In May 2003, Fox Company of Marine Reserve Unit 2/23 returned home from front-line combat in Iraq. Reserved To Fight follows four Marines of Fox Company for four years through their postwar minefield of social and psychological reintegration into civilian life. The return to their communities proves as formidable a battle as the more literal firefights of previous months. Living among loved ones who don't yet understand them and how they have changed, contending with a media focused on the politics rather than the human experience of war, and suffering from a psychological disorder that is difficult to acknowledge, these young veterans grapple to find purpose and healing.For each marine, their new status as a young veteran often leaves them without goals, camaraderie, or an immediate channel for the adrenaline that their combat-ready bodies still produce, even months later. Foremost, they lack a safe place internally to store the images, sounds and experiences collected from war. Civilian reality only serves to widen the painful gap that exists between them and the society in which they live, a gap which they feel so personally and painfully.
Taking anti-war media personally, Mark Patterson returns home ready to speak out against those who oppose the war. Unwilling to admit the war has affected him, his life becomes consumed with trying to convince his peers that his actions in Iraq were correct. Surprisingly, when his long-time girlfriend and emotional support breaks up with him, severe depression forces him to confront his past, drastically reshaping his future.
Matt Jemmett is immediately diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after his return home, but when traditional therapy doesn't work, he decides he needs isolation. He moves into his car and takes a job in a remote desert location working with at-risk youth.Raised in a strict religious society, Earl Simmons' abuse of alcohol to fight traumatic memories of the war leaves him unable to fulfill a two-year-long church mission. After returning to his community for a second time, shame and seclusion force him to face his demons.
Chris Nibley, returns home just wanting to be normal — to start a family and have a lot of kids. However, he finds himself depressed and soon realizes that he does not fit into this concept of "normal." As a result, he is left feeling isolated and without direction. Attempts to find happiness leaves him hopeless of ever finding his sense of purpose in America again. Chris decides to volunteer for a second tour in Iraq, knowing, and maybe hoping, he will die.
As the Marines' individual stories unfold, Reserved To Fight discusses the mental stress of war today as well as historically. Ray Howarth, a prisoner of war and purple-heart recipient of WWII, struggled for forty years with emotional stress, which would result in random bursts of rage. After finally deciding to visit a therapist, he found out that he was never deprogrammed from war. Terry Haskell, a Vietnam veteran, reflects on his experience. "I was lost for ten years, I think time finally healed me," shares Haskell. "I could forgive."
It is the stories of these veterans that make this film unique. Yet it is also universal because today thousands of men and women walk a similar tight rope hinged on confusion, loneliness, isolation, and despair. This film will help them realize they are not alone, while offering awareness both for the veterans and their communities.