WHYY presents film tracing vets’ cross-country quest for peace of mind

Veterans Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson leave Wisconsin as they embark on an epic journey across the country to heal from their time at war. (Thoughtful Robot Productions)

Veterans Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson leave Wisconsin as they embark on an epic journey across the country to heal from their time at war. (Thoughtful Robot Productions)

WHYY will host a screening Monday of a documentary that follows two Iraq War veterans on a journey to find peace years after they left the battlefield.

The film, “Almost Sunrise,” features Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson as they walk 2,700 miles from Milwaukee to Los Angeles. The vets both served in Iraq during the mid-2000s, but they were still reeling from the psychological trauma of war when they set out on their journey in 2013.

Voss, who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2008, said the long stretches with just each other for company allowed the two men to address the thoughts and emotions tormenting them.

“We’re set up in our society to do everything we can possibly do to avoid being with ourselves,” Voss said. “And that’s where the work needs to be done, or at least where I thought the work needed to be done.”

Anderson found professional success after the war, but he said he struggled to maintain personal relationships.

“I didn’t really know how to talk to people anymore,” he said. “I didn’t know how to relate to people. I didn’t know how to communicate what I was thinking or feeling at any moment.”

The film explores the “moral injury” of many veterans, a term that refers to the violation of core moral principles governing normal life that is nearly unavoidable for soldiers at war.

Voss said walking among nature with the support of a fellow soldier helped bring him to a better place. He also credits yoga and meditation with helping to improve his well-being.

Voss said he encourages other vets seeking to soothe psychological wounds to try different things and figure out what works best for them.

Anderson said the walk helped him reconnect emotionally with his family. But both veterans said coping with the emotional scars of their service is an ongoing journey.

Voss will speak in a panel discussion at Monday night’s screening at WHYY.

WHYY’s Maiken Scott contributed to this report.

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