AFF 2023: ‘Soldier’ captivates with a veteran’s harrowing story

AFF 2023: ‘Soldier’ captivates with a veteran’s harrowing story
Daniel Krug is an Army veteran and currently an avid armored combat enthusiast. (Courtesy photo)

By Caitlyn Meisner |

The 22-minute short documentary film, “Soldier” by Justin Zimmerman, follows Daniel Krug, a veteran who eloquently details his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder following his childhood and time in Iraq.

Krug, an Army veteran, opened his heart and told his entire life story, starting with his childhood in Alaska. He was born to a stay-at-home mother and fisherman father. His father lacked a presence in his life, leaving Krug’s mother to care for him and his siblings for nine months out of the year by herself. Krug detailed the struggle of living in a toxic, poverty-stricken environment.

Amongst the fighting between his parents and teasing from classmates due to his old clothing and shoes with holes, Krug grew up in constant chaos and in “fight or flight” mode. He also played football throughout his adolescence.

Lacking a real path in his life – something he chalks up to his wild and free childhood – Krug struggled to find discipline in college and was eventually kicked out for poor grades. What does he do next? What any other American boy did in the 1990s: join the Army.

Krug had finally found a purpose in life in the military. After 10 long years as a sniper and SWAT member, Krug made the difficult decision to leave the military to be present for his young daughter. But he felt lost again. It was a difficult transition back to civilian life; he compared this to being a giant meant to “guard the gates.”

“They love the giants when they’re guarding the gates,” Krug said. “But nobody wants them back. They make giants and then they say, ‘OK, don’t be a giant anymore.’ How do you do that?”

Krug then details the near-loss of his life in 2013 when his suicide attempt failed due to an error in the gun when he pulled the trigger. He said he looks at his life in two phases: post- and pre-attempt. Now, as a father to five with a wife, his life is completely different. Krug’s story is not unique; the struggle of veterans transitioning back to regular American life is strenuous and leads many to commit suicide.

Zimmerman does a fantastic job of portraying the loss and trauma associated with veterans and the wars in the Middle East. Almost through the entirety of the film, it is just a talking head shot of Krug with his black cowboy hat in a barn of some sort. The audience feels truly connected to his story, almost like you’re sitting in the barn right in front of him.