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THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

Director's Note
With the Army as his answer to a slew of college rejection letters, my older brother shipped off to the Middle East in 1991. Our family huddled around the TV watching dust-clouded news feeds of U.S. forces as they drove Saddam out of Kuwait. After a speedy victory, my brother came home with his arms and legs and sense of humor intact. He told us war was boring and hotter than hell, but another story seemed to vibrate behind his pale eyes. Ground combat lasted a mere 100 hours, but it had altered him. Like my uncle who fought in Vietnam, and my grandfather who flew in WWII, my brother would never talk about it. It became the unspoken space between us.

In 2013, I was introduced to "Thank You for Your Service" by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Finkel. The book seemed to explore all that my brother had left unsaid. It follows the Army's 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, home from Iraq, back to Topeka, Kansas-into what the author calls the "after-war." Exploring the trauma haunting our soldiers, the veteran suicide crisis and the bureaucratic nightmare otherwise known as the VA, the book was a sprawling, winding masterpiece. Still, it needed a narrative structure, a heartbeat and a hero if it were ever to become a film.

We found our hero in Adam Schumann. Like my brother, he came home changed. The war still echoed through his existence, fracturing his identity and uprooting his future. But in his struggle I found a tale of survival and hope. That was the story I hoped to tell anyway. At that time, I had just finished writing American Sniper and had watched Chris Kyle emerge from his own battles with PTSD only to be tragically murdered. Adam's story struck me as a way to continue the conversation, to transition from Achilles to Odysseus, and see a warrior home.

The men of the 2-16 didn't come back to book deals or popular acclaim-they were normal grunts hoping to return to normal lives. But for many of them that dream was gone. Finkel earned their trust by following them into battle; I endeavored to do the same. They carried me across their war, reliving every lacerating memory that still echoed inside them. In doing so they empowered me to paint a personal picture of their sacrifice, in hopes that it may lead to a deeper understanding of the unthinkable sacrifice that all our veterans have made in the service of this country. -Jason Hall

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