Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Lance Thompson’

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Other Musings,Veterans,Vietnam War

May 26, 2016

When a Community Honors Their Own

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We have been all over the USA showing Bravo! to groups of people who’ve invited us. It’s always gratifying when someone wants it shown locally in Southwestern Idaho, which happened last November. The Boise State Veteran Services Office hosted a screening as part of the Veterans Week activities on campus.

Attending that event were women from the local Eagle Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, also known as the NSDAR. Not long before meeting them in person, we learned that they had decided to nominate Bravo! co-producer Ken Rodgers for the NSDAR’s Founders Medal for Patriotism, a very prestigious national award given to a person “who has displayed outstanding patriotism in the promotion of our country’s ideals of God, home, and country.” As part of this country’s observance of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, this was intended to thank Ken for serving, and for telling the powerful story of his company of Marines through film.

Betty and Ken Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Don Johnson.

Betty and Ken Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Don Johnson.

The submission involved a lot of effort, including letters of recommendation from across the nation. We were thrilled when we learned that the award had indeed been granted by the national committee, and that it would be presented locally by the Eagle Chapter.

So on May 12, we got dressed up and drove to the Bishop Tuttle House in downtown Boise for the event. When we arrived, the ladies busied themselves with setting up the podium, tying balloons and decorating tables while we greeted a wonderful crowd of friends, old and new.

Visiting before the beginning of the ceremony. Left to Right: Lance Thompson; Retired Marine Colonel Gary Randel; Retired Marine Colonel and Director of the Idaho Division of Veteran Services, Dave Brasuell, Former Director of the Boise Office of Veterans Affairs, Jim Vance and Ken Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

Left to Right: Lance Thompson, Retired Marine Colonel Gary Randel, Retired Marine Colonel and Director of the Idaho Division of Veteran Services Dave Brasuell, Former Director of the Boise Office of Veterans Affairs Jim Vance and Ken Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers.

We were gratified by the diversity and size of the gathering that came to be a part of the evening. These folks represented a chunk of the many friends that we have met in Idaho over the years.

Before the festivities commenced, Ken was awarded his own special tribute by eight-and-a-half-year-old Nicholle Bacon, a handmade certificate that was so spontaneous and so special he hung it in his office.

The program started with a welcome from Shannon Lind, an invocation by Jana Kemp, the Pledge of Allegiance led by Barbara Grant, and the American’s Creed led by Anita Allex.

The special award for Ken Rodgers created by Nicholle Bacon. Image courtesy of Nicholle Bacon.

The special award for Ken Rodgers created by Nicholle Bacon. Image courtesy of Nicholle Bacon.

Then we heard comments from three champions of Bravo!. Lance Thompson spoke about how Ken resolved to give voice to those who had so long kept silent. Elaine Ambrose noted, “We were – and are – exact opposites. Ken’s quiet, distinguished, respected, and reserved. I’m noisy, clumsy, tolerated by others, and regarded as a comedienne. But, we both love to write, we honor our military, and we love our country.” Norma Jaeger gave us two quotes during her comments: Isak Dinesen said, “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.” Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater burden than carrying an untold story.”

Ken was then presented with the beautiful medal, and an American flag that has flown over both the US Capitol in Washington, DC, and the Idaho Statehouse in Boise. This was followed by Rebecca Bowen-Odom, who, along with her husband, Ron, was the mastermind behind the award. Rebecca read a congratulatory letter from Mindy Kammeyer, Reporter General of the NSDAR. Apparently Mindy was a flight attendant during the Vietnam War, serving our young men as they flew off to Vietnam, and then when they came back home again.

Ken spoke briefly about what the award and the film mean to him, commenting that he is not a rah-rah-let’s-go-to-war kind of patriot, but one who wishes to remember all who have dedicated a portion of their lives in service to our country. He closed his remarks by naming some of the men in his Bravo Company band of brothers who either lost their lives in Vietnam, or have since passed away. Those names became a very moving work of poetry.

A complete surprise was in store at this point in the program when Bravo! co-producer Betty Rodgers was presented with the NSDAR award for Excellence in Community Service for her part in producing the film.

Finishing up the evening with a bang was Idaho’s Senator Marv Hagedorn who spoke about his own military background, and then read a proclamation from the governor of Idaho, C. L. “Butch” Otter, declaring May 12 as Kenneth and Betty Rodgers Day! One of the whereas statements reads thusly:

Ken and Betty Rodgers, the evening's awardees (center), along with the Eagle Chapter of the DAR. Photo courtesy of Don Johnson.

Ken and Betty Rodgers, the evening’s awardees (center), along with the Eagle Chapter of the DAR. Photo courtesy of Don Johnson.

WHEREAS, those whom see “Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor” will forever remember the story of the Siege of Khe Sanh, understand that freedom is not free and recognize that combat lives on forever in the daily lives of those who have experienced it.

The proclamation further states that the awards represent our “combined efforts to honor the service of Vietnam War veterans and their families.”

And that is where we turn to you, dear reader, and say we share these accolades with every single person who has walked the walk with us in one way or another. We couldn’t have done it without you, and we thank the NSDAR for the recognition, and especially Barbara Grant for her energy in keeping us informed throughout the entire months-long process.

Boise’s KTVB Channel 7, the NBC affiliated station, was on board to record the ceremony. You can view a short clip here.

As BRAVO! Marine Steve Wiese always says, “Bravo lives on!”

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

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at

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

April 17, 2015

A Hearty Welcome Home In Idaho

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As nearly everyone knows now, when the Marines of BRAVO! and nearly every other veteran returned from the war in Vietnam, our reception was not what we expected. So it’s with great pleasure that today we can say a big thanks to the state of Idaho for an outstanding reception.

BRAVO! was celebrated throughout the state in late March and early April with screenings in Lewiston, Boise, Twin Falls, Caldwell and at Mountain Home Air Force Base. Capacity crowds amounting to well over a thousand folks came out to generously support the fundraisers and see the film, and as always, we feel we touched a lot of lives.

In concert with the screenings, we worked with a wide array of veterans’ service agencies to support veterans’ courts, the Idaho Veterans’ Network, and the Lighthouse Rescue Mission veterans’ programs. The screenings were fundraisers for these organizations as well as educational events to alert community members to the extensive variety of veteran’s organizations available here in Idaho that help veterans in need.

The people who came together to help us get the film screened were amazing: The Idaho court system, police and sheriffs’ departments, military units, veterans groups, humanities organizations, libraries, private organizations that help veterans, artists, colleges and
other passionate individuals.

Prior to the screening at the Egyptian Theater. Left to right,  Ken Rodgers, Alan Heathcock, Norma Jaeger, Betty Rodgers, Ken Korkow © Mike Shipman 2015

Prior to the screening at the Egyptian Theater. Left to right, Ken Rodgers, Alan Heathcock, Norma Jaeger, Betty Rodgers, Ken Korkow
© Mike Shipman 2015

We were honored that the screenings in Boise and Caldwell were included as the culminating events for the annual Read Me Treasure Valley series, which had a Vietnam veteran focus this year. Nationally known authors who have written books about war and Vietnam came and shared their work. Historians from Boise State University gave lectures on the Vietnam War. In addition, the award-winning author of VOLT, Alan Heathcock, led book discussions. There was a presentation about orphanages in Vietnam, a discussion about PTSD, and a program about music of the Vietnam era.

Joining in the screenings with this wonderful bunch of supporters and participants were BRAVO! Marines Ken Korkow, Steve Wiese and Ron Rees. All three of these Khe Sanh survivors participated in panel discussions following one or more of our events. Ken Korkow also was the guest of honor at a faith-based event at Boise’s Gowen Field, home of Idaho’s Air and Army National Guards. Joining in on the various panels were Dan Ashley, Mischa Brady, Julia N, Mary Kelly and Brian Taylor.

Color Guard entering the Egyptian Theatre on 3-30-2015. © Mike Shipman 3-30-2015

Color Guard entering the Egyptian Theatre on 3-30-2015.
© Mike Shipman 3-30-2015

Also on hand was BRAVO!’s editor John Nutt. John is a veteran of decades of film work and the Vietnam War. As part of the Boise event, John was presented with an award by the director of Idaho Veterans Services, Colonel David M. Brasuell, United States Marine Corps Retired, for John’s exceptional work on BRAVO!

BRAVO! supporter and friend Terry Hubert, also a Marine, came up from Nevada and participated in workshops about disturbed and incarcerated veterans.

Also attending was BRAVO! friend and Marine Dave Beyerlein who originally helped set up our website for the film. Dave served in Vietnam and even though we’d talked to him a bunch, we’d never met him in person.

Noted Boise author, Al Heathcock, once again emceed our Boise and Caldwell screenings and was impressive with his passion, insight and aplomb. Among other duties at the Egyptian Theatre event, Al introduced Boise city council member T J Thompson who read a proclamation from Boise Mayor Dave Bieter declaring March 30, 2015, as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. At the Caldwell event, Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas greeted the audience prior to the screening and talked about Caldwell’s Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans proclamation. A color guard from Charlie Company, 4th Tanks, 4th Marine Division posted the colors at both the Boise and Caldwell screenings.

Chamber music quartet playing prior to the start of the Caldwell screening. © Mike Shipman 4-1-2015

Chamber music quartet playing prior to the start of the Caldwell screening.
© Mike Shipman 4-1-2015

We would be remiss if we didn’t thank all the individuals and organizations that made the screenings of BRAVO! a smashing success: The indefatigable leaders of this massive effort, Norma Jaeger and Mike Moser aided by Christina Iverson of the Idaho Supreme Court, Reverend Bill Roscoe of the Boise Rescue Mission, Jamie Shropshire, Steve Orr, Linda Wright, Rich Neu, Steve Conger, Dan Ashley of the Boise Vets Center, Bill Bankhead, Travis Dryden, Mike and Monique Shipman, Pam and Lance and Kearney Thompson, John and Heather Taylor who are cousins of BRAVO! Marine Ken Korkow, Heather Paredes of the Eagle Field of Honor. Thanks too, to Mark Heilman, Lori Sprague and R K Williams of Boise State University; Mitzi Cheldelin and the rest of the folks at the Boise Police Department; the Ada and Canyon County sheriff’s departments, BRAVO!’s longtime supporters Leland and Trisha Nelson; Dona Butler of the Canyon County Veterans’ Court; the Idaho Division of Veterans’ Services; Cloverdale Cemetery and Funeral Home; Blue Planet Photography; Rick Ardinger and the Idaho Humanities Council, Mary DeWalt and Ada Community Library, Business Psychology Associates, Idaho Army National Guard, Joining Forces for Treasure Valley Veterans, Idaho Veteran’s Network, Office Depot, Destiny McGinley and the staff of the Egyptian Theater; Diane Raptosh and the folks at College of Idaho; Lewis and Clark College in Lewiston, Idaho, College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, Idaho, Terry Hubert, Ken Korkow, Steve Wiese, Ron Rees, John and Ann Nutt and all the other individuals and organizations who helped out with this event.

Back in 1968, thousands of Vietnam Veterans came back home to, at best, a tepid reception, but in Idaho during March and April 2015, they received a hearty Welcome Home.

Guest Blogs

May 28, 2014


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Guest blogger Lance Thompson has been a tireless supporter of BRAVO! as well as a member of our loosely formed but essential Advisory Board. The producers of BRAVO! are indebted to him for these services as well as his unending encouragement.

One way to evaluate a creative work is to repeat the experience. Whether it’s a book, a song, a painting or a film, a creative work can usually make some sort of impression the first time. It is on subsequent occasions when the quality is determined.

The last time I saw Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor was more than a year ago at a screening at Boise State University. Several of the veterans who are featured were on hand to answer audience questions. The film was well received and the audience was clearly moved. The experiences of the Marines had a profound impact on those who viewed the film.

Lance Thompson Photo courtesy of Kearney Thompson

Lance Thompson
Photo courtesy of Kearney Thompson

So I wondered, now that I know the story, have seen the interviews, and am familiar with the incidents that are described in the film, would my reaction be the same? I was a little surprised that my experience was different. On first viewing, I thought Bravo! could have been shortened, that some interviews were repetitive, and that certain editorial choices were questionable. During the most recent viewing, I found no problem with the length or the pace, and the interviews lost none of their impact. In fact, I found myself wondering about what material was left over. I wanted to know more about these men, wanted to hear more from them, because this film still makes me care deeply about them.

My wife is a career coach for creative people. One of the issues her clients often bring up is whether or not they can make a living in a creative industry. While she assures them it is quite possible, the question shouldn’t be whether or not a creative person can make a living. It should be whether or not a creative person can make a difference.

Creative media have great potential to reach and affect a wide audience. This power can be wasted in works whose primary attributes are sensational, meaningless and transitory. But the best creative works illuminate, inform, and inspire.

Left to Right: Lance Thompson, Sherry Briscoe and KIVI-TV Anchor Don Nelson. Photo courtesy of Pamela Thompson.

Left to Right: Lance Thompson, Sherry Briscoe and KIVI-TV Anchor Don Nelson.
Photo courtesy of Pamela Thompson.

Ken and Betty Rodgers are undeniably creative people. They are accomplished practitioners of prose, poetry, photography, and now documentary film making. Additionally, they support and encourage other creative people. When they decided to make this film, they committed their creative talents to a worthy cause.

Any honest war film raises the implicit question of why. Why did it happen, why did it cost so much, why was I there? Ever since I saw the first rough cut of Bravo!, I knew the answer to one of those questions for at least one of the Marines. Ken Rodgers was there so that he could tell this story. But he couldn’t do it by himself. That’s why Betty Rodgers is there. It took both of them to commit to this project which has taken more time, effort and hard work than either of them ever anticipated. But if not for them, then the voices in Bravo! would never have been heard.

Ken and Betty Rodgers used the creative talents they both possess in abundance to honor those who have earned it. Through this film, they have revealed truth, stirred emotion and brought light to darkness. For those who have little or no knowledge of this moment in history, the experience of combat, or the sacrifices made by Americans in uniform, Bravo! offers insight and honesty both rare and vital to any work that stands the test of time.

So if you are browsing through the DVD collection and wondering if Bravo! is worth another look, I assure you it is. You’ll find the themes timeless, the voices truthful, and the impact undiminished.

Lance Thompson has written for television, been a script doctor for motion pictures, and is an award-winning motion picture advertising consultant on over 500 campaigns. He has written for magazines and newspapers here and in the UK. He conducts screenwriting workshops and was founding president of Idaho Media Professionals. He recently had his original screenplay DC Undercover optioned by Picturewell Studios in Los Angeles. As an actor, he has appeared in Discovery Investigation’s I Was Murdered, and was host of Treasure Valley Community Television programs Capital Rap and Idaho Media Showcase.

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Vietnam War

January 31, 2012


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Screen writer and script doctor Lance Thompson muses on the movie.

It is ironic but true that the inhuman ordeal of combat often evokes the highest attributes of humanity–courage, sacrifice, selflessness and love.  These ideals are convincingly demonstrated in Ken and Betty Rodgers’ feature documentary Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon ValorBravo! is the story of a company of marines during the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War.  The story is told through the reminiscences of a handful of those marines, of whom Ken Rodgers is one.

Eschewing the animated maps, clumsy recreations and armchair revisionists, Bravo! focuses entirely on the personal experience of combat.  Viewers may not learn the historical, strategic, or political significance of the battle.  But they will certainly gain at least a glimpse if not a profound understanding of what it felt like to be there.

Archival footage, still photographs, and vintage audio recordings are sprinkled throughout the movie, but only as punctuation.  The power of the narrative comes entirely from the veterans who tell their stories on camera.  Some are animated and expressive, others quiet and contemplative.  As each recounts the experience from his own perspective, the film becomes a tapestry of individual threads of memory–intensely personal and vividly sharp.  The picture that emerges will horrify, inspire, challenge, and leave the viewer deeply moved.

The stories in Bravo! are told by older men, but they were lived by teenagers, fresh out of high school, with no experience to prepare them for war.  They were not unlike generations of young Americans who were summoned from family kitchen tables and dropped into front line trenches to confront a brutal and determined enemy.  Like those generations before and since, they were thrown into the crucible of conflict where their hearts and souls were tested.  Like those generations before and since, some faltered, some triumphed, all endured.  There can be no greater tribute to the depth and resilience of the human spirit.  Bravo! honors them.


Lance Thompson is a screen writer and script doctor who is privileged to know Ken and Betty Rodgers, and is thankful that they chose to tell this very important story.

Guest Blogs

June 25, 2011

Part II

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Today, Betty Rodgers, Co-producer of Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, muses on the history to date of the film’s genesis and development.

I can say with certainty that the incredible journey of making this film has gone far beyond coincidence.  Nearly every attempt at moving the project forward has been met and exceeded.  It has also been an education in filmmaking, in the bonds of friendship, in understanding and trusting our own intelligence and instincts.  The collaboration has enriched our marriage.

 The first hint that we were on the right path with our desire to record the history of Bravo Company during the siege of Khe Sanh was when we approached the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation for financial support early in 2010.  With much enthusiasm they said “yes” in the form of a check for seed money.  We now had the funds to get us started, and that meant it was time to get to work.

 I ceased working fulltime, and Ken and I became very active in the Idaho Media Professionals, a high energy group of positive and creative thinkers in the film industry.  We went to every meeting and workshop we could attend, learning as much as possible about our new endeavor and benefitting from the enthusiastic encouragement from Lance Thompson (a script genius) who saw the potential and kept telling us, “You can do it.”

One of our motivations for moving quickly was the knowledge we were gradually losing the men of Bravo Company, and with each one, their part of the story.  Knowing we would never become experienced videographers soon enough, we decided to hire an expert.  Mark Spear was the man, and he and Drew Allen filmed Ken’s interview.  Now we understood the process, and Ken understood how it felt to be filmed and interviewed.

We put out a call via email and snail mail to everyone we could find in Bravo Company.  Originally we were going to travel the country and film interviews in every veteran’s home.  But that could take two years, so we decided to do as many as we could at the annual reunion of Khe Sanh Veterans.  In 2010, that would be in San Antonio, Texas.  We took Mark with us, and nine men agreed to participate.

Originally, I was going to do the interviews because that’s something I like to do. At the last minute Ken decided he wanted to do them, and this proved to be a brilliant choice. How could they have ever explained their experience to me?  Far better that they told their stories to one of their brothers, a man who was there and understood exactly what they were talking about.  The results were powerful.

In the meantime, it became clear that the costs of making Bravo would far exceed our start-up funds and personal savings.  We had to learn how to be fundraisers.  Mary McColl helped us focus on that and coached us on how to begin.  To her, there is significance in the fact that the Vietnam War is part of our generation’s history.  Then our friend Carol Caldwell-Ewart stepped up to develop a fundraising site at  She, our online impressaria, has worked tirelessly to help us with our monetary goals and more.  Miraculously, friends and family and acquaintances and strangers have donated there.  Each one spurs us on.

Then my brother and his wife, Michael and Linda Hosford, asked what they could do, and we knew we wanted to get the word out to veterans everywhere who would want to know about the film.  So Michael and Linda started an email campaign to veterans’ organizations around the US, and have sent thousands of messages to date, with more on the way.

Our next step was to make what became an 8,000 mile road trip to Washington, DC, and back, to do research at Quantico and the National Archives.  We took the opportunity and interviewed five other men along the way.  My cousins, Chuck and Donna Dennis, made us welcome in their home  during those weeks, and we found photos, film footage, audio tapes, reports and more, all about Bravo Company during the siege of Khe Sanh.  Miraculously, we found audio tapes of two people in the film.

While we were there, we visited the Vietnam Memorial a couple of times, taking photos of the Bravo Company names representing the men lost during the siege.  The first morning we were there, the black granite was wet with dew.  Ken pulled out his handkerchief and squatted down to wipe the moisture away from Greg Kent’s name.  At that moment, a stranger bent down and asked if he could borrow the handkerchief to also wipe the moisture from a name.  He was looking for a Greg Kent. I still find this to be a remarkable memory, listening to the two men, 42 years later, meeting and remembering a likeable young man who had qualified for the Olympics before his life was ended by war.

And then shortly after we returned home, two months after his interview, our friend, Bravo Company’s Daniel L. Horton, passed away from terminal cancer.  We were thankful we hadn’t tarried.

I’ll continue our story in Part III.  In the meantime, we have 6 days left to reach our fundraising goal on the website linked above.  If you can help, or know someone who can (a parent, a veteran, a friend, a business, an organization), we ask for your help in reaching them. If you have already given your support, we offer our heartiest thanks.

Betty Rodgers is a photographer, artist, and haiku writer with a passion for people and their passions.