Lonesome Soldier: A Veterans Struggle With PTSD

By: Ruben Borjas Jr, Reporter, Montgomery County News
| Published 11/19/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- This review contains spoilers. Battle-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a real thing, and the new film, ’Lonesome Soldier,’ tackles the very subject, and how soldiers in combat zones process the intensity and chaos of battle; and how those experiences manifest themselves into PTSD once soldiers return home. The film follows the story of a real-life National Guard soldier, Jackson Harlow, a young man from Tennessee, who joins the military in the early 2000s thinking he would never be ‘Boots on the Ground’ in a combat zone.

Lonesome Soldier provides a first person account about the stressors of combat in Iraq, and the devastating reality and consequences of untreated PTSD. Nino Aldi directed the film, and his presentation is a no-holds barred account of what soldiers go through in high-stress combat positions. Alexander Randazzo, who portrayed Jackson Harlow, researched his role to perfection, and plays a convincing part, not only as a soldier in combat, but as a Veteran suffering from a debilitating mental disorder as a civilian; that plays out over a number of years as a result of his combat service.

Harlow’s account starts out seemingly innocent enough, working for his Korean War Vet Grandfather Macroberts (John Aston), at an auto repair shop in his hometown, but his real aspirations lie in the music industry with his iffy friends, Lawler (Jesse James) and Bobby (Michael Southworth). When the music avenue dries up, Jackson, in a search for another source of income, and at the urging of his Grandfather; he joins the Army National Guard. When his well meaning mother Teresa (Allison McAtee) finds out, she vehemently disapproves of her son wearing the uniform. Lawler and Bobby, still hopeful of a music tour, are disappointed in Jackson’s decision.

Jackson’s girlfriend Christy (Lean Grosjean), whom he marries, is assured by Harlow that his military service will not include hazardous duty in Iraq. Jackson leaves for Basic Training, and befriends Ritchie, a Black soldier, and the son of a disabled, Operation Desert Storm Veteran. During Basic Training, the two become best friends, and camaraderie builds between them and other members of the platoon. Patrick Y. Malone, portrays Drill Sergeant Winnfield in the film, and plays a very convincing military man, despite having never served in the military. The same can be said of Randazzo as well.

Upon Jackson’s return from Army training, he resumes married life, and discovers he is to become a father. He finds out soon enough that his National Guard unit is slated for a tour of duty in Iraq, due to regulation changes. And as he says goodbye to his wife and newborn, his nervous mother is nearby. Harlow is unsure of his future, but he at least has his friend Ritchie, and they endure the stress of combat together on missions, and despite some hiccups in combat, they endure. The film rightfully touches on wives, and the stresses they endure when their husbands are off fighting. And in Christy’s case, she goes off the deep end with drugs supplied by Jackson’s friend Lawler. When Jackson returns home, with Ritchie mysteriously out of the picture, Jackson finds Christy incapable of being a proper mother. The two separate as Harlow begins to experience the first signs of PTSD, with the simple viewing of a fireworks display, which pressed home simulated conditions of combat causing great mental anguish to Harlow’s psyche.

Now having to raise his daughter by himself, Jackson returns to work, and soon after we find out what happened to Ritchie. Harlow and Macroberts visit Ritchie’s father, and it is clear that his friend didn’t return from Iraq alive. Harlow’s life continues to disintegrate with alcohol use. He then finds a girlfriend, Marissa (Flavia Watson), who after a PTSD incident at a bar, supplies him with pills to counter its effects.

During the relationship with Marissa, Jackson’s untreated PTSD worsens with realistic dreams that awaken him with night terrors, as well as outbursts against inanimate objects. His relationship with Marissa also tanks, as she rekindles her relationship with Lawler. Jackson comes to find out that Lawler has supplied his wife Christy with drugs. He tries to take matters into his own hands, but is beaten senseless. Down and out, Jackson attempts to end his life several times. Harlow’s mother Teresa, makes every attempt to save her son’s life, despite the tepid support of her partner John (Steve Monroe). Jackson does eventually make it into Veterans Administration care, and it’s his saving grace, not only for him, but for his family as well.

For Soldiers and Veterans, especially those who have seen combat. In viewing the film, don’t look at unit patches, or authentic training or combat locations. This is an independent film, and budgets are limited. Instead, concentrate on the story of Jackson Harlow himself, and compare it to your own experiences. You will be surprised by how many boxes it checks. And by all means, if your PTSD is untreated, please get some help.

The main theme associated with Lonesome Soldier has to be forgiveness. Soldiers, not only in 21st Century wars, but from conflicts past, have experienced the loss of good friends in combat, and have blamed themselves. And not to mention exposure to the chaos of battle, causing PTSD amongst themselves even before the condition was ever realized. It takes guts to talk about war experiences, and many former soldiers, who with their stoic selves, they internalize their pain, causing massive havoc and upheaval in their lives. In Lonesome Soldier, Sergeant Winnfield, and Jackson’s mother Teresa, play important support roles, and they are the reason for Harlow’s overall survival, and overcoming PTSD.

Lonesome Soldier is a film presented in a way to educate the public about PTSD, and provide people, as well as Soldiers and Veterans themselves, with information should they be exposed to the condition. The actors and director make their case. Alexander Randazzo, brings Jackson Harlow’s story to life, in this well-shot and scripted film. And the supporting cast, a collection of great actors, completes the story of war, guilt, anguish, betrayal, self doubt, forgiveness and recovery.

National Home for PTSD.

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