Private Project

Into the Trenches

A near-fatal train accident triggers a reluctant journey of healing for a veteran of the Iraq Wars.

Recent studies reveal that more veterans die by suicide in the US than in combat overseas. “Four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and 12 years later, I’ve had enough” says director and the main subject of the documentary, Jacob Fadley. Jacob returned to the US after the military in hopes of starting a peaceful life with his wife he met in the army. When a near-fatal train accident triggers traumas that went much deeper than the horrors of the war, Jake goes in search of help. Forced to deal with layers of psychological distress that began with years of childhood abuse and culminated with the atrocities he saw in combat, Jacob stumbles into a military help-group called The Sparta Project. He learns that “More than 70% of the time in the veteran community, there was trauma and pre-trauma before they ever dawned the uniform and served.” Through the intensive 5-day program that breaks down the psychological and
physiological aspects of trauma, Jacob bonds with other veterans who share his same experiences. He returns home to his wife knowing that his journey of healing is only beginning.

  • Jacob Fadley
  • Jonatas da Silva
  • Patricia C. Ovando
  • Tanmay Chowdhary
  • Christina Y.R. Jun
  • Julian Gilbert
  • Paul Hughes
  • Sofia Vyshnevetska
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student, Web / New Media, Other
  • Genres:
    Drama, Military
  • Runtime:
    23 minutes 16 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    6,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Jacob Fadley

Jake Fadley grew up in a typical Midwestern town in an atypical
way. He is the eldest of five sisters and two brothers, spanning
across four different unions by his parents, creating a very nontraditional American household. When Jake was 17 he watched the events of the 9/11 happen as a Senior in High School and shortly after went to enlist in The United States Navy, where he served two deployments in Operational Support of Iraqi and Enduring Freedom as a Combat Camera Operator. Finding himself looking for more in life, he left after his 5 year enlistment to attend College. Life didn’t get easier for Jake in that first year, as he found that the America he came back to didn’t feel the same as when he left.

Struggling to support himself through College, Jake re-enlisted with Ohio Army National Guard, because they offered 100% tuition assistance but really, he missed being around the Military. And just like that he was off to Army bootcamp and then trained as a Journalist shortly after.

He deployed two more times with the National Guard, both back to Iraq and Afghanistan, while finishing his undergrad at Ohio University Scripps School of Communication with a Bachelors of Science. It was during his second deployment to Afghanistan that he decided to leave the Military for good, and pursue a career in Film Making.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

My name is Jacob Fadley and I was a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army. I am part of the most recent generation that went off to war in the Middle East nearly a decade ago and have been fighting ever since. I find myself still experiencing a familiar range of emotions that I thought I left over there, but here I am, two years removed from my last foray into a combat zone still battling those same emotions. Of course there is anger--it’s war after all, even if the name has fallen out of use. And contempt for the deployments itself, dragging me away from the people I love. And then there’s the paradoxical mix of fear and sadness associated with most missions: fear upon leaving the wire, followed by sadness when nothing happens. But it’s surprise that’s the worst. No amount of training can prepare you for the small concussion burst that comes with unexpected gunfire. It reverberates in your chest like some kind of crude war drum and your entire body turns into a fluid motion of annihilation. Your unthinking hands grasp the front of your weapon, lifting the butt of your M4 Carbine to a small nook that exists between the body armor and your shoulder. Taking a deep breath, you depress a finger and release the machine’s song: DA-DA-DA. You’re excited, ashamed, furious, tense, and satisfied all at once. That which felt like an eternity is over in a flash and you awake to find yourself still alive and yet somehow a casualty.

To look at me, you’d think I was just an average American guy. A middle class male from a Midwestern city. A lot of us tend to seem like everyone else and you’d never think about it twice, unless you’re one of us. But we’re out there. With our distinctly straight gaits and our habit of always being on time. We scan the faces of every crowd we enter, looking for anything out of place. And sometimes, we startle our partners when we wake up in our old, familiar beds not knowing where we are or whom we’re with. We’re a minority you can only tell buy our service records. We are the modern war veterans and each of us just want to be heard.

It is my aim to develop a distinct cinematic experience that will refine the way that people perceive the realities of war and the true cost it bears. Popular perceptions need to extend beyond the simple labels that are used to quantify struggles. Being a soldier is about split second decisions and weighty moral choices. It’s about wounds received as well as inflicted. It’s about getting lost in a sea of others just like you and finding a way to rediscover who you really are after you’ve been away from yourself for so long. It’s about forgiving ourselves first before we can accept thanks.

I want to make this film in order to translate the soldier’s experience of shame, guilt, and regret to a wider audience and use it to engage in the ongoing human struggle to come to terms with all emotional pain. As soldiers, some shake our hands in thanks for our service, while others tell us they appreciate our sacrifices. But the truth is, most of us feel guilty about the war and our role in it. So when we’re thanked it’s a reminder of something we’re ashamed of, like given a trophy to the pain.