In Jacob Mogler's new documentary about veterans transitioning back into society, one of his subjects talks about how the military teaches people going into combat how to bring out every bit of their anger and aggression.
But when those troops leave the military, Mogler said, they can't just put that away as if they were simply changing clothes.
“You have to figure out how to manage it so it doesn’t hurt you,” he said.
It’s this journey that Mogler documents in his 40-minute “The Grunt Film Project,” which will be screened in Corvallis three times over the next week. (See the related story for details of the screenings.)
In the film, Mogler, a Marine Corps infantry veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2011 and 2015, follows four infantry veterans who served in Afghanistan, exploring their service through archival photos and videos and their transition back to civilian lives through extensive interviews and footage of their lives.
Mogler, who studies digital communications at Oregon State University, said he was inspired to take on the project after hearing about the suicide of Cameron Favela, a Marine in California who had mentored Mogler’s own mentor.
“He was a legend in our company,” he said of Favela.
Mogler, 28, said the culture of the infantry is very “alpha,” so it can be a hard for veterans struggling after they come home to open up.
However, he said his subjects, including two of Mogler’s fellow OSU students and one Linn-Benton Community College student, were surprisingly open with him about their experiences.
“I hope other veterans who see it, especially if it is someone who needs help, realize they can own up to their problems,” he said.
He added he hopes it shows veterans going through these issues that they are not alone.
“This isn’t so unique to you," Mogler said. It’s OK to go through this,” he said.
For nonveterans, Mogler said he hopes the film starts conversations about veterans issues, which aren’t really well understood.
Mogler said some of the experiences of his subjects hit really close to home for him. He recalled finding himself shaking at one moment early in the editing process when he was adding in music one of his subject’s mentioned. Mogler, who served with the subject, said before combat they would listen to Five Finger Death Punch’s version of “Bad Company.” Listening to the song during editing brought up some of the same emotions he felt before combat. The song ultimately was left out of the film for copyright reasons.
Mogler said the fact that he shares a similar background with his subjects likely helped them speak so openly with him. The interviews in the film, shot between March and September of this year, were essentially intense conversations that lasted for hours, Mogler said. And he hopes that intensity comes through in the portions of those interviews that made it into the final cut.
“I didn’t want to filter it at all. I wanted to keep that rough, abrasive language,” he said.
Mogler, who is graduating after this term and working on new projects, said making the film helped him face some of his own issues.
“What this process did for me is worth the effort alone,” he said.