by Khalics Bryant
We all dream. Those of us blessed enough to be parents have dreams of what our children may one day grow to be. A doctor, a lawyer, a judge, we allow our minds to dream “bigger” for our offspring, wishing them a heighten level of success and wealth when compared to our own. We teach them, as they teach us, we prepare them for a world that’s unpredictable at best, never allow ourselves the all-to-real thought of this world without them.
A movie like “The Corporal’s Diary,” shown at the college during Armed Forces week, forces us to feel emotions and think of scenario we might otherwise block out or ignore.
Army Specialist Jonathan Santos was killed less than a month after his 22 birthday, 38 days after arriving in Al Karabilah, Iraq. Santos’s mother, Doris Kent, found among her sons’ belongings returned to her, a diary he kept during his tours in Haiti and Iraq. Along with the diary, Kent found five videotapes that captured Santos just prior to, and during his days in Iraq. These powerful images are complemented by the commentary of Santos’s younger brother Justin who reads directly from the diary.
Each diary entry read by Justin is started with the day Santos was on during his tour Iraq, such as the following:
“Day 17, September 24, 2004. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing this stuff down, hmmm. Vexing. Anyway. A few busses loaded with women and children were evacuated from a near-by city. So that says, that things will start poppin soon. Day 18, September 25, 2004…”
Effectively Justin was counting down to his big brothers’ death. It’s hard to imagine the emotions he was going through. At one point Justin is visibly shaken when he reads, “I don’t want to become just some picture on the wall for my younger brothers, I want to live.”
Pfc. Matthew Drake, 24, was a new addition to Santos’ unit. Less than two weeks later, the attack that took Santos’s life would cause Drake severe head trauma and other serious injuries. Of the four people in the Humvee, three soldiers and one translator, Drake was the only survivor.
Due to his injuries, Drake lost his short-term memory and had to relearn to talk and walk. Drake’s mother, Lisa Schuster along with her son, met with Kent for the first time during the filming of the documentary. The bond shared between these two mothers is obvious after a few seconds. It’s heart-breaking to see their pain, but inspiring to witness their courage.
In this documentary, we see Santos not only as a solder who died for this country, but also as son, a brother, and a young man who was taken much too soon. It puts a face on a statistic that is unacceptable: 4452 soldiers have died in Iraq to date. That’s more than 4,000 stories similar to this one, more than 4,000 dreams crushed, more than 4,000 mothers and fathers who now have nightmares instead of dreams. The question is… Why?