Filmmaker Stephen Canty was deployed to Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010 with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, along with SAW gunner Xavier Zell and the rest of Charlie Company.
Operation Moshtarak saw 15,000 troops fighting to keep the Taliban out of southern Afghanistan, Military.com reports. It was the largest battle in the war the men had ever seen, and Charlie Company took some serious hits.
Canty kept in touch with the members of his unit for years after the battle. He heard their stories about living through the traumatic experience, and rebuilding a life after leaving the Marines.
One of Canty’s fellow Marines took his own life a few years after being discharged. The filmmaker spoke to that Marine’s mother.
These interviews, along with footage and photos from Charlie Company’s deployment are featured in the documentary short “Once a Marine,” which debuted on Amazon Prime on Veterans Day 2020.
According to Canty on the film’s Indiegogo page, “‘Once a Marine’ is a documentary about coming home from war from the perspective of the Marine infantrymen that fought on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan.
“After getting out of the military, many veterans struggle with depression, loss of purpose, and suicidal ideation. The effects of PTSD have been well publicized, but for the men with the diagnosis, the symptoms they suffer are part of a much larger experience that changed them forever, both for good and for bad,” Canty writes. “No matter how successful combat veterans end up “transitioning” back to the civilian world, war was the most formative and, to date, most significant part of their lives.
“‘Once a Marine’ tells the story of adjusting to civilian life after war.”
Canty told Military.com that he started the documentary project about six months after returning home from Afghanistan. He was struggling to find purpose in his new life as a civilian once more. As he spoke to his brothers in arms from Charlie Company, he learned they were facing the same struggles.
“All you have to do is not die over there,” says Darren Doss, a Marine veteran of Charlie Company, who overcame a heroin addiction after coming home from the war. “You don’t have to pay bills. You don’t have to go to work, go to school. You don’t have to ****ing do homework. I think that’s part of the problem. Not being able to deal with life on life’s terms.”
“Once a Marine” became something the veterans could funnel their energy into. Telling the stories of veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder helped the filmmakers confront their own demons.
Because the interviews were kept between veterans themselves, the conversations show a little more color than you might often see in a big budget war film.
Like the actual photos and video from Charlie company’s deployment, the dialogue is honest, brutal, and heartfelt.
See the trailer for this documentary in the video below.Whizzco