The Military Family Documentary:
PBS SOPTV Families at War Clip
Filmmaker Elena Miliaresis
ABC – Eyewitness News
NPR – The Jefferson Exchange
Interview with Geoffrey Rily
Created by a military spouse, “The Military Family Documentary: While Time Stands Still” chronicles the resilient journey of three military wives during the Iraq War.
Iraq War Veteran Spouse Elena Miliaresis travels to Twentynine Palms,a Marine Corps base in the Mojave Desert, to meet two wives on the eve of their husbands’ deployment to war. Brandi Albritton and Denneny Cochran, both, start out innocently optimistic, but neither is prepared for the weight of the struggle to come. “The Military Family Documentary: While Time Stands Still” follows their resilient journey over six years.
When you hear the words Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or suicide, you think of a Soldier. You don’t think of their spouse. Yet, years of war are taking their toll on military families in ways the public is unaware. Studies show increased mental health disorders in wives, double the risk of postpartum depression, and, most alarmingly, 10 percent of family members consider suicide as a way out.
“I felt broken. I could barely get the baby her bottle. I started thinking horrible thoughts that I don’t normally think of like hurting my children and hurting myself,” confesses wife Brandi Albritton returning from the suicide crisis center during her husband’s third deployment.
“The Military Family Documentary: While Time Stands Still” brings urgent attention to the life and death stakes war imposes on families revealing what it is like to be a military family at home during wartime. With nearly 100 interviews from families across the country and experts in the fields of psychiatry and medicine, “While Time Stands Still” is an unprecedented investigation into the effect combat deployment has on families and the perseverance it takes to heal afterwards.
The documentary was inspired by filmmaker Elena Miliaresis’ own experience. On Memorial Day weekend 2004, her fiancé, a Marine, told her he was deploying to Iraq. Miliaresis had covered world events as a journalist at ABC News in the past, but was still blindsided by the strain of having a loved one at war. She knew she must not be alone, and felt she could help others by documenting their story.
Miliaresis travels to Twentynine Palms, California to a Marine Corps base in the Mojave Desert. She meets two wives, Brandi Albritton and Denneny Cochran, before their husbands deploy to Iraq.
Twenty-six year old Denneny met her husband, Lance Corporal Jordan Cochran, in college. After September 11th, she supported his decision to leave teaching to join the Marines. She quit her own job as an insurance professional, and sold their house in order to move to his new duty station with their dog Paco.
Brandi, a twenty-four year old mom of two toddlers, faces her husband, Sergeant Aaron Albritton’s second deployment in less than two years. Brandi and Aaron were high school sweethearts from a small town in central Florida.
After months of training and preparation, the day of departure arrives. Standing in a sweltering parking lot, Denneny clutches their Chihuahua, and makes jokes to lighten the situation. Brandi wipes her tears, trying to be strong for her children. Still, two-year old Elijah cries inconsolably for his dad, not wanting him to leave. As the buses pull away, an eerie silence hangs in the air. No one knows if they will ever see their loved ones alive again. Time stops.
A fog of worry and instability characterizes the days that follow. Heartfelt interviews from families describe the fear, the palpable absence. In this emotional chaos, spouses must shoulder the responsibility of the household alone, and, effectively, become single parents. Brandi looks for ways to keep Aaron fresh in the minds of her children. She makes pillowcases for them to sleep on with their daddy’s picture on it.
Work can be a helpful distraction, but over fifty percent of military spouses are unable to find employment. Though a college graduate with work experience, Denneny settles for a job as a lifeguard. She works herself to exhaustion, in the hopes of stuffing down the feelings and making time go by faster.
As the weeks slowly turn into months, Denneny gains confidence, and finds solace in her routine, but Brandi struggles. Her two year-old, Elijah, has night terrors; he begins to stutter. With Aaron in a combat zone, she can’t rest. The anxiety and sleep deprivation drive Brandi to the edge. She wishes she could sleep – forever…
The anguish Brandi suffers is not unique. Families are under extreme pressure. Any moment a call could bring news of injury. Every knock on the door could be news of death. Though everything looks normal on the outside, the stress inside can be overpowering as mom, Cyd Deathe, articulates, “There was no sleeping, there was just a lot of crying and a lot of worrying and a lot of praying.”
Knowing that your loved one could be killed at any moment is debilitating. This strain often results in physical repercussions like back pain, heart palpitations, and many other unexpected ailments for which families are unprepared.
Even during the countdown to homecoming, families can’t let their guard down. Denneny and Brandi don’t dare breathe a sigh of relief…
Finally, homecoming! Denneny and Brandi revel joyously in what feels like a second honeymoon. The weight of constant fear is lifted, and reintegration begins. This process can be unexpectedly long, though, especially for those like Brandi who carry the trauma of multiple deployments.
In addition to their own persistent pain, families often have to deal with devastating circumstances. Over 50,000 Service Members have been wounded. Over 6,000 Service Members have been killed. Families struggle to cope. Mom Roberta Kilpatrick lives in terror everyday after her son, diagnosed with PTSD attempts suicide. Will he try again? What if he succeeds? She is afraid to lower her defenses.
Denneny and Jordan can relax for a while. Jordan is headed to Officer Candidate School, so he won’t be returning to the frontline until that is completed. However like many families, the Albrittons have little time to heal. After a blissful reunion, Brandi is pregnant again. But, Aaron’s next deployment is imminent. Their baby girl is born two weeks before he departs. Brandi is alone again. This time, she is caring for three children under the age of five on her own. She doesn’t know her increased risk of postpartum depression. She doesn’t know that 15 percent of those with untreated postpartum depression contemplate suicide. She fails to get the proper care. Brandi has serious thoughts of killing herself and her children. Fortunately, she reaches out for help. She is sent to the crisis center in town. With a vacant look in her eyes, Brandi utters, “I just kept asking, ‘Will I be normal again?’ and I kept crying cause I just felt like something in my brain had broke.”
Because of Brandi’s condition, Aaron gets out of the Marine Corps. He doesn’t have a job lined up, and the family doesn’t have health insurance. Brandi is unable to get the help she needs. In a deep depression, she attempts suicide. Luckily, she is rushed to the hospital and survives. One step at a time, over the course of several years, Brandi and her family repair the wounds.
At first glance, Brandi’s situation may seem like an isolated incident. Unfortunately, it is not. But, reports of spouse distress are not properly tracked. Without the data, awareness and treatment and do not happen. “The Military Family Documentary: While Time Stands Still” brings these vital issues to the forefront. In addition, the film demonstrates that with support different outcomes are possible, and the personal evolution through harrowing times of the women in this film is a testament to the indomitable power of the human spirit.
Aaron, Elijah, Dustin, Brandi
Brandi Albritton married her high school sweetheart, Sergeant Aaron Albritton, shortly after she finished high school. Brandi had been prom queen, played the snare drum in marching band, and ran track and cross-country.
Now, twenty-four Brandi faces Aaron’s second deployment to Iraq. This time, she has two toddlers, Elijah (2.5)and Dustin (1.5),to care for while her husband is at war. She searches for ways to help her children deal with the absence of their father, looks to her ‘church family’ for support, and helps other spouses through the Marine Corps Family Readiness Group.
Jordan & Denneny
Denneny Cochran met her husband, Jordan, in college. After graduating, Denneny played semi-pro soccer and worked as an insurance professional. Jordan was a teacher.
When Jordan joined the Marine Corps, Denneny had to leave her life behind. During his deployment to Iraq, the twenty-six year old, tries to keep her world together by filling it with work as a lifeguard, and playing recreational sports. Staying busy is her lifeline to sanity.
Elena & Brian
Elena met Brian met rock climbing. Elena was a journalist for ABC News, and, then, a producer at E! Entertainment. Brian was a Captain in the Marine Corps with 4thLAAD Battalion out of Pasadena, California. They had been dating for two years when Brian deployed to Iraq.
Three years after Brian returned home from Iraq, Elena was still haunted. But, she felt she could help others going through deployment and its after effects by creating a film that would share
Meet the Team
DIRECTOR - PRODUCER - WRITER
For over a decade, filmmaker and Iraq War Veteran spouse Elena Miliaresis has had one mission: to tell the story of America’s military families. Spurred to action by her own experience with deployment, Miliaresis created “The Military Family Documentary: While Time Stands Still” to reveal the untold perspective of what it is like to be a family during wartime. This fall, her film will be distributed by the National Educational Telecommunication Association (NETA) on PBS stations across the country.
Elena’s previous experience includes directing and producing documentaries, news, and biographies for television, including casting the Lifetime show Coming Home, producing, writing, and directing 14 episodes of the Emmy nominated True Hollywood Story at E! Entertainment, and producing at ABC Network News: World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Good Morning America, Nightline, and World News Now.
From appearances on PBS, NPR, and abc7 to classes at universities to Veterans organizations, Miliaresis uses her unique position as a spouse, filmmaker, and expert in the subject of family deployment to educate both families and professionals in order to perpetuate healing.
Over his career, Jason Shumway has edited popular shows for NBC, E!, MTV, And G4. Jason co-directed the successful short film “Enigma,” the recipient of 42 awards and nominations from around the world. Jason produced the award winning feature film “Bloomington.” Every film Jason has produced has gone on to win multiple awards at festivals. Jason graduated from the prestigious USC School of Cinema and Television.
WRITER - ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
Colette Delacroix is a writer, producer, actor who has been working in the entertainment industry for over twenty years. Colette is also the artistic director of The Against Type Theater Company, whose mission is the elimination of stereotypes from creative media.
The “Military Family Documentary: While Time Stands Still” is a story about:
- Military & Veteran Families
- The first documentary by a military spouse to follow families before, during, and after wartime deployments
- Women’s History and Contributions
- While Time Stands Still shares the story of the sacrifice of wives and mothers during wartime
- A Female Filmmaker
- While Time Stands Still was directed, produced, and written by Elena Miliaresis who brings her unique perspective as the wife of an Iraq War Veteran
- Postpartum Depression
- While Time Stands Still reveals what it is like to suffer from postpartum depression, a vital issue for women that is rarely captured
- The Cost of War
- The conversation about war generally focuses on the service member, the trauma born by families is often under-reported
- How We Rise to our Best in Difficult Times
- While Time Stands Still celebrates how we reach out to help one another
- A Community Coming Together to Support Military Families
- The film was made through a volunteer effort of people and professionals in the entertainment business who wanted to support military families
- Art Promoting Education & Healing
- While Time Stands Still has a profound impact on audiences, is used in university classes, and has inspired the creation of a foundation and a film
- Fostering Empathy in the Community
- While Time Stands Still creates a window into the realities of wartime deployment for those who have not experienced it, increasing compassion and understanding
- Showing the Power Each of Us has to do Good
- While Time Stands Still demonstrates how one person’s desire to help generates a ripple effect of good