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An outdoor wedding photo of Jeff Kaylor in a tuxedo, white shirt, bowtie and black cowboy hat, sitting with his bride, Jenna, who wears a sleeveless white bridal dress and veil; both are smiling happily

In a room of the White House, President George W Bush and wife Laura stand surrounded by the Kaylor family, in this formal posed photo

Jeff Kaylor and two other soldiers stand in front of a jeep wearing desert camouflage uniforms and gear, the center soldier holds his helmet in his hand

“If I had to lose him under some circumstances, these are probably the best circumstances… defending his country…”
—Mike Kaylor

“This is hard for us to lose a son in a war that isn’t just…”
—Roxanne Kaylor

A FAMILY AT WAR chronicles one family's struggle to deal with their son's death in Iraq and the continuing political fallout from the war. Viewers get to know the young man who died, Jeff Kaylor, through old home movies and the remembrances of his mother, Roxanne, his father, Mike, and his widow and fellow soldier, Jenna Cosby Kaylor. Although they all share a devastating sense of loss, the war rages at the kitchen table because they each feel differently about the conflict that claimed Jeff's life.

This story begins in Clifton, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., in the home of the Kaylor family: parents Roxanne and Mike and their three children, Patricia, Jeff and Cindy. Son Jeff was educated in the cadet corps at Virginia Tech, where he met his future wife, Jenna. Both graduated as officers in August 2002. Hastened by the sudden buildup of the war against Iraq, Jenna and Jeff arranged a speedy wedding in July 2002. Shortly after their marriage, they were both sent to the Middle East. Jeff was killed on April 7, 2003, in an accident involving the disabling of an Iraqi missile battalion.

Roxanne and Mike Kaylor sitting on a couch, Mike’s hand resting on the back of the couch; he looks at her and she looks down

For Roxanne, the loss of her son leads to rage as she becomes more and more convinced that the war that claimed Jeff was unnecessary and unjust. In her grief, she tries desperately to understand the reasons the United States went into Iraq, constantly watching the news, reading articles and surfing websites. She bombards politicians with letters of criticism and hopes that the president will one day regret his war policies. When she meets the president at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, she tells him simply that, "a young, great person had died." A FAMILY AT WAR captures Roxanne's growing frustration and her increasing participation in organized resistance against the war with other grieving military families who share her views.

By contrast, Jeff's father, Mike, who has had a long career in the military, is proud of his son and believes in the mission. As he says, "If the United States doesn't do something, then we're going to continue to have the events that we have had in the past—the attacks in New York City and the attacks against the Pentagon. There is a direct link, and if you don't take some action to stop it where it starts, I don't know how to stop it." Although Jeff's death hurts him deeply, Mike makes it clear that he understands that death in war is the price some must pay for accepting life as a soldier.

Like her father-in-law, and as a member of the military, young widow Jenna accepts that her husband's sacrifice was for a greater cause. Over time, however, the thought of her unrealized life becomes unbearable, and she eventually decides to leave the military. “It’s disheartening to go to work and to put on that uniform every day,” she says, “to do my service and to work so hard and to not have anyone working for me… the widow side of me.”

A FAMILY AT WAR, a Danish production directed by Jørgen Flindt Pedersen, takes the audience on a gripping journey into the Kaylor family’s very private universe and puts a human face on the stories of loss and sacrifice playing out in communities from coast to coast. The film provides a valuable look at how hard it is for military families, regardless of their opinions on the war. As Mike concludes at the film's end, "I'm not too sure that the loss of a son is really worth anything, to tell you the truth. If I had to lose him under some circumstances, these are probably the best circumstances—defending his country, defending his friends in a combat situation in battle. But is it worth losing a son? No, it's not. I wouldn't give him up for anybody."

Get an update on the family. Read an interview with Roxanne Kaylor >>

Get background on the making of the film >>


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