James Scott Mason
Logline: Drama; A visit to the Vietnam Memorial stirs memories for an alcoholic vet who must face the ghosts of his past in order to have a relationship with the daughter he’s never known.
Synopsis: They say you haven’t lived until you’ve almost died. Veteran John Christman has nearly died many times, but he’s never really lived. A trip to the Vietnam Memorial stirs powerful memories.
In the jungles of Vietnam, Young John and his best friend Joey endure the horrors of war. Solace comes in a bottle and the occasional letter from home. But it’s been more than a month since John’s last letter from Sandy. John met Joey’s sister Sandy at her party the night before they were shipped off to Vietnam. It was only one night, but long enough for her to get pregnant. When John is too drunk to pull his duty, Joey takes over for his friend, and is killed. Feeling responsible, John tries to get himself killed in combat. Wounded, he is sent stateside.
John goes to see Sandy and meet her parents. Emotions raw from losing their son, they explode with anger at John’s revelation that he is responsible for Joey’s death. Sandy wants nothing to do with the father of her child. Just outside the door, John is surprised to see Joey! But only John can see this apparition. Joey’s Ghost consoles his buddy, suggesting they go get a drink.
As John approaches the black marble memorial, he witnesses a Homeless Man digging through the trash. He offers a trade to the bedraggled old man: a bagel for a story. The old man accepts. They don’t realize, that they are being watched by a young woman.
18 years later John is still drowning inside a bottle of Jack Daniels. His two companions are his German Shepherd, Pup, and his faithful drinking companion, Joey’s Ghost. John lives at home with his ailing father, Jerry. An alcoholic, sober ten years, Jerry knows first hand his son’s suffering, and what is necessary to alleviate his pain. An opportunity arises when John must have surgery for an old war wound. John joins a 12-step program and meets a woman named Nancy. Even with the prospect of new love, the pain and frustration are too much. John goes back to drinking.
After years of false promises and failed attempts at clean living, John drinks more than ever. Jerry makes the difficult decision to stop enabling his son. He kicks him out of the house. For months John lives in a run down hotel, drinking away his disability income. Unable to pay, John finds himself homeless and alone, begging on the street. A young boy's honest words bring him a moment of clarity.
The Homeless Man stops John cold. Stories about drunks are palatable, but stories about recovery are repugnant. He walks away. The young woman reveals herself, the spitting image of her mother all those years ago. Together, they search for Joey’s name on the massive black marble slabs. She wants to know if John really killed her uncle, as she’s been lead to believe. More than that, she wants to know about her father.
John takes the first step in his journey towards sobriety. He goes home to his father and asks for help. He endures the detox process and enters a 12-step program with other veterans. For the first time in his life, John feels connected. When Jerry has a heart attack, John’s resolve remains strong. He begins the process of making amends. As he relationship with Nancy starts to blossom, catastrophe strikes. John is diagnosed with cancer, and his father Jerry dies. But it’s Nancy who goes back to the bottle. John begins to fight for those things that are most important – like having his daughter in his life.
Back at the wall, Jo offers only a ray of hope for a future relationship. Joey’s Ghost appears at the wall. John is finally able to make amends with the one person he needs to the most – himself.
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"You haven’t lived until you’ve almost died. And for those who have fought for it, life has a flavor the protected shall never know.”