"You Can't Handle the Truth!"


Some people play name that tune, but today’s topic is name that movie. So, what is the name of the movie that highlights the statement, “You can’t handle the truth”? 

Most military personnel and first responders have seen the movie A Few Good Men with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. If you are like me, there are lines in movies that are synonymous and, quite literally, unforgettable. In this particular movie, Colonel Jessup says to Lieutenant Junior Grade Daniel Kaffee, “You want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.”  

Or this dialogue: 

Weinberg:  Why do you like them so much?
Galloway:  Because they stand on a wall and say, “nothing's gonna hurt you tonight.” Not on my watch.

But the one I distinctly remember (although I paraphrase it because I’m not a savant) is the fiery dialogue between Jessup (played by Nicholson) and Kaffee (played by Cruise):


Kaffee:  Colonel Jessup! Did you order the Code Red?!
Judge Randolph:  You don't have to answer that question!
Jessup:  I'll answer the question. You want answers?
Kaffee:  I think I'm entitled to it!
Jessup:  You want answers?!
KaffeeI want the truth!!
JessupYou can't handle the truth!

Now, when you read those words, did you insert the intensity of emotion associated with the movie? I distinctly remember Nicholson gritting his teeth like a rabid dog and yelling, “You can't handle the truth!

The truth is, some people just can’t handle the truth. I know, it’s a sad reality, but it is just that, reality. Some of the people in our lives cannot handle what we bring to the table when we as combat veterans and first responders get to the point that we want, sometimes need, to talk about what we have witnessed and experienced. We naturally turn to those with whom we feel most comfortable. It makes perfect sense. We turn to those folks who care about us and have our back.


In doing so, we find out rather quickly that caring may not be enough. We find out who has the fortitude and is, or is not, up to the task. Once we start disclosing some of the most intense and traumatic memories we have experienced, you can quite literally see it on their faces – the disbelief, the horror, the shock, the “what are you going to tell me next?” inquisitive and trepid look. And what do we do? We make a decision. A decision to either keep on going, knowing that what we are saying could be just as traumatizing for the person we are telling, or stop talking and button down the hatch even more.

When I returned from Afghanistan, I didn’t want to bring back with me what I had seen and heard. I wanted to keep those memories locked down. As a matter of fact, if I did share what was in my head, I felt it would adulterate my marriage. Instead of having a safe and secure place to retreat to and not have to think about the things in my head, if I disclosed them, my wife would then have the burden of carrying them inside her head. Why would I do that? By doing so, there would go my place of safety, security and solace. So, in my logical mind, it wasn’t so much a fear of her not being able to handle the truth as it was a desire to keep my two worlds separate. I wanted a gap as large as the Grand Canyon between the frontlines and my homelife.  

Whether it’s our friends and family who can’t handle the truth or our own fear that if we were to disclose, it would adulterate our world, it leaves us in a situation of vulnerability and isolation. Neither of these are tolerated in the military.  

So, in the end, the pivotal question is this:  what do we do with our experiences, thoughts, feelings and memories of what we have seen and heard that live inside our head? 

The answer is something we are quite adept at accomplishing. We are on a mission. A mission to find those individuals who CAN handle the truth. It may be a friend, a colleague, a trusted agent, a professional, even a bartender, but one thing is for certain:  we are on a mission, and failure is not an option. 

Remember our motto at Project Healing Heroes:  We are in this fight together, and we will not leave you behind.   

The amazing thing about movies is that they are just that, movies. And what does a good movie start with? A script. You are the author of your own life. And today is a new day. Today is a day that will end in infamy. Oh, wait, wrong movie. Dare to be different. Write your script, and get it out there because there are those of us who actually can handle the truth. If you need help, reach out to us at Project Healing Heroes.

Lt Col David Tharp, PsyD | Project Healing Heroes Founder & CEO

Geneva Moore