War On Film: First Blood

Not so much a war film as it is a piece about the after effects, First Blood still resonates today.

"Are you the bastard that
stole my sandwich?"
It’s been 32 years since First Blood was initially released in theaters in 1982 and in many ways themes from the first installment of the Rambo series still resonates even more strongly today than they did a generation ago. Unless you’ve been living under a rock all these years you’ve probably seen at least one of the Rambo movies, but First Blood is a far superior film to any of its sequels. 

Based on the 1972 novel of the same name by David Morrell and adapted for the screen by Sylvester Stallone, First Blood is the story of Vietnam Green Beret and POW John Rambo who finds himself adrift once back home, trying hard to fit back in to a society that has little empathy for the trauma he endured while serving his country. Things go from bad to really, really bad when a small town sheriff pushes Rambo over the line and all hell breaks loose.

When the film was made in 1982 there was a clear effort to bring attention to how many Americans viewed and treated Vietnam veterans. Both of my uncles served in Vietnam and many of my parents friends did as well, I recall hearing stories as a kid about veterans returning home only to be literally spit on and called ‘baby killers’ by people who were bitterly opposed to the war. At that time so many people directed their rage at the men and women who had to fight for their lives in that jungle, most of which were drafted and had no choice in the matter.  Thankfully today attitudes have changed and even if people oppose our government’s actions they are able to separate their feelings from the soldiers and the government that sent them to war zones.

"Screw your helmet laws, pig!!!"
The thing that really resonates about First Blood today is the effects of PTSD on so many returning veterans. There is a serious problem with how the VA is handling PTSD. Hundreds of servicemen and women are committing suicide every year. With a small amount of research on the topic you will find countless cases of veterans being badly over medicated with anti-depressants and painkillers instead of receiving the necessary counseling they really need.

The HBO show Vice recently aired a segment called No Man Left Behind which explores this topic in much better detail than I can do justice here. It was deeply saddening to see profiles of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are now struggling so badly to fit back in to society. One such man is Army combat veteran Jarek Camac who has turned to heroin and crack to escape the storm that now rages in his mind. Jarek was quoted as saying, “I’m PTSD – paid till suicide or death.”

I apologize if this article turned a little preachy but while it’s wonderful to fly your flag and post on Facebook how much you love America and the troops, try to remember the guys like Jarek Carmac out there who are still badly in need of help. 

And never forget John Rambo, misunderstood bad ass with a survival knife and explosive arrows.

-Brian Rohe