Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Archive for the ‘Documentary Film’ Category

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Meet the Men,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

January 21, 2022

January 21, 2022

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In Their Own Words

Fifty-four years ago today, the Siege of Khe Sanh commenced and for roughly 77 days, the battle roared and the scenes of carnage and death and courage were featured on television screens across America.

While the participants’ families and friends sat in their easy chairs in their living rooms, watching with horror, going to work and church and school with the thoughts of death and fear in their minds, the men who fought the battle dug in.

What was it like?

Let some of the Marines and Navy Corpsmen who made it home tell you. These comments are from the original interviews done for the film. Some of them made it into the final cut, some of them you have never read before. Even though the interviews were conducted on an individual basis, the men often recollected the same events without anyone prompting. That was one of the amazing things about interviewing the men of BRAVO!

Khe Sanh TAOR 1968 Photo Courtesy of Mack McNeeley

On the night before the boom lowered and the siege began some of the men had a sense of foreboding.

Ken Rodgers:

I went out in the trench and I think I had first watch and as I was getting off watch it was misty. You could see through the mist and there was Puff the Magic Dragon flying around and all you saw was the blur of the tracers and hear the thing and it was moaning. I understood then that something was going to happen.

Cal Bright:

Everything was all nice and quiet. As a matter of fact it was, more or less, too quiet.

The initial eruptions of incoming found most of the men of Bravo 1/26 in their racks. The chaos ripped them out of their sleep and into the trenches and fighting holes.

Dan Horton:

There’s an explosion in the doorway of the hooch. Slammed me against the bulkhead. Then I knew the shit was hitting the fan here. Scared the crap out of me, of course, I was all discombubulated.

Cal Bright:

All Hell broke loose.

Michael E. O’Hara:

I was there digging holes in the trench. I wanted to go down as far as I could go. I was scared.

Lloyd Scudder:

I went outside and tried to curl up in a ball as much as I could. I looked like a turtle underneath my helmet.

Then the ammo dump took a direct hit.

Mike McCauley:

When the ammo dump exploded, man, we thought it was atomic.

Cal Bright:

It was obvious that they, the NVA, had been reconning the area for quite some time because you can’t hit an ammo dump with artillery and rockets and score direct hits without practicing. And it took them no time at all.

Ken Rodgers:

Our own artillery rounds that were stored in the ammo dump were cooking off and shooting straight up into the air and coming down on us.

Tom Quigley:

The NVA rounds had hit our ammo dump, and in the ammo dump was a lot of CS canisters and those went off and the gas started coming in through our hooch.

Mike McCauley:

Nobody had their gas masks with them so everybody’s trying to find a gas mask.

Ken Pipes:

The CS gas that was blown out of the dump was burning and settling into the trenches because it goes to the low ground and into the bunkers.

Debris at Khe Sanh. Photo courtesy of David Douglas Duncan.

Guys were getting hurt. Guys were dying.

Ken Korkow:

We got a lot of incoming and I’ll tell you, three separate times, incoming was so close to me I didn’t jump down, the concussion of the shell actually knocked me to the ground.

John “Doc” Cicala:

I heard ‘em yelling for a Corpsman and I started running down the trench line and the next thing I know I was looking up at the sky and I heard a Marine calling for a Corpsman and “where the hell is that son-of-a-bitch?” I was kind of lying there dazed and I got up and I picked up my helmet and I had the tail fin of a mortar in the top of my helmet. It must have hit me and knocked me out.

Peter Weiss:

I didn’t know it at the time: the radioman who had been killed. Must have been killed right at the door of the bunker. Touching a body…first time I touched a dead body. It was like, “Oh, my God.”

After hours and hours of explosions, the ammo dump going up, the CS gas in the trenches, things calmed down.

John “Doc” Cicala :

The rest of the morning was just taking care of every guy that had shrapnel wounds.

Mike McCauley:

It was pretty chaotic.

Steve Wiese:

I thought, my God, you’re not going to survive this. Little did I know that it was going to go on for 77 days.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available @https://bravotheproject.com/store/.

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

The new documentary film from Betty and Ken Rodgers, I MARRIED THE WAR, is now available to watch. Check it out at https://imarriedthewar.com/.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War,World War II

November 10, 2021

News on Screenings of BRAVO!

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We will be screening BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR in West Jefferson, North Carolina at 3:00 PM on Thursday, November 18. Come join us at the Parkway Theater. Filmmakers Betty and Ken Rodgers will be there in person to talk about the film along with Bruce and Francine Jones. Bruce served with the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines at Khe Sanh as did filmmaker Ken Rodgers.

On November 20th at 10:00 AM at the Library in West Jefferson, we will be screening our second film, I MARRIED THE WAR, about the wives of combat veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. Francine Jones, one of the strong and courageous women in the film, will be on hand to discuss the project along with the filmmakers, Betty and Ken.

Please join us.

In separate but associated news, DVDs of I MARRIED THE WAR are now available to purchase. Details can be found at https://imarriedthewar.com/buy-the-dvd/.

As Veterans Day approaches, our thoughts turn to the wars fought in our lives and our friends and loved ones who served, some living, some now gone. We think of them, see their faces, hear their voices.

Our films speak to some of the issues surrounding war and combat. We wouldn’t have been able to create these stories without the help of all our friends and supporters, who are many. Thank you!

America's Middle East Conflicts,Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Korean War,Post Combat Mental Health,Veterans,Vietnam War,World War II

November 1, 2021

Don’t Miss the Premiere

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Our first film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR, was about a lot of things: History, war, courage, danger and trauma. And a more visceral understanding of trauma may be one of the messages that many viewers have taken from that film.

Our new film, I MARRIED THE WAR, addresses the types of trauma that come home with some of the warriors of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. The trauma that moves in with the family. The wives who must deal with helping their warriors integrate with the family, the world.

Here’s news on your chance to see this film now:

I Married the War: A Virtual World Premiere

Betty and Ken Rodgers at Syringa Cinema have announced the virtual world premiere of their documentary film, I Married the War, a story of war, homecoming, loss, resilience. A story of love.

The event will stream on Nov. 6 at 7 PM EDT and will conclude with a live Q&A with women featured in the film. Tickets are $12 each at eventive.com and can be purchased via https://imarriedthewar.com. (One dollar from each ticket, plus all additional donations, go to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes program, which seeks solutions to the tremendous challenges and long-term needs faced by military caregivers.)

I Married the War was edited by BAFTA award-winning veteran of the film industry, John Nutt. Director of Photography, Bill Krumm, a Silver Circle inductee of NATAS, has received multiple Emmy Awards for his work. The musical score was composed and performed by the celebrated composer, pianist, teacher, and blues/rock/soul singer-songwriter, Sarah Baker.

As long as mankind has waged war, women have waited and welcomed their warriors home, only to discover that the conflict dogs their husbands’ footsteps, bringing with it hyper-vigilance, isolation, anger, substance use, and emotional escapism—all manifestations of post-traumatic stress.

I Married the War gives voice to 11 wives of combat veterans from World War II to present-day Middle East wars. They are known as military caregivers, and they represent more than 5.5 million such caregivers in our nation alone. Listen as these remarkable women expose the emotional cost of war and its painful impact on their families. Learn how they cope, how they heal, and how they protect those they love. Share their struggle to hold on to their own hopes and desires.

The women of I MARRIED THE WAR

When Betty and Ken Rodgers married nearly forty years ago, Betty knew nothing about Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury, and the many other manifestations of the trauma of combat. Ken had served as a Marine and experienced the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War. While producing and showing their award-winning film Bravo!, Common Men, Uncommon Valor, a documentary about the men who lived through that siege, Ken and Betty met hundreds of military caregivers. Betty recognized herself and her own marriage and personal xperience in the lives of these women. The pair realized how silent and unseen the plight of military caregivers is, and they were determined to make it visible. Six years in the making, I Married the War is now poised for this premiere.

The filmmakers

A portion of the proceeds of this screening will benefit The Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s HIDDEN HEROES project which provides programs to help spouses and other caregivers deal with what comes home from war with their loved ones

The entire team at Syringa Cinema wishes to thank Optum, Recovery Idaho, BPA Health, and Magellan Health for sponsoring this virtual event and honoring America’s military caregivers.

What others are saying about I MARRIED THE WAR:

“…a nuanced, heart-breaking, and, most of all, magnificently inspiring film.” — Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

“A moving, fascinating, informative, haunting, inspiring film. It’s utterly stunning.” — Jean Hegland, author of Into the Forest.

Get tickets for the world premiere of I MARRIED THE WAR here: https://imarriedthewar.com/.

Documentary Film,Other Musings

October 10, 2021

Premiering Our New Film

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Friends and supporters of BRAVO!:

Our new documentary film about the wives of combat survivors, I Married the War, is now finished.

The conversation is just beginning.

November 6th – 7:00 pm Eastern

     Join us for the much-anticipated World Premiere of the groundbreaking film, I Married the War, and be among the first to see stories that expose the hidden costs of combat paid by women and families who welcome their warriors home from war.

     This is your mother’s story, your spouse’s story, your sister’s or daughter’s story, YOUR STORY.  Be with us on November 6th, 7:00 pm Eastern Time.  AND don’t miss this opportunity to invite friends, family and other folks you believe need to see this film. You’ll enjoy this exciting virtual event from the comfort of your home.

     Join friends all across the US and share in this moving tribute to courage, perseverance and, ultimately, love. Once the film concludes, we’ll go directly to a live Q&A panel discussion with the remarkable women from the film.

     Many of you have made this film possible! It truly wouldn’t have been completed without your involvement, encouragement, and support. We’ve worked hard to get here, and we want you to be part of this exciting celebration!

Here is the link to purchase tickets and save your place.

Buy tickets here.

Betty and Ken Rodgers, Co-Producers.

     Proceeds will enable further public education and provide logistical support for additional programs about this important and too often neglected subject. $1.00 from each ticket, plus ALL donations you make in addition to the ticket, will go directly to the inspiring Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes Program. The foundation is “the preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s military caregivers; the spouses, parents, family members and friends who care for America’s wounded, ill or injured veterans.”

Thank you!


Betty and Ken Rodgers,


the entire team at Syringa Cinema,


Kingfisher Arts and Wide Eye Productions

Documentary Film,Film Festivals,Other Musings

September 21, 2021

Lady Filmmakers Film Festival

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Friends, our new film, I MARRIED THE WAR, will be shown at the LADY FILMMAKERS FILM FESTIVAL in Beverly Hills, California, on Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 5:15 PM Pacific Time. If you are in the Southern California area, please consider joining Betty Rodgers and me at this event. If you can’t make it, you can watch I MARRIED THE WAR virtually as part of the film festival.

Filmmakers Betty and Ken Rodgers

I MARRIED THE WAR is the compelling story of wives of combat veterans told through the voices of eleven women who loved, married and lived with combat veterans—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines—from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. This film covers a gamut of emotions from the sad, the somber, the reflective, the happy, the redemptive.

The film festival celebrates lady filmmakers and the men who collaborate with them.

Details on securing tickets for the live screening or the virtual performances can be found at https://filmfestivalflix.com/lady-filmmakers/purchase-tickets/.

Thank you for being our supporters and friends.

Documentary Film,Eulogies,Khe Sanh,Listening Posts,Marines,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

April 21, 2021

No Better Friend

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The phone jangled—1992 or 1993—and when I answered it, a voice out of my past said, “Is this Kenny Rodgers?”

I wondered who it was and then kind of remembered and then he said, “You may not remember me but…”

It all hit, the way he liked to stand, cocky, even though he was just a kid.

He told me about a reunion in Washington, DC, for survivors of Khe Sanh, and that he wanted me to come, and he told me about who he’d contacted, who he’d met up with. I think he’d made it his duty to find all the men who’d served in Third Squad, Second Platoon, Bravo Company, 1/26 during the siege of Khe Sanh.

If he hadn’t called me, our lives—Betty and mine—might have been very different. But we went to the reunion and for 28 years, Michael E. O’Hara has been a big part of my life—our lives.

We were lucky in that.

Michael E. O’Hara at Khe Sanh

He was in our film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR, and his powerful, emotional words were, and still are, a testament to the long-lasting effects of combat and to the reverence he, and most of us who served at Khe Sanh, felt for our comrades.

Michael passed on last week after a battle with cancer.

I feel his absence already, a voice over my shoulder encouraging, scolding, scoffing, laughing at me. I find myself thinking, “Okay, O’Hara, what do you think about…,” and then I realize we won’t share any of those moments again. Only in my imagination.

We didn’t always see eye-to-eye. We argued more than we should have, but none of that matters now. And never really did.

An image comes to mind when I think about him. Maybe the first time I really recognized him as one of our Bravo Company Marines. I’d been on R & R in Bangkok, and right after I came back, we moved out of the lines at the combat base and up to 881-S. It was October of 1967.

We had gotten a lot of new guys in the squad while I’d been on R & R. Including him.

We humped it from the base up to the hill. I see Michael now, in my mind’s eye, on that trek. His clean helmet cover, his clean jungle boots, his clean jungle dungarees, his sleeves rolled up, a pack of Marlboros stored in the rolled left sleeve, his young biceps bulging, his M16 held in his right hand, butt against the right thigh, the business end into the sky. He was easy like that, and confident.

For three months we were in the same fire team. Long, wet patrols, humping up and down, once into Laos when we weren’t supposed to be there. Ambushes off the south end of 881-S. Soggy, miserable listening posts. Leaking hooches, everything wet: your socks, your boots, your mummy bag. Leeches, leeches, leeches.

We charged up hills into the enemy’s trench more than once, and we watched men die, watched them get maimed. We carried the dead and wounded off the battlefield.

During the siege, we endured the fury and the fear and while there, O’Hara earned three Purple Hearts.

Michael was an outstanding Marine.

One night in March of 1968, the artillery battery that was right behind our lines in the Gray Sector suffered a direct hit on their ammo dump. All night, ordnance exploded. Some of the rounds threw out smaller bits of explosives that detonated here and there, until after sunup, like they were randomly intent on killing whoever chanced to wander along our trench.

I was on radio watch most of that night in the platoon command post. Off and on, through those dark and dangerous hours, Michael came down that trench line delivering messages to us in the command post.

He was like that. Undaunted. Carrying out orders in the face of extreme danger.

Michael E. O’Hara.

My definition of a hero is someone who does what needs to be done against long odds, even though fear gets on his back like a big cat. Even though he or she doesn’t want to do it.

That was Michael E. O’Hara.

There’s a saying about Marines: No better friend, no worse enemy.

If you crossed Michael, he might chase you down and tackle you in the middle of the street and straighten you out. No worse enemy.

Years later, when the men he served with needed help or when their families needed help, he was there. He’d fund your dreams, he’d bury you. He’d show up to speak your name and remember you.

That, too, was Michael.

No better friend.

We will miss him. I will miss him. Man, will I.

Semper Fidelis, Michael E. O’Hara.

Documentary Film,Other Musings,Post Combat Mental Health,Veterans,Vietnam War

December 11, 2020

The Power of Story

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Most of us have experienced the power of storytelling. We remember, catalogue, and relate our lives through story.

In the making, sharing, and viewing of BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR, we all learned a lot about war, combat, warriors, and post-combat issues. We also learned the healing power of film.

Now, Betty, our team, and I are in the final stages of sharing another story, that of wives of combat veterans. Stories that those of us who have experienced war know, but are little known outside the veteran population.

We want to share these stories and we need your help to get them out to the world. Interviewing for this film has been therapeutic for the women who are featured. Their openness and candor will be helpful to spouses everywhere who feel alone, who think there is no help for them and their families.

The photo below is of the eleven wives of I MARRIED THE WAR.

Today, we have launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and we need your help to finish and share these stories of the wives of combat veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Join this effort by contributing today, or if you cannot donate right now, please share this information about our campaign with your family, friends and colleagues.

You can find out more about the campaign at https://igg.me/at/IMTW.

Together, we can get these stories out to the world!

Thanks.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

March 21, 2020

Elation

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After the Ghost Patrol of 25Feb1968, no larger units sortied outside Khe Sanh combat base for almost a month. We sent out some listening posts but those were small and they went out after dark and came in before sunrise while the mist still hung low to the ground.

But on today’s date fifty-two years ago, as the sun threw up the first hint of daylight, we Marines of Second Platoon, Bravo, 1/26 stood in the trench and smoked our Camels and Winstons and Salems, flinched at the incoming rounds, heard the scrape of scuffed jungle boots in the red mud at the bottom of the trench. Noted some mumbles.

And if fear had sounds, they would have ricocheted in the deep trench, off the walls, against the sandbags. Being Marines, we needed to keep the fright quarantined to a slow boil at the bottom of our guts. We must not entertain the notion of fear because its insidious gnawing weakened us.

And then out the gate we went, crossed over the minefield, got on line and charged across the vale and up the ridge towards the NVA position in the vicinity of where the Ghost Patrol had traveled.

After the Siege. Photo courtesy of Mac McNeely

Our big guns on base boxed us in with ordnance, geysers of red mud, black smoke and the din of combat suddenly crammed in our ears and brains, sucking the breath out of our lungs. And as we headed towards our objective, our allies to the rear, on the base, fired machine-guns over our heads.

As the Marines of my old squad, Third Squad, reached the top of the ridge, explosions erupted among them and then .50 caliber rounds fired by our guys, our allies, our mates, ripped into the men of Third Squad. I saw the rounds hit; flashes and bodies pirouetting, falling.

The explosions I suspect were from NVA mortar rounds and RPG rounds, but the machine-gun fire was what we call friendly fire. Friendly fire.

Up top, while the wounded were medevacked, we got in the NVA trench and headed east. At one point elements of First Squad, who were on point, veered off to the north, away from the trench.

We’d been briefed to stay in the NVA trench because it was believed that the surrounding terrain was infested with booby traps.

When this went down, I had about fifteen days left in the field. I’d survived my twelve month-plus tour by being good at surviving, being lucky, not being heroic, just doing my job and keeping it as low profile as possible.

So I was shocked as I took off, out of the trench, sprinting behind the Marines of First Squad, yelling, “No, no,” and when several turned at my words—and as I think of it now, how they heard me in the furious din that boomed around us—how they weren’t blown up by some of that ordnance and how we all didn’t get blown to smithereens by the mines and booby traps out there where we had wrongly ventured, is a wonder to me to this day.

But, nobody lost legs or died or anything. We just got back in the NVA trench and drove on towards our goal.

Not far from our destination, a gate we could enter through the maze of our own mines and wire and booby traps, the man on point triggered an NVA booby-trapped grenade that went off. He went down, but then got up and a Corpsman went to succor him and after that, we went in, missing some of the men with whom I’d served previously in Third Squad. The squad leader, Corporal Jacobs’ back had been rent by one of those .50 caliber rounds that had been delivered by the friendly fire. He stood there among us like nothing had happened to him.

Author Ken Rodgers at Khe Sanh. Photo courtesy of Michael O’Hara.

After we all retired to our area, we shouted and jumped up and down and the Marines sent historians to record our thoughts. I remember relief. I remember a sense of satisfaction, and I also remember feeling extremely elated. How I imagined exaltation. I was bad, I was indestructible. I was alive.

And we’d gotten in their trench. Their trench.

We were…were…were unbreakable, we were shatterproof, we were everlasting.

The thing that sticks in my mind after all these years was that high, that feeling that I stood atop a throne at the apex of the world was at that moment so different from the almost two months of despair that permeated everything that I had lived through. Thousands upon thousands of incoming rounds that shook the ground—some that roared like railroad engines and some that hissed like sneaky spirits—and dismembered men I knew and didn’t know, who at that time and in that place were like twin brothers to me.

I realized that for two months I’d lived on huge doses of luck and that sometime, if the siege did not stop, I’d be hit by a whooshing chunk of shrapnel that would sever an arm or a leg, or I’d be sitting in my bunker and a rocket round would crash through the roof and my fellow Marines would be gathering my parts that were pasted on the sandbag walls, or a sniper would put a round through my brain.

So, having been in their trench, and having survived, and for at least a few hours, having been on top, the aggressor, the winner so to speak. Yeah, I was elated. I was bad.

***

DVDs of BRAVO! are available @https://bravotheproject.com/store/

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, BRAVO! is available on Amazon Prime Video UK @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

February 25, 2020

Grief

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52 years ago today, one of the most significant events in my memory of Khe Sanh’s siege occurred in what has now become known as the Ghost Patrol. When Marines and Corpsmen from Third Platoon of Bravo Company 1/26 were ambushed by a battalion of NVA, a squad from First Platoon went out to relieve them, and they were ambushed, too. A lot of good Marines, young men with futures that would never be discovered and fulfilled, died that day.

I have written about this a lot over the years I suppose in hopes of finding resolution, and yet I still return to the memories almost daily.

I recall our skipper, Ken Pipes, talking about the event one evening, sadness drooped on his shoulders like a too-heavy mantle. He talked about a patrol on Guadalcanal—the Goettge Patrol, led by Lieutenant Colonel Frank Goettge—that was ambushed by Japanese forces and which lost almost its entire 25-man contingent.

Ken Pipes at Khe Sanh.

Skipper Pipes talked about how bad things happen in war and how the Ghost Patrol was another of the long list of actions where Marines were attacked and nearly obliterated. But his and my recognition of this fact of war had no effect, as far as I could tell, in lessening his profound sense of loss, and responsibility, related to the ambush of 25Feb68.

The Ghost Patrol has been the subject of a number of news articles, battle studies, and for a while was used as a case study in the Scouting and Patrolling class at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico, Virginia where all new Marine Corps officers and warrant officers are trained. One of the things they taught in that course was how it feels to lose your troops/mates in the chaotic heat of battle, and in retrospect, the ensuing grief.

One of the online dictionaries defines grief as “deep sorrow, especially the sorrow caused by someone’s death.”

Grief comes in a variety of types. According to the website WHAT’S YOUR GRIEF (https://whatsyourgrief.com/ ), grief can be prolonged, anticipatory, masked, disenfranchised, secondary, cumulative, inhibited, ambiguous, complicated, normal, traumatic, abbreviated, exaggerated, absent, prolonged, chronic, and collective, to name a few.

Blogger Ken Rodgers while at Khe Sanh. Photo courtesy of Michael E. O’Hara.

As far as I can discern from my short appraisal of the types of grief, I suffer—or have suffered, related to the events surrounding the Ghost Patrol: normal, prolonged, complicated, traumatic, chronic and collective grief.

Collective grief, in my case, means that besides my problems with the malady, I am joined by a relatively large number of my fellow Khe Sanh survivors in our grief that is also prolonged and chronic and traumatic.

The French playwright Moliere said, “If you suppress grief too much, it can well redouble.”

For years, for decades, I tried like hell to stuff the grief I felt from my mates having been massacred on today’s date fifty-two years ago. And from my experience, I can say it probably didn’t help to do that. In the Marines back then, and maybe now, too, you were just supposed to tough it out. War’s hell and all that kind of sentiment, or lack of sentiment thereof. But all my grief demanded to be let out.

I think again of Bravo Skipper Pipes and it seems to me that so much of the life he lived in the too-short time I knew him was dedicated to the memories of the men he led who died at Khe Sanh and especially to all those casualties on 25February1968. His grief was palpable. It was long term. It directed him to constantly search for ways to honor those who didn’t come home.

Steve Wiese. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

Over the years, people have asked me why I don’t just get over it.

When we made BRAVO!, Steve Wiese said it best:

“I’ve had people say, ‘Well, that was 30, 40 years ago. Why don’t you get over it?’ You know, I wish I could. I wish I could get over it. But on the other hand, it’s like I don’t ever want to forget these guys. I don’t want to forget what I’ve seen, what I was witness to. And I don’t want to forget them and their memories.”

***

DVDs of BRAVO! are available @https://bravotheproject.com/store/

A digital version of BRAVO! is available in the US on Amazon Prime Video @ https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

In the United Kingdom, BRAVO! is available on Amazon Prime Video UK @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BZKJXBM.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

February 10, 2020

Give Them The Bayonet

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52 years ago today I awoke and realized that the end of my life could come at any moment. Before, even though Khe Sanh had been under siege for 20-plus days, I’d been quite optimistic that all would end soon and well.

Bayonet and Scabbard for an M-16

On February 5th, 1968, NVA troops had attacked the Marines of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, penetrating the barbwire lines and a vicious up-close battle ensued.

On February 6th and 7th, 1968, NVA troops had assaulted and overrun the Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei and part of their weaponry—tanks! The first time tanks had been used by the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War. All that long and scary night, I heard tanks. Doubt began to slither into my soul like a cobra in the mist. Did I hear them? Didn’t I? Am I crazy? And following doubt, the cold viper of fear followed.

On February 8th, 1968, NVA troops had attacked and penetrated the defenses of Hill 64, manned by Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. A lot of good men died that day in another up-close-and-personal melee.

Misgivings started kicking the inside of my mind. No relief for Khe Sanh was in sight. Supply aircraft were blown out of the sky. The airstrip was damaged. Men I served with were maimed and dying.

Joining the Marine Corps, for me, was an act of pure impulse, like stepping off the edge of a cliff which is shrouded in a thick fog. I fully believed that I would land on my feet on some unseen safe ledge. My optimism defeated any doubt I might have harbored.

But the Marine Corps has trained millions of warriors and they know that when the bullet meets the breastbone and fear begins to gnaw and nibble, the warrior might begin to entertain doubt.

And I believe that’s one reason for the vicissitudes of Marine Corps training. The physical and mental exercises of Boot Camp. The harassment. Then the hard training in what they now call the School of Infantry.

They want to harden your body, your heart, your mind. They want your backbone ramrod straight when the manure hits the fan. They know doubt and they aim to defeat it.

Blogger, Ken Rodgers

But 52 years ago today doubt crept in.

I doubted I could overcome fear.

I doubted my country could save me.

I doubted my ability to do what must be done to survive. The hard things: Die for your brother, charge under deadly fire up a hill with fixed bayonets like Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate Army warriors after he told them, “Give them the bayonet,” and meet your enemy face-to-face. And kill him.

Stonewall Jackson

As the Siege wore on, doubt seeped into my bones, my skin, my attitude, and at times I felt as if the end of the world would show up any minute: A barrage of 152 Millimeter artillery rounds that would obliterate me, the deadly hiss of an 81 Millimeter mortar round hurtling out of the misty sky to send me home in a body bag, or a sniper round that would slap against the side of my head leaving me with a momentary expression of complete surprise before I slumped into the red mud in the bottom of the trench.

But then, after two months of getting pounded, pounded, pounded, we went into action. Action overcame doubt. I still feared mightily every possible way I might die, and I feared other things like what was out there that I didn’t know—yes, all of that. But I needed to concentrate on the tasks at hand, so doubt, for me, didn’t disappear; but it waned.

More than once we charged up hills with fixed bayonets, into the teeth of death, my doubt forgotten because I had a job to do.

We gave them the bayonet.

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