Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Quantico’

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Other Musings,The Basic School at Quantico,Vietnam War

May 18, 2016

The Basic School at Quantico

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In the last BRAVO! blog we wrote briefly about a visit we made to The Basic School (TBS) at Camp Barrett on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

While at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, BRAVO! Marine Michael O’Hara, his son-in-law Daniel Folz, Betty and I received an invitation from Marine Captain Joe Albano to come over to TBS and observe how Bravo Company’s ill-fated patrol of February 25, 1968 is currently being used to train Marine officers in the Scouting and Patrolling class. We were pretty excited about that, and surprised that they wanted to talk to us.

Aft the sand table at The Basic School. Left to right: Daniel Folz, Captain Josh White, Captain Jason Duehring, Ken Rodgers, Michael O'Hara,  Captain Joe Albano. Photo by Betty Rodgers

Aft the sand table at The Basic School. Left to right: Daniel Folz, Captain Josh White, Captain Jason Duehring, Ken Rodgers, Michael O’Hara, Captain Joe Albano. Photo by Betty Rodgers

Upon our arrival we were greeted by Captain Albano, TBS Commanding Officer Colonel Christian Wortman, and Captains Josh White and Jason Duehring, an impressive group of Marine Corps officers. Captains Albano, White and Duehring are instructors at TBS training the future leaders of the Marine Corps.

And we were not the only ones excited about the meeting, so were these young officers. They were excited to meet two Marines who had survived the Siege of Khe Sanh as well as some of the folks involved with the production of BRAVO!.

After our welcome, the captains took us to various classrooms where the Scouting and Patrolling Operations class is taught, including a visit to the sand tables where the new officers work out scouting and patrolling scenarios.

In the classroom. Left to Right: Captain Jason Duehring, Michael O'Hara, Ken Rodgers, Captain Joe Albano, Captain Josh White and Daniel Folz. Photo by Betty Rodges

In the classroom. Left to Right: Captain Jason Duehring, Michael O’Hara, Ken Rodgers, Captain Joe Albano, Captain Josh White and Daniel Folz. Photo by Betty Rodgers

From there, we went to a lecture hall where Captains Albano, White and Duehring talked about how they teach the class and how they researched and worked on the Case Study related to the events of February 25, 1968.

When we first walked into the room, we noticed the BRAVO! DVD was sitting on the table with the instructors’ materials, which was a nice surprise. Then Captain Albano gave us an abbreviated version of the class. What surprised and humbled us even more was learning that the captains included clips from our film as part of the lecture. And a lot of the clips aren’t specifically about February 25th, but more about introducing the new lieutenants to the humanity of the Marines and Navy Corpsman they will command in the future. The presentation included Bravo Company men talking about, among other things, combat and brotherhood and fear.

During Captain Albano’s lecture, the students are advised of the events surrounding the Ghost Patrol—as the events of February 25 are commonly referred to—and to the disposition of troops on the ground on the morning of that fateful day. Then, amid the Marines of BRAVO! talking to them with the sounds of war in the background, the instructors, in a suddenly chaotic classroom simulation, fire questions at the students asking how they are going to deal with threats that are killing their Marines.

On the way to The Hawk. Left to Right: Captain Joe Albano, Michael O'Hara, Daniel Folz, Ken Rodgers, Captain Josh White

On the way to The Hawk. Left to Right: Captain Joe Albano, Michael O’Hara, Daniel Folz, Ken Rodgers, Captain Josh White. Photo by Betty Rodgers

The class is taught, among other things, in a way that emulates the bedlam of combat, and if a student can’t come up with a solution to a question asked by the instructor within a matter of seconds, he/she gets told, “You just lost another Marine,” and the instructor turns to another student and fires questions at him/her. These simulated combat moments are intended to train the new lieutenants to think quickly and respond appropriately. The questioning is rife with tension and with an aura of the uncertainties encountered when opposing groups of warriors go to killing each other. Fear, confusion and pressure are recognized as elements one encounters in combat and which cannot be understood by a leader until they are experienced.

After Captain Albano finished up, we repaired to The Hawk—the club at TBS—for some refreshments and some time to talk about the film, war, Vietnam and the more current wars that the captains fought in.

At The Hawk. Captain Joe Albano, left, and Captain Josh White, right, discuss the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Daniel Folz.

At The Hawk. Captain Joe Albano, left, and Captain Josh White, right, discuss the Marine Corps. Photo courtesy of Daniel Folz.

For years we have thought of BRAVO! as a way to preserve history and to educate the public about the Siege of Khe Sanh and the horror of combat, about brotherhood and death and fear. What an overwhelming thought it is to realize the men of BRAVO! are also helping to train today’s Marines.

Thanks to Captain Albano and the instructors at The Basic School for sharing their efforts with us old-time Marines and our guests.

Semper Fi!

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

June 15, 2013

On Super Gaggles, CH-46s and Re-Supplying Khe Sanh

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Marine Michael Phillips flew re-supply choppers into Khe Sanh and the surrounding hills during the siege. Here he tells us what it was like.

My name is Michael Phillips, and I was a Marine Corps pilot with HMM-364 Purple Foxes helicopter squadron during the siege at Khe Sanh. Every day during the siege, we sent 8 CH-46’s to resupply the hills and Khe Sanh between 24 February 1968 until 9 April 1968. This came to be known as the “Super Gaggle” in aviation history.

Our day began with a 05:30 briefing at Phu Bai, then up to Quang Tri to be briefed again by General Hill. After that we flew over to Dong Ha and picked up our externals. Since it was IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) at Dong Ha, our first aircraft took off on a heading for Khe Sanh, aircraft # 2 took off 10 degrees to the left, aircraft # 3 10 degrees to the right, etc., until all 8 were airborne. We normally punched out around 8,000 feet, on to Khe Sanh where we would orbit for 30-40 minutes while the artillery, F4 Phantoms, A6 Intruders and A4’s provided gun support for the hill that we would resupply. One of our biggest concerns was that of a mid-air collision. We had so much air support that F4’s were constantly zipping in front of us. At that altitude and at our weight, we barely had enough power to maintain elevation, so when we flew thru their exhaust it was not unusual for us to lose control and drop 3-400 feet prior to regaining control.

When the command was given for us to begin our run, we had to lose 8,000 feet of altitude but still maintain enough power to land at the LZ. On the way down our gunners would begin firing their .50 caliber guns, careful not to hit the Marines on the ground. The NVA AK-47 was not very dangerous to us until we reached around 1,500 feet in elevation above the LZ. The major problem for us was maintaining proper spacing between aircraft, or we might have to attempt to hover at 900 feet. We simply did not have enough power to do so. It was essential that aircrafts #1, 2 and 3 get on to the hill or the LZ at Khe Sanh and off without wasting any time. Or else the balance of the flight was trying to hover, and a pilot could not do so.

Hill 881 South was our most difficult as we owned that hill and the NVA owned 881 North. We could always count on intense fire from there. One hill that did not receive much publicity was 558. This hill was in a slight ravine and there must have been 100 mortar tubes there. Keeping them supplied with ammo was a fulltime job.

After we completed the resupply we left for Quang Tri, refueled and flew back to Phu Bai. Every Marine base in I Corps was surrounded. When we got back, our gunners took the .50 caliber guns out of the A/C down to the perimeter as we got hit by the NVA each night. Our crew chiefs worked all night to fix the battle damage to our A/C. We could have done nothing without the crew chiefs. They were superb.

It was not unusual for us to take 50 rockets at a whack. Afterwards the NVA would always put a round in every half hour, so out to the bunkers we went. This ensured that we got very little sleep. Flying that CH-46 lacking sleep was a chore and all of our pilots became extremely rude, ugly, tense and it did have an effect on how efficient we were.

Approaching Hill 881 South (or any of the other Khe Sanh LZ’s) was somewhat more sophisticated than I mentioned earlier. When we began our descent it always reverted back to the individual pilot’s skill and his ability to shoot a good approach. Controlling the rate of descent, controlling spacing, controlling air speed, maintaining turns (RPM’s), running out of ground speed and altitude at the same time over the LZ was imperative. Dropping the external as “softly” as possible was a never-ending challenge. If any of the A/C in front of you did not do these things, you had to make adjustments, quickly. We simply did not have enough power to hover at 1,000 feet so sometimes one had to drop out of the sequence and go to the Khe Sanh Combat Base airstrip to hover, then air taxi to the hill. This was not a good thing as the Combat Base runway always took a lot of rockets and mortars, and you were exposed to more fire than desired.

If one A/C screwed up, overshot the LZ, he had to come to a complete hover, back up to the zone, bounce around some; this took time. It was time that the A/C behind him did not have to sacrifice. The CH-46 does not stop on a dime. In our haste to get in and out, sometimes our airspeed was excessive. It was adjustment time for everyone behind the pilot who was trying to get into the LZ.

Prior to flight school, I went to Basic School in Quantico. There I studied tactics, explosives, rifle range (M14) .45 pistol, everything that a Second Lieutenant is supposed to know. (Not much, huh?) As a result I had many friends that were 0311, and it provided me with a very good understanding of what the grunts were going through. Since I was not there with them, I could not actually experience in depth their plight, but I did have enough knowledge to admire their courage, never giving up, never leaving a wounded man in a hot zone.

During and after Tet, I had occasion to fly many medevac missions. Some of these required that I land in a rice paddy, 100 meters from the tree line where we were taking intense fire. The plexiglass cockpit and 1/8 inch aluminum skin of the A/C did not slow down an AK-47 round, and we paid a price.

I am proud to say that in the Marine tradition, we never left a wounded man in a hot zone. Never. He was coming out, and was going to be on a hospital ship in 20 minutes. It was not that I was a hero, all of our pilots, and all of the pilots from other squadrons did the same. All in a day’s work to support the Private with a bayonet on the ground. The same was true if one of our recon teams was compromised. They might have to run for a mile to find a LZ big enough for us to land, but we took them out.

Probably more than you wanted to know about the day-in, day-out life of a CH-46 driver.

You guys were the greatest, a shame that none of you (us) ever got the recognition that we deserved.

On a separate note, DVDs of BRAVO! are now for sale at https://bravotheproject.com/buy-the-dvd/.

We have a page on Facebook. Please like us a https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject/.

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

February 8, 2012

On Friendship and Memory and Communications

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In today’s entry, we get insight into how communication between Marines, between friends, between people of all stripes adds texture and meaning to history. Below is a series of e-mails between Ken Pipes, Commanding Officer of Bravo Company during the Siege of Khe Sanh, and his old friend and comrade, Dr. Larry Farrell. Ken Pipes and Larry went into Marine Corps OCS together and have stayed in touch for over fifty years.

In a message dated January 30, 2012, Dr. Farrell writes, in part, about his son, Sean, graduating from Marine Corps Officer Candidate School:

To Family and Friends,

Family day for OCC (Officer Candidate Class) 209 will be at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Friday March 30, 2012. Graduation and Commissioning is the next day, Saturday March 31, 2012.If you are planning on going or would like to go please call us first.

Larry

Ken Pipes responded to Dr. Farrell’s e-mail with the following message:

Larry my brother–on graduation day–tell Sean that on that day 44 years ago–Bravo Company 1/26 decimated a reinforced NVA Battalion–the 66th of the 304th “Iron” Division–in the process, the entire Staff of the NVA battalion was killed. Thus “Pay Back.” Tell him for me and Bravo Company–SEMPER FIDELIS!

Ken

Dr. Larry Farrell responded with the following e-mail he sent to a larger group of recipients:

I wanted to pass along this special email from my brother Marine Ken Pipes. As some of you already know, Ken and I went into the Marine Corps about the same time out of Fresno State (also fraternity brothers). We were in Quantico (TBS) and the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, during the same time periods. In 1963 or 1964 our paths again crossed in Iwakuni, Japan (home of the 1st Marine Air Wing) after I had come back from Vietnam.

Ken was Bravo Company Commander of the 1st Battalion 26th Marines at Khe Sanh, December 1967 through March 1968. This Company was made up with people like Steve Wiese who Sue and I recently met at a powerful documentary film showing in Santa Rosa, California. They were in continuous combat for 77 days in an epic struggle against overwhelming odds. Steve and Ken are lucky to be alive.

Ken’s message is powerful and poignant to us because of the aligning of these dates.  On this date, Ken led (and Steve participated in) the only recorded bayonet charge of the Vietnam War: “Pay Back.”  Ken was seriously wounded in the chest and took a bullet through his helmet but like Steve, he survived. Ken was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor. God Bless you Ken–God Bless you Steve–God Bless Bravo Company. Your deeds are recorded in Marine Corps History forever–SEMPER FIDELIS!

Larry and Sue

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.