While on the set of an upcoming TV show revolving around a deadly
ambush that he and other 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers endured in
Iraq, Eric Bourquin managed to get the emotional healing he had
sought for years.
As a 23-year-old sergeant, he was part of a
four-vehicle convoy attacked in Sadr City just outside of Baghdad on
April 4, 2004 ... a day later known as Black Sunday. The eight-hour
ordeal left eight of his fellow Soldiers dead and wounded him and
about 50 others.
Using photos, video and memories collected
from Soldiers there, producers of The Long Road Home, which
premieres on the National Geographic channel Tuesday at 9 p.m.
Eastern time, recreated scenes from the ambush that sparked a
four-year battle for the Iraqi city.
More than 80 buildings
were erected at the Elijah urban training site at Fort Hood, Texas,
where the division is headquartered, to resemble homes and streets
in Sadr City. For Bourquin, who worked as a production consultant
for the show, the fabricated town gave him tangible closure.
November 1, 2017 - The Long Road Home miniseries set at Fort Hood, Texas, was made to resemble portions of Sadr City, a neighborhood in Baghdad where 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers were ambushed in April 2004. (U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Timothy Hyde)
"There's no way I could just take a stroll through memory
lane [in Iraq] if i wanted to," he said last week after a
panel discussion about the show at the Defense Information
School. "But I was so fortunate that I was able to do that
and walk through it."
Based on ABC News correspondent
Martha Raddatz's book of the same name, the miniseries
depicts the sacrifices made by the Soldiers and their
families as they anxiously waited to hear news out of Iraq.
After Raddatz initially learned of the ambush while on
assignment in Baghdad, she jumped at the chance to interview
the Soldiers, who were assigned to the division's 2nd
Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.
"Once I met those
Soldiers and once I heard their stories … I knew it was
something I had to keep telling," she said at the
The Soldiers told her the ambush was not
just hard on them, she recalled, but also for their families
back home. Captivated by the struggles at both ends of the
world, she reached out to the families and also included
their experiences in her 2007 book.
Years later, the
book was made into a script and landed on the desk of Lt.
Col. Tim Hyde, deputy director for the Office of the Chief
of Public Affairs-West. Hyde's office in Los Angeles reviews
film projects to determine if they can be supported by the
Army. He said this one was the perfect fit.
the only project that I have read a script on in the two
years I've been doing the job that takes time to focus on
family," he said. "That was one of the reasons why I went to
my leadership and said we absolutely have to provide support
for this production."
The Army assisted the film crew
at Fort Hood, where producers claimed they built the largest
working film set in North America on a 12-acre site.
The realistic setting of the production was not lost on
Aaron Fowler, a former Soldier who was shot three times
during the ambush and also served as a consultant for the
show. Fowler and Bourquin helped train the actors, along
with two Army Rangers, and provided insight into what they
"It made me feel I was a member of a
team that was [honoring] my brothers," Fowler said. "I was
very thankful for being given the opportunity."
unique aspect of the filming, he said, was that former unit
members, including him, had cameos in it. "[For] the
production to allow the members of the unit to do that is
amazing," he said. "I think it will add a flavor of
sincerity to it."
That's exactly what showrunner
Mikko Alanne and others had in mind. He estimated he
interviewed 70 Soldiers and family members before the
production to make it as real as possible.
wanted the Soldiers and families to be our guides, our
teachers, in telling it right," Alanne said. "I felt like so
many times Hollywood gets it wrong and we wanted to be the
project that got it right."
At first, Bourquin
thought the idea of discussing personal details of that time
in his life to strangers was nerve-wracking. Then he
realized it wasn't only about him.
veteran Eric Bourquin talks about being part of The Long Road
Home, a TV miniseries based on the Black Sunday ambush in Sadr City
where he and other 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers fought in, during a
panel discussion at the Defense Information School on Fort Meade,
Md., Oct. 26, 2017. Bourquin and fellow veteran Aaron Fowler served
as production consultants for the show.
"The only thing that was hard was to open up," he said,
"but how can I not open up when so many men died just to
make sure I can sit here and breathe?"
Only four days
in country, Bourquin's
platoon was on a routine convoy escorting sewage trucks when enemy
gunfire pinned them down. More Soldiers from the battalion -- and
the 1st Armored Division, which was redeploying at the time -- then
went in to help, but also faced heavy contact.
actually in transition, doing left-seat, right-seat for the first
three days. On the fourth day, we went out," Bourquin said. "They
hit us at the perfect time."
Actor Jon Beavers had the
challenge of playing Bourquin in the miniseries. While he was
intimidated by the role at first, Beavers said the former sergeant
gave him the confidence to do it well.
"He believed I could
do it before I believed I could do it," Beavers said.
point, Bourquin told the actor about his time in the Army,
particularly during the ambush, when he had to make it up on the go
and just rely on his military training to guide him.
was saying was 'I'm just a dude and I did what I had to do and I did
it for the man on the right and left of me,'" Beavers said. "I was
emboldened by that."
The series also gave the actor a better
perspective of how much Soldiers and their families pay in the cost
"It really updated my internal understanding of what
that cost is and who pays it," he said. "It's a profoundly important
piece of work to me and I am privileged to be a part of it."
For the former sergeant, that cost is something he hopes more
civilians can learn from the show.
"Everybody is going to be
able to understand what happened out there and … know what sacrifice
actually means," Bourquin said. "We were just people put into
By Sean Kimmons
Army News Service
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