CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sgt. Matthew Pennington remembers the moment he began to accept that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Pennington, 28, acted the lead role in "A Marine's Guide to Fishing," a short film that debuted last year. It depicts a Marine's return to his former job at a dockyard, one year after being severely wounded in war.
During filming of the 15-minute movie, Pennington felt he could identify with his character's struggles. But it wasn't until he watched himself on the big screen that he stopped separating himself from the main character.
"I was just, like, 'Wow,' and was able to see it," he said. "It really got the gears turning."
Pennington and the film's writer and director, Nicholas Brennan, will host a conversation following a screening of the film at 7 p.m. May 24 at Charleston Baptist Temple. The event is free and open to the public.
Pennington and the event's organizers said they hope the evening educates people about PTSD and reminds them that helping veterans should be a community effort.
In some ways, the movie reflects aspects of Pennington's life. He joined the Army at 17 and completed three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. At 23, he was hit by an improvised explosive device; both his legs were injured and he ended up losing his left leg below the knee. Pennington was honorably retired as a sergeant and received the State of Maine Silver Star and a Purple Heart.
After returning home, he struggled making the transition back into life in the United States. People often only have negative impressions of what happens during a war, Pennington said, and they don't know about the humanitarian acts that take place.