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Utah Veteran Embarks On His Battle Of Purpose

Sandoval in Uniform
Spc. Jonathan Sandoval started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce a documentary about soldier's lives after they come home.

Veteran’s Day is an annual opportunity for people in the United States to honor the nation’s armed forces, but for one former Utah soldier, this year’s holiday also marks the first steps into a new project which will address issues that linger with veterans and their families after service.

Spc. Jonathan Sandoval returned home from a tour in Iraq two years ago. In many ways Sandoval said the stresses of being a soldier at war hindered his ability to assimilate back into daily civilian life.

“When I came home, I really just sat in my house for almost an entire year,” Sandoval said. “I really didn’t leave the house. I drank a lot. After that first year and finally coming out of the house and trying find things to do for me to do, I never really found anything that made me feel as fulfilled as I did when I was in the military. So I struggled a lot with that, and then trying to relate with my family and friends made everything kind of hard in general.”  

Sandoval said he finally pulled himself out of his slump when he realized he enjoyed traveling and hearing about the similar experiences of his fellow service men trying to re-enter society. Sandoval decided that their stories needed to be heard.

“I felt that this is what I enjoyed and I tried to find a way to do that and to share with people," Sandoval said. "I finally came up with the story on how to share my experiences, and then I wanted to add other soldiers’ experiences who might have been going through the same thing and just share with everyone.” 

It is often difficult for soldiers to relate to their friends and family after having dealt with the hardships of war and spending so much time away from home. Sandoval said this is the issue he wants to address when making his documentary film Battle of Purpose: Life after the military.

“These kids joining the military are eighteen to twenty years old and are essentially raised into adulthood by the military,” Sandoval said. “So, it’s basically just trying to show the difficulties that most all veterans face trying to find themselves again as a civilian.”

Part of addressing this problem is also looking at the role Posttraumatic Stress Disorder plays in the life of a veteran. Sandoval said that while he appreciates that PTSD has been getting more attention in recent years, he said all soldiers come back bearing something on their shoulders, even if it isn’t PTSD.

Sandoval said he is planning on traveling by car across the country to document the lives of veterans who have succeeded in finding their way back into the world at home and those who are still struggling to do so.

In order to get the project off the ground, Sandoval needed funding. For that he turned to popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter and planned a launch date for Veteran’s Day 2014. He said he needs at least $9,000 by the Dec. 10 deadline to pay for his expenses including fuel, food and film equipment.

Sandoval said leaving in the dead of winter sounds crazy to most people, but to him the time around the holidays holds a special significance.

“During the holidays between Thanksgiving all the way to New Year’s, there is often times an increase in suicides between veterans and active duty soldiers. So, I find it important for me to leave during this time so I can talk to these veterans in this very dark time for some of them and share their story,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he plans on completing his loop around the country in 30 days.

For more information about Sandoval’s project, including his budget and planned route around the U.S., visit his Kickstarter page.