Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘James Purtell’

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