“I had cousins in the Marines, but no real connection to the military before I got the part in The Long Road Home. I came into this series with a massive respect for the military, and with so much respect for the families, and the soldiers, and the stories. I have goosebumps just talking about it.
“It has been such a learning experience for me, and I think for all of us. I think the people who watch this at home will feel the connection. We are putting hearts and faces to images you see on screen a lot. Growing up as a little kid, you have this idea about what a soldier is like. You think they look a certain way and come from this certain kind of family, and then you quickly realize just really how diverse the military is, and people from everywhere sign up for all sorts of reasons. It was beautiful to see how diverse it really is.
“I hope this series starts a conversation. When you get to know someone, and you know their heart, you have that person’s back, and you fight for their rights and you begin to think, ‘I love you, and I got you and I support you.’ And in doing this project, I really do feel this incredible bond with our military, and I hope that civilians who maybe don’t have that connection begin to feel that way as well.
“One of the things that makes this series special, is that we rarely see the homefront. We rarely see the struggle that goes on with the families, which is just as real as the battlefield. It’s two wars going on, really. I had so many emotions about the premiere. I was excited in a way, to get to watch it alongside the Gold Star families that had flown in, and to be able to celebrate these soldiers’ lives with them. But then I was also deeply sensitive in knowing that these family members were watching. Knowing that this person hadn’t seen this, and it’s about their loved one’s death, and they will be reliving all of these emotions is overwhelming.
“I met many of the families at Fort Hood, and I was crying with them and laughing with them … it’s just very bittersweet. But I think there is a sense of healing underneath it all. I hope there is. The beauty of film is that the story lives forever – it’s a stamp in time. I’m blessed for the opportunity to be a part of something that lets these heroes live on.”
Jorge Diaz plays Spc Israel Garza in National Geographic’s new mini-series, The Long Road Home, based on the true story by Martha Raddatz. The Long Road Home details an ambush in Sadr City, Iraq that took the lives of eight American soldiers, including Spc Garza, on only the 4th day of deployment. The Long Road Home airs Tuesdays at 10/9 central on National Geographic. This post was sponsored by National Geographic.