Review by Marc Leepson, Arts Editor and Senior Writer
What could be more jarring emotionally than a wife sending her husband off to a war? For many wives of military service members, the answer is living with a veteran who has come home after experiencing the horror of war. Think long-term post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, alcohol and drug addiction, and the all-encompassing malady, moral injury.
Betty and Ken Rodgers’ brilliant new documentary, I Married the War, illuminates the lives of eleven military wives whose lives were (and some cases continue to be) consumed by dealing with their husbands’ emotional and physical wounds of war. The men saw combat in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The women—sometimes known as military caregivers—relate varying degrees of harrowing stories about years (and sometimes decades) of dealing with their husbands’ mental and physical afflictions.
Betty and former Marine Ken Rodgers coproduced the stirring documentary Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, which looks at the Vietnam War Siege of Khe Sanh through the eyes of fifteen men who served there and survived to tell their tales. Betty and Ken Rodgers co-wrote, produced, and directed I Married the War, which includes testimony from three Vietnam War veterans’ wives: Francine Jones, Terri Topmiller, and Sally Zepeda.
Most of this top-quality production consists of interviews with the wives in their homes, intercut with vintage photographs of happy pre-war days and shots of the men in uniform and in their wars. After coming home the men experienced recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and abusive self-medicating, which also emotionally scarred their wives and children. As Terri Topmiller says of her late husband Bob, “he never found peace.”
The women—several of whom are military veterans themselves—articulately describe moments of deep personal pain, sometimes tearfully. There is much heartbreak here, but there also are uplifting stories of couples who have overcome the worst effects of post-combat trauma.
I Married the War is must viewing for military wives and their war-veteran husbands.
The documentary is now on the film festival circuit. For more info, go to imarriedthewar.com
—March 13, 2021