Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

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Guest Blogs

May 30, 2011

Part 1

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Today, Betty Rodgers, one of the producers for Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, muses on veterans and Memorial Day.

I was conceived not long after WWII ended. During that conflict, my maternal grandmother was a Gray Lady in the Red Cross, my mother was a Red Cross employee and USO volunteer, my biological father was a stretcher bearer in the European Arena, and my Aunty Kay was a WAC officer in New Guinea where she met her future husband, Harry Dennis, an officer who was serving there as well. Needless to say, I grew up in a family that honored and respected veterans for their service to our country and the preservation of freedom. Aunty Kay and Uncle Harry went on to become leaders in the American Legion and my aunt fought long and hard for women’s veteran’s rights and the betterment of medical care and conditions in veteran’s hospitals nationwide. Some of the most treasured books on Mother’s shelves are about WWII.

They had all believed that WWII would be the war to end all wars so their children and grandchildren would never have to experience battle.

Then came the Korean War, and after that, the war of my generation, the Vietnam War. That’s when Aunty Kay and Uncle Harry’s sons (my cousins) all enlisted in the military, along with many of my childhood friends. My first serious boyfriend was killed in Vietnam when he stepped on a landmine.

Fast forward to 1985 when I married Ken Rodgers, a Vietnam veteran. One of his best friends told me that Ken was a true war hero, having served at Khe Sanh. I gradually learned more and more about his experience and how it impacted his life, but never more than when I met the men he served with in Bravo Company and heard their shared stories in Washington, DC, in 1993. These were Marines with the same heart and beliefs as our WWII veterans, but the way it all played out in their lives was completely different. They were not respected and considered heroes by the general American public.

In July 2008, Ken and I once again attended the annual reunion of Khe Sanh veterans. Again, I listened and observed the bond that existed from the common experience of Bravo Company. I saw men from every walk of life, with every color of skin, with every possible philosophical bent, who would have never known each other except for the Vietnam War. I saw how their Company Commander, Ken Pipes, was still leading his men, and the mutual love and respect that comes only from knowing each other’s heart under the pressure of terrifying adversity.

At the next reunion in 2009, it became clear that the story of Bravo Company was slowly evaporating with each telling, and was just as relevant as the wars of previous generations. We also realized we were losing the men one by one, and with them, their stories. Ken and I agreed the history needed to be preserved in some way as soon as possible, and we sought and received the thumbs up from Ken Pipes.

The question became how to go about it. Write a book? No. Oral histories? Not enough. Documentary film? Perfect. Could we do it? Let’s give it our all. And so far the journey has been humbling, enlightening, encouraging and inspiring. I’ll talk more about it in Part II. In the meantime, we’re coming in the home stretch on creating the film.

And so today, Memorial Day 2011, I remember and thank all the people in my life, and Ken’s life, and yours, who have served our country and its fundamental purpose as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution, to “…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”

Betty and Ken Rodgers have been hitched together for over twenty-six years. Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor is just the latest of a string of successful collaborations.