BRAVO! co-director and co-producer Betty Rodgers muses on the summer of 2012’s screening tour.
Ken and I have been home from our “Great Adventure Film Tour” for three weeks now, allowing us time to reflect on the experience as we settle back into our lives in Boise.
To recap, we headed south from Idaho through Utah, dipping quickly into the heat of summer as we scurried across deserts and mountains, prairies and plains toward Dallas for our first screening. There we showed BRAVO! to more than 125 attendees at the Vietnam Veterans of America Annual Leadership Conference and were introduced by our host, Michael Keating, to many of the important people who drive the organization forward. The VVA’s founding principle is, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”
From there we took the sultry road through pecan orchards and goat ranches to Brownwood, TX, where we were the guests of Mary and Roger Engle, longtime friends and fans of BRAVO! Mary put together a first-class screening at the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom on the campus of Howard Payne University. One of the hosts for the evening was former Marine Gunnery Sergeant Billy Murphey, the local Veterans Service Officer, who arranged for a local Marine Corps League color guard to formally kick off the program. The auditorium was filled to capacity. The editor of the Brownwood Bulletin, Gene Deason, interviewed us and wrote an insightful article about the event and the film.
Next we ventured on to lower temperatures in Memphis where we were greeted by our host, Cobb Hammond, a historian of the Vietnam War. Cobb gave us a wonderful tour of Memphis, including the Mississippi River, Beale Street, and a drive by Sun Records. He also made sure we enjoyed the superb BBQ at the Blues City Café, and bemoaned the fact that we were not experiencing typical (sweltering) Memphis summer weather. Thank goodness! Our screening was also hosted by Khe Sanh survivor Skip Funk, and Mason Ezzell at LSI. Guests came from far and wide and included a Korean War veteran.
With Ken still behind the wheel, the galloping Honda CRV then transported us to Washington, DC, and the home and culinary sanctuary of my cousins, Chuck and Donna Dennis, who also hosted us two years ago while we did research for the film. We attended the annual reunion of the Khe Sanh Veterans and screened BRAVO! to a standing-room-only crowd. We were pleased to have three members of the “cast,” Steve Wiese, Ken Korkow and Doc Cicala, in the audience. Our friends Betty and Lee Plevney, Connie and Greg Gibbons, Mark and Elaine Kramer, and Ron Exum each contributed greatly to the success of this event.
And then finally, Boston. Beautiful Boston, where we were the guests of Marie Chalmers and the family of Vincent Mottola, a Marine from Bravo Company who gave his life at Khe Sanh. Marie not only hosted the screening, but also gave us a delightful whirlwind tour of the city. BRAVO! was shown at the West Roxbury VA with the assistance of Diane Keith, and a color guard of local Marines. The appreciative audience was comprised of local folk as well as people from southern California to Rhode Island. It was also a special afternoon for families…both the Mottolas and the family of “cast” member Mike McCauley.
And then we headed north, then west, happily donning sweaters and jackets in the cooler clime.
To say the least, we are exceedingly grateful to those who invited us to their meetings and cities to screen BRAVO! And without the hospitality of friends and family along the way, the trip would not have been possible. Their belief in the film and its importance is responsible for the huge positive response we have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy as more screening requests come our way.
Now we are back home and once again searching for a corporate sponsor and/or a distributor. We are making daily contacts to find that one personal connection that will help send BRAVO! out into a national or worldwide audience.
And we do so with the glorious memories of our journey. Ken chose to drive the entire way, which concluded at about 12,900 miles. I was the navigator, ice chest and luggage manager, and scribe. Ken was the car packer, itinerary planner, tour guide and historian. To travel with Ken is to learn of people, places and events; to learn of geography, geology and the solar system.
Along the way we were able to see migrating snow geese and more than 70 species of birds, plus wildlife such as deer, elk, bighorn sheep, bear, and coyotes, but nary a moose. The “Moose-on-the-Loose” signs were posted nearly everywhere in the north like a promise, but one that was not fulfilled. They say it was because we didn’t drive at night.
A stand-out for me was the people all over the North American continent who give themselves to history and place and talk about it with great passion and eloquence. There is the person behind the counter at our national parks, the ranger who drives from monument to monument with a speech and armful of maps and photos for each stop, the archaeologist who thrills at the find of the day. There are the greeters at the information centers who welcome you to their country, state, or city. There are the servers at restaurants who talk about what it’s like to live in their towns, and the bus drivers who care about the movement of the icefields and their watersheds.
And because we drove eastward through the US, and westward through Canada, we gained a vast knowledge of the beauty of our North American Continent and its people. It was both reassuring and rewarding. And best of all, it gave us an even deeper sense of what every Marine—and every person who serves to defend and protect our continent—is committed to preserving.