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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 27th, 2014
05:25 PM ET

Why would soldiers 'miss' war? New documentary explores life after war for veterans

(CNN) – "What is fear like?" "What does the word courage mean to you?" "Why do you miss war?"

Those are questions filmmaker Sebastian Junger asks veterans in the new documentary "Korengal," a follow-up to the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Restrepo."

"A lot of them missed the war once they got back," Junger tells CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

"It's the hardest, most violent terrible thing they've ever experienced. They lose their friends. They almost lose their lives. But they miss it," says Junger.

"I'd rather be there than here. I'd go back right now if I could. I want to – I'd go back to the Korengal right now," Sgt. Misha Pemble-Belkin says in the film. Korengal is a dangerous valley in northeastern Afghanistan.

They miss the adrenaline and intensity of combat, and also, says Junger, the intimacy that comes with war.

"They're literally sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder in a small outpost, no Internet, for a while, no electricity even, no phone communication back home, combat almost every day. And they got incredibly close," said Junger. "That feeling of closeness is almost kind of intoxicating. And once you're deprived of it, it really is an enormous sort of gap in your life."

One of the interesting, but risky choices Junger makes as a director, is trying to recreate the adrenaline these troops feel when they are in a firefight.

The footage, shot by the soldiers themselves, is incredibly riveting, but risks glamorizing war.

"Combat is a lot of things, but sometimes it's very exciting. And you can see that in that footage. And it's part of the soldier's experience that civilians really have to understand," said the filmmaker.

"One of the uncomfortable truths about war is that many soldiers - I mean I almost hate to say it - but many soldiers enjoy it. As much as it damages them and threatens them psychologically later, there's something about it that they really enjoy. And that's a complicated thing for civilians to digest," Junger says.

There is a religious soldier in the film who struggles with the fact that he killed people. He is unsure if the explanation "You did what you had to do," is going to be good enough when he dies, and God asks him what he did on this planet.

"It really sort of tormented him," says Junger. "He said, 'I wouldn't do it any differently if I had to go back and do it again, but we killed people.' He was brought up with Christianity and he was ... taught it's bad to kill."

Junger talks about the damage that some of these men, if not all of them, have experienced. But he himself visited Korengal regularly for a year.

"It's tough when you're really young. I mean soldiers are 19, 20 years old, and they're still formulating their identity. And they get traumatized by war," said Junger.

"I'm old, you know, I'm 52 now. ... Like everything, you sort of process things a little bit better as you get older. But I think I'm pretty good now. You know, I mean I still jump at loud noises once in a while, but, you know, nothing really incapacitating."

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