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New play captures realities of military family life

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Curtain goes up on a stage play based on the real struggles of military families.

Heading to war takes an emotional, mental and physical toll. Not only on soldiers, but their families.

In Fayetteville, the curtain went up Wednesday on a stage play based on the true stories of struggling military families.

It's theater art, aimed at getting a better understanding of the realities of that life, and is a rare and unique look into the lives and battles of army families.

The show will now be a standard part of soldier training at Fort Bragg.

"It does hit home as far as being a soldier and having to deal with deployments and training having to leave family," said Sgt. Brandye Clark. "So I can identify with a lot of what's going on on stage."

The two-hour play is called "Downrange: Voices from the Homefront." Its world premiere is at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville.

It's based on real-life stories of military spouses and families dealing with repeated deployments and separation. And for the soldiers it's a reality check.

"Little bit of mixed emotions, flashbacks dealing with soldiers calling home and all of a sudden something happens to them, that's definitely the reality of being in the military," said Sgt. Chris Robinson.

Members of the 1st Theatre Support Command are the first troops to preview the play, as part of an army wide plan that focuses on soldier's and their family's mental and emotional healthcare.

Most called it spot on.

"It's just tough on families," said Capt. Nick Stavlund, a chaplain. "That's why this play is so right for us."

For the community, it's about understanding and support.

"I did not understand before I got involved in this project," said the director, Tom Quaintance. "This is part of the duty of every American to understand and empathize with the soldiers."

It's what goes on in those long months before we see the homecoming hugs and tears. The play is gritty, intense and funny, but it's real.

"I hope they can see the reality of being a soldier because it's not doing just 9 to 5," Sgt. Lashonda Hopkins said. "When the nation calls, you have to go to combat."

It's an up-close and personal look at life and love in the military. A second private showing for military and civilian leaders was held later Wednesday. The play opens to the public on Thursday.

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