Interview: Journalist Jarret Liotta On Westport War Veterans

Nov 8, 2017

Former New York Times correspondent and Westport, Connecticut, resident Jarret Liotta has a new documentary, Community & Country: A Spirit of Service, which looks at three generations of veterans in Westport. 

Liotta recently sat down with WSHU’s Senior Political Reporter Ebong Udoma to discuss the documentary. Udoma began by asking Liotta about the differences between the generations of veterans from WWII to the present. 

While I interviewed a lot of veterans from WWII for the movie, these days there’s very few young people interested in military service. And I think it, in essence, has to do with the economics of the area, you know. And opportunities to, you coming out of a town like Westport have opportunities to make a lot of money and there’s sort of no real reason or motivation.

Yeah, I’m just thinking about it because it seemed for one or two of the people that you interviewed, 9/11 touched them and motivated them to sign up and join the military. Can you just tell us a little about that?

I think when WWII was going on, the country had this experience of the intensity and the immediacy of having to do something in reaction to the war. And I think likewise, 9/11 brought that sort of feeling home.

One of the veterans said, “War is a waste of time.” And that kind of struck me. Because even though they were talking about having the service, having that feeling of something larger than yourself, he still ended up making that statement.

The man you’re mentioning, Mr. Fischer, WWII veteran, here he is sharing, in essence, you know, a very kind of anti-war statement. And yet, I’m pretty sure, I mean, he really, really strongly believes and believed in his choice to take part in the military service. And be part of that push to stop, you know, tyranny. I don’t think anyone really wants war, I don’t think anybody really wants all that ugliness. And yet, you know, everybody wants to try to make things better.

There’s another WWII veteran who said there’s no patriotic feeling like they had when they served. Can you just talk a little about that?

What I heard a lot of people saying as I interviewed these veterans was that, really I think, in a town like Westport, and in Westport in particular, I think more young people are suited to a military experience than even know it. You know, we look at the numbers, this year apparently is the first year out of Staples High School that there aren’t any graduates going to any academies, I think this is the first time in many years, I was told. And I think there’s probably a handful, a number of kids, I wouldn’t guess the number, who actually would be very suited for that.

Do you think that having a documentary like this will have much of an effect on younger people growing up in Westport?

I like to think it might, I like to think it might. And I think all of us have to ask ourselves the question on a regular basis, “How are we being of service? How am I being of service to my family, to my street, my town, and my world?”

Well Jarret Liotta, thank you so much, I really appreciate you spending the time.

Thank you.

"Community & Country: A Spirit of Service" is sponsored by the Westport Public Library and the Westport Historical Society. The premiere screening will be held at the Westport Town Hall on Monday, November 13 at 7 p.m. Learn more.