Nat Geo’s ‘The Long Road Home’ a Timely Wake-Up Call?

As our nation struggles with a rash of deadly violence on its own soil perhaps it’s more important than ever to learn from others whose lives have been brutally disrupted by the horrors of war.

For the most part, Americans have been living in a comfort zone, not having to witness war-like atrocities from within as many nations have experienced not only recently but now. Yes, 9/11 did happen in the U.S. but many do not recognize that it was an act of war regardless that it occurred in an unconventional way.

Together LA Sarah Wayne Callies Michael Kelly

Sarah Wayne Callies (L) portrays LeAnn Volesky with Michael Kelly (C) Lt. Col. Gary Volesky and ALex Volesky-Brayden Barone Fort Hood, Killeen, TX – on set of The Long Road Home at U.S. Military post, Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

It is because of the fact that National Geographic’s miniseries “The Long Road Home” offers such a captivating glimpse into the complexities of how military personnel, families, and civilians in a war zone cope with war’s atrocities — especially in matters of seeking answers to life and death — that I recommend viewing the series that begins Tuesday (11/7) at 9 pm ET.

Although this slot in the Hollywood Faith section of TogetherLA.net is usually meant for discussion of more overtly Christian-based subject matter I thought it appropriate to talk about the eight-part series.

“The Long Road Home” (Parts One and Two previewed) gives a mostly light touch on matters of faith and leans on the side of inclusiveness rather than trying to address the differences in religions or define personal relationships with Jesus. Perhaps that’s not necessary in this case.

However, as the saying goes, “There are no atheists in fox holes,” and there is no one left unfazed by war in profound ways — including coming to the end of one’s life.

Together LA Martha Raddatz on set of The Long Road HomeABC News’s Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz, who is the author of the book upon which the miniseries is based, shared recently prior to the Los Angeles premiere of the series, that she felt strongly compelled to give an account of “Black Sunday.” In her book, and in the series as well, she tells the story of “that horrific day through the eyes of the courageous American men and women who lived it.”

“As soon as I heard their stories and as soon as I saw soldiers cry I knew this was a remarkable story,” Raddatz told. “When they said, ‘You think it is bad for us, you should go and talk to our families,’ that’s when (telling the story) became a big powerful, emotional part of my life.”

The First Cavalry Division came under surprise attack in Sadr City on Sunday (Palm Sunday), April 4, 2004. As explained on the book’s back cover, “More than seven thousand miles away, their families awaited the news for 48 hellish hours — expecting the worst.”

In the miniseries, we see the patrol commanded by Lt. Shane Aguero (E.J. Bonilla) make its way through the streets of Sadr City, Iraq — a Shia neighborhood of Baghdad — when ambushed by Mahdi Army militiamen. In the ensuing battle (Black Sunday) U.S. forces under the command of Lt. Col. Gary Volesky (Michael Kelly) — including Capt. Troy Denomy (Jason Ritter) of Charlie Company — go in to rescue them. Meanwhile, back home at Fort Hood, Texas, their wives, Leann Volesky (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Gina Denomy (Kate Bosworth), hear rumors of an engagement in Sadr City.

In the collaboration of making the miniseries several of the actors were paired on the set with the people who lived Black Sunday in Iraq and at home. In talking to the actors, it was clear that the project was a moving experience that included the full realization that another big part of military action is what takes place within the family at home.

For those actors and others involved in the making of the “The Long Road Home” the experience became an awakening to the realities of war and U.S. military involvement in terms of family, relationships, and questions about eternal truth in the face of death — perhaps viewers will awaken to the same.

TLA Jeremy Sisto portrays Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger on set of The Long Road Home

Jeremy Sisto portrays Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger on set of The Long Road Home at U.S. Military post, Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin) Ep1

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