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Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

October 8, 2013

On David Aldrich, The Wall and Khe Sanh

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David Aldrich

Panel 47E, Row 007 of The Wall.

The Wall, Panel 47E, Row 007

I’ve been having an ongoing e-mail conversation over the last several years with a Marine named Dave Evans who was in Marine Corps Training in the States with David A. Aldrich. Both of these Daves arrived together in Danang, South Vietnam in March of 1967 and one Dave went to Hill 55 with the First Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment. That was Dave Aldrich. I arrived on Hill 55 a day later. So Aldrich (that’s what we called him…we didn’t normally call anyone by first names in Vietnam) and I got to know each other fairly well, even though we were technically assigned to different platoons after our initial orientation while in the main battalion position on Hill 55. Aldrich, I believe, had an MOS of 0351 (the virtual wall states that he was an 0311) which meant he shot what we called “rockets” but which might be more simply understood as bazookas. I was an 0311, an infantryman, a grunt. I was assigned to Second Platoon and he went to Weapons Platoon, Bravo Company.

Aldrich was a quiet guy with a big smile, as I recall, and a mellow sense of humor. He stomped through mud and jungle grass with 1st and 3rd Platoons on patrol, too, but it seems like he was with us, 2nd Platoon, most of the time through the spring and summer of 1967 as the 26th Marines moved north from Hill 55 to the Khe Sanh Combat Base. He was with us through the monsoon season and up on Hill 881 South in the fall of the year. He was there, sharing chow with us, and jokes, playing cards, listening to the newest music on Corporal Mitchell’s portable record player…Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Aretha and Otis Redding and The Jefferson Airplane.

Those days through the fall of ’67 were hard, wet and dreary and Aldrich was along all the time, shooting his rockets when necessary. Dealing with the wet rounds that failed to go off. That was tough for him, getting those dud rounds, those wet rounds, out of those tubes without them cooking off and blowing his arms and face off. I recall how cool he was about it. If he was sweating, he remained unflappable, only the barest hint of tension in the grit of his teeth. But even if he was scared (and of course he was) he certainly didn’t want it to show…we were Marines.

When the siege began he came around my bunker a lot and stood watch with us and he and I talked about going home…home…like heaven. I remember one terrible day, February 25, 1968, our Third Platoon got ambushed and First Platoon went out to relieve them and they got ambushed, too. We, Second Platoon, were left to man the company’s lines. The NVA was pounding the trench line with sneaky 82 millimeter mortar, rockets and train-wreck 152 millimeter artillery, keeping us down, keeping us locked in the perimeter so we couldn’t go get our friends, our mates, who were dying out there within ear shot.

It was one of the worst days of my life. My whole body shook. I imagined the red fire and searing teeth of death and conflagration. The end was here and I didn’t want to face it. I wanted my life.

As this was going on, Aldrich came up and engaged me in conversation. He must have seen my shaking. I can only imagine how white my face must have been. How shrunken down into my utilities and flak jacket I must have been, as if that could have made any difference. But he didn’t act like he was seeing anything out of the ordinary. He soothed me with his words. He steadied me.

Aldrich and I survived a lot during the siege. We both made it all the way to the end of our tours. Then came March 30, 1968, what has been called the Payback Patrol. Aldrich had one day to go…he was scheduled to leave the field on March 31. I was scheduled to go on April 1. The evening before the patrol, the word got passed to me that Aldrich was looking for me so I went to his bunker, stuck my head in, saw he was slouched on a cot. I went in and sat down. He abruptly handed me an envelope. I said, “What’s that for?”

Ken Rodgers, co-producer, co-director of BRAVO!, photo courtesy of Kevin Martini-Fuller

“Make sure my parents get this?”

“What is it?”

“My dog tags.”

I began to yell at him. I refused to accept the envelope. He said, “If I go out tomorrow, I won’t come back alive.”

I yelled. I yelled. I yelled. “If you believe that now, that’s what will happen.”

He nodded. I said, “You’ve got to believe they can’t get you. If you believe they can’t get you, they won’t.”

He shook his head. We went back and forth, he resigned, me enraged, angry, and screaming. He wasn’t buying what I was saying. I didn’t accept the envelope.

The next day was four or five hours of speeded-up, slowed-down hell. It was like Dante says in his poem, Inferno, “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.” I survived it and a lot of Marines didn’t. I remember walking down the red dirt road after we were ordered back into the perimeter. Men staggered along the lane. Some wore bandages on their heads, their arms and legs; some wore looks on their dirty faces that reminded me of dead people. Two men dragged a body down the middle of the road. I passed them and looked down. Even though his face was turned into the red clay, I knew it was David A. Aldrich, Corporal, USMC.

I’ve been haunted by these images for over forty-five years. What could I have done to prevent Aldrich’s death? What could he have done? Did my failure to accept the envelope with the dog tags dishonor him? Maybe when I get done writing this, the images will stop coming.

Later that day the word came down the trench line asking if anyone had seen Aldrich. He was missing in action, they said. I went up to the platoon Command Post and told them I had seen his corpse. “You’re sure?” they asked me. “Yeah,” I said. The platoon sergeant went up with me to Battalion headquarters and I signed affidavits of some sort saying I’d seen him dead. I signed the papers. He was dead. Killed in action.

For years I’ve had a sneaking fear that somehow I was wrong, and David Aldrich is locked away in some prison cell in Hanoi. Seeing his name on the wall soothes that fear. Somewhat.

Dave Evans asks that if anyone knew David Aldrich, please contact him at usmcdevans@yahoo.com.

There will be a screening of BRAVO! in Santa Rosa, California on October 30, 2013. See details at https://bravotheproject.com/upcoming-screenings-of-bravo/

DVDs of BRAVO! are now for sale at https://bravotheproject.com/buy-the-dvd/.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please like us at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject/.

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

May 7, 2013

On Hill 55, Sonora and Soledad

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This is the season of May Day when the flowers bud and a sense of new life comes to mind, the scent of lavender, the new green on aspen trees, the longer days announced by the five-thirty-AM song of the mating robin.

May Day is a big holiday in some countries with strong legacies of unions and socialism.

Spring and May Day (as do many other stimuli) make me think of my early days in Vietnam and what we, the men who fought at the Siege of Khe Sanh, were doing not long before our lives collided with the mayhem that was Khe Sanh.

On May 1, 1967, the 1st Battalion 9th Marines was on Operation Prairie IV in the Dong Ha area of operations. The 3rd Battalion 26th Marines was operating around Phu Bai. The 2nd Battalion 26th Marines was on Operation Shawnee with the 4th Marines in Thua-Tien Province. The 1st Battalion 26th Marines…my battalion…was operating in the Hill 55 region southwest of Danang.

I arrived at Hill 55 sometime towards the end of March 1967 or early April 1968. I recall the smells and the tastes in the mouth, the burning heat, the occasional night-time mortar attacks. All of it was new and exciting. Seeing bamboo vipers and lepers and elephants and the hope of seeing tigers, looking at the punji stakes and booby traps, and of course getting a chance to fight the enemy. And why not, that was what we were in Vietnam to do. To fight the enemy and Communism and to keep it from spreading around the world.

Whether we were successful or not at stopping Communism I will leave to the reader, but for me, there it was. I wanted adventure, and today I think I was in Vietnam because I wanted to fight.

And early on I got my chance. Not long before the 1st of May, 1967, a Seabee drowned in a river not far from Hill 55. I do not know the river’s name because it was all too new to me…the smells, the men I served with, the environment.

Two CH-46 helicopters showed up as our platoon—2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 26th Marines—queued up with weapons, flak jackets and a lot of excitement. The platoon sergeant, a gunny with a championship handlebar mustache and toting a Browning semi-automatic shotgun, told the other new guy and me that we weren’t going on this Sparrow Hawk operation because we weren’t “real” Marines. I remember feeling the disappointment of being left out, like when the girl you hankered after in high school started hanging out with all the older guys.

As we sulked off towards our hooch, the gunny called us back and motioned us onto the chopper. I have no idea what transpired in those moments after we turned away from the whapping chopper blades and the faces of our fellow grunts—faces taut, eyes round and large, and I imagine now, dry mouths. Regardless of what was said to the gunny or why he changed his mind, I felt like a kid full of balloons.

Without questioning the why of our redemption as “real” Marines (because as Marines, “Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do and die”), we crammed ourselves on the CH-46. How long we were in the air, I have no sense, but I doubt it was very long because all I recall was looking at that other Marine Corps-green CH-46 chopper flying behind us, the green jungle below, the grim faces of the silent men jammed into the body of the airship, and as we descended, the wide river and the big sand bar in the middle of the water that was our LZ.

The two choppers settled into the sand and being the last man on, I was first off. I knew what to do. I’d show that damned gunny that I was a “real” Marine. I knew we needed to get off the chopper and establish a perimeter around the helicopters until we had all disembarked.

As I ran across the white sand, I noticed little eruptions at my feet. I heard things snapping past my head and an instant later I heard hollow pop sounds coming from a tree line off to our front. I slowed to get a better idea of what was making the sand erupt as well as those sounds.

Someone kicked me in the butt. Hard. Someone knocked me into the sand. I started swearing—after all, I am a Marine. I am sure I cussed—and looked up to see who had knocked me down, but before I could see who was treating me this way, the face of my fire team leader, Lance Corporal Pacheco, was right before my eyes. He hissed at me. “You want to get shot? Keep down and start firing your rifle. They are shooting at you.”

As if to show me what to do, he cranked off a short burst from his M-16 and then rolled over and started talking to the other new guy. I started shooting, too.

All of a sudden everybody jumped up and got on line and we charged that tree line shooting into the jungle, and when we burst into the tree line there was nothing there but a ten-foot-wide strip of vegetation, and beyond, more white sand and no sign of the enemy.

We got the word to assemble back on the landing zone and as we boarded the two CH-46s we hooted and hollered and the gunny was gripping hands and yelling stuff I don’t remember and he even hugged my shoulder like I was a “real” Marine. Riding back to the company’s base of operations, I mused on those bullets that had been hitting at my feet, snapping by my head. I was lucky no one shot me.

And later, at the siege, I was lucky many times. Very often not at the wrong place at the wrong time. I survived to go home sometime in early April 1968, just before the siege ended. But my comrades who still had time on their tours of duty went on to endure more at Khe Sanh and then beyond.

By May 1, 1968, the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines was at Wunder Beach. The 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines was on Operation Lancaster II in the Camp Carroll area. 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines was south and west of Quang Tri City. 1st Battalion, 9th Marines was on Operation Kentucky in the Cam Lo district not far from the DMZ. I was on leave in Arizona. 

On a separate note, BRAVO! will be screened twice in Sonora, California, on Armed Forces Day, May 18, once at 5 PM and again at 8 PM. These screenings are being ramrodded by Khe Sanh brother Mike Preston and presented by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 391 and Columbia College. See more details about the screenings here. Please help us pack the house; it is a fundraiser for the local VVA chapter.

On May 28, 2013, BRAVO! will be screened at Soledad State Prison (Salinas Valley State Prison) in Soledad, California. This screening is not open to the public but is remarkable because of the large number of veterans incarcerated there who will be able to see BRAVO!

If you would like to see BRAVO! screened in your area, please contact us.

Documentary Film,Other Musings,Vietnam War

April 18, 2013

Why I Fight Part 2

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Last September I wrote a blog for this site titled “Why I Fight” about, in part, an Ethiopian refugee whom Betty and I met in Washington, DC. That gentleman was in the US because he made a documentary film that angered his government. For his own safety, he was forced to leave his home.

Last month, at one of our Clovis, California, screenings I met another man who came to the US as a refugee from his country.

The gentleman I met in Clovis was originally from Cambodia. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Lay Prum, or as it would be represented in Cambodia, Prum Lay.

Lt. Colonel Prum escaped from Cambodia in 1976 and his story is one that illustrates the harrowing experiences of a lot of folks who come to the US to escape the variety of tyrannies the world has to offer.

To refresh memories, in 1975 Cambodia underwent a violent regime change that led to the Khmer Rouge—a Maoist regime with a particularly vicious way of re-educating its citizens—taking over the country. During the Khmer Rouge’s rule from 1975 to 1979, an estimated two million Cambodians died in what has since been classified as genocide. In 1979 the Vietnamese forced the Khmer Rouge out of power.

Back in the 1970’s, Cambodia was involved in fights with the Vietnamese Communists who used Cambodia’s border regions as bases from which they infiltrated into South Vietnam. American forces bombed these regions, creating chaos in the border regions between Vietnam and Cambodia. The Cambodian government, besides fighting the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies, soon became involved in a civil war with Cambodian communists, or the Khmer Rouge.

Enter Mr. Prum Lay, who graduated from Phnom Penh University in 1968. He enlisted in the Cambodian Army and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1972.

In 1973, then 1st Lieutenant Prum was involved in rescuing four American journalists whom he found in two black Mercedes stranded on Route 3 between Phnom Penh and Takeo Province during an attack by his Cambodian forces to take back a village the Viet Cong had overrun. He and his troops carried the Americans to safety.

On April 17, 1975, the Communist Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. By then a major in the army, Prum Lay, in danger of losing his life, convinced the Khmer Rouge that he was a taxi driver. They asked him to drive a taxi and later put him to work in rice paddies.

On May 20, 1976, Major Prum Lay escaped into Thailand. Fortunately for him, he encountered a man who had served with him in the Cambodian Army, and that man told the major that since Prum Lay did not have a passport, he would be put in jail by the Thai government. Instead of going into a refugee camp, Major Prum hid out in an abandoned schoolhouse until June 15, 1976.

On that date, he and another Cambodian friend managed to reach the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. He was interviewed by the staff at the US Embassy and was granted refugee status but remained in Thailand pending the appointment of a sponsor here in the States.

On August 15, 1976, Major Prum Lay came to Spokane, Washington, where he became Mr. Lay Prum.

To me, what follows is what is most moving about this story. In spite of the obvious cultural impediments, Mr. Lay Prum became the liaison between the residents of Spokane and the considerable Cambodian community that moved there after the fall of Cambodia. He was also, among other things, the owner of a restaurant and helped out in the local schools as a math teacher and ESL teacher. He also went back to school and learned how to be a welder and went on to work for a number of Spokane companies.

In 1986, Mr. Lay Prum moved to Sonoma County, California, before moving on to Fresno, California, in 1988. There are over 50,000 Southeast Asians living in the Fresno area. Allies of our government in the wars we fought overtly in Vietnam and clandestinely in Laos and Cambodia, they fled to the US after their governments were defeated in the various conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s.

In Fresno, Mr. Lay Prum remade himself yet again. Something we often have a lot of freedom to do in this country if we have the drive to do so. He became a drug, alcohol and mental health counselor for Fresno County until his retirement in 2010. Now he is involved in veterans organizations that recognize his (and other Southeast Asian warriors) service during the wars of the 60s and 70s. What he and his compatriots endured is not forgotten.

In 1975, the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge was viewed by a large segment of the American public with a big ho-hum. As a nation, we had grown tired of our involvements in Southeast Asia. I would even venture to say that some Americans were rooting for the Khmer Rouge to win their war against the Cambodian government. But history has since exposed the Khmer Rouge regime as being a murderous government that killed millions of Cambodian citizens.

Mr. Lay Prum, Lieutenant Colonel Lay Prum (he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel after joining United States National Defense Corp. on November 13, 2010), was lucky to get out of that hell and into a place where he was allowed to become what he wished to make of himself.

Like that Ethiopian filmmaker I mentioned earlier, Lt. Colonel Lay Prum can say what he wants to say, and he can change what he does for a calling. In spite of all our knots and warts, we Americans offer folks a lot of opportunity to create a useful existence as well as respite from the chaos of their native countries.

I have said for years that I am not sure why I went to Vietnam and fought. I don’t know if it was adventure I sought, or heroism, or if it was patriotism. I suppose the reason changes from day to day and from one experience to the next. But today I want to say that seeing men like the Washington, DC, Ethiopian and the Lt. Colonel live a life that allows them to succeed and speak their thoughts without fear of being killed or going into prisons or forced labor camps—that’s why I fight.

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

April 9, 2013

News About Screenings in Moscow, Idaho and Sonora, California

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MOSCOW, Idaho

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 http://www.uidaho.edu/operationeducation.

Thank you to the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre (http://www.kenworthy.org/index.html), 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,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

April 1, 2013

BRAVO! Marine Ron Rees Recalls March 22, 1968

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I awoke eleven days back thinking about 45 years ago at Khe Sanh. March 22nd 1968. I had arrived at the KSCB March 1st, 1968, with the only other person I would know from the world. His name was Ron Seamon. Ron and I had gone through ITR at Pendleton together. We were both assigned to 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, right off the plane after traveling from the States into Da Nang, Da Nang to Phu Bai, Phu Bai to Khe Sanh. The rest is History.

On March 21st at Khe Sanh everyone waited for HELL to start raining down on us. What I had already experienced as Hell and very real psychological Torture was nothing compared to what I thought was going to occur on March 21st. Many—or most—other Marines in Bravo had already been at the base since the beginning of the siege in January ’68 and they feared the 21st day of the month.

Word had already come down from Captain Pipes that there was very likely to be a major ground attack on the Khe Sanh combat base that would coincide with the heavy bombardments of both January and February 21st. We were ordered to have our bayonets & gas masks ready.

We talked (our squad) about our bayonets. While sharpening them someone would say, “It’s against the Geneva Convention” to sharpen them. Of which we all pretty much said “F_ _ _ the Geneva Convention.” They were sharp!

21 Mar 68 came and went with nothing happening in the 3rd Platoon area except perhaps a few sporadic incoming rounds. I remember we stayed on 100% Red Alert throughout the night of March 21st.

22 March: Not sure what’s going on. Nothing much happened on the 21st, unlike the 21st of January and February. But at 18:30 hours on the 22nd…HOLY SHIT!!

IT WAS NON-STOP INCOMING, ROUND AFTER ROUND.

You could not count the seconds between each enemy round leaving its gun barrel.

EXPLODING. A Freaking HAIL STORM FROM HELL and this hail was not Ice.

This type of experience will absolutely humble you and reduce you to tears. I know I was not the only one in the bottom of that trench, face buried in red clay, praying for God to spare my life. You continuously try to cover all vital parts of your body.
I felt so helpless, all those rounds coming in, how could they not miss? Khe Sanh was not that big. I could see the blast waves coming at me. Every time I heard a round leave the tube I pictured death.

I was in the Claymore mine bunker with one other Marine. I do not remember his name but I do know he had been at Khe Sanh even less time than I. Somewhere around midnight we took a near direct hit. We were stunned, literally slammed against the back wall of the bunker. Dirt filled the air along with the smell of burning. My ears rang, my mind was dazed. Then we realized we were alive. We made sure our section of the perimeter was secure and immediately ran down the trench to notify our squad leader (I have no memory of who he was) about what just happened.

Just as he started to respond, a huge explosion rocked us. The squad leader informed us he needed to deal with casualties and ordered us to go get some rest in a bunker down the trench line.

I know that it was approx 0100 hours of 23 March 1968 when I was once again wounded. I was in the trench when the round hit, but when I came to, I found myself standing behind the trench line, watching everything in SLOW MOTION. Smoke, Marines crying out, some in obvious pain and others calling out to help, “Anyone need a Corpsman?” Voices were clear and concise. Shrapnel fell all around, incoming rounds still exploded. Someone called out to me, “Anyone need a Corpsman?” I remember saying “No.” Then a Marine came up to me to ask how I was doing. I was sweating and I wiped it from my face and the sweat was blood. My face was covered with it. Blood spurted from the inside of my right knee where shrapnel had blown a hole from my knee up to my hip.

I have never been so scared in all my life!!

SEMPER FIDELIS TO ALL MY BRAVO COMPANY BROTHERS PAST AND PRESENT; YOU ARE SECOND TO NONE HERE ON EARTH.

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

March 25, 2013

On the Fresno and Clovis Screenings of BRAVO!

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Last Wednesday and Thursday BRAVO! was screened to several hundred enthusiastic and earnest viewers in Fresno and Clovis, California.

On Wednesday the film was shown at the Fresno Veterans Affairs facility and on Thursday BRAVO! screened twice at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District’s state-of-the-art theater. The screenings went well and were attended by veterans old and new, active duty military personnel and folks interested in the history of Khe Sanh and the Vietnam War.

Lt. Colonel Ken Pipes, USMC Retired and commanding officer (Skipper) of Bravo Company during the siege of Khe Sanh, came up from Southern California with his wife Sharon to help us out with the screenings. Skipper Pipes graduated from Clovis High School and attended Fresno City College and then graduated from Fresno State before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Before and after each screening, the Skipper graced us with his memories of Clovis and Fresno as well as Marines he knew from the area. The Skipper also waxed eloquent about the men of Bravo Company. We were also fortunate to meet some of Ken Pipes’ wonderful family.

Khe Sanh brother Alex Dominguez came up from the Los Angeles area and presented BRAVO! co-producer Ken Rodgers with a commemorative Marine Corps Silver Dollar and a beaded Vietnam Veteran wristband. Alex is a great supporter of the film and a good friend to Marines everywhere.

One of the best things about journeying around America introducing the film to audiences is the folks we meet, and we met some great people in Fresno and Clovis including martial arts expert Captain Ed Planas of the Joint Service Honors Command, and Mr. Miguel Saldana, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War and president of the Student Veterans Organization at Fresno State University and his compadre, Army Iraq War veteran Rolando Corral. Also attending were a contingent of about thirty active-duty Marines from Lemoore NAS who gave BRAVO! a standing ovation.

A big thanks to the Joint Service Honors Command, the Clovis Veterans Memorial District and their event specialist, Mr. Joel Diaz. Thanks too, to Fresno area Detachment #14 of the Marine Corps League, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3225, American Legion Post 509, American Sheet Metal, the Fresno VA, Peak Broadcasting for the public service announcements, Kaweah Covenant Group and Mr. Leroy Combs of Ideas Unlimited Printing for the beautiful posters.

Khe Sanh brother Dave Harper was responsible for setting up these screenings and a big Marine OOORAH is in order for his yeoman’s efforts in bringing the screenings about, and for his generous hospitality. Dave’s vision and tenacious attention to detail led to these very successful screenings.

Next up, April 19 at 6:30 PM in the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center in Moscow, Idaho. Sponsored by the University of Idaho’s Operation Education. Thanks to Kim Barnes, Laura Pizzo, Ed McBride, Dan Button and Julie Titone for their support on this event.

In the mix for upcoming screenings, a May 18 screening in Sonora, California. May 18 is Armed Forces Day. Thanks to Khe Sanh brother and organizational dynamo Mike Preston for his efforts to bring this screening about.

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

March 20, 2013

First Day of Spring Screenings

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This afternoon, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR will screen in the auditorium at the regional facility for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Fresno, California, at 4:30 PM (doors will open at 4:00 PM). The VA is located at 2615 E. Clinton Ave (at the corners of Clinton Avenue and North Fresno Street) in Fresno. Thanks to Khe Sanh veteran Dave Harper for arranging this screening.

Tomorrow, March 21, 2013, BRAVO! will be screened twice at the Clovis Veterans Memorial facility, 808 4th Street in Clovis, CA, once at 2:00 PM and again at 6:00 PM. Doors will open respectively at 1:30 and 5:30 PM. These screenings are sponsored in part by the Joint Service Honors Command, the Fresno area Marine Corps League, American Legion Post 509, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3225, Kaweah Covenant Group and again, our Khe Sanh brother, Dave Harper.

On April 19, 2013, BRAVO! will be screened in Moscow, Idaho, at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center at 508 South Main in Moscow beginning at 6:30 PM, and followed by a panel discussion. This screening is sponsored by the University of Idaho’s Operation Education, which honors and assists permanently disabled veterans of war to gain a college degree. You can find out more about Operation Education at http://www.uidaho.edu/operationeducation. Thanks to Mr. Ed McBride and Mr. Dan Button of Operation Education and Laura Pizzo, Project Coordinator for the Department of English at the U of I, for their efforts in bringing BRAVO! to Moscow and the University of Idaho. Special thanks to award-winning memoirist and novelist Kim Barnes, Professor of English at the U of I, for her energy and commitment to BRAVO!. Further thanks to writer Julie Titone for her assistance with our visit to Moscow.

Any changes or additions to the information on these screenings will be sent out as soon as we know about them.

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Vietnam War

March 18, 2013

On Agent Orange, Music, Khe Sanh and Vietnam

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My name is Jim Purtell and I am a combat Vietnam veteran and songwriter.

On January 21, 1968, when the battle of Khe Sanh began for you guys, I was safe at home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin watching Vietnam coverage brought to us by CBS News and Walter Cronkite. At that time, I was home on leave and I was due to go to Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam in mid-February 1968 to join an Army engineering outfit.

On February 17, 1968, I arrived in Cam Rahn Bay and stayed a few days until I was told to get my gear and get on the helicopter. I was told I was going north because infantry companies needed medics. When the chopper landed I was then stationed with 1/6th, 198th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division as a medical aid man.

First, although I had extensive combat experience in areas west of Chu Lai including numerous firefights, ambushes, rocket attacks and mortar experiences, I never had a Khe Sanh-like experience where the combat was so close and so long lasting. I think historically speaking, as things turned out, you guys had a very painful and unique experience.

Jim Purtell In the Studio

I wish you all of the luck in the world with your film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR because you deserve it. I have watched several of the trailers and I can relate to the lingering aspects of some of the experiences – forty-five years after the event.

Today, I’ve been given an opportunity by Ken Rodgers to speak with you through this blog of sorts about a project I’m involved in called Dear Agent Orange. I mentioned at the beginning of this note that I’m a songwriter. With a fellow Vietnam combat buddy from my platoon, and my songwriting partner Ricki E. Bellos, we wrote a CD about our experiences forty three years ago called Vietnam: There and Back. Information about that can be found at www.vietnamthereandback.com.

After the CD was released, I personally felt that we had missed an important subject and it was Agent Orange. It wasn’t intentional because we wrote about our experiences many years ago in Vietnam and Agent Orange wasn’t one of them in 1968/69. I approached Ricki about it and told her I wanted us to write a song about Agent Orange and the impact it had on young American soldiers. I also wanted to explore the enormous impact the herbicide exposure had on the Vietnamese people and their environment. Shortly after we began writing, the song “Dear Agent Orange” was created.

Almost immediately, as I began to play the song, I felt very strongly that it had video potential. I contacted Jim Hendrick of Hendrick Media LLC and my sister Colleen Miller, with whom I had done other music videos, and I got their buy-in to do a music video to the now recorded song “Dear Agent Orange”. We spent numerous hours researching Agent Orange and established contacts with many respected people in the field and gained access and permission to use photos from photo journalists around the world.

The three of us combined video, with still pictures, original art pieces and incorporated movements of a Tai Chi dancer and integrated all of these art forms with the original lyrics and music in a video called “Dear Agent Orange”. The music video can be seen at our newly created website: http://dearagentorange.com.

In the video, we decided to include a Call to Action and we encouraged every U.S., veteran who stepped foot in Vietnam to go to their nearest VA hospital and get an Agent Orange physical examination. The regulations have been relaxed to an extent and now the U.S., Government presumes herbicide exposure for everyone who served in Vietnam. Children of Vietnam veterans with health effects may also be eligible for benefits.

The Vietnamese people aren’t as fortunate as they don’t have a comparable governmental organization to go to with their Agent Orange related health issues that have now run through three generations. We decided we wanted to help those who did not have the same options as us, but we didn’t know who to turn to. I mentioned previously we had established contacts in the Agent Orange field and I turned to attorney and Agent Orange activist Marjorie Cohn. I asked for the name of the most legitimate Vietnamese Agent Orange organization and she directed me to the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) and to Mr. Nguyen Minh Y.

I began corresponding with Mr. Minh Y by email and my video partners and I ultimately decided to raise funds for the Vietnamese people. Some of you may wonder why we’re raising monies for the Vietnamese victims. My answer, and I speak for myself, is the war is over for me and I no longer have anything against the Vietnamese people. I believe that we sprayed 21 million gallons of herbicides over the country of Vietnam, and as a result, caused very serious health effects for now three generations of the Vietnamese people. And I personally think somebody should fix it.

The U.S. Government has begun to accept responsibility for the environmental damage they caused to Vietnam and in August 2012 began cleaning up one hotspot at the DaNang airport. I think we need to do much more, and that, in part, was the reason for the video. If you agree with me, view our video at: http://dearagentorange.com and consider making a donation.

I hope your movie, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR is seen by millions because you deserve tremendous respect for what you survived and accomplished. There are many people, younger than us that respect us, and what we survived, and they have a legitimate interest in anything related to Vietnam.

I want to thank any of you that have read this far and Ken Rodgers for giving me the opportunity to visit your forum.

Jim Purtell lives in Wisconsin and Florida and has had an active career working with veterans or donating music to veteran related causes and doing music videos. He and his co-artists won a Telly Award for their video THE WAITIING GOES ON. They also did a video honoring Korean veterans which is also on www.youtube.com and titled FORGOTTEN NO MORE. See more about Jim’s music at www.stoneybeachmusic.com

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

March 15, 2013

Reno Screening of BRAVO!

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Last night at the University of Nevada-Reno, we screened BRAVO! in the Wells Fargo Auditorium to a crowd of over one-hundred with a wide variety of viewing ages from Korean War veterans down through current combat-theater veterans and college students at UNR. The response to the film was intense. After the screening, we had a panel discussion that included, among other things, filmmaking, the Vietnam War, Fallujah, Iraq, film distribution, Afghanistan, MIAs in Southeast Asia, the change in communication methods over the last forty-five years, and the Vietnam Veterans of America’s pledge that “Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another.” Thanks to Marine brother Terry Hubert whose exuberance and dedication to veterans fueled this event. Many thanks are in order also to the Nevada State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Reno Chapter 989 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Dr. Marta Elliot and the University Veterans Coalition, Susan Kinder of UNR, the campus veterans fraternity, NuPhi, Troy Stormoen of the Reno Vet Center and all the folks who attended the screening.

Betty and I feel very fortunate that we were able to both make new friends and visit with old friends, too, as part of the Reno screening of BRAVO!

One of the men in the film, Steve Wiese and his wife Deborah, gave us a great surprise by coming up from Lincoln, California, and it was good to visit with them. Longtime super BRAVO! supporter Dianne Jackson drove up from the Sacramento area to see the film again. Lieutenant Colonel Ken Pipes, company commander of Bravo Company and also part of the film, was represented by three of his former colleagues and Marines. BRAVO! supporters Lela and Johnny Herman from my (Ken’s) hometown of Casa Grande, Arizona invited some of their friends, Matt and Rhonda Matthews to come up from Carson City to see the film. Matt and Johnny were in the United States Army and served in Vietnam together. Also on board at the screening, all the way from Chico, California was Stephen “Tank” Kostenius and his wife Mandy, of Vietnam Veteran of America Chapter 582.

Matt Mathews and I had a conversation about the power of memory and our specific memories of war and how they affect us after forty-five years. We decided that even though a lot of those memories still haunt us with their horrors, we don’t think that recalling those violent moments is all bad. Memory can serve to remind us of what is bad, but also what is good about the human condition, even in the worst of circumstances.

Next stop for BRAVO!: Fresno, California for a screening at the Fresno VA on March 20, 2013. Doors open at 4:00 PM, screening at 4:30.

The following afternoon, March 21, 2013, BRAVO! will be screened twice at the Clovis, California Veterans Memorial Building at 2:00 PM (doors open at 1:30) and at 6:00 PM (doors open at 5:30).

Many thanks are in order to Khe Sanh veteran Dave Harper for all his hard work on putting these screenings together along with Ken Hendrix and the Joint Service Honors Command, Kaweah Covenant Group, the Fresno area detachment of the Marine Corps League, American Legion Post 509, VFW Post 3225, and American Sheet Metal Air Conditioning and Heating among a host of other folks.

On April 19, 2013, BRAVO! will be screened in Moscow, Idaho, at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center. This screening is sponsored by the University of Idaho’s Operation Education http://www.uidaho.edu/operationeducation . Screening will commence at 6:30 PM followed by a panel discussion about veterans and wars past, present and future.

More updates to come!

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

March 11, 2013

Upcoming Screenings of BRAVO!

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Tomorrow evening, March 12, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR will be screened on the campus of the University of Nevada-Reno in the Wells Fargo Auditorium in the Library and Knowledge Center. Sponsors for this screening are the Nevada State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Reno Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 989, the University Veterans Club, and the NuPhi Vets. There will be a reception beginning at 5:00 PM followed by the University Veterans Club panel introductions. The actual screening will begin at 6:00 PM followed by a panel discussion. Many thanks to our Marine brother, Terry Hubert of the Vietnam Veterans of America, for all his hard work in putting this screening together.

In addition to the screening in Reno, BRAVO! will also be screened on the following dates in the following locations:

On March 20, 2013, BRAVO! will screen in the auditorium at the regional facility for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Fresno, California, at 4:00 PM. The VA is located at 2615 E. Clinton Ave (at the corners of Clinton Avenue and North Fresno Street) in Fresno. Thanks to Khe Sanh veteran Dave Harper for arranging this screening.

On March 21, 2013, BRAVO! will be screened twice at the Clovis Veterans Memorial facility 808 4th Street in Clovis, CA, once at 2:00 PM and again at 6:00 PM. Doors will open respectively at 1:30 and 5:30 PM. These screenings are sponsored in part by the Joint Service Honors Command, the Fresno area Marine Corps League, American Legion Post 509, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3225 and again, our Khe Sanh brother, Dave Harper.

On April 19, 2013, BRAVO! will be screened in Moscow, Idaho, at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center at 508 South Main in Moscow beginning at 6:30 PM, and followed by a panel discussion. This screening is sponsored by the University of Idaho’s Operation Education, which honors and assists permanently disabled veterans of war to gain a college degree. You can find out more about Operation Education at http://www.uidaho.edu/operationeducation.

Thanks to Mr. Ed McBride and Mr. Dan Button of Operation Education and Laura Pizzo, Project Coordinator for the Department of English at the U of I, for their efforts in bringing BRAVO! to Moscow and the University of Idaho. Special thanks to award-winning memoirist and novelist Kim Barnes, Professor of English at the U of I, for her energy and commitment to BRAVO!. Further thanks to writer Julie Titone for her assistance with our visit to Moscow.

Any changes or additions to the information on these screenings will be sent out as soon as we know about them.