No Greater Love explores a combat deployment through the eyes of an Army chaplain who carried a camera in Afghanistan, capturing the gritty reality of war as well as the bond that is made among troops. The film shows the experience of war, but more importantly, helps viewers understand the personal struggles of soldiers.
“Nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the fallen”
U.S. Army Chaplain Corp Mission Statement
No Greater Love…
Seeks to share an unbiased experience of war; enabling the audience to understand the depth of agony from the perspective of the soldier. At the Brooks Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Chaplain Roberts witnessed the immense physical and emotional struggle that veterans experience when they return home, which impacted him deeply. Even though the Chaplain carried with him the trauma of the burn unit, nothing could prepare him for what lay ahead. Two days after arriving at his new battalion, Justin encountered his first soldier suicide. He recalls the widow’s’ mourning, “It wasn’t just immense sadness, but was the purest form of despair that I’ve ever heard”. In the months to follow, the battalion would confront several more suicides. After receiving multiple suicidal ideation calls, Justin, with the help of his commanding officers, would form a program that came to be known as “Brother’s Keeper”.
The concept of Brother’s Keeper was simple, through conversations with each platoon, Justin would ask the soldiers to list out the types of problems they were dealing with and then formulate their own plan of action. As a result the program, suicidal ideations were reduced by seventy-five percent; even more importantly, suicides ceased to occur in the battalion. Opening the lines of communication and allowing the soldier to participate in the solution strengthened their sense of community. Overall, the program provided a caring and safe environment for those who struggled. Upon the return home, veterans face some of their largest struggles.
Upon the return home, veterans face some of their largest struggles. The time for action is now, with PTSD and veteran suicide rates on the rise:
- 22 Veterans commit suicide per day (Suicide Data Report, Department of Veteran Affairs, Mental Health Services, 2012)
- 20% of Veterans suffer from PTSD (Litz BT, Schlenger WE. PTSD in service members and new veterans of the Ira and Afghanistan wars: a bibliography and critique. PTSD Res Q 2009;20(1):1-2.)
- 10% of incarcerated adults had served previously in the military (Blodgett JC, Avoundjian T, Finlay AK, et al. Prevalence of mental health disorders among justice-involved veterans. Epidemiol Rev 2015;37. 000–000.)
- 12% of the homeless population in the US are veterans (Tsai J, Rosenheck RA. Risk factors for homelessness among US veterans. Epidemiol Rev 2015;37. 000–000.)
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”
Chaplain Justin David Roberts
…is stationed in Germany with his family. However, he conceals a struggle with depression and PTSD, due to his previous deployment in Afghanistan. He contemplates what kind of father and husband he could be without these issues. Seeking a solution, Justin returns home to the states and reconnects with soldiers from his unit. The 101st Airborne Division, 2/327th Infantry Battalion, better known as “No Slack”, has a proud history.
No Slack, participated in World War II and Vietnam. Also, as the eyes of our nation watched, they escorted the “Little Rock Nine” to school during the height of the Civil Rights era. Even with this inspirational heritage, the unit and Justin were not prepared for the challenges awaiting them in this mountainous terrain. The battalion arrived in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, which is notorious for fundamentalist abuse and guerrilla warfare. Shortly after arrival, a successful suicide bombing attack was carried out by a fourteen year old girl. This was only the beginning of the horrors; No Slack would lose ten lives within the first few months.
In order to change their defensive position, the unit initiates Operation Strong Eagle. Due to the impassible nature of the terrain, the Taliban has their stronghold at the other end of a valley. Strong Eagle’s objective had been attempted by Soviet Russia unsuccessfully. The generations of experience the Taliban possessed made this target nearly impossible. They are aware that capturing the valley is ambitious. No Slack faces positive and negative emotional extremes: Captain Kevin Mott, after being shot in the head, survives a fall ten stories down a mountain, a U.S. fighter plane mistakes a target and drops a bomb near the group without fatalities, and two soldiers are tragically lost. Qari Zar Rahman, the Taliban’s commander, launches attacks in retaliation of Operation Strong Eagle.
As the fighting continues more lives are lost and one soldier must exhibit inhuman bravery in order to keep a promise to his mother; he must return his fallen fellow soldier and biological brother home, later returning to assume his brother’s position in the unit. Afterward, other wounded soldiers return to No Slack due to brotherhood and an unspoken loyalty to each other. Two weeks before the scheduled return home, No Slack begins their most daunting mission to date. Operation Strong Eagle III serves as a followup mission attempting to take the Taliban’s new headquarters. This is one of the largest battles fought by Americans in the war; No Slack loses six more soldiers during this operation.
While Justin and fellow No Slackers talk through the reality of their postwar lives they make a peculiar discovery. Almost all of the men that died, did so while trying to save or protect another. Through discussing their fears, pains, and triumphs the unit is able to begin a new journey, one illuminated by the selfless acts of their comrades. The 101st Airborne Division, 2/327th Infantry Battalion, begins their most challenging mission with a lantern lighting ceremony. All present at the event make a silent promise to each other and their fallen brothers families, that in publicly sharing their painful truths others are encouraged to join them in their sense of kinship. The units final battle is to make sure no veteran faces the unimaginable hardship of PTSD and depression alone.
“Beyond simply making a film, my goal is to save lives.” – Justin Roberts
…began his career as an Army Chaplain after graduating with a bachelors in Speech and Communication from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Also, he received a double masters from Dallas Theological Seminary. Justin and his wife Magen Roberts have one daughter, Gwenyth Rose. They currently live in Lake Charles, Louisiana. As a young person, Justin Roberts was drawn to serve by powerful influences in his life, specifically in military and religious fields. Also, he was drawn to media arts and communication. Later, combining all of his passions, he discovered the path that would lead to the film: No Greater Love.
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