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Never-ending battles

LIHUE — A documentary sharing the stories of local soldiers returning home from war will be shown at 5 p.m. Saturday at Kauai Community College’s Performing Arts Center.

Co-director Edwin Sawyer doesn’t hesitate when asked why people should see the one-hour film, which is free.

“We can’t appreciate what veterans went through, and what they’re experiencing now, unless we see what they went through then. That for me, is the mission,” the Lihue man said.

“Still Serving” by the Kauai nonprofit Above Moon Films took a year to produce and follows vets from boot camp to war to returning home. Veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq talk about what they endured and the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life.

Sawyer, who served 10 years in the Navy including time in the Middle East, said he “was that lucky guy that walked between raindrops. I never had to experience what these guys had to.”

Many survived bullets, bombs, missiles and attacks that left them hurt and shaken. Back home, veterans suffered from drug and alcohol abuse, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder. Hundreds committed suicide. It’s important people know what happened to those who served in the military, Sawyer said. He wants people to understand the decisions that have to be made during war, the situations that soldiers face under fire, in moments when they have to kill or be killed.

“We really don’t know what it’s like, what the fear is like, what they actually have to experience,” he said.

For some, the battles never end, which led to the title of the film, “Still Serving.”

“Now you know why they wake up in the middle of the night,” Sawyer said.

He also wants the film to raise awareness among veterans who might not know that services are available to help them recover from war.

“Bottom line, we want to get them to go to the vet center,” he said.

One of the veterans highlighted in the documentary is flying in for Saturday’s show.

Some scenes and interviews with six veterans were shot at local shops, including four hours one morning at the Deli and Bread Connection at Kukui Grove Center. Funding for the film was provided by the County of Kauai, the Atherton Foundation and private donations.

Sawyer credited his co-director, Kauai High graduate Isaiah Alvarez, with outstanding work in all aspects of the production, from editing to framing to filming.

“This literally couldn’t be done without him,” he said.

Sawyer was the adviser for the Kauai High School film club before starting Above Moon Films that aims to bring filmmaking and creative art opportunities to Hawaii’s youth. He said he’s not making any money off this production.

“This is about the troops,” he said. “That’s why it’s free.”

The film is intense and for a mature audience. There is some graphic content, including real footage from battle scenes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I want people to come see it, but I also warn people, too,” Sawyer said. “You get jolted.”

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