British Army veteran Harry Turner had PTSD and was suffering from depression after leaving the service.
Unable to see the forest through the trees after a deployment to Afghanistan — one that led to a medical discharge — Turner booked a flight to the Peruvian Amazon with no plans to return.
“I bought a ticket to the jungle,” he told Military Times. “I went there with the intention to die.”
Instead, Turner learned how to live, and moreover, how to save a life.
While in the Amazon, Turner met doctoral candidate Samantha Zwicker, who studies and works in rainforest wildlife preservation. The pair formed an unlikely bond, and Turner signed on to her mission to help rehome a baby ocelot into the jungle.
“When I came across Harry, he was extremely misunderstood,” Zwicker said. “This boy who went to war instead of going to college, which is what a lot of people see when they look at him — but I obviously saw something super special in him. He spent his time in the jungle volunteering and helping me with this greater cause.”
The ocelot, named Keanu, became an integral part of Turner’s healing story.
“When I was so depressed, when I was in the jungle, I had this little tiny life that could fit into one of my arms, that needed my love and needed my affection, that needed a mother,” he said. “I then had this mission. I had this drive to become a better person in my own mental health so that I could be the best mother that I could be to this young cat.”
Turner’s journey alongside Keanu forms the premise of Amazon Studio’s documentary “Wildcat,” an Oscar-hopeful directed by Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost.
“This documentary just shows that it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter if you served, it doesn’t matter about any of these things,” Turner said. “We all, as individuals, are struggling. Nobody is perfect, nobody is safe from this world. It’s a hard and brutal place, [but you are] not alone. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you can’t see it, you’ve just got to keep going.”
“Wildcat” will debut Dec. 21 as a limited theatrical release. It premieres on Prime Video on Dec. 30.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.