PORTLAND -- Can a single day change your life forever? It did for one local veteran.
The day was November 22, 2004. Likely uneventful for most of us, but unforgettable for a few.
It was the second battle of Fallujah in Iraq, and Marine Garrett Anderson was right in the middle of it. He was just a kid out of high school when he fought with the First Battalion Third Marines that day in Iraq.
The attack to gain control of the city involved thousands of troops.
“I don’t think anybody really realizes what kind of scale was going on there,” said Garrett.
It was not just big, it was also bloody. The U.S. military called it some of the heaviest urban combat since Vietnam.
Fifty percent of Garrett’s unit was killed or wounded. He made it out alive, but the damage was done mentally. Garrett couldn't move on. He tried to hang himself.
“I understood that there was baggage that was going to be carried back from war,” Anderson recalled. “I just didn’t know that it would affect me so deeply.”
After two hospital stints for post-traumatic stress disorder, Garrett is doing much better. But he always wondered about the other guys he fought with: Did that battle also define their lives?
Garrett asked 12 of his closest war buddies to answer that question - in a film. He is still raising money for his documentary but his focus is clear.
“I want to know why the two guys in Connecticut are doing okay,” he said, “while one guy is in prison and I’ve got my story.”
It’s a story Garrett hopes will help other veterans realize they are not alone. “These young people are being asked to do terrible things and to witness terrible things, and stuff like that can’t be erased.”
It’s also a story Garrett hopes will help the rest of us understand what these veterans are facing. “I’d like civilians to see it and say, ‘Okay, that’s what these guys are going through. How can we support them?’”
The documentary is titled “And Then They Came Home.”
If you’d like to donate money or just watch a trailer about the project you can check it out at And Then They Came Home.