Reality TV is the new cattle call for network stations. Cheap and less quality equals more money in the television world but the soaps have been decimated by this way of thinking. Enter ‘Days Of Our Lives’ offering the most compelling reality I have seen on Daytime TV.
Real life vets and Marlena and Jack, who in the storyline was captured in Afghanistan where he was covering a story. He was held for a year and in that year was beaten tortured and watched his friend die at the hands of these monsters who held them captive. That is acting and it was played beautifully by Matthew Ashford……These scenes with Leslie Nicole Smith, one of the war veterans and the other men and women veterans who laid their souls bare was for me breathtaking. Literally, I lost my breath listening to these brave people tell a small part of their stories. We live is a world of make believe for the most part when we watch our soaps, but then a wonderfully brave writer takes on the task of interweaving the real with the fantasy and makes a beautifully written piece that brings home real life in a way that makes us aware, makes us stop and think. This was done by the writing staff at DOOL.
Marlena brings Jack to a session she has with vets who are having a hard time being home. Leslie, Paco, Mike, Rob and Pat.” “I lost my leg, but I can still walk. I lost most of my vision, but I can still see a little bit. So many of the people over there — they lost their lives, their towns, their families…communities just decimated. And worst of all, they lost their hope.. their sense of freedom. I could see it in their eyes,” Leslie told them. Pat explained that her young son, Colton, was the person who had given her a reason to keep going. Mike who at first said he did not trust jounalists then decides “that most of the journalists probably had good intentions, but added “they usually didn’t know what they were talking about”. Marlena told them Jack had actually been in Afghanistan. Leslie asked Jack to share his story with the rest of the group, and then asked Mike to give Jack a chance. Mike told them that Paco had earned a Purple Heart. He added that a roadside bomb had killed Paco’s best friend. “Most nights, I wake up in a sweat. I can still hear the gunfire; I see the faces of the guys in my unit, and my wife…she keeps wanting me to talk about it, but how am I supposed to talk about those things? Then we’d just both have to live with it,” Paco explained.
“I think it helped Eric’s mom to know that I was holding him when he died, so that I could tell her his last words were, ‘Tell my mom I love her.’ Eric, man, he was…he was my big brother. Guy could really make me laugh. I haven’t laughed since that day. Sometimes…I don’t think I ever will again,” Paco said.
Paco asked what had happened to Jack in the cave. Jack had a rough time trying to compose his thoughts. “Time was weird. I knew it was important if I could just…remember what.. what day it was. If I knew…the day. I kept a calendar. I scratched it on a rock. It was hidden , they couldn’t see it. I just thought…if I could just remember the date, the day, I wouldn’t go crazy. I know that’s stupid. It’s just so stupid,” Jack sighed.
“They, they beat us. They tortured us. But I kept saying…’I will go home…I will! I will go home! I will make it home!’ And, and then one day…they came, and they, they killed one of the prisoners. They, they took my, a friend, and I could hear him screaming. I didn’t wanna know that there were people who could do that to another human being; I didn’t want to be in a world where there were people who could be like that. And now…that world, and those people, are more real to me…than any of this. It’s like, it’s like I said, I feel like I’m still back in that cave,” Jack cried.
Jack added that he had never realized how difficult it would be to return to his old life. “I managed to scare the hell out of my wife…my ex-wife, he corrected and I kept freaking out. I kept freaking out. It wasn’t the people back there, and it wasn’t, it wasn’t everything that happened back there. It wasn’t the fact that the world had moved on without me, and all the people I knew had moved on without me. It’s because I couldn’t. I couldn’t, because I have a huge part of myself..that’s back there…halfway around the world…in a cave,” Jack said.
Jack sighed, and he added that he just wanted to be whole again. Marlena smiled sympathetically and then informed the group that they were out of time. “You know, during the session, I was reminded of what a World War II vet said to me once. He said, “For those who were there…no explanation necessary. For those who weren’t…no explanation possible.” Marlena told them and said goodbye to everyone.
As the vets rose to leave each hugged Jack letting him know he was one of them, a survivior of some of the most hideous times in human existence. Marlena told Jack he had made a lot of progress. Jack hugged Marlena, tearfully thanking her for making him a part of the therapy session.
This was played so beautifully by Mr. Ashford. He made you feel he was a part of this distinquished group of brave men and women.
Thank you to all who had a part in this memorable piece of “Reality TV”. This is what soaps do best, making us feel what is happening out in the world we too often overlook. They explain and inform and give us a taste of life we so often miss. I for one have a better understanding of what our brave men and women are going through and my heart breaks for them and their families. God Bless You All and thanks for your service to our country.
Maybe the politicians should be made to watch this real moment in time. Maybe it would make them more sympathetic and treat our returning men and women with more dignity and shower them with praise and thanks and more importantly take care of them and their families. And pay them for their service. Maybe even treat them like the “Superstars” they really are!