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A handful of Fort Benning Soldiers can be seen on the big screen locally with the release of the documentary Korengal.
Korengal is the follow-up to the 2010 film Restrepo, which was directed by journalists Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington, both of whom were embedded with 2nd Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan's Kunar Province from May 2007 to July 2008.
Restrepo was nominated for the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary, and Korengal was made using leftover footage from Restrepo. According to the filmmakers, the latest film is intended to take a closer look at the experience of war and the effects it has on the Soldiers who fight.
One Soldier featured in both documentaries, Sgt. 1st Class Josh McDonough, now a Ranger Assessment and Selection Program instructor with the 75th Ranger Regiment, echoed those sentiments.
"I think it's a story, but not just our story," said McDonough, who served as a squad leader. "It's every Soldier's. I think some people are trying to explain to their Family and friends and America as a whole what they're dealing with, and I think people should watch it to try and understand the experience and what these guys today are going through and what we went through. It kind of reflects a lot of others from this long war that we've been a part of - what it does to a person, how it changes a person."
Staff Sgt. Archie Lee Rollins, now a mortar instructor with 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 198th Infantry Brigade, served as a company mortar section leader in the Korengal Valley and appears in Korengal.
He said he is looking forward to having a film his friends and Family can watch to gain an appreciation for what war is like.
"I truly appreciate the fact that this movie was made," Rollins said. "There are a lot of questions that are always out there. I have children, and my son has asked me countless questions (about my service) ... He's at an age now where he can understand what my job was and what my responsibilities were, and he can actually see this movie and get a visualization of what we do."
Both Rollins and McDonough said being filmed during a deployment took some getting used to.
"It was a little different because subconsciously you don't want to say anything or do anything inappropriate," Rollins said. "But, normally, we just went along with our missions and ensured not only the safety of our Soldiers, but the safety of our guests as well so they could get an accurate picture of what they were reporting on and what the environment was actually like."
McDonough said the transition was eased because Junger and Hetherington stepped up to help out whenever possible.
"It was different at first because everybody was kind of standoffish and nobody really wanted to talk except for a few guys who kind of opened up to them," McDonough said. "But, they did a good job of becoming a part of us as best as they could."
Hetherington died in April 2011 while covering the Libyan Civil War, leaving Junger to complete Korengal on his own.
Rollins said he hopes Hetherington's work can be used to spread awareness among the American people in a time when war efforts are winding down.
"I want them to get an understanding of what it's really like," Rollins said. "A lot of times you'll get people, especially the younger generation, who truly don't understand what Soldiers do and what Soldiers go through. ... It's a very good piece of history, and I honestly think that everybody should see it. You definitely gain an appreciation for what all service members do and the sacrifices they make."
Korengal will be showing on post at the Wynnsong 10 and in Columbus at the Ritz 13. For show times, visit www.carmike.com or call the Wynnsong at 706-685-3151 or the Ritz 13 at 706-321-8286.