Film explores veterans and PTSD

ContributedA poster for 'Mile Marker,'  a documentary by Oneonta native Korey Rowe, is shown.

Korey Rowe, born and raised in Oneonta, and now a filmmaker in Los Angeles, has a new documentary exploring the aftermath of war as soldiers try to become civilians.

“Mile Marker” was made on a solo road trip in which Rowe covered more than 7,000 miles ping-ponging across the country to collect 22 interviews from veterans and specialists including members of his old battalion and the executive director of the National Center for PTSD.

The film begins with a startling statistic: each day an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide.

Rowe was 18 when he enlisted. He said his first day of basic training was Sept. 11, 2001. Within 10 days of being active military, he was deployed to Afghanistan.

After his two tours and a discharge, he struggled with transitioning back to civilian life, combating drug and alcohol abuse, depression and PTSD.

PTSD, shorthand for post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health problem that develops after a traumatic event. Irritability, depression and drug use are associated symptoms. For active combat military and veterans, it is an acute problem.

In the film, Rowe states that he wanted to make a film about “the humans behind the word veteran and the term PTSD.” Through his interviews, he pieces together narratives that reach commonality in their struggles. 

“When you see someone with PTSD, case by case it might seem unique, but you see it in a line the commonalities appear,” Rowe explained. “PTSD has a great ability to 'onion': start with uncomfortable feelings, then anger, depression, add substance to numb it. Whether its alcohol or drugs, it creates legal problems, it's a snowball of problems.”

The latter part of the film lends itself to solutions, Rowe said. One treatment he investigates is marijuana and its growing legitimacy in states where it is legalized, such as Colorado, where legislation has been passed allowing veterans to use medicinal marijuana to treat PTSD.

“Cannabis and veterans on the West Coast is the hot topic, on the tip of every tongue,” Rowe said. 

Rowe said he does not consider cannabis use to be the silver bullet for the troubles that face veterans, but it should be explored as a tool to mitigate the effects of PTSD.

“I told my story through the lives of other people,” Rowe said.

In 2011 was charged in New York with selling heroin. The charges were dropped and he was charged with misdemeanor facilitation.

“That was my life spiraling out of control, my PTSD looking for substances to get better, screaming for help,” Rowe said. 

“Finding passion, purpose and getting into treatment is what helped me. What I'm trying to do is sell treatment to soldiers, that they can talk about this and get help.”

The movie will be released on digital platforms Tuesday. A screening, free to veterans and their families, will be held in New York City at the School for Visual Arts at 7 p.m. May 28, Memorial Day. In July, “Mile Marker” will be available on DVD for universities and colleges. 

Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or wbashaw@thedailystar.com . Follow her on Twitter @DS_WhitneyB .

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