Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History On-Demand

Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History On-Demand

Pictured: Max Cleland recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, c. 1968.

Credit: Courtesy of the Max Cleland Collection, Stetson University Archives

Examine the way in which the American government and society as a whole have regarded disabled veterans throughout history. Watch On-DemandBeginning in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and continuing through today’s conflicts in the Middle East. Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History, a documentary film by six-time Emmy Award-winning director Ric Burns, as part of WXXI's Veterans Connections.

The film combines personal stories, told by distinguished disabled veterans, with deep history narrated by leading scholars in the fields of disability studies, history and psychology to illustrate the human cost of war and the enormous sacrifices of military service. These sacrifices are brought to life through hundreds of carefully curated still images and archival footage from across the country.

Watch Episode On-Demand

A poignant tribute to the history of disabled veterans in the U.S., Debt of Honor is an unflinching portrait of the realities of warfare and disabilities. The program features illuminating interviews with some of the country’s most prominent disabled veterans, including U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (Illinois); former U.S. Senator and Veterans Affairs Administrator Max Cleland (Georgia); former Garrison Commander of Fort Belvoir, Col. Gregory Gadson; and actor, motivational speaker and Iraq War Army veteran J.R. Martinez. Gadson, a double amputee veteran of the war in Iraq who shares his experiences on camera, calls Debt of Honor “one of the most accurate and balanced productions I have ever seen. It should be mandatory viewing for all high school civics classes.”

The diverse group of scholars and military and medical experts who have participated in the film includes Beth Linker, University of Pennsylvania professor and author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America; David A. Gerber, director emeritus of the Center for Disability Studies at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York; Dr. Charles Marmar, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University and director of the PTSD Research Program at NYU Langone Medical Center; James Wright, president emeritus of Dartmouth College; and David Blight, professor of American history at Yale University. Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provides a thought-provoking perspective to the film. 

WXXI’s Veterans Connection initiative is designed to help bridge military and veteran needs with community support and awareness. WXXI and the Little Theatre have pulled together a Veterans Affairs Task Force to create a community platform, raise awareness about veteran issues, and connect veterans with resources.