FORT MOORE, Ga. (WRBL) — After leaving a war, the battle is far from over. “Lonesome Soldier,” which premiered on Nov. 1 at Fort Moore’s Lucas Cinemas, tells the story of an Iraq veteran who returns home from deployment only to face a new battle, PTSD.
The movie is the first feature-length film from independent studio Military Movies Film Production Company. It tells the story of discharged soldier Jackson Harlow and his loved ones as the soldier struggles with the toll war has taken on his mental health.
“If the film saves just one life, it would – it would be successful,” said Alexander Randazzo, a writer, producer and actor in the film. Randazzo plays the role of Harlow.
Last week, Randazzo found out a close friend of his had taken her life following a battle with PTSD. The actor said, “Now, the mission of the film is to save and reach and impact as many people as possible.”
Roughly 40 active-duty soldiers, veterans and their spouses attended the premiere of the movie, which is based on a true story, first told by author Linda Lee in her 2016 book “The Lonesome Soldier: The Long Road Home.”
It was an intimate event, where guests were able to enjoy a reception with food and drink, followed by a screening of the movie and a Q&A session with the actors. Overall, marketing manager Kimberly Kapacziewski said, response to the premiere of “Lonesome Soldier” was exceedingly positive.
“We received feedback that this is a story that needs to be told,” said Kapacziewski, recalling one woman exited the theater and immediately told producers it was “amazing.”
According to Military Movies Co-founder Christopher Pappas, the goal of the company is to tell stories which authentically show the experiences of military members.
Should “Lonesome Soldier” become a success, the studio hopes to tell more military stories. In the works are screen plays called, “The Devil’s Chaplain” about a World War II chaplain, “A Night with Saddam” based on 2009 book of the same name and “War Woman,” which tells the real story of Tiffany Smiley, the wife of Scotty Smiley, the only blind active-duty officer in the U.S. Army.
Production for “Lonesome Soldier” had a budget of $900,000, backed by investors associated with the United States Military Academy West Point. Pappas hopes the release of the film will help secure funding and investors for future projects focused on authentically showing the experiences of soldiers and military families.
“Their story when they go home has not been portrayed enough … this is one that definitely shines a light on, you know, the battle at the home front,” said actor Dion Earl, who plays the role of Pvt. Richard “Ritchie” Douglas in the movie and whose grandfathers served in the Air Force and Army, respectively.
Actor Patrick Malone, Sgt. Winnfield in the movie, continued, “For me, it’s not just about the person, actually, it’s about the family and how they’re affected once [a soldier] gets back.”
The material presented in “Lonesome Soldier” also shows the role that Harlow’s mother, played by actress Allison McAtee, has in his healing as he struggles with the effects of PTSD. She wants family members and loved ones of those with PTSD to see their experiences reflected in the portrayal of her character.
“PTSD affects the person and also all of the members around them in their community and in their family,” said McAtee. She continued, “I would hope that they would see something in this that would allow them to not feel alone in their experience.”
According to the National Center for PTSD, seven out of every 100 veterans will have PTSD. This is slightly higher than the rate of occurrence in the total U.S. population, of which 6% will have PTSD at some point.
On Nov. 3, “Lonesome Soldier” will hit over 100 theaters nationwide. It will also expand to additional theaters on Veterans Day. In 2024, the movie will make its way to streaming platforms across Super Bowl weekend.
According to a 2021 study, 0.6% of suicides in men and 3.5% of suicides and women stem from PTSD.
If you or a loved one is in a crisis situation or struggling with PTSD and/or thoughts of suicide, call or text 988. The national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 in English and Spanish.