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Interview with James Gandolfini

HBO

How did you come to the project, and why did you want to be a part of it?

James Gandolfini

I first went to Iraq in November of 2004, and then I went to Walter Reed Hospital. And it was after that the idea came up about doing something to help these guys. [HBO's] Sheila Nevins talked to me about it. We were going to film at Walter Reed. The Army was very into it, the generals and everything. And then, from what I understand, someone high up pulled the plug on it. What a shock. Then Sheila being the force of nature that she is basically went and found guys in the world that had gotten out of Walter Reed, and brought them to New York City, and sat them down for me to talk to.

They've been through so much, and I guess they feel like no one is listening, and no one cares.

HBO

The film puts a face to some of the many soldiers and Marines who've come back in record numbers suffering from severe injuries and trauma, and who, in many ways, have been hidden from the public's view.

James Gandolfini

Well, we don't see them, and we don't hear from them. And this was an opportunity to let them speak. And they wanted to talk. I wasn't pulling anything out of anybody. I just sat there and asked questions the way anybody would. They want to get the story out. They've been through so much, and I guess they feel like no one is listening, and no one cares.

HBO

When you watch the film and listen to these individuals' stories, words like "courage" and "self-sacrifice" suddenly take on a different, more powerful meaning.

We should be proud of these kids who are over there risking their lives. And we should take better care of them.

James Gandolfini

I think a lot of times on both coasts we're so cynical about this kind of thing. First of all, I think a lot of people think this whole volunteer army is just people who couldn't make it in other areas of life and joined for the financial reasons of being taken care of, so to speak. And when you talk to these people, it's obvious that that's not true. These are smart kids. They're intelligent, they're articulate.

And when we talk about loyalty to the country--that they joined because they were angry that their country got attacked--I mean these are the kinds of things we don't hear about anymore. You know, everyone says, "the kids today, the kids today." Well these are the kids today. And we need to pay attention to them. They're not just disposable people.

We need to get our heads out of the sand and wake up. These are our kids over there, and they're getting killed for what we don't even know. We should be proud of these kids who are over there risking their lives. And we should take better care of them.

Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq

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