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Film spotlights two decades of war through the eyes of veterans

▶ Watch Video: Retired Green Beret takes tribute to veterans, their families from stage to film

Gold Star families came to the Cameo Theatre in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to preview retired Green Beret Scott Mann’s labor of love.

“I wanted to tell the story about the last out, the people who go back while the rest of the nation goes about its business,” Mann told CBS News’ Catherine Herridge.

He spent 23 years in the United States Army—18 years as a Green Beret. Every one of his missions has an objective, including his new movie “Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret.”

“My objective with this film is to inform the American people on the cost of modern war,” he said.

A cost that Mann knows firsthand. The movie is based on a play by veterans for veterans. The story looks at nearly two decades of war through the eyes of those who lived it.

The story behind “Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret” begins in 2013 when Mann left the Army. Like so many veterans, he said his experience transitioning to civilian life was like a punch in the gut.

“I’d gone from this high performing Green Beret to just another guy, standing in my closet holding a 45, not intending to walk out of it,” Mann recalled. Swapping his special forces training for writing, Mann found an outlet.

“I think for me I’ve always been passionate about telling the stories of the men and women who I served with, I found it as a way for me to heal, very cathartic,” Mann said. In the play’s opening scene, Mann’s character, Danny Patton, is killed in a roadside bombing.

“I think he really embodies, you know, every warrior that we lost along the way,” Mann said.

Joining Mann in the film is Lenny Bruce, also a former Green Beret with over 20 years of military service. He said he saw a lot of his life in the script, and it caused him to break down in tears. 

The play also helped the cast heal old wounds. Just minutes into the production, Bruce’s character tries and fails to save Patton —— something that brings back difficult memories for Bruce.

“In the Philippines, I was performing CPR on a fellow soldier, and I lost him,” Bruce said. “It’s in my head every day, but um, you know, I don’t blame myself anymore for a lot of things.”

Patton’s wife, Lynn, is a raw portrait of strength. The connection for Gold Star mom Dody Callahan was immediate.

“Just like what the Pattons did in the show, we started this journey together, and we were supposed to end it together,” Callahan said.

Callahan’s husband Keith was killed in Iraq 14 years ago, leaving her to raise their children, including daughter Brooke who was only four years old. Brooke said she is grateful that there are films like “Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret” to watch.

“If they can show one person, just one, the life of a military service member, family, Gold Star family. What they feel, even for a split moment. That’s positive,” Callahan said.

When COVID-19 set in, the veterans got the story on tape, and this weekend it lands on their website,  “I hope that if anything, what people take away from this film is the need to let go of the pain,” Mann said.

And on this Memorial Day weekend, with troops leaving Afghanistan, respect for service. “We as citizens have to have some kind of emotional feel in our gut of what it means to go to war, and the cost of that.”

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