Bethlehem vet to host airing of 'Casablanca' on Turner Classic Movies - Drimz Media Serivces

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Bethlehem vet to host airing of 'Casablanca' on Turner Classic Movies

Army veteran Jenny Pacanowski returned from her tour of duty in Iraq under the crushing weight of post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions that took root as she tried to cope.
One thing brought her comfort: Watching old movies, in particular “Casablanca,” the 1942 Humphrey Bogart classic.
“When I was struggling, I would sit in my house and watch old movies,” said Pacanowski, who served as medical support for convoys in Iraq in 2004. “I love ‘Casablanca’ because it’s a love story for me. I definitely used it as an escape.”
Pacanowski, of Bethlehem, will be one of eight U.S. veterans to help host and discuss movies that air on Turner Classic Movies this weekend in honor of Saturday’s Veterans Day. She will be featured starting at 1 p.m. Sunday and will discuss “Casablanca” with host Ben Mankiewicz.
This is the first time a group of veterans has been invited on the TV network to discuss their favorite classic films.
“We definitely try to take a look at classic movies from a different angle,” said Charlie Tabash, senior vice president of programming for TCM and FilmStruck. “We look at how people currently react to them and how contemporary people relate to classic films. We want to show that these films are relative today.
“This programming is one of the best things we've ever done,” he said. “I hope it’s meaningful to the participants.”
The veterans’ picks range from war films such as 1968’s “The Green Berets” to classics such as 1945’s “National Velvet.”
“Casablanca,” which marks its 75th anniversary this year, is a bittersweet romance set in World War II. The film, starring Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, won three Academy Awards — best picture, director and screenplay.
“It’s this war raging, and they are struggling with these human issues,” Pacanowski said of the film. “It’s a really complex movie filmed so beautifully.”
Pacanowski knows firsthand the effects of war. After she returned home from her tour of duty as a medic, she began to feel the effects of PTSD. She suffered flashbacks of bombs exploding.
She started overusing alcohol and then drugs to try to manage how she felt.
“It was such a difficult time,” Pacanowski said. “I struggled for years with addiction and alcohol. I couldn’t figure out how to become a civilian. There’s no training for that. I didn’t want to feel everything I was feeling.”
According to the PTSD Foundation of America, one in three returning military personnel is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. On average, five active-duty military members attempt suicide each day.
Addiction is also a common problem for returning veterans, particularly those who suffer from PTSD, said Troy Yocum, president of Active Heroes, a nonprofit organization in Kentucky that offers programs for veterans and military families to try to eliminate veteran suicide.
Pacanowski, then living in Henryville, Monroe County, avoided driving because it would prompt more flashbacks. She began to isolate herself.
Clyde Hoch, an author and Vietnam vet from Pennsburg who has PTSD, said isolation is a common problem for veterans with PTSD.
“It’s very hard to do but they should force themselves to be around people,” said Hoch, who started an organization that helps mentor local veterans.
When she found herself at home alone, Pacanowski would find herself watching classic films, with “Casablanca” being her favorite.
It was a way to escape.
“I love that old style, with the hats and gloves,” Pacanowski said. “Something about old movies is so soothing. It’s so outside my war experience.”
Yocum said watching films, especially those that are uplifting and positive, can be helpful for those who suffer from PTSD.
Eventually, Pacanowski found healing through writing and theater. She took part in a production of Sophocles’ “Philoctetes” in New York last year, which was performed by veterans.
It was there that she met Brian Delate, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War who is active in theater. They became friends and he later mentioned that Turner Classic Movies was looking for veterans to help host and present their favorite films.
“I was trying to be cool,” Pacanowski said. “I didn't think they would pick me.”
She flew to TCM headquarters in Atlanta to film her segments. Sitting across from host Mankiewicz, she discussed her experiences as a veteran and her thoughts about “Casablanca.”
Being treated like a celebrity host was exciting. But Pacanowski also appreciated being part of an event for veterans.
“It’s my life work,” she said. “We come and tell our stories and our experience. I love being with fellow veterans and helping them transition better than I did. That’s our duty.”

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