Catherine Ryan

Catherine Ryan is a three-time POV alum. Soldiers of Conscience (POV 2008) was her third film to be shown on POV. The other two are Maria’s Story (1991) and The Double Life of Ernesto Gómez Gómez (1999). She reports back from last month’s public hearing of the Truth Commission on Conscience in War that was held at Riverside Church in New York City.

March 20, 2010 marked the seventh year of the U.S. war in Iraq. This is a stunning reality. The “mission” that was supposed to be completed in 6 months has outlasted the president who launched it and has forever changed the lives of the hundreds of thousands of service members who have fought there.

Few of us know first hand what is happening in our current wars. But those who have gone to war know a great deal, and, as a country, we would do well to listen to their stories. What have they seen, done, and sacrificed on our behalf?

The Truth Commission on Conscience in War is seeking answers to this question — and receiving powerful responses.

The Commission recently held a public hearing on March 21, 2010 at the historic Riverside Church in New York City. It was an inspiring evening. A group of 80 commissioners — together with the general public — watched excerpts from Soldiers of Conscience and received live testimony from recent veterans, religious leaders and legal experts about issues of conscience facing service members in war. The hearing launched the Commission’s eight-month campaign to honor and protect freedom of conscience, which will culminate with the Veterans Day release of its final report.

SoldiersofConscience poster

Two of the veterans who testified before the Commission were featured in Soldiers of Conscience: Joshua Casteel, who served as an Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib; and Camilo Mejia, the first combat veteran to refuse to return to the war in Iraq, and who was imprisoned for his stand.

Since its 2008 national broadcast on POV, Soldiers of Conscience has provided viewers a witness to war that has consistently resulted in thoughtful and transformative conversations about war, killing and conscience. One of those viewers watching back in 2008 was retired Army Chaplain Rev. Herman Keizer Jr., who wrote that it is “a must-see film for all those concerned about issues of conscience in times of war.”

One and a half years later, Rev. Keizer stood before the audience at Riverside Church as the honorary host of the Truth Commission. He was joined by a group of national experts, including: Dr. Jonathan Shay, VA clinical psychiatrist, national PTSD expert, Macarthur “Genius” winner, and author of Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America; and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for The New York Times and author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

Interested in learning more? Visit the Commission website or Facebook Page. You can also watch clips from Soldiers of Conscience on our own Facebook Page – or order the full DVD here. We will also be posting video footage from the Commission hearing in the coming weeks — so stay tuned!

Catherine Ryan
Co-Director and Co-Producer
Soldiers of Conscience

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POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.