Our Own Private Battlefield

When a soldier comes home from war with PTSD, it affects the entire family. Studies indicate it may even cause secondary PTSD in spouses and children. In the feature documentary work-in-progress, Our Own Private Battlefield, father and daughter artists Tom and Lora Beldon share how the Vietnam War affected their family and how, 20 years later, their art has helped bring them back together.

Tom Beldon was a Navy brat and career Marine who served two year-long combat tours in Vietnam, the first year as an infantry platoon leader, the second as a company commander. Lora was three years old when he returned. After years of struggling, Tom and his wife finally divorced. Tom dropped Lora off at college and disappeared.

Fifteen years later, Lora mailed an invitation to one of her art shows to Tom's sister, Lora's aunt. On the day of the show, Lora and her mother walked into the back of the gallery.

The moment that we walk in the back door, my mother looks up to the front door, it was a sunny day, and there’s the silhouette that she recognizes, and she says, “Lora, that’s your dad.” And I look up and I recognize the way that he stands, cause you can’t see anything, it’s just a black silhouette, and I freeze because I didn’t know what to do, and she goes, “Go get him!”
— Lora Beldon, Our Own Private Battlefield
"War Torn Teddy Bear" by Lora Beldon

"War Torn Teddy Bear" by Lora Beldon

Afterwards, Lora and Tom discovered they had both been making art to try and understand what had happened to them. Lora made a series of graphite drawings inside hand-built toothpick frames, entitled Everywhere and Nowhere, to explore her experiences as a military brat. She decided to specifically address PTSD, because she knew she had symptoms similar to those her father experienced after the war, but she didn't understand what it meant. 

"Returning to Friendly Pos." Installation Art by Tom Beldon (documentary photography by Patty Carroll)

"Returning to Friendly Pos." Installation Art by Tom Beldon (documentary photography by Patty Carroll)

Tom, meanwhile, created a fantastical "world" of hanging sculptures and installation pieces in the Michigan woods. Tom describes his art as a private and joyous, meditative process. He rarely shares his work publicly, and has only agreed to do so if it helps other military families.

Our Own Private Battlefield is a story of love, redemption, and the power of art. It is also the first feature documentary about the inter-generational effects of combat PTSD on military children, specifically. But most of all, it is a testament to the fact that, sometimes, it really is never too late to start over again.

You can see a 7-minute clip containing excerpts from the film at: vimeo.com/90586248.

If you would like to make a donation to help support the production costs of making this film, please go to our Donation Page. Thank you so much!