Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Edwards Offer Words of Support for Military Vets

Associated Press
Anthony Edwards

Seth Meyers and Adam Driver also helped raise money for mental healthcare for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan

Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Edwards, David Straithairn and Lili Taylor helped illuminate the emotional cost of war through live performances at a benefit Wednesday night for the military healthcare organization The Headstrong Project.

During the dinner, which raised $400,000 to help fund treatment for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans dealing with PTSD, Gyllenhaal read the poem You Will Be Destroyed in Your Own Way, written by military veteran Derrick Brown, and Edwards, Straithairn and Taylor performed a scene from the Japanese play Fujito, about the grief and sorrow caused by war, particularly when it claims the lives of innocent people.

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While Gyllenhaal didn't make himself available to members of the press before the dinner, he prefaced his poetry reading by saying that it was sincerely "an honor and a privilege" to be there, adding that this is the second year in a row that he performed at the Words of War benefit.

Earlier, Edwards, Straithairn and Taylor took the stage. Prior to their performance, Headstrong executive director Zach Iscol recalled his own experience when he accidentally killed an innocent truck driver at a checkpoint outside of Fallujah, adding that the scene from Fujito features echoes of that same situation.

The performance was introduced by Bryan Doerries, the founder of Theater of War, a project that presents performances of ancient Greek plays to military service members, veterans and their families to start conversations about the wounds of war. Doerries explained that he was in Tokyo with Straithairn doing a project for the Fukushima survivors in Japan when they stumbled across a performance of the Japanese Noh play.

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"We discovered that the Japanese were doing precisely what the ancient Greeks were doing by exploring and exposing something that goes unsaid and unseen by those of us that haven't experienced war," Doerries said.

The 15th century play features a decorated Genji warrior who's approached by a grieving mother who claims he killed her son. After first denying her accusations, he admits to killing the fisherman who showed him the way across a river, in order to prevent his enemy from following him.

"These plays speak to things that unfortunately sometimes language doesn't approach," Doerries added in his introduction.

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Prior to the dinner, Edwards explained to The Hollywood Reporter that The Headstrong Project's mission is aligned with a documentary he's executive producing called Searching for Home, about the return of vets and the challenges they face when they suffer from PTSD.

"We're all doing the same work, which is why I come here," Edwards said.

Also in attendance supporting The Headstrong Project — which seeks to provide comprehensive, cost-free, bureaucracy-free and stigma-free mental health care at Weill Cornell Medical College — were Adam Driver and Seth Meyers, who was on the event committee with his wife, Alexi Ashe.