spirit to help you exercise self-control over your own emotions. Point to the Hope we have in Jesus—to the truth that the ever-present God was and is still on the job.

Before you try to share hope, be sure you have filled your own heart with it. Reflect on your own times of brokenness and what you needed at that time. Ask permission to share the hope that has held you in hard times. But don’t just rely on your experience—invest time in studying how Scripture handles suffering. There are some brutal life stories in the Word that certainly produced what we now call PTSD. They are not there by mistake. God knows that His ways boggle our minds sometimes, but He always has a plan—a good plan—and He is always working that plan.

Consider David. He was a combat veteran, and his life was in danger many times. Psalm 6 shares David’s honest sharing about his own sleepless nights, tears, and helplessness. But God. Those are powerful words to settle on: BUT GOD.

Consider Joseph. Abandoned, lied about, forgotten. Yet, he kept his eyes on the most high God and came through his crises saying, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good … to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:20).”

Or spend time with Jeremiah, the weeping prophet … or Saul who becomes the Apostle Paul. Consider the trauma of those who loved Jesus and watched the crucifixion. And never forget the powerful words uttered by Jacob as he fled for his life, “Surely the LORD is in this place and I did not know it (Genesis 28:16).

Perhaps the most important action you can take is to welcome the hurting into the community that nurtures you—and don’t forget the family members of those with PTSD are hurting, too. One of the things most veterans speak of is their loss of camaraderie when they return to civilian life. The bonding soldiers experience testifies to the truth that God made us for one another. There are times in every life when we need friends who can believe and have hope when we cannot. Healing happens as hearts unite.

Friendship is an underestimated power, but if you remember that the healing, loving Spirit of God dwells within, you glimpse a new possibility. Listen, learn, and love—from God and from others. Research the many programs now being offered to PTSD sufferers. From equine therapy to week-long healing retreats, there is help. Study the Word. Strengthen your connection to the source of love, hope, and healing—and pour it out on this hurting world.