Who goes to war and who returns? Since it began, over 280,000 women have been sent to the Middle East to serve in the War on Terror. Often traumatized by their experiences, they return home changed. TERRA FIRMA weaves together the stories of three female veterans who were deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003. Through intimate interviews, they share their motivations for joining the service, their experiences as females in the military, and the impact of war on their lives. After struggling for years with combat related PTSD they have each found ways to heal their hidden wounds through farming. “I canʼt fight in wars anymore, but I can fight hunger, and I can be a hero to my community by being a farmer.”
The Farmer Veterans
Anna Mann – Anna served in the Army as a Civil Affairs Specialist for 8 years. In 2003 she deployed to Kuwait and then Baghdad after Shock and Awe. During combat operations her team worked to get civilians out of harmʼs way. Post-conflict, she worked on a Public Health team helping to rebuild public health services in Baghdad. She is now farming at Chestnut Ridge Farm in Mt. Airy, North Carolina on 16 acres where she lives with her husband and two children. Anna raises pastured poultry, Animal Welfare Approved pork and AWA eggs from her heritage breed laying flock. She also keeps bees and grows vegetables, herbs and flowers, which she sells at two local farmers markets. Looking to the future, they have planted several acres of heirloom apples and hybrid chestnuts. “Farming has shown me that being my own boss has let me give myself space basically where Iʼm not judging myself and so itʼs built a lot of confidence back for me.” Update February, 2015: After five years of farming Anna and her family have relocated to California where she will be getting a Masters Degree in Development focusing on veterans and sustainable agriculture. They have subleased the farm and will return in a few years.
Sonia Kendrick – Sonia served in the Army and the National Guard as a Petroleum Supply Specialist. One month shy of completing her 8 years, she was sent to Afghanistan in 2003. She served at Bagram Air Field where she guarded the gates and worked on Refuel On The Move operations fueling combat aircraft. After Bagram she was sent to Forward Operating Bases near Gardez and Kabul. In 2011 she founded Feed Iowa First, a non-profit with the mission of feeding the hungry in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She began by growing vegetables on donated church property supplying food banks and homeless shelters with fresh produce. In 2013 she expanded the operation to include a network of gardens and volunteers including plots at Rockwell Collins, GE Capital and 3 more churches. All of the food grown on these plots goes to Horizons Meals on Wheels. “I canʼt fight in wars anymore but I can fight hunger and I can be a hero to my community by being a farmer.”
Althea Raiford–Althea served in the Navy for 20 years as a Seabee and Master At Arms traveling all over the world. In 2003 she was deployed to Camp Morrell in Kuwait where she maintained security for base camps. She also worked as a Convoy Commander, volunteering for the most dangerous runs bringing supplies, weapons and personnel as close as possible to the frontlines. Althea comes from a long line of strong farming women having grown up on a farm in Brunswick, Georgia. Now retired from the Navy she is working with her brother Matthew to rebuild that farm. At Gilliard Farms, they are the 6th generation to farm on the property. “All the things that Iʼve seen in the world over the years that I served in the military, those unseen scars that people donʼt know about, when I come here to the farm I feel them healing.”
A documentary film by Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson.
ABOUT THE PRODUCERS
Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson are a wife/husband filmmaking duo dedicated to making solutions style films with a bent towards agriculture, the environment and social justice. The couple who work as Anthony-Masterson, produced GROW! a film about young, organic farmers in GA which has won numerous awards on the festival circuit
including Best American Documentary at the Rome International Film Festival, Best Feature Film at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, Audience Choice at the Atlanta Docufest and the Focus Award from the Montana Cine International Film Festival. Terra Firma is their second documentary feature length film.
A documentary film by Anthony-Masterson
Sarasota Film Festival 2014 (Premiere screening)
Rome International Film Festival 2014 – Jury Award
Cinema Verde Film Festival 2015 – Best Food Film
Colorado Environmental Film Festival 2015 – Best of Fest
Sacramento Food Film Festival 2015
Full-length film is 61 minutes and is available for purchase here:
Terra Firma is not another ʻmessed up vetsʼ movie. It is a sensitive, intimate look at three women who joined the service in the mid 90ʼs in order to improve their lives, ended up as support soldiers in a battle zone, returned home with PTSD and eventually found healing through farming.
So much of the media is focused on the more extreme tragedies and survival stories about Post 9/11 veterans, however, it was our intention to make a film to draw attention to the fact that there are a lot of veterans like the women featured in our film, everyday heroes who suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to recognize their response to the daily traumas they experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. We hope that the stories of these three women will serve to inspire and empower other veterans to think about new ways of healing and moving on with their lives.