I Had a Dream Project’s Second Subject, Mike Prysner:
Mike Prysner is a 34-year-old Iraq War Veteran, Political Activist and the Producer/Writer of the TV documentary and interview series, The Empire Files. He grew up as a patriotic child who dreamed of being an action-hero infantry army man his entire life. Two weeks into Iraq, his dream was shattered and Prysner uncovered a disturbing truth. In, “I Had a Dream…to tell the Truth about War,” Prysner takes us from his time in Iraq to his great anti-war movement, and tears the wrapping off a rewritten story and history of colonialism sold to us as democracy, freedom and human rights.
“I wanted to go to this war. I believed very much in it. I believed very much in the military and our country. But all of the lies and indoctrination that we were being fed couldn't mask the reality because I had other teachers beyond the president and the military commanders.
And those were the Iraqi people.
And there are several people who will always be burned into my memory that are the ones that taught me the truth, and taught me which side I was on.
It was men who were urinating themselves and bleeding through sandbags on their heads in detention facilities. It was a father who was shot through the neck and as he was dying, saying over and over, 'I just want to see my family, I just want to see my family.'
And the number one person, the one that really did it for me was...I have a little sister who's now 18, so she was eight at the time I deployed. I got her name tattooed on my arm before I left...
And we were ordered at this one point to kick these families out of their homes for whatever reason.
And there was this eight-year-old girl who looked exactly like my sister. And it was my job to drag her out of her house as she was crying, as her parents were crying, as her siblings were crying, arrest the males in her family, put them on a truck and send them to those detention facilities.
And I couldn’t stop looking at her face because it was my sister’s face.
I realized that this girl was exactly like my sister, that the man who was shot was exactly like my father and that these people were just like my family…and then so what happened was I couldn’t stop seeing that everything that we were doing to the Iraqi people I was doing to my family because they are our family – they’re our brothers and sisters.”
- Mike Prysner, Iraq War Veteran, Political Activist and Producer/Writer of The Empire Files
In the dream, a distantly-familiar song was playing and I knew that I had heard it from somewhere as a memorable chorus repeated: “…Hear their heartbeat…hear their heartbeat...” When I looked up the lyrics I was stunned by how fitting they were with what happened in my dream.
In my dream, I Had a Dream Project’s second subject, Mike Prysner was standing on a circular platform surrounded by a rising coliseum in an otherworldly cloud-like setting.
Slowly, one by one, soldiers in uniform, carrying nothing but their hats resting on their hearts appeared, the way patriotic Americans stand when listening to the national anthem.
Their distinct faces still linger in my mind clearly and I knew that they were soldiers who had perished in war. They materialized into the full-human form at the age that they died in. The soldiers never broke their gaze, and no words were exchanged in this dream. The soldiers multiplied around the first row, rising to the second, then the 10th then the 100th until beams of light filled the sky, causing us the squint into an endless stream of hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the distance.
I got the feeling that the soldiers were supporting Mike and his message, and I could feel their lingering sadness that they did not get the chance to project the truth about war in their own lives.
Mike’s story, "I Had a Dream…To Tell the Truth About War," launched exactly 10 years after September 15, 2007, when he and a color guard of uniformed soldiers and 300 veterans behind them marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., to lead one of the biggest anti-war protest since the Vietnam war that ended with 200 veterans and anti-war protesters arrested for diving over the Capital wall.
It wasn’t always this way. When I met Mike in Los Angeles this summer, he told me how he had dreamed of being a soldier his entire life. But it wasn’t until two weeks into the Iraq war that his entire dream of fighting for his country by helping the oppressed collapsed.
Mike’s story is one of the saddest stories that I have ever heard. I hope that I’ve captured at least a small part of how he felt.
When I first saw him in a video nearly nine months ago, I immediately recognized that this was a very old soul in a young body who was here to teach people something.
The haunting remorse and sadness that Mike carries for what happened in Iraq will never leave him, but he has turned his life into a message of hope and truth, and reminds us that regardless of where we come from or what foreign country we are occupied by, we are all brothers and sisters, and citizens of the world, and that someday, eventually, just like these soldiers in my dream, we will all recognize that.