Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’

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

May 4, 2016

They Put Their Trousers On Just Like You Do

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It was a heady experience being at the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Awards Ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps outside the gates of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

BRAVO! was recognized and honored with the Major Norman Hatch Award for best feature length documentary film.

Betty and I arrived a few days before the big event and journeyed to Lexington, Virginia, to visit good friends. While there we checked out Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s home. Stonewall was an instructor at Virginia Military Institute (located in Lexington) before the Civil War.

Stonewall Jackson's home in Lexington, VA. Photo courtesy of Ken Rodgers.

Stonewall Jackson’s home in Lexington, VA.
Photo courtesy of Ken Rodgers.

The following day, BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara and his son-in-law Daniel Folz went with us to tour the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Betty and I have visited the museum three times before this journey and we are always amazed at the constant change in the individual exhibits as well as the continued expansion of the museum, which speaks to the level of commitment and passion by all the donors and personnel involved.

Michael O'Hara at the  South exhibit at the Museum of the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Daniel Folz

Michael O’Hara at the South exhibit at the Museum of the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Daniel Folz

Later that afternoon, we were invited to The Basic School for new Marine Corps officers to talk about the history of Bravo Company, 1/26, at the Siege of Khe Sanh, and observe how The Basic School is using Bravo Company’s patrol outside the wire on February 25, 1968, as a case study in their Patrolling and Scouting class.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the commanding officer of The Basic School, Colonel Christian Wortman, and three instructors: Captain Joe Albano, Captain Josh White and Captain Jason Duehring.

We will post a blog later about the specifics of our visit to The Basic School but I must say that we are gratified that the experiences of the Marines at Khe Sanh are being used to prepare the Marine officers of the future for combat.

Later that evening we dined at The Globe and Laurel restaurant owned by Retired Major Rick Spooner who also received an award from the Foundation for one of his works of fiction, THE DRAGON OF DESTINY AND THE SAGA OF SHANGHAI POOLEY. The Globe and Laurel is a museum of Marine Corps history in its own right, and we enjoyed looking around at the posters, photos and other memorabilia of days gone by in the lives of Marines. If you are ever in the area and want to see a fabulous array of Marine Corps history, consider dining there.

On Saturday, friend and supporter of BRAVO!, Betty Plevney came up from Richmond, Virginia, to join us for the Awards Ceremony. Betty has been a great resource for the producers of the film. Her expertise and opinions have helped guide us along the path to where we are now.

Before the main event, we were joined in the museum’s Scuttlebutt Theater by many of the other honorees and their friends and families. The medals were presented by the Heritage Foundation’s Vice-President for Administration, Mrs. Susan Hodges, Retired Lieutenant General Robert Blackman (President and Chief Executive Office of the Foundation), Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller, Retired General John Kelly (the Foundation’s Chairman of the Board), Retired General Walter Boomer (past Chairman of the Board), and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green.

Betty and I were very proud to have General Neller shake our hands and in my case get my medal ribbon untangled from my red bowtie.

At the Foundation Award Ceremony. Left to Right: Betty Plevney, Ken Rodgers, Betty Rodgers, Michael O'Hara. Photo Courtesy of Daniel Folz.

At the Foundation Award Ceremony. Left to Right: Betty Plevney, Ken Rodgers, Betty Rodgers, Michael O’Hara. Photo Courtesy of Daniel Folz.

After the awards ceremony we went into the main atrium of the museum to join over four-hundred-forty guests for a great meal and an informative—and at times inspiring—program that included the Commandant, General Kelley, General Boomer, Lt. General Blackman, noted actor and Marine Wilfred Brimley, and former Virginia Senator and Secretary of the Navy John Warner.

Left to right: Commandant General Robert Neller, Retired Lt. General Robert Blackman, Ken Rodgers, Betty Rodgers. Photo Courtesy of Daniel Folz.

Left to right: Commandant General Robert Neller, Retired Lt. General Robert Blackman, Ken Rodgers, Betty Rodgers. Photo Courtesy of Daniel Folz.

One of the most satisfying moments for Betty and me happened immediately after they screened the official trailer for BRAVO! on large screens strategically positioned around the atrium so that all the guests could watch. Earlier in the trip, we had asked if Michael O’Hara could join us on stage when the Commandant presented us with our medals. We were informed that the space was too small—and it was—but they would recognize him after they played the trailer.

When the that moment came, Lt. General Blackman announced that Michael was my guest and that he had served with B/1/26 at the Siege and had received three purple hearts during that seventy-seven day battle. One of the cameras that was filming and projecting the night’s events focused in on Michael and he appeared on all the big screens in the building. He stood to a great chorus of ooorahs, cheers and much applause.

All through our time with Michael and Daniel, Daniel photographed the events so we could enjoy them later. Thank you, Daniel. The two men departed early the next morning, and Betty Plevney joined us for a leisurely breakfast before she headed back home. Betty Rodgers and I returned to the Museum of the Marine Corps and spent quite a bit of time wandering through the extensive outdoor gardens and memorials adjacent to the museum.

Michael O'Hara's recognition by the Foundation. Photo courtesy of Daniel Folz.

Michael O’Hara’s recognition by the Foundation. Photo courtesy of Daniel Folz.

The weather was sublime and the dogwoods were blooming in all their spring glory. As we strolled past memorials to a whole host of different Marine Corps organizations and events, I pondered what had occurred for us during our time in Quantico.

When I was in the Corps, I made it a matter of personal policy to hightail it as far as possible any time a general, a colonel, a sergeant major came around. I was an enlisted man and I didn’t want any encounters with officers above the rank of captain or any non-commissioned officers above the rank of gunnery sergeant. For me, those people almost came from another species, so on this visit, when I got to talk to the commandant, as well as a number of other generals, colonels and lieutenant-colonels, I came to the conclusion that they are folks just like me. Much more committed to the Marine Corps than I ever was, but folks none the less.

Dogwoods in bloom at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Ken Rodgers.

Dogwoods in bloom at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Ken Rodgers.

Thinking that made me remember what my drill instructors in boot camp used to say when we were about to be inspected by officers: “Just remember, they put their trousers on just like you do, one leg at a time.”

Betty and I send along a hearty thanks to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation—which, by the way, gave us some seed money to begin the process of making BRAVO!—and all the folks who honored BRAVO! and made our stay in Virginia a great success.

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.

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

April 6, 2016

BRAVO! To Receive 2016 Major Norman Hatch Award

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After we put our first cut of BRAVO! in the can, I remember talking to one of the filmmakers we met during the editing process. An award winner himself, he talked about BRAVO! being a film that ought to be in the running for an Oscar.

At the time, with my lack of knowledge about the process of making films, I remember sitting out on the patio dreaming about Betty and me bouncing up the stairs to the stage to accept our Oscar our hearts thumping like .50 caliber machine guns. But then reality hit and we discovered how the Academy Awards really work.

First, you have to screen your film in both Los Angeles and New York and the funding requirements are overwhelming for an operation like ours. One hopes for a distribution agreement that would make it possible to have your film screened in LA and New York without you, the filmmakers, having to pay the tab for theater rental in those two cities. And though we tried to find a distributor, alas, it has yet to happen.

We’ve been on this filmmaking journey for six years now, and it’s been fun and rewarding and depressing and elating, a roller coaster ride for sure, and as we have gone along, we would have liked to see BRAVO! recognized by our peers, the filmmakers, and not having that happen was disappointing.

Warrant Officer Norman T. Hatch, officer-in-charge of the photographic section for the 5th Marine Division in Hawaii is shown here in photo taken in January 1945. One month later Hatch landed on Iwo Jima. Photo courtesy of Norman T. Hatch

Warrant Officer Norman T. Hatch, officer-in-charge of the photographic section for the 5th Marine Division in Hawaii is shown here in photo taken in January 1945. One month later Hatch landed on Iwo Jima. Photo courtesy of Norman T. Hatch

Until last year when BRAVO! was recognized as Best Documentary Feature in the 2015 GI Film Festival San Diego and that took a huge bite out of the disappointment.

And this year, 2016, brings even more good news for the film. The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation will be awarding BRAVO! the 2016 Major Norman Hatch Award for Documentary Feature on April 23 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Major Norman Hatch was a photographer and filmmaker who landed with the Second Marine Division at Tarawa where he shot footage for an award winning documentary film about that battle. He also documented the Marines’ combat on Iwo Jima and went on to spend forty-one years working with military films and photography.

This award is like getting a double shot of praise because the judges who chose BRAVO! are film industry professionals, so we are getting some more kudos from our filmmaking peers. And there is another angle to look at, too. To be chosen for this extraordinary award by this organization of warriors is for us every bit as important, if not more so, as being recognized by moviemakers.

To be told by your fellow warriors, so to speak, that yes, here’s to a job well done and yes, BRAVO! speaks to the agony and ecstasy of war, is an honor that makes us feel like we will pop all the buttons off the front of our shirts and blouses.

BRAVO! filmmakers Ken and Betty Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Kevin Martini-Fuller

BRAVO! filmmakers Ken and Betty Rodgers. Photo courtesy of Kevin Martini-Fuller

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, will be presenting Betty and me with this award. BRAVO! brother Michael E. O’Hara, who is in the film, plans on joining us (along with his son-in-law, Daniel Folz) for the event as does one of our biggest supporters, our friend Betty Plevney. It should be a great evening, beginning with the awards ceremony followed by a dinner at the Museum.

In some ways receiving the Major Norman Hatch Award feels like we’ve come full circle since it was a grant from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation back in 2010 that jumpstarted BRAVO!

We are humbled and happy and raring to go east to Quantico.

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.

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

June 27, 2013

BRAVO! Co-producer and Co-director Betty Rodgers Muses on BRAVO!’s Supporters

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Most people don’t stay for the credits at the end of a film, but almost without exception, our audiences have watched the entire run of credits as if riveted to their seats. I think this is partly because they want to remember the names of the men in the film. Plus, they are interested in the dedications…the veterans, living and deceased, who were honored by donors or the filmmakers.

For me, personally, the credits are always another journey down the BRAVO! road, the road paved with a myriad of memories. And at each screening, there seems to be a revolving number of categories that suddenly get my attention as if I am seeing them for the first time. Most recently it was the list of donors. We’ve often said this film wouldn’t be what it is…a powerful work of art…without our donors, and it’s so true.

The list is impressive and humbling, representing those who believed in us and in the story we wanted to tell. There’s everything from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation to other filmmakers, from Bravo Company Marines to veterans’ organizations, from Vietnam war-protestors to families who lost loved-ones. There are our own friends and family members. There are other Khe Sanh veterans and veterans from other combat areas as well as friends of friends. There are people who have since passed away, yet their gifts live on in BRAVO!

And so I sat there reading each name, once again overcome with gratitude. Every individual on that list is a meaningful part of BRAVO! We can never say “thank you” enough, but we can certainly try.

THANK YOU each and every one.

DVDs of BRAVO! are now for sale at https://bravotheproject.com/buy-the-dvd/.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please like us at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject/.

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 www.indiegogo.com/bravo-common-men-uncommon-valor.  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.