The situation in Sadr City wasn’t getting any better for the soldiers depicted in National Geographic’s The Long Road Home (Tuesdays 10 PM/9 PM CT and on demand). In fact, it was getting significantly worse. All three platoons had come under heavy fire and numerous men have been injured or killed. What do you do when the threat of death is pervasive in the air?
The fourth episode focused on Staff Sgt. Robert Miltenberger (Jeremy Sisto), who was called back to duty beyond his contract date (known as stop-lossing). He was portrayed in the earlier programs as a calm veteran who seems to have a laissez-faire attitude about the whole concept of war. In fact, that was far from the truth. Miltenberger was on duty in Kosovo during an earlier tour of duty and watched helplessly as a woman carrying her dead baby walked directly towards him, then headed into a live minefield. As a result, he had numerous dreams about the lady and developed a fatalistic outlook on the whole mission, even going so far as to write a letter his wife was supposed to find after he died in battle.
Miltenberger’s brigade in Iraq was dealing with numerous issues—notably driving into the middle of a city under attack with an unarmored vehicle and no radio communication (big no-nos). He sensed an ambush and got the squadron out of certain death, only to have the truck’s radiator crack a short while later. While attempting a patch, he saw a group of unarmed residents—one who looked eerily like the lady he saw in Kosovo. Was this a premonition of something?
As for the original platoon, led by Lt. Shane Aguero (EJ Bonilla), they were still hunkered down, but the militia against them was slowly closing in. The soldiers were running out of ammunition and had no night vision gear as the sun slowly set. You could sense fear in theiir eyes. The head od the forces, Lt. Col. Volesky (Michael Kelly), had his life flash before his eyes after being trapped by insurgents, only to be spared at the last minute. Some of the wounded, thankfully, were evacuated to base camp to receive treatment for their injuries.
Back in the US, the news outlets reported fighting in Sadr City, understandably causing the soldiers’ wives to panic. Gina Denomy (Kate Bosworth) and LeAnn Volesky (Sarah Wayne Callies) were the point people but were limited as to what could be shared due to Army regulations, infuriating some of the wives. Lt. Aguero’s wife later learned of the attack, causing her son Elijah to run to his room and cry, “Dad’s going to die and it’s all my fault.” It’s heartbreaking, considering his reaction to the deployment in the first episode. Uncertainty hangs in the air, with lots of men still in harm’s way and darkness closing in . . .
Though they’ve played a small role in the program, the army wives have fascinated me. They had unknown fears going into the deployment. Some were new mothers while some were expecting a child in a matter of months. All were trying to keep life as normal as possible–not only for their children, but for themselves. When the news began reporting on the situation in Iraq, it understandably caused the wives to worry: Were there casualties? If so, was my husband one of them? If so, how am I going to live life without them by my side? If they’re hurt, can I deal with taking care of them, no matter what the injury (physical or mental)? The hardest thing in those moments is faith–faith in God, faith in the commanders, faith that all will be okay. The Bible says faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NASB). That’s incredibly difficult for most of us in ordinary life, much less people in the military. However, without faith in something to stand on, we just exist. In the case of the military wives, faith is all they had to hold on to even with the swirling winds of conflicting news reports all about them.
Tomorrow evening’s episode will look at the situation in Sadr City from the eyes of an unlikely person—the interpreter. It should be quite interesting.