National Geographic’s eight-part global event series The Long Road Home, a gripping and intimate look at the toll war takes on soldiers and their families, will debut with a special two-hour premiere Monday 6 November, at 21:00, also available on DStv Now.
Based on the New York Times best-selling book by internationally acclaimed journalist Martha Raddatz, The Long Road Home tells the story of “Black Sunday,” when a small platoon of soldiers from the US 1st Cavalry Division was ferociously ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad, in April 2004. Eight soldiers would make the ultimate sacrifice that day and more than 65 would be seriously wounded.
No soldier fights alone. The soldiers in this story are no exception. The scripted series offers viewers an intimate window into the experience of war as seen through the eyes and the hearts of the soldiers themselves and their families back home.
It is an adrenaline-fuelled and emotional journey that follows the action of the battle on two simultaneous fronts — the chaotic, terror-filled streets of Sadr City, where a group of inexperienced young soldiers faces an unexpected and unimaginable attack with bravery they never knew they had, and the homefront at Fort Hood in Texas, where family members, desperate for news of their loved ones and fearing the worst, discover their own courage and determination as well.
With unprecedented intimacy, the eight-part series tells the stories not only of these courageous soldiers but also of their compatriots involved in the three desperate and deadly rescue missions launched to save them. Across eight hours, reflecting the exact amount of time the soldiers were pinned down, each episode highlights a different character’s unique and compelling journey as we come to understand their heroism and humanity.
The series stars Michael Kelly (House of Cards, Taboo) as then Lieutenant Colonel Gary Volesky (now General Volesky), the incoming battalion commander who was in his first hours of assuming authority over Sadr City as the battle broke out; Jason Ritter (Parenthood, Girls) as Captain Troy Denomy, who bravely led a rescue convoy into the city; E.J. Bonilla (Unforgettable) as stranded platoon leader 1st Lieutenant Shane Aguero; Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, SS-GB, The Art of More) as Gina Denomy, a young wife and new mom battling her own fears while reaching out to the families of the fallen and wounded; Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break, The Walking Dead, Colony) as Family Readiness Group leader and Gary Volesky’s wife, LeAnn Volesky; Noel Fisher (“Shameless”) as a heroic 24-year-old warrior and later peace activist Private First Class Tomas Young; and Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory, Law & Order, Six Feet Under) as reluctant hero Staff Sergeant Robert Miltenberger.
Additional cast includes Jon Beavers (NCIS, Gotham, The Fresh Beat Band) as the hot-tempered and heroic young Sergeant Eric Bourquin; Darius Homayoun (Tyrant) as the platoon’s Iraqi interpreter, Jassim al-Lani; Jorge Diaz (Jane the Virgin, The 33) as Specialist Israel Garza; Ian Quinlan (Gotham) as Specialist Robert Arsiaga; Patrick Schwarzenegger (Stuck in Love) as Sergeant Ben Hayhurst; Kenny Leu (NCIS) as Sergeant Eddie Chen; and Joshua Brennan (Skinford) as Sergeant Jackson.
Premiere episodes include:
SPECIAL TWO-HOUR PREMIERE
MONDAY 6 NOVEMBER, 21:00
The soldiers of the US 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, say goodbye to their loved ones as they depart for Sadr City, Baghdad, on a peacekeeping mission. The area, without incident for a year, is known as the “safest place in Iraq.” It is Task Force Lancer’s fourth day in country, when the troops under Lieutenant Shane Aguero are ambushed during a routine sanitation support mission. The first shots sound like popcorn and, within minutes, bullets pound the vehicles in a relentless hailstorm. With two vehicles down, Aguero’s platoon has no hope of getting back to base. Braving an intensifying rain of gunfire from rooftops, the men head down a long, narrow and nameless alley, where they find refuge in a house – with a terrified Iraqi family inside. Back at Camp War Eagle, Lieutenant Colonel Gary Volesky and Captain Troy Denomy launch the first of three rescue missions to retake the city and free their men before it is too late. On the homefront, the soldiers’ wives and families continue with daily life, willing themselves to maintain normalcy during their loved ones’ deployment, unaware of the mounting situation in Iraq.
Into the Unkown
MONDAY 13 NOVEMBER, 21:00
Denomy leads the first rescue into Sadr City under heavy fire, facing an overwhelming Iraqi militia. It is clear that insurgents have been preparing for this ambush for weeks. Volesky launches the second rescue convoy. Both rescue convoys take heavy casualties, while Aguero and his men struggle to hold their position in the Iraqi house. Meanwhile, back on the homefront in Fort Hood, Texas, Gina Denomy faces challenges of her own as she adjusts to being a new care team leader in the Fort Hood Family Readiness Group and the mother of a newborn son.
In The Valley of Death
MONDAY 20 NOVEMBER, 21:00
Before Staff Sergeant Robert Miltenberger’s deployment, he is overcome by a strong premonition that he will die in Iraq. He is so certain, that he has already said his goodbyes to his wife and family. Now in the thick of battle, the premonition returns, causing Miltenberger to abort his troop’s advance in the rear of one of the rescue convoys, narrowly saving his men. But Miltenberger’s vehicle – an open Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) – has been hit, and as night falls, he and his men are stranded in the city under increasingly dangerous conditions. Elsewhere in the city, Denomy evacuates his wounded and regroups with Volesky for another rescue attempt, while Aguero and his men brace for contact. News of the ambush reaches the US, and LeAnn Volesky and Gina Denomy try to reassure worried families as tension and fear mounts.
MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER, 21:00
Originally a bitter opponent of the US occupation, interpreter Jassim al-Lani was once strongly drawn to the militia behind the ambush, but left it following the murder of a close friend. A devout Muslim, the quiet al-Lani is not trusted by all the soldiers, especially Sergeant Bourquin. Tensions rise in the house of refuge as the insurgents change tactics and force Aguero to make a decision that will scar his platoon forever. Back at Fort Hood, LeAnn and Gina learn about the casualties overseas and do their best to prepare themselves and calm the families that rely on them for support.
A City Called Heaven
MONDAY 4 DECEMBER, 21:00
Private First Class Tomas Young believes strongly in the ideals of justice, but he also believes in war and retribution. He quickly learns about the realities of war when Miltenberger’s troop comes under a blaze of bullets. Casualties mount in the rear of their LMTV truck as Denomy tries yet again to rescue the stranded platoon. Still on the roof of the Iraqi house, Aguero’s men reckon with the destruction they were forced to cause. For Young, this exact moment on April 4, 2004, marks the beginning of a lifelong struggle and a mission of peace, through which he will touch countless lives.
MONDAY 11 DECEMBER, 21H00
Sergeant Eric Bourquin’s tough facade hides a heartbreaking past, which led him to drop out of high school at 17 years old to join the Army. Now 23, Bourquin finds himself stuck in the maze-like suburb of Sadr City in Baghdad. The ammunition supply is quickly diminishing for the troops in the Iraqi house. Bourquin is struggling to signal helicopters in a desperate last-ditch effort to get located, leading to a final battle. At Fort Hood, the families are engaged in their own challenges as more news trickles in from Sadr City.
Always Dream of Me
MONDAY 18 DECEMBER, 21:00
The climactic final chapter of the eight-part global event series, The Long Road Home. On the eve of the battle, Specialist Israel Garza has a dream of returning home to his wife, Lupita, and their two kids. Rescuers finally punch through to the stranded platoon, but the battle has not finished taking its toll – both in Sadr City and Fort Hood. As the hours grow darker and the causalities mount, the now-wounded Garza holds on to a dream he had the previous night, determined to get back home. Eight hours after the first shots were fired, the men of the 1st Cavalry Division are reunited and must cope with the new realities of the war that has just begun. The soldiers and families honour their fallen.
The Long Road Home has been adapted by screenwriter, showrunner and executive producer Mikko Alanne. The series is directed by Emmy winners Phil Abraham and Mikael Salomon. Executive producers are Mike Medavoy, Mikko Alanne, Jason Clark, Benjamin Anderson and Edward McGurn. For National Geographic, Carolyn G. Bernstein is executive vice president and head of global scripted development and production.