The Soldier's Heart
Originally Broadcast 03-01-2005
U.S. Marine Rob Sarra had been in the military for eight years when the war in Iraq began. A sergeant in charge of a unit of 32, he was considered part of the "tip of the spear" -- among the first troops to reach Baghdad. In late March 2003, Sarra opened fire on an Iraqi woman in a black burqa he suspected was a suicide bomber, prompting others in his unit to begin firing as well. Her body torn apart by bullets, the woman fell quickly to the ground. It was only then that Rob saw she held a small white flag.
"Right then and there I was just like, what the hell happened? I was crying, hysterical…this woman got killed by my actions," Sarra tells FRONTLINE. "I wasn't going to talk to anyone about it. But little did I know it kind of worked itself back up to the surface when I came home."
Sarra is one of thousands of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq free from physical injury but haunted by memories from the battlefield. In "The Soldier's Heart," FRONTLINE explores the psychological cost of war and investigates whether the military is doing enough to help the many combat veterans coming home with emotional problems. With unprecedented access to active duty service members at Camp Pendleton, a Marine base in San Diego, and through interviews with mental health experts both in and out of the military and members of a Camp Pendleton support group, FRONTLINE uncovers one of the underreported stories from the war in Iraq.