There are two movies I’ve watched recently, both war related, that have really spurred my thoughts about war. Actually, it was one movie and one mini-series.

Be Good, Smile Pretty was a gut-wrenching documentary about Tracy Droz, whose father was killed in Vietnam only a few weeks after she was born. Her father, whose name was Donald Droz, did get to see and hold his daughter for a brief period during a two-week respite from the Army, but that’s all. The documentary is largely focused on Tracy and her attempts to wrestle as many memories about her father out of the cobwebbed minds of people who knew him – friends, grandparents, her mother, his siblings and Droz’s fellow soldiers, most notably a very touching and moving scene involving John Kerry, who knew Droz and served closely with him. The power of war and its raw effects on the men & women who have experienced it were very much on display here – almost every person interviewed broke down in tears at one point or another, especially Droz’s wife and Tracy’s mother, who seemed to be horribly torn between trying to almost forget he existed and move on with her life (which she clearly hadn’t) and addressing her loss head-on. A terrific, moving, real life film.

Now, Band of Brothers, a ten-part HBO mini-series might be the definitive salute to the enormity and gravity of World War II. This is the true story of Easy Company and the 101st Airborne, a group of men who consistently were presented with the most dangerous elements of war, whether it was being horribly outmanned, badly led or trapped in horrendous conditions and emerging victorious due to sheer heart, intelligence, common sense and amazing leadership in Major Richard Winters, who is as compelling a character as I’ve seen portrayed in any film. I should mention that this is, by no means whatsoever, any kind of U.S. cheerleading effort. There are plenty of scenes where the actions of our soldiers are as reprehensible as you can imagine. This is simply a story of ordinary men, plucked from small towns all over the United States, who did extraordinary things in situations in which in believe would be unbearable mentally and physically for many of us today.

Band of Brothers succeeds on so many levels that it is astonishing. The mark of a well made movie or mini-series is when you feel like the actors are actually the people they are playing and this does that, and then some. My words here don’t do it a lick of justice. The series should be required watching for any history class of anyone even remotely interested in not just war, but monumental events in the history of our country. I am very much against war, personally, but watching these episodes has me in pursuit of the mailing address for Richard Winters, now 86 years old and living in peace since the war, which was one of his wishes. Band of Brothers has moved me enough to write him a letter and thank him for his efforts and the efforts of so many more faceless, nameless veterans who put their lives on the line. A truly moving experience.

Song now playing: Pavement – “Summer Babe”