Debt of Honor: Disabled Veterans in American History

The Conversation Continues

In the film, University of Pennsylvania Professor Beth Linker asks, “What do we do with those that return not fully physically or mentally intact? And what does the country owe them?”

Watch the full film now by clicking, Debt of Honor.


About the Film

A moving tribute to the history of disabled veterans, Debt of Honor takes an unflinching look at the reality of warfare and disability, and features interviews with some of the country’s most prominent disabled veterans, including Representative Tammy Duckworth, former Georgia Senator Max Cleland and former Commander of Fort Belvoir Gregory Gadson. 

Combined with a deep history as narrated by leading scholars in the fields of disability studies, history and psychology, the film palpably illustrates the human cost of war and sacrifices of military service. It is brought to life through carefully curated stills and archival footage from archives across the country.

Icon Debt of Honor Press Release (269.9 KB)

A few comments from the November 17th screening event:


Thank you  WYCC for your efforts in putting this out there. 

With the current sabre rattling by the many chicken hawks it seems more essential to speak to peace and understanding.  The issue that was mentioned during the discussion however, was that the audience was 90% choir.  Where are (were) the civilians that need to be made aware of the costs before we spend more than we as a society are willing to pay for.

Peace and Love, Kevin Campbell


When war was uncommon in American life it was, by necessity, a violent but short-lived affair that required total mobilization and brought widely shared sacrifice. That reduced the distance between soldiers and civilians and helped veterans to reintegrate into society. 

But since 1941 the U.S. has been perpetually at war, and in such circumstances it is simply impossible for the entire U.S. population to behave as though it is in a permanent wartime crisis, particularly given that in most of these wars the American people were not consulted by their leaders in an open and honest fashion, and did not endorse the use of military force, at least not in ways that would stand the test of time and full-disclosure. Thus, the heavy reliance on a small population of military personnel and the disconnect between those who serve and the rest of the public has followed naturally and inevitably from the undemocratic nature of U.S. foreign policy over the past half-century. The social isolation and alienation it produces among homecoming veterans, who return not en masse but in dribs and drabs over many years, even decades, is just another trauma produced by a misguided militarized U.S. foreign policy.

Michael Allen, Associate Professor, History Department, Northwestern University

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DEBT OF HONOR: DISABLED VETERANS IN AMERICAN HISTORY is a production of Steeplechase Films. Directed by Ric Burns. Produced by Ric Burns, Bonnie Lafave and Nat Rosa. Co-producer, Josh Woltermann. Edited by Mikaela Shwer. WETA is the presenting station. Funding was provided by Lois Pope. National Outreach supported by a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities.