Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘General Joseph Dunford’

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

September 5, 2018

I’d Rather Take a Beating

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When my father died, one of his friends stood outside the chapel before the funeral service and told me, “I’d rather take a beating than go in there.”

I’ve often thought about that moment and I’ve even used the phrase from time to time, but I particularly felt that emotion twelve days ago as we laid Bravo Company, 1/26’s Skipper, Ken Pipes, in the ground at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Ken Rodgers

The Skipper passed on in April, and in May there was a memorial service for him, but it didn’t seem like matters would be settled for family, friends and his Marines until he was finally interred in the place he wished to be laid to rest.

Getting the Skipper buried there turned out to be a four-month chore for his family and friends, and took the efforts of General Neller, the Commandant of the Marines Corps, General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Defense, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, to override the bureaucratic layers that seemingly obstructed the Skipper’s last wishes at every turn. And it took a friend of BRAVO! Marines and the Skipper, Mr. PJ Staab, to help the family negotiate the heartburn of getting the appropriate location within the cemetery so that the Skipper’s wife, Sharon, could be buried next to him when her time arrives.

Left to right, Sharon, Conner, Sandra and Tim Pipes. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

The graveside service for the Skipper itself was well done and the folks who showed up, including a number of Skipper Pipes’ family, friends, former Sheriff’s Department pals, military contacts, Marines and Corpsmen, witnessed a fine ceremony conducted by the family pastor and the United States Marine Corps, lead by Brigadier General Ryan Heritage, commanding general at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. General Heritage presented the ceremonial flag to Mrs. Pipes.

There was a rifle salute, a rendition of taps and a placing of mementos in and around Skippers burial urn, made by his son Tim.

The weather that day began with a light cloud cover but by the time we arrived at the service, it had turned sunny with a slight breeze from the Pacific Ocean to our west.

I served with Lt Colonel Pipes fifty years ago and for a long time I didn’t think of him often unless a flash of unpleasant combat memory invaded my thoughts. Even after our reintroduction in 1993, he wasn’t yet a big part of my life. But after making BRAVO!, that all changed and we became pretty close and talked often about . . . well, a lot of things.

The Skipper’s Urn. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

Betty and I went to visit Sharon and the Skipper a number of times at his home in Fallbrook, usually associated with some event related to the film. He and I would sit out on his back patio and drink coffee, and invariably our talk would turn to the events of early 1968 at Khe Sanh.

We’d recall people and actions, death and horror, and quite often our palaver would veer into the realm of the intellectual. Discussions on the nature of war and combat and the behavior of individuals in the stressed world of a full-blown siege.

Earlier I mentioned my father, and it is interesting to me as I write this blog that he and I never had the kind of discussions about war and men that the Skipper and I had. Father and I didn’t discuss those sort of things because he had no combat experience even though he was an Army top sergeant in World War II, serving in India.

The Smith Brothers, Lt Colonel John and Lt Colonel Michael, add insignias to the Skipper’s urn. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

But the Skipper and I, yeah, we could talk about those things and reminisce and rue the deaths of all those fine men with whom we served.

And in some ways, since my father has been dead for almost thirty years, Lt Colonel Pipes became a kind of father figure to me. Someone who understood what I had become post-combat. Someone who’d felt the rage, the fear, the grinding memories that refuse to relent their hold on how a survivor of long-term combat sees the world he or she lives in.

We would sit and remember the men associated with the names of the dead and the living and our reactions—or mine did, at least—welled up from the soles of my feet, roared up through my legs into my innards and often made themselves manifest by the tears that eked out of my eyes, forcing me to look away and fight to get control of my emotions.

He was brutally honest with me about how he felt about the Siege and the men with whom he served. Sometimes the discussion turned loud and raucous as we recalled one of our comrades who acted out as big as all the hills around Khe Sanh. We talked quietly, we argued, and then agreed, then argued again, then hugged. What we knew, down in the bottom of our guts, no one else knew unless they had undergone the terrible initiation into the club of those who have faced the awful fangs of combat. And we tried to articulate that. He liked to call it, “riding the elephant and looking the tiger in the eye.”

He could rocket from laughter to rage to laughter. He pondered man’s inhumanity to man. He kept close watch for those who would harm his loved ones. Not unlike me.

Ken Pipes understood things about me that my real father never understood, and because the Skipper is now gone, there will be a big void in my life and I’d rather take a beating than think about that.

To know him was a privilege, a gift.


BRAVO! is now available in digital form on Amazon Prime.

This link will take you directly to BRAVO!’s Amazon Prime site where you can take a look at the options for streaming: In the US you can stream at

In the United Kingdom, you can stream at


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


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

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

October 29, 2014

On Oceanside, Newport Beach, the Marine Corps Birthday and Veterans Day

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Last Wednesday night BRAVO! was screened to an enthusiastic crowd at the Meridian Library District, Meridian, Idaho.
As the event began a brisk wind snapped the American flag on its pole outside the library building. Warm gusts sluiced across the surface of the parking lot, tumbling orange, gold and russet leaves that announced the abrupt arrival of autumn.
The weather hinted at what winter will deliver here in Idaho between now and April, but the mood of those folks gathered inside the library was one of much anticipation for the screening of the film.

BRAVO! was well received by the audience and we wish to thank all the folks who attended. Many thanks, too, to the Meridian Library District and to Mr. Greg Likens of the library who put the event together.

Ken Rodgers introduces BRAVO! to the Meridian, Idaho attendees. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Ken Rodgers introduces BRAVO! to the Meridian, Idaho attendees.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

This time of the year brings Halloween and Thanksgiving and sandwiched in between that, the Marine Corps’ 239th Birthday on November 10, 2014, and on the day following we honor America’s warriors with Veterans Day. The Marine Corps has a new commandant, General Joseph Dunford (you can find out more about Commandant Dunford at,_Jr.) who will soon deliver his first annual Marine Corps birthday message to Marines of all eras. In tune with the season of military memory and honors, it seems to be the season of film screenings for BRAVO!.

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Joseph Dunford Photo courtesy of Department of Defense

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Joseph Dunford
Photo courtesy of Department of Defense

Besides the just-completed event in Meridian, BRAVO! will be shown as follows:

On November 1, 2014, at 10:00 AM at the Veterans Association of North County, 1617 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, California. Donations will be accepted at the door to benefit the Association’s building fund. You can find out more about the Veterans Association of North County at Doors open at 9:00 AM. Reservations are requested for this screening. Please RSVP by emailing or calling 208-340-8889.

The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a fine article earlier this week about the screening in Oceanside. You can read the article at–khe-sanh-rodger/.

At 5:30 PM on November 11, 2014, BRAVO! will be screened at the Meadowwood Technology Campus, E. Mission Avenue in Liberty Lake, Washington as part of a ceremony honoring Bravo Navy Corpsman Greg Vercruysse who was killed in action when Bravo Company 1/26 was ambushed off of Hill 881 South on June 7, 1967. You can find out more about Greg at More details about the Liberty Lake screening can be found at

Gregory Vercrussye Photo courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Gregory Vercrussye
Photo courtesy of Vietnam Veterans Memorial

On November 15, 2015, BRAVO! will be screened at American Legion Post 291, Newport Beach, CA, 215 15th Street, Newport Beach, CA. Screening begins at 10:00 AM on November 15, 2014. Proceeds go to benefit the Fisher House of Southern California. You can find out about American Legion Post 291 at their website:

The Fisher House of Southern California is a non-profit organization that offers shelter and support to military families in times of medical crisis. You can find out more about The Fisher House of Southern California at

Please attend one of these events in your area and please be sure invite your friends.

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

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. For more information, go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at It’s another way to stay up on our news and help us reach more people.