Patton Grandson Talks About Veteran Work

Ben Patton, grandson of the legendary Gen. George S. Patton, has found a unique way to help military veterans cope with the stresses of serving and the effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
During a luncheon following Sunday’s service at Church of Our Saviour in San Gabriel (which the late Patton attended as a San Gabriel and San Marino resident), Patton used the video streaming service Skype to speak to churchgoers. He talked about his project, “I Was There,” in which he pairs veterans with filmmakers to help the vets express what they’re going through after their service.
“What we’re trying to do is take what is well known to be very therapeutic and combine that with the most powerful medium of our time,” Patton said Sunday.
PTSD is a term associated with military service, especially among those who have served in active combat. It also isn’t a secret, Patton said, that those suffering with the disorder often go without treatment or even acknowledgement. Untreated, those afflicted remain at risk for continuing emotional issues, substance abuse and, often, suicide.
Patton said continuing stigma toward the disorder often inhibits people from seeking treatment.
“Some of them wait more than 20 years to get help,” he said.
Sample videos moved the audience at Church of Our Saviour. One depicted a solider walking down a hallway carrying labeled boxes — representing his personal life, as one example. He carried more boxes with each scene, first dropping one and eventually seeing all of them avalanche onto the floor. A young woman, presumably the man’s daughter, picked up some of the baggage and continued on.
Another depicted a man anxiously trying to plug in a lamp in a cramped, dark room. As he struggled, photographs of him on his tour of duty superimposed across the screen. This film ended when an unspecified man appeared, knelt down to comfort him and helped him untangle the various knots that had shortened the cord.
Patton stressed that although these videos are not an alternative to getting professional help, they do provide a way for those suffering PTSD to communicate with loved ones and others and express what they are going through.
“Maybe they can show something using pictures or words, without a whole lot of speaking,” he said.
Patton also stressed that PTSD among soldiers is not limited to combat tours. Joining the military, he said, can be a daunting prospect and an even harsher experience for those who leave their low-income communities — and their families — in an attempt to create better lives.
“It doesn’t have everything to do with combat,” he said. “It has a lot to do with community.”
These videos typically cost about $1,000 per soldier, Patton said, and he hopes to set up a system to help bring these “gateway opportunities” to veterans nationwide through community outreach.
“They may need meds,” Patton said. “They may need other kinds of health care. But they all want to be listened to.
“I’m doing this in a small way to make some kind of dent,” he added.
The YouTube channel hosts numerous “ ‘I Was There’ film workshops” videos for viewing. For more information, visit iwastherefilms.org.

Leave a Reply