"The dead only know one thing: It is better to be alive."
-Private Joker, Full Metal Jacket
" The horror...The horror"
- Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now
Memorial day is the day when we remember the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Services. This is not to be confused with Veterans Day which is the day we celebrate the men and women who have served in the armed forces. Here are some statistics from the last four largest conflicts in which the U.S. has been engaged.
World War II: 75 Million Dead
Korean War: 3.4 Million Dead
Vietnam War: 5.2 Million Dead
Iraq War: 662,651 Dead
These statistics include not only our troops and allies who died, but also the enemies they killed and the civilians killed by both sides during the wars. As actors, if given the chance to play one of these unfortunate souls, it is our job, our duty, to make them more than just a nameless, faceless statistic. Each one of these dead, whether ally or enemy, guilty or innocent, soldier or civilian, was a living, breathing human being. They were someone's son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister. They were just like us. They loved, they lost, they laughed, they cried. We owe it to these people to avoid portraying them as numbers, stock characters, cannon fodder, props in a propaganda machine or martyrs on maudlin display. They were human beings, men, women and children, and they didn't die, they were killed, brutally murdered.
Once, they were faceless numbers on the desk of decision makers in the halls of power, now they are nameless statistics in a history book. When given the task of portraying them, we must summon all our talent, skill and craft to creatively bring them to life in full, for their lives were much more than just their deaths. With our work we honor and remember them, soldier and civilian, friend and foe alike, as fellow human beings in all their complexity. The more humanity we can bring to our portrayals and their stories, the more we highlight the vicious inhumanity of war and the decision makers who wage it.