'I Spent 13 Years Killing People: What Am I Supposed to Do in the Civilian World?' New Film Follows Iraq Vet's PTSD Struggles

Alex Sutton's trials continue long after the war.

Photo Credit: Alix Blair

After 13 years and three combat tours in Iraq, Alex Sutton returned home “feeling zombified” from prescription medications and a massive identity crisis. 

“I spent 13 years killing people," he explains in "Famer/Veteran," a new Independent Lens documentary premiering this month. "What am I supposed to do in the civilian world?”

Raised in rural Iowa, Sutton began raising poultry on his new 43-acre home in North Carolina. Now he's the owner of Sutton Heritage Farms, which he operates with his wife, Jessica Silberhorn. In addition to chickens, the farm is home to quails, ducks, turkeys, pigs, goats and horses. The two also grow corn and soybeans.

Sutton largely attributes the operation's success to the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, a unique nonprofit that encourages farmers to take out micro-loans to get their businesses started.

“The veterans, the challenge that they face is the same challenge that all beginner farmers face and they need a lot of support,” says founder Michael O'Gorman. “And we need to invest in them."

But like many veterans, Sutton faces the added challenge of post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he takes more than a dozen medications. 

"They put me on Topamax for the seizures, and it helped, but it took the memory," he tells fellow veteran-farmer Fred-Curtis Louis in the film. "But Fluoxetine...that one's helped me a lot. I have the same thing, the anger." 

"Farmer/Veteran" premieres on Independent Lens on Monday, May 29, 10pm EST.

Watch an exclusive clip:

Farmer/Veteran from AlterNet on Vimeo.

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Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.