Trauma on 'Thunder Road'

Film producers trying to raise $750,000 to tell soldiers' stories

Union Leader Correspondent
August 20. 2013 10:34AM
The incident that killed Jonathan Emard, of Texas, left, and changed the life of his best friend Nick Carbonell, of New Hampshire, when they were both 20 and deployed to Iraq in 2008 is being featured in a planned movie called “Thunder Road.” The film hopes to address the effects of war, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries in modern life. (Courtesy)

NICK CARBONELL found power in telling the tale of his experiences in Iraq. And with a little good fortune, that tale will be told on the big screen.

"Thunder Road," a film being produced by a Los Angeles company, tells the story of returning soldiers and their post-deployment struggles, including deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. The filmmakers need to raise $750,000 to bring the project to life.

Carbonell, 25, a Spaulding High School graduate who served as an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division, said the project helped him take a big step in his own recovery from two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Carbonell's mother, Francene Perreault, referred to PTSD as "a silent ghost." "Hopefully, it will bring people forward who are suffering in silence," she said.

A member of the 1-87th Infantry Battalion, Carbonell was deployed to Iraq from September 2007 until October 2008, and in Afghanistan between March 2010 and February 2011.

"I grew up quick," Carbonell said. "I went to Iraq when I was 19."

Carbonell said one of the main combat scenes in the movie, which is not a documentary but a story based on real-life experiences, was based on an event he witnessed in Iraq when his best friend, Spc. John Emard of Texas, and two other soldiers in their platoon were killed during a nighttime operation.

Carbonell said Emard's death haunted him. The two were both 20, had birthdays four days apart and were roommates at Fort Drum, N.Y., and in Iraq. He said he had a hard time coping for the first year; the experience remains with him today.

"Anyone who has one of their brothers killed thinks there was something else you could do," Carbonell said.

Perreault witnessed his struggles.

"I sent him away as a young boy at 17 and when he came back from Iraq (at 20) he wasn't my son," she said.

She found it difficult to connect with Nick, as he wouldn't talk about his problems with anyone.

"You could see he was tormented and tortured in his mind," Perreault said.

Carbonell said sharing his experiences for the film was therapeutic. He was reluctant at first, but once the floodgates opened, he saw how important this project was to him and to others facing similar issues.

"It helped me share because I feel the rest of the world should know," Carbonell said. "There's too many guys who've come home and committed suicide."

After five years in the Army, Carbonell now lives in Gorham, where he snowboards and works as a night-time snowmaker at area ski resorts.

Steven Grayhm, of Astoria Film Co., said he was inspired to write the film to tell the stories of the complex psychological issues affecting troops who served overseas.

"I felt it was long overdue and no one else is doing it," Grayhm said.

Grayhm said the company is raising money to produce "Thunder Road." As of this week, he said, it had raised more than $100,000 through crowdsourcing website Kickstarter, with a goal of raising $750,000 by Sept. 12. A link to Kickstarter is on the film's website, www.thunderroad. com.

A motorcycle run fundraiser is scheduled for Aug. 31, beginning at Big Moose Harley Davidson in Westbrook, Maine, at 9 a.m., and finishing at American Legion Post 82 in Gorham.

Anyone interested in volunteering or in making a donation for the event should contact Perreault at (207) 562-4264.

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