Dr. Richard Swier Sr. writes:
The discussion on Tuesday was something that should never have happened. I was approached as the President of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission to lend support to the movie. I made the inexcusable mistake of not seeing the movie first. Had I seen it I would not have agreed to have anyone there.
Unlike the movie’s producer and director, I am qualified to speak on veterans issues. For ten years I have been the President of the Sarasota County Veterans Commission, which represents over 50 veterans and patriotic organizations in Sarasota County.
I was lied to and used to promote a film that sends a message clear and unequivocal message that veterans and those that care for them are failures, incompetent and dysfunctional. This cannot stand.
I invite you to go with me to the poly-trauma center in St. Petersburg and talk to real wounded warriors and real VA staffers.
Finally, I will do everything I can to see this movie is not supported by the veterans community anytime or anywhere.
Ashton Goggans responds:
Again it seems you are unable to simply speak for yourself and let others speak for themselves. Alas, the Tuesday discussion did happen and veterans did see it. And those veterans were moved by it. It resonated. It struck a nerve. It meant something to them.
You are giving yourself much credit when you say you were “used to promote the film.” You were asked to participate in a discussion of the film. And, I might add, you failed to do so—instead of discussing civilly the film’s content, you made a scene, you insulted people and you left. You were disrespectful to the veterans in the audience who spoke against you. You again are posturing as a spokesperson for all veterans when in fact veterans can speak for themselves.
Again you claim that no one save for those that have served have a right to say anything about the treatment of those who have, or about the emotional, psychological and spiritual toll the war may have on our young soldiers. In this belief you are wrong. People who have not served are the ones that have the say when it comes to sending those men to battle. People who have not served control their fates. What is to discredit those who have not served from advocating for soldier’s rights? What is to discredit them from speaking out against gross neglect?
You have failed once again to recognize that Happy New Year does not attempt nor claim to represent the experience of all veterans. It is a film about ten or so damaged veterans struggling to deal with their pasts and learning to live as civilians, as citizens, as people.
We can argue statistics, we can offer personal testimonies, we can go in circles. Of the friends of mine that served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can give you several examples of drug addiction, violent behavior, suicide. They left boys and came back shells of young men, haunted by a war they knew very little about.
To ignore the reality of PTSD, brain trauma, suicide, depression, etc. in our brave troops is to do them a terrible disservice. I do not doubt your loyalty, nor your convictions. I just think you’re wrong.
I for one will encourage veterans to go see the film, to write to Mr. Manning or Mr. Cuomo and offer their insights into the film’s content. If the film is truly not representative of veterans’ experience then all the better for you, Dr. Swier, for them to have seen the film and denounced it. But censoring, blacklisting, dissuading people to see the film only serves to strengthen the argument against you.
Sincerely and respectfully,