About Kanani Fong

Founder, WarRetreat.Org, devoted to helping with the aftermath of war through movement, breathe, and yoga. Army wife, long time mental health advocate, writer, specializing in military and veteran outreach for film and books. Projects include Restrepo, and High Ground.

KORENGAL: A Review by Jim Channon


SFC Patterson checks on his men during the winter at OP Restrepo. Photo: Outpost Films

SFC Patterson checks on his men during the winter at OP Restrepo. 2008. Korengal Valley Photo: Outpost Films

 This is not just a war movie it is a bone deep “check in” America 

Reviewed by Jim Channon (LTC retired), 173rd ABN

I saw another story in film today about frontline infantrymen at the same business I was in about 50 years ago. Their faces filled the screen with high definition emotions doing their best to describe a world that somehow never changes. They knew long periods of waiting while their minds could not be free of the kinetic woe that could come out of nowhere and strike them down or somehow even worse kill a friend. There is guilt with that too. What was surprising is that they maintained a certain deep and steady voice. Facing real danger that could come at anytime somehow brought reality into their language. So, many young people today babble ten words before even one of those words carves some meaning and lends distinction to the story.

They looked straight into camera. They explained what made them crazy about war. Their fortress was a bizarre combination of warehouse parts and the hillside it stood upon was full of treacherous little rock slides. Their sometimes enemy was smiling one day and attacking the next. It was a formula for psychic chaos. With

Korengal you are there in this very close up way.

We Americans must see what it is that we trust our government to be honorable about. I can say as a planetary elder, cultural designer, and veteran rifle platoon leader that our national leadership needs to be led to the theatre en masse and swallow this filmic truth.

Some will say yes but look at how grown up these once idle teens have become. And some of those teens will say life in America needs to grow up. In the end your realize that humans under pressure can become family. This is not just a war movie it is a bone deep “check in” America. The filming and editing are patient and defining. Go face to face with another reality for a change.

Jim Channon commanded five rifle platoons in four highly diverse natural settings. The Vietnam operation “hump” referred to by Chris Christopherson in this film involved Jim’s rifle platoon in 1966.
Jim created the field manual called “Evolutionary Tactics” where soldiers learned to be directly involved with the local populace. That manual was the cause of the George Clooney and Jeff Bridges film …”The Men Who Stare at Goats” …now a cult favorite. Jim now coaches veterans groups to bring these men home as real veterans not handicapped and drug dependent victims. A visitor to his home this week and veteran is establishing yoga studios on America’s army posts.

Note:  Sebastian Junger and TEAM Korengal wish to thank Jim for his insightful review. GO PLANET!  Follow Jim on Facebook!

KORENGAL: A film by Sebastian Junger


Battle Company’s Sterling Jones on the M240B during a firefight at OP Restrepo.

Some of you might not know that four years ago, I worked as the outreach coordinator on the film, Restrepo. This film followed the men of the 2/503, Battle Co. of the 173rd ABN. Both a kinetic and emotional experience, the film took audiences into the belly of war, showing people what war is, what it looks like, and how it is to fight.

After the death of Tim Hetherington, for whom this blog was started, Tim decided to embark on the project they both had discussed. To make a film with some of the hundreds of hours left over and unused, that would look at war in a different way.  And so now, I’ve been called back. The film is ready to launch on KorengalMay 30 in NYC, then across the country throughout the summer. The team is back together, Battle Co and ever troop who ever served in the Korengal have been alerted. We’re back. Without Tim. Without so many friends –troops who died then, and more recently. But their loss just signifies the growing need for the stories of war to be told now, and not left to be brushed off only to be varnished with a coat of nostalgia. 

Korengal is a more visceral experience. It asks the questions, how do soldiers fight?  What is courage, and what is fear? What happens to you when you lose one friend, then two, then three?  What do you tell your family back home, when you finally get to talk to them? What’s the impact of daily firefights, and when does it all turn so surreal that the only thing certain about your situation in a remote combat outpost is the uncertainty itself.

Same valley. Same men. Same ferocious fight. Their stories continue.

Watch Jason Mace and Michael Cunningham talk about the film at the Little Rock Film Festival.


Next Weekend: Sebastian Junger Will Buy You A Beer


Returning on the eastern cliff face of Restrepo. Photo: Outpost Films.

Your ticket stub dated May 30, 31, or June 1 is good for a free glass of wine or a beer. Landmark Theaters has issued a challenge to viewers in the NYC. Pack the house for 3 days, and Korengal gets released nationwide.  Read this note from director Sebastian Junger.

A note from Director Sebastian Junger:

Four years ago, my colleague, Tim Hetherington, and I went to the Academy Awards with our film Restrepo, about a remote combat outpost in Afghanistan. Tim was tragically killed in combat several weeks later while covering the Libyan civil war, but I continued to work with the footage that he and I had shot in Afghanistan. The result is my new film, KORENGAL, which tries to understand the effect of war on the young men who fight it. How does courage work? Why do men often miss combat? Why is it to hard to come home?

imagesThe film is completely independent – I paid for the edit myself and am releasing it without any distributor or middleman (along with my longtime production partners, Goldcrest Films.) Korengal premieres May 30 at the SUNSHINE CINEMA at First Avenue and Houston.  BUY TICKETS HERE for Friday May 30, 31, or June 1.

But this is the deal: If we pack the theater for the first three days, Landmark will take Korengal nationwide — a real victory for independent film. We are doing this completely solo, and WE NEED YOUR HELP. Below you will find a link to pre-buy tickets to the film. Obviously the daytime showings are the hardest to fill, but please go whenever it’s convenient. I will be at most of the screenings to do a Q&A afterwards. But perhaps just as important: BRING YOUR TICKET STUB BACK TO THE HALF KING THAT WEEKEND TO REDEEM FOR ONE FREE BEER OR GLASS OF HOUSE WINE.

30daysonbeer_2011_day3_01_144_144_85_c1I hope you enjoy the film. I look forward to seeing you either at the cinema or back at the bar.

Sebastian Junger

Mindfulness Meditation Retreat for Veterans

HONORING THE PATH OF THE WARRIOR  (Supported by San Francisco Zen Center)


Supporting Our Veterans:
Mindfulness Meditation to Calm and Heal the Body and Mind


Spirit Rock is honored to offer a half-day of mindfulness meditation for veterans and their families. You will be introduced to mindfulness practice through sitting and walking meditation as well as time for small and large group discussion. This will be a time to connect with others and learn mindfulness meditation to help calm and heal the body and mind.

Lee and the Spirit Rock teachers will be joined by Fred Krawchuk, retired Colonel and Michael Ergo, MSW who works in the Veterans Administration. 

Sunday, June 15, 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Spirit Rock’s Community Hall
Registration through Spirit Rock is required.  Click 
here for more info and to register.

This event is open to veterans, their families and significant others. Spirit Rock will provide childcare to those who need it.

This program will be offered on a “dana” (donation) basis. The teachers are offering the day as a gift to the Spirit Rock community. The regular half day fee of $40 – $75 is waived for this event. The practice of generosity, or dana, in all forms is considered a central pillar of Buddhadharma practice. Spirit Rock invites you to contribute what is appropriate for you.

My Body was Stuck in Fight or Flight

Kanani Fong:

Hypervigilance, anxiety, flight or fight. Trauma manifesting itself in both body & mind. The source of her relief? A service dog. Read one veteran’s journey to understanding PTSD and healing.

Originally posted on Jennifer S Norris:

Bear's Den on the Appalachian Trail, Virginia

Bear’s Den on the Appalachian Trail, Virginia

I used to wonder why it took so much energy just to exist in normal society. I just assumed that it was something I had to accept, another limitation of Post Traumatic Stress. I now understand the neuroscience behind what happens to our bodies when we get stuck in fight or flight. Everything makes more sense to me now because all of my issues were related to my body being frozen in time. I just didn’t know what was happening or what to do about it. Everything I tried felt like a temporary band-aid.

I have come a long way in the last year especially. After retiring, I went from the military’s warfighting mission to a new mission to end violence in the military. I stayed in that mission mode for three more years after retiring because that is what felt comfortable. I…

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Data Collection in Yoga Studios: The abolishment of the anonymous yogi

10ea831Yoga studios are asking students to provide an increasing amount of personal information. Name, address, telephone, email, along with a release of liability is pretty standard.  But they also want you to log in with Facebook, which gives their program access to all your friends, as well as date of birth, and provide the name of an emergency contact (whatever happened to 911?).  All of this may be to cover their ass for legal reasons, but there’s the undeniable truth that they’re also compiling data. Data to email you things that you don’t want. But you wonder if it’s a matter of time before they start asking about ethnic makeup, marital status, income, education, medical questions, and whether  you have a dog or cat. All of this data compiling can be used for a myriad of things –none of them relating to your consent.

Recently, I went to a hot, stuffy, dark yoga studio, and the woman thrust an iPad in front of me to register. There wasn’t an “option” -let alone any indication she would be willing to do the data entry herself. I can just imagine her thinking, “All I do is click this mouse”.  Mind you, I work daily on an iPad. Still, asking the public to perform a quick registration on one is short sighted. It’s a clumsy, awful process –I’d never ask anyone to register with anything less than a keypad. But as I did, the program kept rejecting me –passwords didn’t match, a missed field, a button that didn’t work.  Typeface and fields –all too small, which had to be adjusted continuously. Oh, yes, and did should I mention again that she hadn’t turned on the fucking lights? What is this –they hadn’t paid the electric bill? She chastised me:  you should come in earlier!  Well, I had –if I had been allowed to simply pay a fee, sign a waiver, and go take a class.

What irked me was this:  A lack of choices. You HAD to use the iPad, you HAD to provide all the information, you HAD to create an account. And then I realized that if one of our wounded warriors had come in, how the yoga-clerk would have sat idly by, watching him or her fumble, get frustrated –all before going to class. God forbid, one of my veteran friends with limited vision, or anxiety issues should go in. Yeah, disaster time. The yoga-clerk wouldn’t have had either the insight or inclination to say, “Look, go take the class. We can sort through this later.”  Like an info-automaton, she just kept insisting that we go through this process. Rejection after rejection, plus her chastising. Honestly, SHE wasn’t worth it.

So I did the sensible thing. I went back, rolled my mat (which the teacher had nicely put down for me –I hope she finds a better studio, maybe one with lights), and told her that I had to leave because their computer wouldn’t let me login.  The girl looked on dumbly, only offering,  “The computer is saying….”  Which pretty much says that she wasn’t thinking, and was without a clue that even she had choices on how to handle the registration process. (I’m reminded by many yoga teachers who say that yoga is all about choices. It should be that with the business side of things too).

So here’s the deal:  if you’re going to open a yoga studio, you have to give people CHOICES.  You cannot assume everyone is going to want to give you personal data, because we can’t be sure how secure your firewall is, nor can we be sure that at some point you won’t be hacked, and that our data will either sold or shared by you, used to support some bogus study,  or stolen by sheer thievery. And the other truth is this:  maybe we’re not there for your friendship. Maybe we just want to be an anonymous yogi.

And if you’re going to work with a veteran, you’d damned well better give them a choice because they fought for that right.

Offer your students the choice to create an account. Or simply give them a piece of paper, collect basic data, and enter it yourself. And still –some people might not even want to give you their name, let alone their email. Are you going to turn them away?  Or will you let them sign a release of liability, and send them onto their way into the yoga studio?


Expedition Balance: Veterans Helping Veterans. Apply Now

Expedition 5.14


May, 2014

Near Houston, Veterans Helping Veterans at Camp For All

The Expedition: Expedition 5.14 is an opportunity for military Veterans to attend a fully-funded wellness retreat, created to offer an environment of outdoor fun, camaraderie, and healing. It is open to military Veterans of any era, male or female, living anywhere in the US. This Expedition will serve both Veterans who are managing physical challenges as well as trauma-related ones (PTSD, TBI). We have 12 openings available for this life-changing experience, paid for by our donors. Veterans selected for this event pay nothing in cash, though they will commit to perform a service project in their community after the event. Our program includes; yoga, meditation, workshops, and outdoor activities provided by Camp for All .

To apply go here:  Expedition Balance