Le Moyne College’s Lanigan Distinguished Chair, the Office of Continuing Education and the Syracuse University/Le Moyne College Moral Injury Project present: Almost Sunrise. This movie screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

Almost Sunrise is a story of resilience and recovery. A feature-length documentary, the film follows two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, as they struggle with depression upon returning home from military service. Fearful of succumbing to the epidemic of veteran suicide, they both seek a lifeline and embark on a 2,700-mile walk across America as a way to confront their inner pain. The film captures an intimate portrait of two friends suffering from the unseen wounds of war as they discover an unlikely treatment: the restorative power of silence and meditation. A cinematic experience that juxtaposes the internal struggles of its characters against the wide-open spaces of America’s heartland, Almost Sunrise is also the first film to explore “moral injury:” the profound shame that many veterans feel when their experiences of war violate their moral beliefs, and a possible critical factor in veteran suicide.

This learning event educates participants about some of the psychological trauma of war as experienced by Tom and Anthony, the combat veterans followed in the documentary. Participants will learn about their struggles with depression, suicidal ideation, and reintegration after returning from military service. In desperation, they set out on a 2,700-mile walk across the United States in hopes of healing themselves from moral injury. The documentary also highlights the difficulties faced by family and friends of Tom and Anthony as they attempt to help them through this difficult time.

Panelists:

Tom Voss (veteran featured in movie) - Tom served on active duty with the 3rd Battalion, 21st infantry regiment, in the United States Army from 2003 to 2006. In October 2004, Tom was deployed to Mosul, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tom has given presentations and lectures about his journey of hope and healing at Google, the Aspen Ideas Festival, New York University, the Medical College of Wisconsin and United States Congress. Currently, Tom travels the country giving talks about , organizing, and teaching breath-based meditation techniques with Project Welcome Home Troops, and he will be working toward Yoga Teacher Certification with veteran owned nonprofit, VEToga.

Amber L. Pitoniak, B.S., L.M.S.W. Amber is the spouse of a combat veteran and graduate of the Falk College School of Social Work, where she served as a graduate research and teaching assistant for two years while studying moral injury in veterans of war. She holds a dual Bachelor of Science in psychology and neuroscience from Syracuse University. For the past few years, she has worked at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) as a research assistant and writer. Her areas of research include veterans, mental health, Status of Forces Agreements, and military spouse employment overseas. She is also a member of the Moral Injury Project at Syracuse University and Le Moyne College (2015-present).

Jessica M. Perusse, LCSW-R attended Canisius College in Buffalo and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience. She went on to earn her Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002. Jessica has worked with Veterans and their families for the last 13 years providing program development and clinical services and is passionate about ensuring outstanding care to the rural community. Jessica became interested in moral injury following her husband’s return from deployment to Iraq in 2005.

Madison Przelski, LMSW earned her bachelor’s degree in human services with a concentration in counseling and mental health from Cazenovia College. She went on to attend the University of Albany and earn her Masters in Social Work. Following graduation Madison began working for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs with the Health Care for Homeless Veteran’s program. Madison has spent the last six years working with Veterans in the community providing clinical services to a complex population. It was through this work that Madison became interested in moral injury and has strived to further her education and understanding to continue to provide the most holistic treatment to the Veterans she serves.