Today Americans will enjoy cookouts, BBQs, playing by the pool or lake, and welcoming in summer on this Memorial Day. But remember, it’s Memorial Day, a remembering day. We remember and express thanks for the millions of men and women who have served in the military and given their lives. It is especially a day for commemorating those who gave their lives in the service of America’s military. For many, like me, who have never served, much of that appreciation comes through stories. Here are 5 of the best depictions of military heroism, sacrifice, and service from the world of film. I know these do not do justice to reality, but they grease the skids for my civilian mind and heart to move toward understanding and thankfulness.
An amazing story of heroism in the face of impossible odds. It takes place during the Vietnam War and tells the story of the battle of Ira Dang. A battalion of 400 American soldiers faces thousands of Vietcong and is forced to fight for their lives with little support or hope of rescue. The things that stand out to me most are the picture of leadership and the commitment to their mission despite the seeming impossibility of success.
Set in a P.O.W. camp during WW2 in which the American prisoners were forced to build the Burmese railroad, this story is more one about the personal affect of war and torture on individual soldiers than it is about the war itself. The prisoners, both American and Scottish, must choose whether to respect their captors and do the work well (and thus have a chance to survive) or resist and sabotage the work (and face brutal treatment). It is a story of internal conflict, hatred, respect, and loving one’s enemies.
This is the story of the hunt for and assassination of Osama Bin Laden. While it centers on a CIA agent and her efforts to track Bin Laden down for years, the actual mission to kill him is the high point of the movie. To see the way special forces work in units, carry out a mission, and overcome significant obstacles (a helicopter crash) was amazing. It made me really glad they were on our side.
This one is cheating because it’s not really a movie, its a mini series. But it is unbelievably good. It follows Easy Company throughout their training and combat efforts in Europe in WW2 and shows their personal difficulties, loyalty to one another, remarkable bravery, commitment to their mission, and unparalleled leadership. When you watch this it is little wonder why that generation was called “the greatest generation.”
Leave no man behind. That’s the theme of this movie. It is not an easy one to watch both for its brutality and the loss of life. But it is an important movie because it reminds us that our military members do what it takes and get put in impossible spots. They are at the mercy of circumstance, failure, and evil yet still fight and serve.
What movies would you add to this list that made you appreciate the work of the military and our veterans?