Several weeks back we wrote a blog entry about how BRAVO! has become a part of the training regimen for new Marine officers at The Basic School at Quantico and we were amazed, as filmmakers, how the movie had grown into something we could not have imagined. What began as an attempt to tell a story about a small group of Marines at the Siege of Khe Sanh has since been used, for example, in college film classes, and high school history classes, and several California prisons, and creative writing classes and as part of a symposium on the humanities and the Vietnam War.
To the list of uses, add BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR as a tool to help veteran court personnel understand the ravages of war and why some veterans might go off the rails, so to speak, and run afoul of the law.
On June 1, 2016, BRAVO! was screened at the 2016 Justice For Vets Convention in Anaheim, California and an interested group of attendees watched the film and then participated in Q & A with the filmmakers. The questions asked were incisive and spoke to the attendees’ interests in veterans, TBI, PTSD, crime and justice.
The folks who came to see the film were judges, attorneys—both prosecuting and defense—court clerks, mentors, psychologists, police personnel, parole and probation officers, court coordinators, and more.
As I attended the conference, the thought came to me: Why do veterans deserve a different court system than everybody else and over the course of a couple of days, I got some answers.
Veterans courts aren’t the only courts that treat offenders differently. There are drug courts, and mental health courts and tribal courts, to name a few. So veterans aren’t the only folks getting special treatment in the justice system.
I heard more than one presenter at the conference explain it this way: Veterans went to serve the country and it is understood that the service was often hazardous. Now they have returned and have had some troubles transitioning into civilian life. Many of them have physical injuries and injuries to the soul and now it is time for us, American society, to serve them in their time of need. Like they did for us. And one of the ways we can serve them is to allow them to go through the veterans’ court program.
Apparently, the first veteran’s court was established in Buffalo, NY. There are over two hundred veteran court systems in the country now and the trend is growing in local jurisdictions nationwide.
And why? They seem to work. One of the founders of the Buffalo veterans court is Patrick Welch, PhD, a Marine who served as an enlisted man in Vietnam and was awarded a Purple Heart for the wounds he received there. Dr. Welch told a group of us why veterans courts are important, “Because incarceration doesn’t work.”
So, to avoid institutionalizing veterans in the prison system, it is thought to be cheaper and more effective to run offenders through a special court system.
These courts are fairly new and the experience society has had with them has yet to stand the test of passing years, but time after time Betty and I heard that the recidivism—the rate of veterans coming back into the court system after having successfully completed veterans courts—is significantly lower than the old established court system. This is a major win.
We initially became interested in veterans courts here in Idaho where we have six veteran court systems and it appears they are doing a good job of helping veterans who run afoul of the legal system for one reason or another.
We couldn’t be more pleased to know that BRAVO! has now become a tool to help veterans court professionals and volunteers understand the underlying trauma generated by combat.
And thanks you very much to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, Justice for Vets, Terrence Walton and his entire staff at the NADCP for inviting us to screen BRAVO!
So, to the men of BRAVO!: Cal Bright, John Cicala, the late Dan Horton, Ken Korkow, Ben Long, Frank McCauley, Mike McCauley, Michael O’Hara, Ken Pipes, Tom Quigley, Ron Rees, the late Lloyd Scudder, Peter Weiss and Steve Wiese, a big oorah! Because in overcoming your reluctance (and fears) that created a barrier to you telling your stories about the Siege of Khe Sanh and all its horrors, you have, besides recording an important piece of history, become educators to the folks who administer our veterans courts.
If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this coming summer, fall, winter or next spring 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 https://bravotheproject.com/buy-the-dvd/.
BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.