During a memorial, the American flag is folded. Every fold is meant to symbolize a value: liberty, unity, justice, perseverance, hardiness, valor, purity, innocence, sacrifice, honor, independence and truth. Soldiers are told that these values are what they protect when they go to war. This film is the third continuation of Michael Tucker’s Iraq war films. How to Fold a Flag explains the story of multiple war veterans we saw in the first film, Gunner Palace. We now follow up on their lives after 5 years from their homecoming after their service at Iraq.
This film provides its own perspective about the Iraq war, and how it slowly started to diminish in the public interest. Tucker reminds us that the war is not over on the field; for veterans, war never stops. War becomes part of the live of multiple veterans and their families; things happen at war that you’ll never be able to forget, it’s an irreparable damage.
There’s some controversy whether the film takes side on a specific campaign (Jon Powers’) or not, but it’s a matter of perspective. The principal idea consists of the stories of those veterans we’re following, and the stories they tell with their own mouth. The film is an excellent way to explain the life of a veteran soldier, before, during, and after a war. During war, soldiers are all the same, with the same guns, and the same uniform. After feeling as pawns, and seeing things that change their lives forever, their humanity starts to fade. Every veteran has his own motive for going to war, and every veteran follows their own path after returning.
You would normally think that you assist war, you return, and then it’s all over. But the cruel reality is extremely different for those who live in constant combat and disturbing situations. They experience events that follow them, that stops them from sleeping, and that sometimes ends up demolishing them. After they return home from war, these memories follow them back home.
Our characters consist of Stuart Wilf, a local shop clerk living in Colorado who participates in a metal band. After war, important scars were marked on him, both physically and emotionally. No one knows where Stuart wants to end up.
Jon Powers, who gave additional service as a policeman, decided to raise a non-lucrative organization to aid Iraqi kids. He continued his life and launched his campaign for Congress without much trouble, but some memories still continue to haunt him.
Javorn Drummond, another of the soldiers we followed, attended college and began his studies. On the outside, everything seems fine about him; a warm personality, a moving smile and an impressive progress. However, the inside is a completely different thing.
Lastly, our most troubled soldier. Michael Goss went home and fell into a state of depression and constant anxiety. He started to fight professionally all around Texas. He carries with him on his clothes some of the names of his former army buddies whom he had lost back in Iraq, and in his mind he carries some very unpleasant memories. Michael is the one with most post-war issues.
During wars, it seems as if some people’s losses are extremely high when compared to others. During war, all of your feelings fade away. Luxury, envy, materialism, none of that matters; the only thing in your mind is your wish to stay alive. Once you return home, it seems as is war is over. However, for the veterans who were in Iraq, things are completely different. Their losses grow greater every time, and the level of gratitude from the community towards them diminishes over time, to the point where they are seen as plain veterans that just went to a mission and came back. Soldiers come home only to be received by injustice and under-appreciation.
Pain attacks every soldier differently. Stuart would probably blame everyone else for his fury and agony, and discharge his anger towards the community and the people who surround him. Other soldiers, such as Michael, would probably start blaming themselves instead. Many things go through the mind of Iraq veterans, things that are perfectly hidden on the outside, things that no one would normally notice when looking into their eyes.
The producers of these films showcase the impacting stories of these four veterans who left more than “something” on the combat ground. They show us how every soldier comes from a different path, with a different reason, and end up all together serving the same purpose, for the same country.
During the film Tucker introduces the story of a grieving father whose son, a solider deployed to Iraq, wasn’t able to make it back home. This is a reminder that there’s a bigger struggle than the one faced by the veterans who return home. A sad, cold truth, war doesn’t only affect soldiers; it expands all the way through their relatives, who suffer just as much as the soldier themselves. These emotional breakdowns and collateral damages let us really see what the true cost of war is.
Close to the end, the film tries to project a positive message. It tells us that for returning soldiers, there’s a prospective future ahead of them. For every measurable loss, there’s an immeasurable gain. Unfortunately, this isn’t true; war extends on veteran soldiers for years, decades, and even whole lives in some cases, and those who don’t make it back home.
How to Fold a Flag movie is an impacting reminder of how war deteriorates a country, a city, a live, and a family. These kinds of free movies show the audience the whole process behind war, and how it devastates everyone involved in it. They portray the real meaning of war, and put us on the feet of the veterans and their families for a few hours. We get to live a segment of the life from those who went to war, and whose grief lasts longer than just a couple of hours.