11 War Movie Death Scenes That Mess With My PTSD

I’m an old soldier who has deployed a half a dozen times. I’ve sent terrorists off to paradise and held the hands of far too many brothers as they gasped their last breaths.

That shit stays with me… No matter what I’m doing.

For the most part, I keep it under control, but man, I have to be careful while watching military movies.

It’s rare, but there are times when my PTSD rears its ugly head and I simply can’t stop bawling my eyes out because of some stupid scene from a flick…

I can’t stand that shit to be honest, but I know I’m not the only one.

Anyways… Here are 11 scenes that will bring tears to the eyes of any Vet who has ever lost a close friend while on deployment…

Sgt. Elias – Platoon

Man this one really messes me up, this one hits me right in the heart.

After Barnes leaves Elias for dead, the rest of the platoon is retreating with their wounded. They’re under heavy fire and shit just looks bleak. The landing zone is close though and if they can hold out for just a little longer, they’re gonna get their asses out of there. The choppers lands, they load up while holding off those pricks and they get airborne.

It seems like they’ve made it. You can see their faces relax a bit and relief starts to set in. That’s when you hear it… ‘Oh Fuck’. Yep, they’re on Sgt. Elias’ ass. He’s running with everything he’s got, but he’s taking fire. The chopper circles back and picks a few of those fuckers off with gunfire, but it’s too little too late. Elias is going down.

He hits the ground; on his knees and takes another hit. His head leans back and he reaches with both arms to the sky almost as if to ask ‘why…’

Then he collapses… And no one can do shit about it.

A hard man went down; a true Soldier and a Warrior.

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Jack Geoghegan – We Were Soldiers

It’s rough seeing a Soldier go down trying to help another. I’ve seen that shit with my own eyes on more than one occasion. This time, it happens so fast. It’s so similar to the unpredictability of combat. A brave decision is made and in a split second a Soldier is gone.

I get nervy right when the RPG is launched. It’s like a turning point for me. The Soldiers are under heavy fire and Jack is stranded. He’s got cover, but shit is tight. He screams for a grenade and gets a perfect toss; just over the hill to take out some of the enemy. He ascends the hill quickly, takes out whatever’s left and is heading back when Willie goes down. He’s almost made it back, but he sees his man down. It’s a split-second decision to help or get to safety. He does what any Soldier would do and grabs his fallen brother…

He’s got him in a fireman’s carry, heading back when he takes a bullet through his stomach.

The look on his face sends shivers through me. It’s like stone; like he knows it’s over and there’s nothing he can do about. Then he takes another right through the middle of the chest. Eyes wide open but empty, he falls and that’s that.

He doesn’t make it back.

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Doc – Hamburger Hill

This one is just too real. When you’re near the end you call it like it is with no bullshit attached.

Not trying to please anyone or worried about saying the wrong thing. Doc just lays it all out there. That’s when I start feeling the tears rising. He’s talking to his brothers letting him know what his reality is. They try keeping him positive, letting him know it’s going to be okay. But fuck, he’s already crossed the threshold and he knows it.

Where this scene crushes me is when he lays down the ultimatum… ‘Take the hill!’  This kills me because this is the mind of a warrior. There’s no try involved. Doc’s not encouraging his brothers to take the hill. Fuck that. He’s telling them to take it. Pure and simple. Overpower those fucks and take the hill. It’s the heart of a warrior speaking.

Then it hits him. Death has arrived. His eyes widen and his stare goes blank. His brothers know it’s time and there’s nothing they can do. They tell him to hold on but they know it’s over.

They hug him… That’s all they can do.

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Shugart & Gordon – Blackhawk Down

This scene really fucks me up; makes me want to kill someone. It’s one of those when you know you’re fucked. There’s no way out and you just have to make due. Hell, they didn’t even send in enough back up.

The first thing that kills me is how Shugart goes down. It’s not one kill shot through the heart or head like Gordon. They’re multiple bullets picking him off piece by piece. Finally, after taking too many, he’s done and the enemy pricks storm the busted chopper and pump him full of lead, long after he’s dead.

As if this scene isn’t savage enough, Michael Durant runs out of bullets as he’s holed up in a little shelter. He’s fucked and he knows it. Again, it can’t be a shot to put him out of his misery; he takes a rifle butt across the face.

This one gets all sorts of emotions going in me; hate, anger, nervousness, admiration for my fellow soldiers.

It’s an amazing scene and ruthless as fuck.

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Danilov – Enemy At The Gates

‘Let me do something useful for a change…’ Sometimes I’m surprised that this scene gets me worked up. Danilov and Vasili aren’t taking heavy gunfire. They’re perched, trying to take out a sniper.

Danilov is reflecting on life and the impossible fucking Soviet ideal of everyone being equal in a world where that simply doesn’t work.

I start to get twisted when Danilov talks about Vasili’s wife/girlfriend and how she died. Terrible fucking news at the moment and Vasili is crushed. Danilov knows it’s over for him though and he’s going out a true soldier. ‘Let me do something useful for a change. Let me show you the general.’

Then he consciously pays the ultimate sacrifice and does so for the greater good. He pokes his head out to be visible for the sniper…

And takes one straight through the forehead.

It’s the final act of a true warrior and stirs up some strong but difficult memories.

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Michael Slowens – Tears Of The Sun

I love this fucking movie, but this scene tears me apart. It’s just real.

Slo is a beast and no one expects him to go down. When they notice he’s hit everyone rushes to help him. It’s obvious the wound is mortal and Slo is taking responsibility for the situation saying it’s his fault.

Here’s where I lose my shit…

Slo says, ‘it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.’

Ain’t that the truth.

It’s never supposed to happen like that. We’re not supposed to lose our brothers, the ones we love, and watch them die.

Slo’s next words were right back on the mission, ‘You know what to do right?’ Damn; true warrior.

Then, as most of you have experienced, he gasps for air during his dying breaths. With his brothers holding him, his light goes out.

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Wardaddy – Fury

When your time is up, your time is up. When you’re fucked you’re fucked. When you’re wounded in a busted tank crawling with the enemy, shit isn’t good.

I love and hate this scene at the same time. I love how Wardaddy makes sure Norman knows what to do and where to go all while knowing he’s dying. I also love when the enemy opens the hatch to get a peek and Wardaddy fires two quick shots at him as if to say, ‘fuck you!

The hatch opens again and two grenades drop. He tells Norman to get out. The end is seconds away and I’m getting choked the fuck up. Wardaddy’s eyes tell their own story. I can see the acceptance come over him and then he closes his eyes. He’s ready to go and just as Norman squeezes out of the bottom of the tank you hear it…

Thump…Thump… The grenades discharge.

That sound really gets me. It’s not an explosion, but more like two pulses, one right after the next. You can’t see it, but you know what’s happened. A good Leader is gone.

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Matthew Axelsons – Lone Survivor

I know this shit is just a movie, but this scene brings me back like I’m there. Axelsons is alone on the mountain under fire and being hunted. One eye is shut, but he’s fighting those terrorist fucks off with only a pistol. He takes two or three hits; heavy ones. It looks like he shouldn’t be able to move which is why I love this scene.

His intense training kicks in. Despite the mortal wounds he stays front site focused, readies his weapon and just keeps battling. He finally backs up against a tree and fires into the distance. I don’t know if he even sees anyone, but he’s firing because he’s a fucking warrior and he’s not going down easy.

Right before he dies is what really gets me. He’s spent, only has a few breaths left, but he’s not giving up. Those last breaths were loud and hard fought. This warrior literally didn’t give up until he died. He battled for every one of his last breaths.

And then he’s still.

It pains me to watch a brother go out giving every last ounce of effort and strength to get those last breaths. Shit.


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Private Witt – The Thin Red Line

This one makes me wonder about so many of my brothers and what was going through their head in the moments before their lives were taken. Pvt. Witt had been wondering about his death and hoping it would be similar to his mother’s. She had found a certain calm in death that Witt talked about.

So, surrounded by Japs, Witt knows his end has arrived. Sure he has a choice. He can put his gun down and become a Japanese POW or he can fight these fucks and lose his life doing it. Not much of a fucking choice.

Witt’s a warrior though and before acting on his decision his eyes tell a totally different story. He’s not panicked facing death he’s staring past the enemy, off into the distance, with total calm in his eyes. He’s ready. Shit, he’s found what he wanted for his death.

Time to act…

He raises his rifle and the Jap fucks unload into him. But fuck them anyway. Witt was gone at that point. They shot into an empty, peaceful body. There’s no way he’s going to be anyone’s prisoner.

I can’t help but wonder what some of my brothers were thinking at the end. Were they calm? Were they scared? Did they just not give a fuck and were going down fighting? I’ll never know, but I can’t help wondering.

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Lieutenant Rorke – Act Of Valor

Don’t get me started on this one. So many things come to mind – choice, courage, bravery, sneaky fucks I’d like to dispatch to the next life. It happens quickly, too; in a split second.

The team is quietly making their way through the building when this little prick drops a grenade into the room. The rest of the seals don’t seem to see it, just Lieutenant Rorke. Everything slows down. He looks at the grenade. He looks at his team. He knows they’re all going to be blown to shit if he doesn’t act.

Then, in that split second, and this is what I struggle with, he made a choice. He screams, ‘grenade!’ and dives on it. Half a second later it detonates and Rorke is pushed three feet into the air after which he falls prostrate and motionless. Blood seeps out from the side. Another brother and elite warrior gone, while saving the lives of others.

I keep thinking about the choice; choosing to give up one’s own life to protect his brothers. I get it. We all do, but when I think about it further, was there really any choice? Isn’t that what we all would do? It’s fucking get check time. Take a look in the mirror and be honest with what you see.

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Private Stanley Mellish – Saving Private Ryan

Well, here you have it. This one fucks with me the most. Without question it shreds me every time I fucking see it. Once Mellish goes hand to hand combat with that German prick I feel the core of what war is inside me. One of those soldiers is going to make it out alive and one is not. It’s nature. It’s fucking Darwin. And it sucks beyond anything I can image when it doesn’t work in our favor.

Anyway, Mellish and the German battle it out, rolling over a dying, choking soldier. Mellish is struggling for advantage, biting the German’s hand and seems to gain an advantage when he pulls out his knife to finish him off. In retrospect, it’s a mistake and the German gains the upper hand. He starts pushing the knife toward Mellish and speaking to him in German (I’d love to know what he’s saying). Mellish battles back and asks him to stop, but this is war. The German slowly plunges the knife into his chest. Mellish is done.

All while this is going down, another American soldier is just feet from Mellish and the German. He has a fully loaded rifle and rounds wrapped around his neck. In five seconds he could have made it up the stairs, found Mellish and the German, and put one in his skull. Mellish would still be alive. Instead, he shits himself. Crying, he takes two or three steps, collapses and listens to the screams of Mellish fighting. Little fucking bitch. Stay the fuck at home if you aren’t ready to lay it all on the line. When the German leaves the room he walks right past him on the stairs. That fuck just puts up his arms in surrender hoping the German doesn’t twist his head off.

Fuck him.

I fucking hate that feeling. One of our own isn’t up to it. Funny thing is I don’t feel an ounce of hate toward the German. It’s war and he wanted to live. It’s fucked up, but that’s the reality of it.


I hope these scenes don’t fuck you up like they do me. And if they do, just know you’re not alone. When you’ve watched your brothers die, nothing is the same. Doesn’t matter how many of the enemy we kill. It’s a brief respite, but we know it’s only temporary.

The war wages on whether it’s in our heads, under our boots, or a hundred yards in front of our rifle.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Joe Snuffy July 30, 2016 at 12:42 AM

    Re: what the fuck stick is saying in German; roughly translated it’s like “let it go, you don’t matter animal, die quietly” which is a bitch thing to say to someone.

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