My Son Went to War

My son went to war... and the weapon he carried was a camera.

Carlos Boettcher in Afghanistan- The Hornet's Nest Carlos, the oldest of my five children, was armed only with his video camera while in northeastern Afghanistan as a journalist embedded with U.S. troops. He witnessed the deadly horrors of battle while under fire in one of the country’s most dangerous and hostile valleys.

I know I'm lucky. He came home.

His riveting documentary of his experience, The Hornet’s Nest, offers a soldier’s-eye view of what it’s really like to wonder, from second to second, if you’re going to die in a remote part of the world far away from those you love. This is not a movie script, this is the real deal with heart-breaking consequences.Carlos Boettcher in Afghanistan- The Hornet's Nest                       

When my son announced he was going to Afghanistan with his father (my former husband), I knew I couldn’t stop him. I was his age when I left a comfortable job as a CNN producer in Washington, D.C. to cover the wars in Central America in the 1980s. I guess, in a sense, Carlos joined the family business.

Knowing that my son shot the movie’s captivating shaky-cam video while bullets whistled over his head is gut wrenching. I watched the film with him sittiing beside me. Some of the families of the soldiers featured in the movie will never be able to do this.

The movie is not all bang-bang. There’s a beautiful scene with members of an all-female Medevac team, who risk their lives helping extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield. The story of these women alone is incredibly compelling.

But the movie never lets you forget you are in the middle of hell.

What is it about people who run head-on into dangerous places like war zones? Believers in a cause? Adrenaline junkies? Journalists? Fools? I’m not just talking about people like my son (and me, if I’m honest). There are plenty of soldiers you hear from in the movie who return to Afghanistan again and again... some of whom die doing what they love, leaving sorrow in their wake.

Am emotional memorial service for six fallen soldiers is, perhaps, the toughest part of the movie. Their surviving colleagues decorate makeshift altars with the only things they can offer... a can of Coca-Cola, a personal name-patch ripped from their uniform, a photograph. A tribute to a friendship forever lost.

The Obama administration announced last week that U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, will be completely ended no later than 2016. This haunting movie doesn’t offer any judgment about the war or America's role in it. Only the ugly reality of battle in real time.

Like I said... I was lucky. My son came home. This time.

For information about where the movie, The Hornet’s Nest, is showing in your area, click here.

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