HBO's Wartorn

The actor James Gandolfini (above), best known for his portrayal of Tony Soprano on the acclaimed HBO series, has been a strong supporter of America’s veterans. With little fanfare, Gandolfini has for years made regular visits to the troops at home and abroad, including those recovering from their wounds. His latest altruistic contribution to the nation’s veterans is the searing HBO Documentary, Wartorn: 1861-2010 .

The film, which will be shown on HBO on Veterans Day, November 11, takes a personal look at post-traumatic stress disorder on American veterans of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, and the current  wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gandolfini , the doc’s executive producer, also appears on screen, asking questions of military PTSD experts,  talking to a group of World War II veterans, and sitting down with Gen. Ray Odierno, who commanded U.S. troops in Iraq. 

The film includes often-painful interviews with veterans from the most recent American wars , as well as their family members. There also is a powerful interview with Vietnam veteran Akinsanya Kambon, who served as a twenty-year-old Marine combat artist during the war, and whose life and work has been shaped by his war-time experiences.

The filmmakers do not shy from showing war at its worst, offering many images of dead, dying and severerly wounded American troops. It often is not a pretty picture.

The points that film makes only too well is that PTSD is nothing new, that it hits veterans of all wars, including “good” ones, such as World War II, and that the military is trying to address the issue today–with mixed results.

“Nobody is really unscathed, ” notes Col. John Bradley, Walter Reed’s chief of psychiatry.

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