The Harlan soldier at the heart of a documentary about PTSD is on house arrest facing multiple felony charges as the film, Two Brothers, is scheduled to run on KET.
The short documentary features Joe Edwards, who returned forever changed after two tours in Iraq as an Army gunner. It started as a student film by his brother, Jason Edwards. But with the help of Jason Edwards' professor at Eastern Kentucky University, John Fitch, the film has started appearing in film festivals and being shown to veterans' groups.
The goal of the film was to show how post-traumatic stress disorder affects not only the returning soldier but also all those who love him, said Jason Edwards. Withdrawn and ultimately suicidal, Joe Edwards, who joined the National Guard after high school, was different from the brother Jason grew up with.
As the filming wrapped up last summer, Joe Edwards' once debilitating symptoms of anxiety and depression were lifting. And, Jason Edwards said, Joe Edwards was proud that the telling of his painful story might help other veterans.
A black and white epilogue at the end of the 28-minute film acknowledges Joe Edwards' involvement with the police.
According to a report from the Kentucky State Police, Joe Edwards exchanged gunfire when deputies tried to serve a warrant at his Harlan apartment at 11 p.m. Nov. 30.
Joe Edwards' attorney, Doug Asher II, said a Harlan County deputy in plain clothes knocked on Edwards' door. Asher said Edwards did not hear the deputy identify himself as a police officer, and law enforcement subsequently knocked in his door. That is when gunfire was exchanged. The police report and Asher said no one was injured and Edwards surrendered without incident. The exchange was filmed as part of raw footage for a National Geographic documentary on sheriffs in Eastern Kentucky.
Asher said he had asked his client, who faces 14 felony counts, not to talk to the press. Asher also said he was working with Harlan County Commonwealth Attorney Parker Boggs to schedule a mediation session to avoid going to trial if possible.
After about six months in jail, Joe Edwards was released and is on house arrest with an ankle monitor.
Jason Edwards said his brother doesn't think PTSD came into play during the Nov. 30 events.
If anything, he said, the facts that no one was hurt and that few shots were fired show his brother's military training kicked in in a positive way and kept the situation from escalating.
Jason Edwards and Fitch are not taking notes or filming as this chapter of Joe Edwards' life unfolds. Jason Edwards said it was not the story he set out to tell. The Nov. 30 incident, jail time and house arrest have been setbacks for his brother, he said. But, he said, Joe Edwards has never asked Jason Edwards to stop showing the film or trying to share information about PTSD to people who can benefit.
After seeing Joe Edwards for the first time in about a year, Fitch said he actually was surprised at how well Edwards was holding up. And, he said, a clip in the film helps Fitch know that continuing to promote the film is the right thing to do.
In the clip, Joe Edwards' fiancée said that filming was hard on him but that every time he came back from a shoot, "he'd seem a little bit prouder."
KETKY air times: 8 p.m. July 9, 11:30 a.m. July 10, 11 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. July 12.
KET air time: 12:30 a.m. July 11.
KET2 air time: 10:30 p.m. July 25.
Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.