Documentaries for Veterans and Their Families

Christina Knight | October 26, 2017
American flag.

American flag. Photo: Joshua Nathanson, 2009 .

The country recognizes its Armed Services members on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11. In addition to the extensive interviews with veterans in the series The Vietnam War, the perspectives of veterans and those still serving in the U.S. military are central to several other recent PBS and WNET productions. From Iraq veterans on an epic walk across America, to soldiers who must literally learn to walk again, below are stories of veterans from across the country and time periods. Here is what to watch, and look out for, this fall. On Veterans Day weekend, veterans receive free admission to The Vietnam War: 1945-1975 exhibit at the New-York Historical Society; admission is free to all on November 11 and veteran-related events at the museum take place all weekend.

Documentaries

VA: The Human Cost of War


Explore the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs, from the troubled beginnings of the Veterans Bureau of 1920s to the modern VA system. Learn details of this vast, crucial American institution: its successes, failures and need for reforms. See full episode (after broadcast) and clips on the program page.

Airs: Monday, November 6, 9pm on THIRTEEN

POV: Almost Sunrise (2017)

Haunted by their combat experiences in Iraq, former soldiers Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson take a 2,700-mile trek on foot across America seeking redemption, acceptance and a way to close the moral chasm opened by war.

Airs: Monday, November 13, 10pm on THIRTEEN

Learn more about the film and veterans’ resources on the official film site.

Legacies of War (2017)

More than 1.4 million veterans call the tri-state region home. Legacies of War, a WLIW21 production, highlights the diverse range of voices and experiences of our local veterans, ranging from WWII and Vietnam to present-day. Two episodes examine the experience of coming home after service, how the reception of returning servicemembers has changed over time, and the challenges veterans face upon reintegrating to civilian life.

Watch the documentaries, here; see previews of both, below.

Legacies of War: Coming Home


This program explores life after military service through the stories of veterans who came home to the New York tri-state area. The film examines the history of coming home after service, how the reception of returning servicemembers has changed over time, and the challenges veterans face upon reintegrating to civilian life. Proudly featured as part of the PBS Stories of Service Wavelength Series.

Legacies of War: Vietnam


This documentary film explores the legacy of the Vietnam War through the experiences of veterans from the New York tri-state area. Veterans highlight stories of their service in Vietnam and the treatment they received upon coming home, along with a discussion of how the Vietnam War has affected how American civilians view veterans of all wars.

American Experience: Two Days in October (2017)

In October 1967, history turned a corner. In a jungle in Vietnam, a Viet Cong ambush nearly wiped out an American battalion, prompting some in power to question whether the war might be unwinnable. On a campus in Wisconsin, a student protest against the war spiraled out of control, marking the first time that a campus anti-war demonstration had turned violent.

Watch the film now through November 30, 2017.

American Medevac (2017)


During the Vietnam War, CBS News correspondent Morton Dean and cameraman Greg Cooke flew on a harrowing medevac mission to rescue three wounded infantrymen from an enemy infested rice paddy. Dean long wondered what had become of the medevac crew and the bloodied men who were airlifted to safety on that day in 1971. American Medevac tells the story of their reunion, more than 40 years later.

Watch the full film.

Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield (2016)

Between 2001 and 2014, more than 5,300 U.S. service members were killed in action during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, but out of the thousands of wounded soldiers who made it to combat hospitals, 96% made it home alive. Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield follows ABC News Correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was critically injured in 2006 while covering the War in Iraq, to the front lines of medicine and explores how medical techniques have advanced and given hope to our wounded military service members.

The NJTV documentary was written and produced by WNET’s Sally Garner and Ally Gimbel, who speak about making the film in the WNET Up Next podcast.

Watch the full film and segments of Military Medicine: Beyond the Battlefield.

USO: For the Troops (2016)


For 75 years, abroad and on the homefront, the USO (United Service Organizations) has been by the sides of American service members at every point in their military journey. USO – For the Troops takes viewers behind the scenes and inside the organization, providing an eye-opening glimpse into how the USO has kept service personnel connected to country, home and family.

The film premiered in November 2016 and streamed for a month. Members of their local PBS station can use the Passport benefit to watch the film now.

The Vietnam War (2017)


In an immersive narrative, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never-before been told on film. THE VIETNAM WAR features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

See the Tuesday night broadcast schedule, through November 28. Members of their local PBS station can use the Passport benefit to stream the 18-hour series, through December 31, 2017.

Rudy and Neal Go Fishing (2017)

Rudy and Neal Go Fishing

Rudy (left) and Neal (right) in Rudy and Neal Go Fishing.

In the inspirational half-hour documentary Rudy and Neal Go Fishing, angler Neal Stark helps veterans by taking them out fishing in South Florida’s beautiful waters. Neal’s calm demeanor and supportive approach enable Rudy Watt, a U.S. Army veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, to spend a relaxing day out on a boat and enjoy time with his companion. A tournament fisherman with an unusual professional background, Neal is clear about the fact he is not a therapist. Rather, he’s someone who appreciates what our veterans have done, and feels he can help them escape, if not overcome, their anxiety and other symptoms related to PTSD. Nationally, there’s a lot at stake for veterans with PTSD — roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Rudy and Neal Go Fishing shows how the uncomplicated tranquility of fishing allows Rudy to reconnect with nature and start to heal.

Airs: Tuesday, December 5, 9:30pm on THIRTEEN.

More Stories of Interest

Share Your Story

Read stories, or share your own about your service or experience of coming back home to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut in this interactive feature of WLIW21. You can filter stories by branch of service.

New Vietnam War Exhibit

Curator of the New-York Historical Society’s new Vietnam War exhibit combed archives and museums across America and within Vietnam to bring new artifacts, newly discovered objects, and even new creations to the exhibit. Social interactions and connections to veterans led to a gold mine of material, including graffiti rescued from a mothballed troopship. The exhibition in New York City is free to veterans on the three-day holiday weekend of Veterans Day. Learn more about the exhibit and the stories behind the making of it.

The Great War (2017)


The Great War is PBS series American Experience‘s three-part, six-hour look at the First World War—–a battle that fundamentally transformed America’s place in the world, and its life at home. In this clip above, American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels discusses the film, explaining that you cannot understand the world we live in today without understanding the Great War. The three-part documentary aired in April 2017 and is available to stream online to those who are members of their local PBS station. Watch the three-part documentary with the Passport benefit.