One of the films to be screened Feb. 17 at the sixth annual Beaufort International Film Festival addresses an issue that is especially important to Beaufort, which is home to three military installations and many Marines and sailors.
"Happy New Year" is the story of "a wartorn Marine who returns home to face his fiercest battle yet -- the one against himself," according to Lorrel Manning, writer and director of the film. The film is an intimate look at post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD is an epidemic, said former Parris Island U.S. Marine Corps Drill Instructor Joseph Harrell. Harrell of New Jersey, is the military adviser for the film, in which he also plays the part of Joe Wallace, whose wife served in the same platoon as Cole Lewis, the film's main character.
Harrell served in the Marines from 1999 to 2008. He is the founder of Student Veterans Organization at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. He recently starred in the play "Re-Entry," a piece about the difficulties faced by military veterans making the transition from the battle front to the home front.
Rising suicides among service members -- as well as survivor's guilt -- are addressed in the movie, which was played for the veterans at the Independence Fund's Lt. Dan Weekend 2 this past fall in Beaufort. While so many in the military are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, the disorder is not limited to those who go to war.
"I've suffered from PTSD my whole life as result of childhood traumas," Harrell said. "I didn't even know PTSD existed until I was in the Marine Corps. I thought it was just a combat-related issue. ... Others who suffer from PTSD can include rape victims, child abuse victims."
Harrell, who has studied psychology, believes it's important for those with PTSD to find a way to purge the build-up of nervous energy caused by the disorder.
"When you are in a traumatic incident, you force it to go away and, in the process, you trap that energy," he said. Victims go from fight to flight or freeze. That energy needs to be addressed through therapy or exercise or it can create anger, anxiety and fear, he said.
"I believe everyone suffers from some form of these traumatic stresses," he said. "One key for me was being able to find forgiveness in myself."
Harrell said the movie allows people who don't know anything about the military to see what they go through. "It is hard-hitting and heavy as hell, but it is a story that has to be seen because we are coming out of these wars and back to society."
He said civilians who watch the film can learn what to do other than just thanking vets.
"Be a friend; be patient; be understanding; give them forgiveness constantly," Harrell said.
Harrell is part of a panel that will discuss the film after the screening. Other panelists are: