Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category

Documentary Film,Film Reviews,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

January 8, 2016

BRAVO! Gains International Recognition!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today’s guest blogger, the United Kingdom’s John Henden, ruminates on BRAVO!



Bravo! is a documentary film which is neither pro-war nor anti-war. Using an extensive compilation of film archive, still photos and sound effects, the main impact of the film is provided by the moving personal testimonies of US Marine Corps veterans of the Battle of Khe Sanh, during the Vietnam War. It was the most intensive battle in the history of warfare, lasting 71 days.

Ken Rodgers, the writer of the film, has achieved a remarkable feat in providing the viewer with the most accurate account, to date, of the endurance, courage and heroism of the Marines from Bravo Company, who survived the siege from 20th January to 31st March 1968. Several of the veterans interviewed had suffered life changing mortal injuries in combat and others had found their own ways to overcome their mental wounds. One veteran interviewed said, “They never treated the mind. There was no preventative or proactive teaching.” Another said: “Shrinks don’t have a clue what to do with you.”

Despite the poor reception many received from their fellow Americans, when they returned, there was a determination to live on after.

John Henden. Photo Courtesy of John Henden.

John Henden. Photo Courtesy of John Henden.

Sponsored mainly by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, with financial support from countless others, this is an important film. It is an accurate portrayal of what really happened. Many of us well remember the news reports coming out of Khe Sanh during the war, but there is nothing more moving than the detailed descriptions of what really happened from the mouths of those who were there. The personal accounts, often through tears, from real people, paint a vivid picture.

This film is a must-see for military historians. Many Viet Vets, generally, could benefit also, as part of their making fuller sense of their experiences all those years ago; and some, as further steps towards full combat operational stress recovery.

John Henden, BA (Honours), RMN, Diploma in Counselling (University of Bristol), MBACP, FRSA, is a counselor, therapist and trainer who lives and works in the United Kingdom. John is a UK Military Welfare Workers’ Trainer as well as an internationally renowned author. Prior to founding the John Henden Consultancy, he worked in NHS mental health services for over 20 years, both as a manager and practitioner. His client list includes drug and alcohol agencies and young people’s counseling services. He has a background in psychology, is a qualified counselor and a member of the British Association of Counseling and Psychotherapy. He is a presenter at both the European Brief Therapy Association and Solutions in Organizations Link-up, being a co-founder of the latter. He has a special interest in the areas of suicide prevention and trauma and severe stress. He is the author of Preventing Suicide: the Solution Focused Approach (Wiley) and Beating Combat Stress: 101 Techniques for Recovery (Wiley-Blackwell). You can find out more about John at

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter, spring or summer, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. Please consider gifting copies to a veteran, a history buff, a library, a friend or family member. They make great gifts. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at

America's Middle East Conflicts,Book Reviews,Documentary Film,Eulogies,Film Festivals,Film Reviews,Other Musings

December 3, 2015

November Remembered

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ken and I often ponder the life of BRAVO! and marvel at its journey. This November, for example.

The Veteran Services Office and Omega Sigma Delta hosted Boise State University’s 2nd annual Veterans Week. The festivities included featuring a different branch of the Armed Forces each day. Appropriately, Tuesday November 10—the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday—was Marine Corps Day.

There was a student veteran’s art exhibit, flags on The Quad, and ribbons on a memory tree. There was faculty and staff education on PTSD and TBI. There were legal clinics, and an impressive all-day conference about understanding veterans’ issues. Featured experts were Dr. Larry Dewey (author of War and Redemption) and Dr. Brian Meyer from the HH McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, VA.

The Idaho National Guard Band at the BSU Veterans Day Festivities. Photo courtesy of Lori Sprague

The Idaho National Guard Band at the BSU Veterans Day Festivities. Photo courtesy of Lori Sprague

Wednesday was the first-rate Veterans Day Celebration in Boise State’s beautiful Stueckle Sky Center. Attending with a great variety of veterans, professors, students, musicians, and other citizens, we enjoyed a tasty buffet, moving words from honored guest speakers Travis Hayes (President of Omega Delta Sigma) and Mischa Brady (Post Commander at VFW Capitol City Post 63), and live music by the Gowen Field Army National Guard. The program concluded with songs by the Garfield Elementary Choir. Their earnest and accomplished singing brought a tear to the eye.

Later that evening, BRAVO! was shown to an appreciative audience at the Student Union Building, followed by an exemplary guest panel of veterans, moderated by Sheldie Stetz. On the panel, Vietnam veteran Col. (Ret) Delbert Provant was joined by present-day war veterans Mischa Brady, Amanda Carling, Matt Thorusen, and Brandon Woodard. Their responses to questions were thoughtful, honest, and wise, garnering tremendous respect from the audience.

To have BRAVO! included in such a week at an American university reminds us once again that the job of our film is to educate. We look forward to many more similar events. It was an honor to be included on the planning committee with Lori Sprague, Dr. Chris Wuthrich, Travis Hayes, Mark Heilman, Norma Jaeger, Josh Bode, Corinna Provant-Robishaw, and John McGuire.

The panel for the screening of BRAVO! @ Boise State on Veterans Day. L to R: Sheldie Stetz, Mischa Brady, Amanda Carling, Matt Thorusen, Colonel Delbert Provant, Brandon Woodard. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

The panel for the screening of BRAVO! @ Boise State on Veterans Day. L to R: Sheldie Stetz, Mischa Brady, Amanda Carling, Matt Thorusen, Colonel Delbert Provant, Brandon Woodard. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

* * *
Speaking of honors, we were thrilled to have BRAVO! featured at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, on November 21. The screening was scheduled in conjunction with The Wall That Heals. According to organizer Ron Reyes, there was a packed house for the film. Here are excerpts from his report:

“We had VFW, DAV, American Legion, and a lot of representation from different branches.

“…I went into why this is an important film with a rare glimpse of how Marines speak to each other.

“(In addition to the seating) there was a large area to stand and I know we had several people standing. I stepped out and watched the film and the crowd from the terrace above…This was a great viewing area for me, and allowed me to have a beer in honor of dad, and reflect.

“They had a stage and a podium set up with a mic stand on either side…I took a hand mic, and gave one to my son so he could run from person to person. That turned out to be a good bonding moment for me and my son.

“March 30, 1968, Payback Patrol was a significant day for our family, as that was the day my father was killed not too far away… Being a Gold Star Son always catches people off guard, and usually opens someone up to tell their story…The thought was to talk a little to get the session going, and…(then) Vietnam Vets spoke. It was very important for each vet to be able to connect, to be heard. It didn’t matter if they drove a general or loaded bombs or fought like hell. It all mattered.

“The event was a success and everyone involved was happy for the turnout.”

Ron’s father, PFC Ronald Reyes who served with 1st battalion/9th Marines, died at the Khe Sanh Combat Base in 1968 just two weeks after he learned he had a son. Ron said his father risked enemy fire while running from bunker to bunker passing out cigarettes in celebration. In just three days, Ron will leave for Vietnam with a group of other Gold Star Sons and Daughters to hopefully stand near the spot where his father gave his life.

Photo of part of the audience at the screening of BRAVO! at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Photo courtesy of Ron Reyes.

Photo of part of the audience at the screening of BRAVO! at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Photo courtesy of Ron Reyes.

And so our journey goes: Meeting heroes of every modern conflict, the people who care about them, and Gold Star Sons and Daughters. It is a great honor and a privilege.

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter, spring or summer, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. Please consider gifting copies to a veteran, a history buff, a library, a friend or family member. They make great Christmas gifts. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at

Documentary Film,Film Festivals,Film Reviews,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

November 5, 2015

What’s Happened and What’s Up!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It was a grand day in San Diego when BRAVO! was awarded the prize for Best Documentary Feature at the GI Film Festival San Diego. Co-producers Ken and Betty Rodgers were joined by Bravo Skipper Ken Pipes, his wife Sharon and their family Tim, Sandra, and Connor at the festival for an afternoon screening of BRAVO! before a full theater at San Diego’s UltraStar Mission Valley Hazard Center. Hosted by San Diego newsman and celebrity Bob Lawrence, a Q&A session followed the film. The Rodgers and Skipper Pipes were joined on the panel by Bill Rider of American Combat Veterans of War. Bill was with the 1st Battalion 9th Marines at Khe Sanh and has been a great supporter of the film. During the Q&A, Skipper Pipes delivered a stirring speech about war, memory, family and the events at Khe Sanh.

This award would never have happened had not Tim and Sandra Pipes noticed that the film fest was coming up. They gave Skipper Pipes and Sharon a heads-up and we submitted and are grateful that all the work over the years by all the folks who have labored on this film and all the folks who have supported us financially or otherwise has finally found recognition in the film community.

This entire experience couldn’t have been more appropriate, because San Diego County played a significant part in the story of Bravo Company. First of all, every man in the film deployed to Vietnam from there. It is also the home of the Pipes family, some of the men in the film lived in or were stationed in San Diego County after their service in Vietnam and some of the musical sound track was composed and performed there by the late Harry Partch. What a wonderful Welcome Home.

At the G I Film Festival San Diego: Left to right: Tim Lucey, Skipper Ken Pipes, Sharon Pipes, Betty Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Ken Rodgers

At the G I Film Festival San Diego: Left to right: Tim Lucey, Skipper Ken Pipes, Sharon Pipes, Betty Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Ken Rodgers

The Film Consortium San Diego and KPBS, the local PBS station in San Diego County, in association with the GI Film Festival in Washington, DC, were the folks who put on the festival, and we wish to thank them for allowing BRAVO! a place of honor. Special thanks to Jodi Cilley of the Film Consortium and KPBS’ Claudine Casillas and Carla Conner for all their help.

A lot of old and new friends met us at the event and we had a great time visiting with them before and after the screening.

We enjoyed viewing some fine films concerning a host of topics about veteran and military life. The films were both short and long, documentary and feature.

BRAVO! friend John Giannini, a Vietnam Veteran and a filmmaker, had three films in the festival. His film about his father, ALDO GIANNINI – SERGEANT – UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 1943-1946, was awarded the prize for Best Documentary Short. Congratulations, John! You can find out more about John and his films here.

You can find out more about the events at the GI Film Festival San Diego here. Concerning the photo gallery, you’ll find BRAVO! folks in the two Sunday albums.

While BRAVO! was screening at the GI Film Festival it was also screening in Emmett, Idaho, as a benefit for Brave Hearts Idaho. Frontier Cinema of Emmett hosted two screenings with all proceeds going to help fund programs for Idaho veterans who are experiencing financial crises. Thanks to Brave Hearts’ Jim Kern, Heather Paredes of the Eagle Field of Honor, and Frontier Cinema’s Roy Dransfield for all their hard work on these screenings. You can find out more about Brave Hearts Idaho here.

BRAVO! will be shown on the campus of Boise State University on Veterans Day, November 11, 2015. The event begins at 6;30 PM in the Jordan Ballroom in the Student Union Building and will be followed by a discussion with a panel of combat veterans. The screening will be part of Boise State University’s Veterans Week celebration. You can find out more about the week’s events here, and we hope to see you there. Parking for this event is free in the Lincoln Parking Garage on the campus. There will be a person at the Lincoln Parking Garage parking kiosk who will give you the parking code or if you would rather get the code from us, please send along an e-mail to the e-mail account associated with this blog.

The award for Best Documentary Feature at the G I Film Festival San Diego. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

The award for Best Documentary Feature at the G I Film Festival San Diego. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

On November 21, 2015, BRAVO! will be screened at the prestigious Ronald Reagan Presidential Library at 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, California, as part of the events surrounding the library’s hosting of the Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of The Vietnam Memorial. The film and related events in Simi Valley can be found here.

On the movie review front BRAVO! just received a great review from THE BOISE WEEKLY’S George Prentice. You can read George’s piece here.

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter, spring or summer, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. Please consider gifting copies to a veteran, a history buff, a library, a friend or family member. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at

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

April 9, 2013

News About Screenings in Moscow, Idaho and Sonora, California

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Here’s the info on the screening of BRAVO!, COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR in Moscow, Idaho, on April 19, 2013 at 6:30 PM. Screening is at The Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre at 508 South Main Street, in Moscow. Doors open at 6:00 PM. There will be a panel discussion on aspects of and the nature of war across generations and conflicts. At the screening you will be able to meet the filmmakers, Ken and Betty Rodgers, the film’s principal videographer, Mark Spear, as well as Mike McCauley and Ron Rees, Bravo Company Marines who are in the film.

This screening of BRAVO! is sponsored by the University of Idaho’s Operation Education and English Department, and is free of charge but donations to Operation Education are strongly encouraged. Operation Education assists disabled combat veterans in attaining a college degree. You can find out more about Operation Education at

Thank you to the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre (, Ed McBride and Dan Button of Operation Education, and Kim Barnes and Laura Pizzo from University of Idaho’s Department of English, and Julie Titone for making this screening possible.

SONORA, California

On May 18 (Armed Forces Day), 2013, BRAVO! will be screened in Sonora, California. Below is the notice about the screening and the film from Khe Sanh brother Mike Preston, who is mainly responsible for the screening:

Here is a 2 hour first run movie like you will never see anywhere else, not at any theater, it is shown only privately. This film was made by Ken Rodgers (and his wife Betty), who lived the whole experience with Bravo Co, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. This is about the 77 day siege of Khe Sanh starting 21 January 1968; the Tet Offensive. It also covers the ill fated “Ghost Patrol” of 25 February and subsequent action in retaliation such as ”The Payback” battle on 30 March which was the only Marine Corps bayonet charge in Vietnam history and the only one since World War 2.

Less than 100 men participated and 19 were KIA . There were over 100 Purple Hearts earned that day, some men having multiple wounds . Other awards were 2 Navy Crosses, 8 Silver Stars , 9 Bronze Stars with “V”, 2 Navy Commendations w/V. One hell of a heroic day!

There are 15 Marines interviewed who are participants in the film itself. These guys are the “been there done that” gang, common men, uncommon valor. This film has a lot of historical significance, being about the longest and biggest battle of the 10 year conflict.

Seating is limited to 400 tickets max. Tickets are $10.00 and are available on line at Vietnam Veterans of America #391 for each of the two showings at 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM at Columbia College. There are also 3 trailers to see from the Bravo website. Just click below. If tickets are sold out and if you show up at the door at show time and there are any no-shows, you will be seated. All email tickets will be ”will-call” at the door. Tickets will also be available at Columbia College: Call Michelle Vidaurri at 588-1505. In Calaveras County, contact Bravo Project chairman Mike Preston @ 795-1864. Tuolumne County, contact Carol Southern at 938-3848.

Please send this to all who may be interested.

Thank you,
Mike Preston

Vietnam Veterans of America #391

Documentary Film,Film Reviews,Film Screenings,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

July 20, 2012

A Tour of Hell in a Small Space

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stephen Hunter, former film critic for the Washington Post and creator of the Bob Lee Swagger novels reviews BRAVO!

Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor: A Tour of Hell in a Small Space


We live in an age obnoxious in its corruption of the ancient genre of documentary film. The profusion of cable channels with their insatiable need for product has largely diluted the field with reports from Area 51, speculations on ancient aliens, and re-creations of the Battle of Gettysburg with twenty-five extras. Thus, it’s a privilege and an honor to come across a work as disciplined and rigorous as Ken and Betty Rodgers’s Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor. No recreations, no ancient aliens, no saucers.

Just a tour of hell in a very small space, among young men in the prime of life hammered by the existential fury of war. Theirs wasn’t to question why, theirs was do nothing–and die, too many of them. The film is a two-hour examination of the ordeal of the siege at the Marine Operation Base at Khe Sanh from January through July of 1968. The focus is on Bravo-1-26, a Marine infantry company that was on the bull’s-eye for the worst seventy-seven days of the siege, during which life consisted primarily of two endeavors: digging and praying.

The Rodgerses really aren’t interested in history. They provide no voice of authority in the film, no god of context who sets things up geopolitically or even tactically. No pointy-heads or critics explain in front of animated maps the movements of the units, the terrain, the consternation of the policy people ten thousand miles away, the press coverage. Nobody second-guesses or explains, from the safety of a paneled den, what Ken Pipes, Bravo’s CO, should have done. Instead the filmmakers simply let the boys speak. The Rodgerses are noble witnesses who have committed to recording this all-but-forgotten aspect of that all-but-forgotten time and place. And they know enough to turn on the camera and shut up. So the film finds its rhythm in the excellent editing of John Nutt, which juxtaposes the recollection of several Bravo survivors, men and officers, with archival film.

The men are now all middle-aged, wearing the comfortable padding of the good life in the country they fought so hard for. (You will think, as I did: Boy, if anyone ever earned the right to comfort, it was these guys.) As they talk, a narrative emerges, and the Rodgerses and Nutt cut away to mostly grainy film, as well as to the extraordinary photojournalism from the siege by David Douglas Duncan and Robert Ellison. The record reveals much that has been forgotten, if it was ever noted in the first place: the squalor of the installation itself–it looked like a large urban garbage dump by siege’s end–and the feel of the thunder of the incoming.

Other samples of the combat experience emerge, without emotional underlining: the endless fatigue, the endless labor (sandbags had to be filled and stacked each day, human waste had to be burned, supplies had to be offloaded and stockpiled) and the hideousness of what small pieces of heated supersonic metal and vast energy waves of percussion can do to human flesh. The directors also make clever usage of sound; occasionally, the screen goes dark, and all we hear is the sound of bombardment, a living symphony of mayhem, as recorded on site by an enterprising Marine historical officer.

In general, the movie progresses chronologically, its first concern the arrival of the grunts to the site itself and their initial bewilderment at the intensity and complexity of the situation. It follows through long periods of consistent bombardment, the loss of a large patrol, and could be said to “climax”–the word implies melodrama, but the film is defiantly anti-melodramatic–in Bravo’s assault outside the wire late in the siege of a section of NVA trenchline. The arrival, in July of 1968, of a relief force, effectively ending the siege, is not treated as a triumph but a relief.

The tone is modest, severe, and utterly melancholic.

Regardless of one’s position on the politics and the policy that made this episode seem inevitable, one can only wonder at the toughness, the love, and the deep sense of comradeship that got the young Marines–most were twenty or younger–through the ordeal. But no bugles are played, no drums are beaten. The men themselves are now, as they were then, quietly magnificent. No Rambos here, no bravado or warrior zeal.

Most break down at one point or another, and request that the camera be shut down while they compose themselves. Even now, years later, the loss of so many friends and the harrowing nature of the dread that crushed against them are still written vividly on their faces. These are the things that never go away, that we expect our fighters to bear up under. It is pleasing to report that most seem to have done well, and ultimately rejoined and contributed to society. That’s the only happy ending the movie provides.

To call Khe Sanh a “battle” is somewhat misleading. The idea, just like the French plan in 1954, was to expose a large unit to enemy attack, under the assumption that it would prove so tempting that the enemy would soon arrive. The second part of the assumption was that the Marines, with their superior firepower and discipline, would destroy the attacking force and break the back and ultimately the morale of the human waves in the wire. But, as at Dien Bien Phu, the enemy never came. Instead, the NVA lay back and assaulted by mortar, rocket, artillery, and sniper fire.
Only that one time, late in the engagement, did Bravo emerge from the wire and engage North Vietnamese regulars in a brief but bloody attack, vividly recalled here by all who participated.

Still, at the grunt level, the experience was mostly about the play of right-time/right place dynamics, as most of the survivors recollect a moment or seventeen when they went into the hole on the right instead on the left and in the next second the hole on the left was obliterated by a shell. They were all–to cite a famous Bill Mauldin cartoon from World War II–refugees from the law of averages.

The base’s umbilical was resupply by air. Some of the most horrifying moments in Bravo! portray the intensity of arrival and exit, as the C130s hit the runaway in mid-bombardment, spew men and material without ever really coming to a halt, then crank into a 180 at the end of the runway and take off again, all amid bursting shells. Nobody who arrived or departed in that fashion ever forgot it, and the graveyard of burned fuselages and sundered wings that became the central architectural feature of the otherwise low-lying bunker city is an image of war at its fiercest.

A more historically oriented film might cover those brave pilots, as well as the fighter-bomber jocks who slathered the low-lying surrounding hills with napalm and contributed significantly to prevent Khe Sanh from becoming an American Dien Bien Phu, as well as the B-52s that turned much of the outlying jungle to mulch. Such a film might interview someone over the rank of O-3, might even provide a map that would locate Khe Sahn in country and suggest why the war’s managers considered it a good strategy. To their credit, the Rodgerses don’t care. It’s immaterial.

This is a grunt film that looks at history from over the lip of the trench. To watch it is to think: Where did we get such men?

Stephen Hunter was chief film critic for The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post. He is author of the Bob Lee Swagger novels.

Stephen Hunter’s review of BRAVO! is reprinted here with permission from the July/August 2012 issue of The VVA Veteran, the national magazine of the Vietnam Veterans of America.