Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion’

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Khe Sanh Veteran's Reunion,Marines,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

February 6, 2017

…A War That Forever Changed Them

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Five years ago, in February 2012, BRAVO!’s principal videographer, Mark Spear, wrote the following guest blog about his experiences interviewing ten of the men in the film.

Mark passed away on March 22, 2014 at the age of forty-five. I remember Betty and I were sitting in a café having breakfast with BRAVO! Skipper Ken Pipes and his wife Sharon. When my cell phone rang—I don’t know why I answered it. I normally don’t answer the phone when the calls are from numbers I don’t recognize—and his step-dad, Dan Votroubek, gave me the devastating news.

It was like we’d lost a member of our family and in untold ways Mark had become a member of the BRAVO! tribe. Mark left a son to follow in his steps.

Mark was an artistic and sensitive man. I think you will see this as you read this blog which he wrote those five years back. Please join us in remembering him.

It’s been over a year now since I was given the task of filming interviews of some of the siege of Khe Sanh survivors at an annual reunion in San Antonio, Texas for a documentary titled Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, Ken and Betty Rodgers’ first film. Ken, a Marine with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines (B 1/26) who was there for the siege, felt it was time to tell this story…so did Betty. I felt I was up for it and thankfully they trusted me. After all, I’ve been on some pretty important shoots through my career, some seemingly less important, but all I have tried to give my best work to.

Mark Spear at the Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion in San Antonio. Texas, 2010. © Betty Rodgers 2010

Mark Spear at the Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion in San Antonio. Texas, 2010.
© Betty Rodgers 2010

If you had met Ken on the street you would probably assume a first impression of an easy-going normal guy which he is, although he joked with me that he isn’t! I admittedly was very humbled by his experience and a bit intimidated by his intelligence. He is not the normal stereotyped Vietnam veteran…now. Ken’s poems and writing enlighten me as well as his ability to tell the story of the siege so matter of factly. Ken also acted like a bridge between me and his fellow Marines we were to interview, more so than I think he knew.

Betty and her knowledge of photography and art was a welcome relief to the pressure I put on myself. She did so much coordinating and calmly complimented me at every turn, giving me strength she did not know I thought I did not have. This made production so smooth and enjoyable.

I knew this was going to be big, the greatest challenge I had ever worked on. Deep down, I admit now, I was terrified! Ken and Betty, using their seed money and a small grant from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, were relying on ME to help give this story a face. Me!…me…(gulp).

Working on a war documentary was something I had dreamed of doing forever it seemed, and now it was really happening. I remember going home after I interviewed Ken and crying in sadness, fear, honor and respect…and for the gravity of the situation. It turns out this particular shoot was something I didn’t prepare for emotionally. I didn’t think I needed to. After all, the siege was history by the time I was born in 1968. I’ve seen plenty of war movies and documentaries, but this was different. Ken was there, and every time I talked with him my mind started to drift in thoughts of what it must have been like.

I kept my focus more on the lighting, sound, location, the way one might manipulate an interviewee to get the best “stuff.” The technical preparations paled in comparison to hearing these men, these Marines of Bravo Company, now in their 60’s and 70’s, tell a story about how they survived, as very young men, a war that forever changed them.

I remember sitting behind the camera listening to every one of their words, fighting off the tears my imagination was creating from the pictures they painted. Think of these men as 15 different camera angles on a shoot, all different perspectives and styles. Here are these hardened veterans remembering, reliving, telling their recollection of the Ghost Patrol and Payback, stifling their tears, choking up, needing to take a break from being in that place again.

I realized it was almost therapy for these guys, some of whom had not spoken extensively about these events for 40 years…and now were laying what they could out there. I had to stay on task…not get too caught up in the story…don’t forget my job, I thought…don’t say anything stupid…don’t cry, don’t cry I told myself. I saved that for my first night in my San Antonio hotel room after we filmed the first round of interviews.

Mark Spear shooting an interview in San Antonio, 2010. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

Mark Spear shooting an interview in San Antonio, 2010. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

It’s as amazing to me now as it was when the stories and production all started unfolding. I look back at this experience as one I will never, ever forget. These Marines who welcomed me into a sacred reunion…their reunion…where I looked into their eyes and saw more than historic facts…I saw men who had the courage to not give up then…and to not give up now, and still fight this battle every day.

To the friends I made there, to the Marines of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines (B 1/26), my hat is off to you. This is in the top 3 productions I have had the honor of being a part of in my career…funny thing is, I don’t know what numbers 2 or 3 are! Thank you.

If you are interested in reading the original blog, you can find it here.
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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 https://bravotheproject.com/store/.

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Eulogies,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

August 21, 2013

Lloyd and I…In Memory of Lloyd Scudder

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BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara muses on the passing of BRAVO! Marine, Lloyd “Short Round” Scudder. Both Lloyd and Michael are featured in the documentary film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR.

8/19/2013 – Some of you may know at this point that Lloyd Scudder, that lovable little guy we all affectionately called “Short Round,” has slipped away from us so quickly we all were surprised. Ken Pipes states he talked to him just last evening and he was making plans to return home from his recent heart surgery on Friday. Isn’t that how it always is? We just refuse to accept the inevitable and when we least expect it we get bit right on the rump. I had been out this morning and got home after the noon hour. When I opened Cal’s (BRAVO! Marine Cal Bright) e-mail the chair literally shot out from under me as I began to immediately try to process the information. (That’s a round-about way of saying I began to cry as I was falling to my knees.)

Each of us has our memories. Cal and Short Round were pals all along at Khe Sanh. I first met Short Round when he returned to the platoon after visiting his brother on an in-country R&R. That of course was after 25 February. This is when Lloyd and I began to pal up. I was at the end of 2nd Platoon and his bunker was the beginning of 3rd Platoon area. We would talk often before Watch in the evenings.

But our paths would cross again in ’69, I believe it was. I was stationed at the Weapons Section at Camp Horno, Camp Pendleton, California, and was a primary instructor giving the classes on the M16A1. I was just a few days from going on leave when Short Round came into the section as a corporal. It was there he would be assigned to the hand grenade range. We didn’t get to spend much time together as I was soon going home for about a 3-week leave. I told him I would see him when I got back. I never did. That was when he experienced the event that would change his life forever. A private dropped the grenade in the pit. It killed the private and severely injured Lloyd’s eyes, both hands and arms. We all (Khe Sanh Veterans) know they had to amputate his hands in the end. To add insult to injury the Marine Corps did everything in their power to make him a scapegoat over that event which would cause him much heartache and sorrow over the years. He even had trouble getting his VA benefits. But he endured.

I think the next time I saw him was at the 1995 Khe Sanh Veterans reunion in Las Vegas. That was when I realized the grenade incident nearly blinded him as well.

He sure was a hoot wasn’t he? You just couldn’t help but love ol’ Short Round. I pray for his family and wish them well. Short Round is now at rest, finally, guarding the gates until his relief arrives, as always, Standing Tall.

Semper Fi Marine Scudder.
It was my pleasure to serve with you.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

July 5, 2012

Meet Mark Spear

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In April of 2010, Ken and Betty Rodgers first encountered Mark Spear when they went in search of someone to shoot video for the film, BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR. They met Mark at a local studio in Nampa, Idaho.

As Ken and Betty described their project, the luminous glow in Mark’s eyes, the detailed queries he made about history and geography and aspects of the narrative generated a lot of magnetism.

Mark Spear at the Khe Sanh Veterans reunion in San Antonio, Texas, July 2010

Ken and Betty went home and talked about that magnetism…the excitement in Mark’s words and his eyes.

In late April of 2010, Mark and Betty interviewed and filmed Ken talking about his memories of the Siege of Khe Sanh. Ken had created a script of questions and as the over two-hour interview went on, Mark picked up hints about important things, emotional things that Ken and Betty hadn’t anticipated being of interest to an audience viewing a film about war. Questions about personal matters, how something felt, how it was remembered after all the intervening years, was there any humor in the seventy-seven day hell of the Siege?

In July of that year Mark, Betty and Ken traveled to the Khe Sanh Veterans’ reunion in San Antonio, Texas. They found out that Mark likes BBQ…lots of BBQ…and that he had a lot of great tips and suggestions how to best interview the eight Marines and one Navy corpsman on tap for a two-day film schedule. How to light them and how to place them in the frame of the video, how to get them to talk about what made them laugh, to recall what levity there was extant in that deadly and frightening place.

Mark made close friends with several of the men in the film. Before the filming was finished, all the men interviewed trusted Mark to show their best side.

In August of 2010, the Rodgers went on the road and filmed five more men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment. Novices for sure, Betty and Ken ran into a number of technical problems while in the process of setting up lights or getting the sound gear right, shooting video of the men being interviewed.

Even though Mark was back in Nampa, Idaho, working on his computer editing movies with Final Cut Pro, or on locations shooting video, or acting as producer to get videos made, he always had time to stop whatever he was doing and talk to Betty and Ken about their problems, helping them come up with solutions.

Mark made a number of trailers for BRAVO! and remains a good friend to Betty and Ken as well as the Marines of BRAVO!

You can find out more about Mark Spear and his filmography here.