Today, I’m handing over the blog to Elena Miliaresis, a fellow military spouse. Elena has just launched an independent military family documentary to highlight what happens on the home front during deployment. It is heartwrenching.Read more about the genesis of her project as well as what she learned along the way.
No matter what you think about the movie American Sniper, it has people talking bringing our Service Members and our Veterans into the foreground. And, some Veterans feel that the movie got it right, validating their experience. Our Service Members and Veterans should be acknowledged for their service and sacrifice.
And, so should their Families. I believe that Families should also be recognized, that our heroism deserves notice.
I didn’t always have this perspective. Before my (now) husband deployed to Iraq in 2004, I had no idea what it was like to have a loved one in a combat zone. The most I got from popular culture was a girl on a porch looking sadly at the sky.
When Brian left, each day felt like an eternity. I pretended to be strong, but as time wore on, my body started to betray me. My back went out. I became so tense that I couldn’t breathe without it hurting. I berated myself for being so weak. Here, Brian was at war, and I was falling apart. And, no one seemed to understand. Though Brian was active duty, he was with a Reserve unit. I was immersed in a civilian community for which the war was not an everyday reality. I felt isolated and alone.
A few weeks before Brian was due to return, I attended the Homecoming Briefing. There, I learned that my issues were normal under the circumstance. I was relieved and angry at the same time. So, I wasn’t the weak person I was painting myself to be, great. But, why didn’t I have this information SOONER! It would have helped.
And, how was it possible that I didn’t know about this experience in general? We have fought war for centuries. There are so many movies about war. Where was the perspective of the family? the spouse? the parent?
Joyously, Brian came home safely. And, we were blessed that he showed no signs of Post Traumatic Stress. I thought that this would be the end of it. That we would move on.
But, I still cried listening to the news – others were still over there. I couldn’t watch any war movies without sobbing. To me, it was all too real. And just like I had no idea what it was like to go to war, Brian had no idea what it was like to be home living in fear. Our experiences were, obviously, totally different.
I realized that I could help others.
About a year later, I read the book While They’re At War by Kristin Henderson. It was the first time someone was relaying what I had gone through. The walls of my fortress started to come down.
Also, I realized that I could help others. I was a news producer and a documentary filmmaker. I could get valuable information out, help families know that they weren’t alone, and bring to light the bravery it takes to be on the home front.
By showing what it was like to be a spouse at home ‘holding down the fort’, to be the parent afraid to answer the door when the bell rings a little too early in the morning, and how long it can take to heal, families would know what to expect. I believed knowledge is power, and that much of the trauma was both preventable and treatable.
In 2007, I used my life’s savings and began crafting my documentary. I called it While Time Stands Still because that is what it felt like while Brian was gone. My plan was to follow a couple of spouses, so I could capture their journey, and to talk to families of all branches in order to convey a full picture of the effects of wartime deployment.
I no longer felt crazy for holding off washing some dirty uniforms Brian had left.
Before their husbands deployed, I met two Maine Corps wives, Brandi and Denneny. We agreed that I would film them before, during and after the deployment. I, also, began interviewing people from around the country.
My goal in talking to the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, siblings, girlfriends was to help others by gathering insight. Yet, unexpectedly, I found myself healing. Relating our common experiences gave me a camaraderie I didn’t have before. In my soul, I knew what it meant when one mom talked about walking into the in her son’s closet just to smell him. I no longer felt crazy for holding off washing some dirty uniforms Brian had left. When you don’t know if you are going to see someone alive again, you cling to the artifacts they’ve left behind.
As filming continued, my understanding of the effects of deployment broadened. Before working on the documentary, I didn’t know that families experience Post Traumatic Stress. I didn’t know that if your partner deploys during your pregnancy you are more likely to suffer from Postpartum Depression. And, the scariest thing I didn’t know is that as the years have gone by, the rate of suicide in families is increasing. These facts have made my mission all the more urgent.
My hope was, also, that the movie would bring awareness to those who didn’t know anyone in the military, and spur them to action. Even before While Time Stands Still was finished, this already became the case. A community of volunteers, most of which had no military ties, helped bring the film to fruition solidifying my belief that people wanted to help, but didn’t know how.
The film is, finally, complete. While Time Stands Still celebrates Military Families as the heroes of our own story, shares the inspiring resilience of human spirit, and shows that even though war tears us apart, our love not only endures, but also becomes stronger.
Now, comes a new challenge: getting the word out the film exists…
Join me in this next chapter. Share your stories of love and courage on the film’s Facebook page. How did you make it through deployment? What did you learn about yourself? What did it take for you to heal? Where are you now? I believe it is vital that the world hears our stories. Do you?
Thank you for your service and sacrifice. You are a hero.
You can find out more about While Time Stands Still and buy the DVD at MilitaryFamilyDocumentary.com. You can also follow the movie on Facebook and contact Elena at [email protected]
Filmmaker and Spouse of an Iraq War Veteran, Elena Miliaresis directed, produced, and wrote the forthcoming nonpartisan documentary While Time Stands Still. An inspiring film about love, courage, and sacrifice, While Time Stands Still tells the gripping story of America’s Military Families during war.
Elena’s previous experience includes nearly fifteen years of directing and producing documentaries, news, reality, biographies, and sports programs for television. In addition, Elena was honored to help recognize Military Families by casting the Lifetime Television show Coming Home, which featured Homecoming reunions of Service Members and their Families. Her prior work includes a stint at E! Entertainment Television where she produced, wrote, and directed fourteen episodes of the Emmy nominated True Hollywood Story. Elena’s documentaries, “American Idol” and “Gymnasts: Little Girls, Big Dreams”, were two of the highest rated theme shows in the history of the series. Prior to E!, Elena was a producer at ABC Network News. She produced for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Good Morning America, Nightline, and World News Now, covering numerous national and world events, including September 11th.
Elena is currently creating media that inspires healing and positive change. For more information, visit MilitaryFamilyDocumentary.com.