LOS ANGELES – American dads have been going off to war for centuries. But now, with more and more women in the U.S. military, moms are going off to war, too. And, just like dads, when some come back, they re-enlist.
The new film “Fort Bliss” points to challenges -- and stigmas - these female soldiers face.
In it, Army Staff Sergeant Maggie Swann (Michelle Monaghan) returns home to Texas from a 15-month deployment in Afghanistan with a Bronze Star, and is forced to deal with the fact that her five-year-old son Paul now wants nothing to do with her.
“I saw it as an extreme version of a working mom, where there is this whole other level of sacrifice,” director Claudia Myers told FOX411. “This isn’t a war film; it is a film about how war can test as primal a bond as motherhood.”
Myers also addresses the social stigma on women who choose to re-enlist despite having a family.
“Do we view this character differently or more harshly than we would a man who was re-enlisting? Would a man be viewed more heroically and we would not automatically think he was a father? Those are some of the questions raised,” Myers said. “I don’t know that there are answers, but I do think it is important to think about.”
The idea for “Fort Bliss” came about when Myers met a male soldier and single father who had to leave his young son with neighbors each time he went abroad to serve, highlighting how these deployments impact the children left behind, and how for many, going off to war can be easier than coming home.
“When he first told me, my reaction was two-fold. As a mom, it was emotional – shock. The other side was that I realized I knew so little about this side of the war. What must it be like for a father or mother to leave their child for more than a year, or what must it be like for that kid,” Myers said. “It made me curious about these experiences in a way I hadn’t thought about. And if I hadn’t thought about it, I figured most other civilians out there probably hadn’t either.”
“Fort Bliss” also illuminates Swann’s battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – haunted by losing loved ones on the battlefield – as well as being a victim of sexual assault in a male-dominated platoon. Despite exploring these dark realities of military life, the Army has supported the movie, enabling some filming to take place at Fort Bliss, in addition to providing military vehicles and subject matter experts to ensure technical accuracy.
“I give them credit for that, the public should know and understand a little better the many issues (troops) face,” Myers added. “2.5 million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, and for many Americans these wars seem abstract and remote. It is my hope the movie will create greater awareness of the (difficulties) readjusting to civilian life and particularly how the stress of deployment affects the whole family.”
“Fort Bliss” opens in select theaters and on VOD Friday, September 19.
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Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay