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Three Kings: A Personal Review

Dear Friends,

I just sat down to write a review of "Three Kings" and this is what came 
out.  It feels good to have written this, these are things I've been trying 
to say for years, but have only come out now.  Hope you can all get 
something out of this.

This past weekend I finally got the guts to see the Gulf War movie, "Three 
Kings."  I was expecting to be disappointed with yet another cruel portrayal 
of Iraqi Arabs in the shallow stereotypical terms that Hollywood is so 
famous for, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie was a compassionate 
treatment of the people of Iraq, though it continued in the Hollywood 
tradtion of demonizing Saddam Hussein.

As a quasi-Gulf War Vet (i.e. an "alerted," yet undeployed Army Reservist) I 
get real nervous about Gulf War movies.  Generally made by folks who've 
never had to be in the situation that they try and recreate, Gulf War films 
have been horrendous wastes of time and energy, that do poor justice to vets 
and the circumstances they portray.  In order to get me to the theater, it 
took no small amount of cajoling and the promise of dinner by my friend.

So, it is with an incredible amount of mixed feelings that I recommend 
others to see this movie.  While the movie does have multiple layers of 
symbolism (i.e. Iraqi soldiers watching the Rodney King beating on stolen 
Kuwaiti televisions) it falls short of communicating that the issues that 
plague Iraq in the film (i.e. a lack of milk) or still on-going.  But this 
discrepancy is made up for in the fact that Iraqi war dead from US-led 
bombing was graphically shown, that the damage that bullets do to the human 
body was shown graphically, as was the shallow nature of the media coverage 
of the war and some realities of military life.

With the 10 year anniversary (already!) of the Gulf War just around the 
corner, I think we can expect all kinds of TV specials about our "victory" 
in the Gulf.  Hopefully the euphoria of victory has worn off a bit in the 
past decade and we can finally see some more films like this one that show 
more reality than the sanatized fiction of the past.

For me, personally, this film really stirred me up inside.  On seeing the 
films main characters come back to the US and pick up their lives again, I 
see an analogus story in myself.  I had to "come home" even though I never 
physically went to the war, I had to emotionally disengage from the war.  
That is, I had to stop jumping through the roof everytime the phone rang.  
For during war, I thought every phone call would be the one sending me 
packing off to Saudi Arabia, with other members of my unit.  I had to deal 
with my parents strongly encouraging me to volunteer for the war, despite my 
own feelings that this wasn't right.  (My own mother even bought all kinds 
of yellow ribbon in preparation for my going to war.)

But, I never went.  The phone call never came.  After March 1991, when the 
war effectively ended, I felt safe enough to leave the house and go get a 
job, and pick up my life again.  I had come home from my own experience of 
the war.  I found out that May, after the bulk of my unit came home from 
various places around the world, that the 50th General Hospital Unit, which 
was deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, needed 18 lab techs, and I was number 
20 on that list.  I actually came closer to going  to war than I had ever 

"Three Kings" has been the catalyst for a great amount of reflection in 
myself.  The conclusions I draw from my experience of the Gulf War are that 
I am indeed a Gulf War-era veteran, and this has great implications.  I 
relate more to vets than I do to civilians, and as such, my leaving the army 
in 1994 and not keeping up the relationships formed there has left me in a 
self-imposed exile.  Most people I know (everyone in my address book, I've 
found out) does not relate to the war in the way vets do, because it didn't 
affect them at such a personal level.  (i.e. wondering *when* they'll call 
you and watching your friends leave for Saudi Arabia does not equate to 
wondering *if* they'll re-instate the draft).

So, here we are, now nearly 10 years since the war, and I am just now 
embracing the identity and role of what it means to be a veteran.  I'm glad 
"Three Kings" was made in the way it was, and that it was the catalyst to 
start this train of reflections, which hopefully will result in me, finally, 
coming home from the war.

-Charlie Brown, formerly

Specialist (E-4), US Army Reserve, 6250th Augmentation Hospital Unit, Ft. 
Lewis, WA.

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