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Poster Girl Is Important Viewing In Advance Of Returning Veterans

By Steven Pate in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 13, 2012 7:20PM

2012_11_13_postergirl.jpg With America's war in Afghanistan winding down, the nation faces the delicate and daunting challenge of re-integrating into society the multitudes of service members whose bodies and minds have born the brunt of our decade of war. According to the estimates of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans will have a mental health condition requiring treatment. That comes to just shy of 730,000 men and women, over 82,000 of whom call Illinois their home.

As much as is possible for those of us who did not experience war, understanding what wounded veterans must face is an obligation we share, a debt owed to those whose bodies and nervous systems have been stretched beyond the point of snapping, for better or worse, in our name. Letting the clinical, now-mundane acronym of PTSD anesthetize us to the hellish existence which lurks behind that euphemistic initialism is not an option. If, as George Carlin once said, "the pain is completely buried under jargon," it is everyone's responsibility to take up the shovel themselves, and to arm themselves with understanding for the inevitable encounters with those returning vets making a frequently arduous journey towards normalcy.

Take Robynn Murray, a National Merit Scholar and high school cheerleader who joined the U.S. Army reserve after 9/11 at the age of 19, served as a Humvee gunner sergeant in Iraq and returned home a broken shell of herself. Filmmaker Sara Nesson first encountered Murray on Martha's Vineyard, where the soldier who had once been featured on the cover of the Army's official magazine was cutting up her uniform and slicing up her ribbons to process them into paper with which she would make art, part of the Combat Paper project. After three and a half years of living on the road with her subject as Murray made her way from depression and alienation to healing, Nesson had a documentary short, Poster Girl.

The film, which nominations for an Academy Award an an Emmy, will receive its only Chicago screening this weekend at the Pritzker Military Library thanks to the National Veterans Art Museum. A post-film Q&A with Murray and Nesson will be moderated by U.S. Navy veteran Lynn Hauser, with the participation of PTSD counseling specialist Johanna Buwalda and combat veteran Crystal Colon.

Poster Girl screens Saturday, November 17 at 1 p.m. at the Pritzker Military Library, 104 S. Michigan Avenue.