Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘San Diego’

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

October 20, 2017

Fiddler’s Green

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Earlier this year, Betty and I saw a documentary film by the director/producer Terry Sanders, titled FIGHTING FOR LIFE. The film recognizes how doctors and other medical personnel are trained at “the medical school no one’s ever heard of,” the Uniformed Services University. Besides anatomy and physiology and biology and regular medical training, many of the people who attend this university are trained for going onto the battlefield to heal and patch up the warriors of our country.

I always assumed that medical training is medical training, but as the film shows, the way we are taught to treat the women and men who fight our wars is, in many instances, governed by a different set of needs revolving around combat. It’s a pretty obvious conclusion when I think about it right now, but until seeing the film it hadn’t occurred to me what special skills military doctors, dentists, nurses, medics and corpsmen require in their efforts to save and mend lives.

Miramar National Cemetery, San Diego, California. Photo courtesy of Miramar National Cemetery.

I bring this up because last Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Lt. Commander Dr. Edward Feldman was buried at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego, CA, and his interment got me thinking about the medical folks I served with in Vietnam.

Dr. Feldman was one of the physicians who served with the 9th and 26th Marines during the Siege of Khe Sanh. And like so many of the doctors and corpsmen I served with, his story is remarkable. He arrived at Khe Sanh on January 3, 1968, eighteen days before the beginning of the Siege. Almost immediately, on the opening day of the big battle, January 21, 1968, Dr. Feldman was called upon to perform an amazing feat of surgery. He removed a live mortar round from the abdominal cavity of a Marine. For his action, he was awarded a Silver Star. Below is a quote from his Silver Star Award. I will let you read for yourselves what an astounding act this surgery was.

When the Khe Sanh Combat Base came under heavy mortar and rocket attack on 21 January 1968, a wounded Marine was taken to the Battalion Aid Station where preliminary examinations revealed a metal object protruding from a wound in his abdominal region. Further examination disclosed the possibility of the object being a live enemy mortar round. Quickly assessing the situation, Lieutenant Feldman directed the erection of a sandbag barricade around the patient over which he would attempt to operate and summoned an ordnance expert to identify the object and assist in removing the suspected explosive device from the injured man. Disregarding his own safety, Lieutenant Feldman removed his helmet and armored vest and exposed himself to the danger of a possible explosion as he began to operate. Displaying exceptional professional ability while performing the delicate surgery under flashlights, he succeeded in removing the live round from the Marine and directed an assistant to carry it outside for disposal. By his courage, exceptional professionalism and selfless devotion to duty at great personal risk, Lieutenant Feldman undoubtedly saved the life of a Marine and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

You can read Edward Feldman’s entire Silver Star citation here.

Dr. Edward Feldman. Photo courtesy of Before They Go.

Dr. Feldman was also, during his tour of duty in Vietnam, awarded a Bronze Star with Combat V for his actions with Charlie Med at the Siege. The United States Army awarded him a Bronze Star for Valor when, just before he was to rotate back to the States, he went into the field to medically assist a company of Army warriors and ended up acting as the commanding officer when the unit’s officers and senior NCOs were either killed or wounded in action.

After his service in the United States Navy, Dr. Feldman went on to establish medical practices in New Jersey and then California.

I found a comprehensive interview on the internet that he gave to the Navy and you can access it here.

You can also read Edward Feldman’s obituary here.

The medical folks at Khe Sanh were necessary to the Marines and by virtue of their bravery, from both doctors and corpsmen, earned the undying devotion and respect of the Marines who inhabited that hellhole.

Medical personnel in action during the Siege of Khe Sanh. Photo by Dave Powell.

I don’t know if it was Dr. Feldman, or one of the other physicians who went out with us on the patrol of March 30, 1968, where the Marines of Bravo Company, 1/26 assaulted an NVA battalion entrenched on a ridgeline south-east of the combat base. I guess it doesn’t matter who it was, but in my mind I imagine it being him.

I don’t know what physicians do out on the battlefield except try to save lives, but I imagine there is a set protocol for particular procedures: triage for a quick assessment of a casualty’s chances of surviving, then application of tourniquets, bandages, administration of drugs like morphine and other forms of emergency treatment.

But the thing is, out there on that day, bullets were flying and incoming artillery and mortar rounds fell all around us, killing or wounding many of us. And the doctor, whoever he was, and his corpsmen, were subject to death and dismemberment by the same hostile fire that beset the rest of us.

We often think of doctors in an office, rushing down the halls of a hospital, or even attending to the wounded in a field hospital, but not treating wounded Marines in the bottom of a bomb crater. If Edward Feldman didn’t draw that duty on that day, if ordered to do so, he would have been out there with his scalpel and the other tools he’d need to save lives. I don’t doubt that.

Waiting for the wounded at Khe Sanh. Photo by Dave Powell.

My experience with doctors at Khe Sanh was almost nonexistent. If I had a problem, it was handled by a corpsman so I don’t know if I ever crossed paths with Dr. Feldman. Nevertheless, I salute him—and all the medical personnel who put their lives in danger to save others—for his courage and his skill in the face of imminent danger.

There’s an old Navy myth about a magical afterlife called Fiddler’s Green where sailors go when they die, where never-ending laughter and a fiddle that plays forever and echoes of dancing feet ring.

My company commander at the Siege of Khe Sanh, Lt. Colonel Ken Pipes, mentioned Fiddler’s Green when he alerted all of us old Jarheads of the passing of Dr. Ed Feldman.

Like so much of what makes up the naval milieu, there is a ditty about Fiddler’s Green that goes like this:

At Fiddler’s Green, where seamen true
When here they’ve done their duty
The bowl of grog shall still renew
And pledge to love and beauty.

Revel in your time at Fiddler’s Green, Ed Feldman.

Semper Fi!

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Upcoming creening information:

In conjunction with the Ken Burns documentary, the Nampa Public Library in Nampa, Idaho, will screen BRAVO! on November 1, 2017. Doors open at 6:30 PM and the free program will begin at 7:00 PM, followed by a Q&A. A panel discussion with Vietnam Veterans is scheduled for November 8. The Nampa library’s website is http://nampalibrary.org.

On April 7, 2018, the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho, will host a one-day symposium in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Siege. The event will encompass a forum for educating the public about the Siege of Khe Sanh and the Vietnam War, as well as an opportunity for a Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion. Activities will include a screening of BRAVO! and guest speakers remembering the battle. Khe Sanh Vet Mike Archer, author of two heralded non-fiction books on his Khe Sanh experiences, will be one of the featured speakers. You can see more about Mike at http://www.michaelarcher.net.

Mark your calendars now, as this will be a stellar event in a world-class air museum. We are still in the planning stage, so if you would like to participate and were involved with the siege, or just want to help, please contact me at 208-340-8889. An event like this can only happen with a core group of committed volunteers. We can’t do it without you! For more information on the Warhawk Air Museum, check out their website at https://warhawkairmuseum.org.

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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/.

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at https://www.facebook.com/Bravotheproject?ref=hl.

Film Festivals,Other Musings

September 24, 2015

BRAVO! Accepted into the G I Film Festival San Diego

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We have great news to announce! BRAVO! has been accepted in the inaugural GI Film Festival San Diego! Thanks to the Skipper (Ken Pipes) and his son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Sandra, we learned about this film festival and sent in our application. Lo and behold, we are in and scheduled with a prime time slot! What makes us happiest about this is that it couldn’t be more appropriate for BRAVO!’s first film festival, since every man in the film went to Camp Pendleton (San Diego County) for staging to go to Vietnam. San Diego County is where the story begins. And it’s the home of Bravo Company’s illustrious commander. Perfect.

GIFF-Laurel-three-colors

Ken and I will be driving to San Diego for the event. We would love it if each and every one of you could be there, too, but we know some of you cannot. If you ARE able to join us, we’d love to visit with you.

In order to get the attention of folks who could help BRAVO! find a national audience, the most important thing we can do right now is sell out the theater. This gets their attention. There are 200 seats, and anything you can do to help would be deeply appreciated.

BRAVO! will be shown at 12:30 PM on Sunday, October 18. The theater is located very near where last year’s Khe Sanh Veterans Reunion was held. It is located off the 163 freeway in the bottom section of the Hazard Center just off Friars Rd. (7510 Hazard Center Drive, San Diego, CA 92108.)

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Here is the link to purchase tickets. There is a discount for veterans and military, as well as members of KPBS public television. Scroll down to BRAVO!, and we encourage you to take a look at the rest of the festival, too.

We will be creating a Facebook “event” which you are welcome to “share.” It’s a great way to help get the word out.

The best part of this wonderful news is that it means more and more people will see and be aware of this story.

A heartfelt thank you to each one of you, in the film or not, for your interest, participation and encouragement in this journey. It has meant everything to us.

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

November 26, 2014

Last Memorials

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November is a thoughtful and busy time for veterans of the United States military. Celebrations, parades, reunions and remembrances occur from big cities to small towns up and down and all across the country.

While a large number of the Men of BRAVO! were in San Diego with the Khe Sanh Veterans group participating in Veterans Day ceremonies, in Liberty Lake Washington, former Navy Corpsman Greg Vercruysse was being honored with a memorial at the Liberty Lake Fallen Heroes Circuit Course.

The mayor of Liberty Lake and Greg Vercruysse's mother cutting the ribbon for the ceremony honoring Greg. © Dean Vercruysse 2014

The mayor of Liberty Lake and Greg Vercruysse’s mother cutting the ribbon for the ceremony honoring Greg.
© Dean Vercruysse 2014

I have written to some extent about Greg and the other men of Bravo Company who were killed and wounded on June 7, 1967 in an ambush off of Hill 881 South, so return readers to this blog are familiar with Greg’s story as well as what occurred to the other twenty men who were killed in that action.

With that in mind, I am not going to belabor the memory anymore except to state that what happened at Liberty Lake on 11/11/2014 was a fine example of the honors that have belatedly come to a lot of veterans of the Vietnam War.

Former Bravo Company Corpsman John Kerr being interviewed by KREM-TV. © Dean Vercruysse 2014

Former Corpsman John Kerr being interviewed by KREM-TV.
© Dean Vercruysse 2014

Also remarkable to me was the fact that Navy Corpsman John Kerr, also with Bravo Company at that time and Greg Vercruysse’s buddy, traveled across the country to Liberty Lake to honor Greg’s memory along with Greg’s mom and brother and respectful citizens of Liberty Lake.

You can read more about the event at http://spokanevalleylibertylake.kxly.com/news/news/143231-liberty-lake-honors-sailor-killed-vietnam or watch a well-produced news report from TV station KREM here.

Navy Senior Chief Spinden and former Staff Sergeant Bob Wiese were instrumental in honoring Greg. © Dean Vercruysse 2014

Navy Senior Chief Spinden and former Staff Sergeant Wiese were instrumental in honoring Greg.
© Dean Vercruysse 2014

The pictures in this blog post of the Liberty Lake event are courtesy of Greg’s brother, Dean Vercruysse.

Semper Fidelis from the men of BRAVO! to the Vercruysse family.

On the screening front, we are pleased to announce that BRAVO! will be shown at Idaho’s historic Egyptian Theater in Boise on March 30, 2015. We will post updates to this event here as they become available.

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this spring or summer, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. 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/. It’s another way to stay up on our news and help raise more public awareness of this film.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Khe Sanh Veteran's Reunion,Marines,Vietnam War

November 19, 2014

On Sweet Pacific Breezes and Film Screenings, Reunions and Survival

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This past week the BRAVO! team spent the week at the Khe Sanh Veterans annual reunion at the Town and Country Resort in San Diego, California.

We met again with men who served with Bravo Company, First Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment before, during and after the Siege of Khe Sanh. We also met new friends and old friends from other outfits and shared stories, memories, tears and laughs.

Every year these events get more intimate and emotional for us. The ties that bind the survivors of any crisis are strong and can only be severed by death. This is very true for the men who served during the Siege. For those of us who endured the horror of that prolonged battle, the bonds of comradeship are stout. As one looks across a room full of veterans of that action, he knows that the people sitting out there, even if he does not personally know them, all understand the lifelong tensions and anxiety that simmer down inside.

One of the most exciting things that happened to us at the 2014 reunion was being joined by our family. Son Jim and his wife Norma, along with their daughters Justyce and Jayden drove over from Casa Grande, Arizona. Daughter Sarah and husband Baruch along with their daughter Isadora came in from Seattle, Washington. We were all present at the reunion banquet when Justyce, who received a scholarship from the Khe Sanh Veterans Association, was recognized by the scholarship committee chair, Dan Fisher.

BRAVO! Corpsmen and Marines: Back (L to R): Jim Beall, Charles McIntire, Tom Quigley, John Cicala, Tom Kupcho, Ken Pipes, Front (L to R): Ken Korkow, Ken Rodgers, Mike McCauley, Ben Long © Betty Rodgers 2014

BRAVO! Corpsmen and Marines: Back (L to R): Jim Beall, Charles McIntire, Tom Quigley, John Cicala, Tom Kupcho, Ken Pipes, Front (L to R): Ken Korkow, Ken Rodgers, Mike McCauley, Ben Long
© Betty Rodgers 2014

Thanks to Tom Eichler, John Pessoni and the rest of the leaders of the Khe Sanh Veterans for all their hard work in putting the event together. Now, next year, on to Savannah, Georgia.

While we were at the reunion, we slipped away to screen BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR at American Legion Post 291, Newport Beach, California. While the calming Pacific breezes wafted over the sailboats berthed at the pier outside the post, an earnest audience of seventy-plus people saw the film. Among the attendees were BRAVO! Marines Skipper Ken Pipes, Ben Long, Ken Korkow, Mike McCauley, John Cicala and Tom Quigley. Also there were other men who served with Bravo Company, Jim Beall and Charles McIntire. Area residents Ray and Barbara Doyle and Robin Zimmermann who contributed both music and expertise to the film came and visited with us and watched BRAVO!

A big shout-out to Tony Arrigo, Jim Kaylor and Roger Henry who worked hard to make sure the event came off without a hitch.

Something about the contrast between balmy southern California weather outside and the intense representation of the violence, agony and redemption depicted inside during the screening of the film seemed to make the day more poignant.

At the Newport Beach Screening, left to right: Barbara Doyle, Ray Doyle and Robin Zimmermann. © Betty Rodgers 2014

At the Newport Beach Screening, left to right: Barbara Doyle, Ray Doyle and Robin Zimmermann.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

Aside from the Khe Sanh Veterans reunion and the Newport Beach screening, BRAVO! was featured in an outstanding news feature by reporter Matt Burke in The Stars and Stripes which serves the United States’ military community worldwide. You can read the article here.
http://www.stripes.com/news/special-reports/vietnam-at-50/the-bloody-battle-of-khe-sanh-77-days-under-siege-1.314627

Up next for the BRAVO! team, back to Idaho for a battery recharge and plans for screenings in March 2015 to coincide with the first year of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and for Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.

If you or your organization would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter or spring, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. 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/. It’s another way to stay up on our news and help raise more public awareness of this film.

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

November 5, 2014

Notes on California

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Last Saturday morning, November 1, 2015, BRAVO! was screened to a standing-room-only audience at the Veterans Association of North County in Oceanside, California. An attentive and enthusiastic crowd of folks both young and old joined us for the event, augmented by cookies and coffee supplied by American Legion Post 146 Women’s Auxiliary.

Thanks to Mike Knudson for dreaming this event and then following the dream to fruition. Donations collected at the door will help the Veterans Association of North County finish refurbishing their impressive facility, a place where thirty-seven veterans’ organizations are housed. We also want to thank Chuck Atkinson and the other folks who run the location for all their support in helping with the screening.

Skipper Ken Pipes addressing the audience at the Oceanside screening. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Skipper Ken Pipes addressing the audience at the Oceanside screening.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

Attending with the Rodgers were Bravo’s Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Ken Pipes. When the film was over, Skipper Pipes gave a stirring speech recognizing the sacrifices that veterans of war make. He acknowledged a number of attendees who served with us at Khe Sanh and a number of attendees who worked with Skipper Pipes during his tenure as a reserve officer with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Helping to make Ken and Sharon Pipes’ day even more memorable, their son, Tim, daughter-in-law, Sandra, and grandson, Connor, also attended. Connor presented his grandmother with a beautiful bouquet of birthday roses, and was later called upon to assist with the raffle drawings.

We are always moved by the heartfelt responses to our film, and this occasion was no different. For example, one young woman approached us and stated that viewing BRAVO! changed her life.

Skipper Ken Pipes at the Oceanside screening. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Skipper Ken Pipes at the Oceanside screening.
© Betty Rodgers 2014

Prior to the Oceanside event, Ken Pipes, Betty and I were interviewed by San Diego’s ABC TV Channel 10 correspondent Bob Lawrence about the Siege of Khe Sanh and the making of BRAVO! You can watch the news clip that was broadcast on Channel 10 on October 31, 2014 here.

Later that evening, the Pipes and Rodgers contingent went to San Diego and attended the White Knights’ Squadron, VMM-165’s (VMM stands for Marine Medium Tiltrotor—V22 Osprey aircraft) Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebrating the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Pipes were the guests of honor and once again, the Skipper delivered a stirring keynote speech and received a rousing standing ovation from those several hundred Marines uniformed in their colorful dress blues.

Dress blues at VMM-165's ball celebrating the 239th Marine Corps Birthday. © Betty Rodgers 2014

Dress blues at VMM-165’s ball celebrating the 239th Marine Corps Birthday.
© Betty Rodgers 2014


If you would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this winter or spring, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. 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/. It’s another way to stay up on our news and help raise more public awareness.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

May 1, 2012

Memories of the Sixties and Bravo, 1/26

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Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor is a documentary film about the Siege of Khe Sanh, a seventy-seven day period in a war that went on in excess of eight years. Thinking about those eight years, I often ponder what my old unit was doing in Vietnam while I as home in the United States.

Today is May First, 2012. What was Bravo Company doing on various May Firsts while the battalion, my battalion…First Battalion, 26th Marines…was in Vietnam?

On May 1, 1966, neither the battalion nor Bravo had yet been in the Vietnam area of operations. They were on their way and soon would function as a battalion landing team up and down the coast of Vietnam.

I was in my second semester of college at Arizona State University studying Business Administration and as far as I can recollect, had no intention of joining the United States Marine Corps, or the service, or of ever venturing to Vietnam.

After a chain of events that saw me enlist and ship out for Vietnam, by May 1, 1967 I was already in the field with Bravo Company. First and Second Platoons were dug in at an old ville south of Hill 55, which was southwest of Danang in I Corps in the northern part of Vietnam. Third Platoon was dug in on a river crossing further south. Alpha Company of the battalion had already left the Hill 55 area for Phu Bai on the battalion’s journey that eventually led us to Khe Sanh where elements of the Third and Ninth Marine Regiments had been and were then locked in vicious fights for Hills 861, 881 South and 881 North.

On May 1, 1967, on patrol south of Hill 55, elements of Bravo Company found a 60MM mortar employed as an antipersonnel mine which they destroyed with a pound of TNT. They also found a Punji stake which was taken back to the company CP for examination.

On May 1, 1968, I had been home from Khe Sanh, the siege and Vietnam for over two weeks, and had been drinking, partying and pondering a trip with friends to Nogales, Mexico, for margaritas, street tacos and bullfights to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Bravo Company, gone from Khe Sanh, was defending Wonder Beach on May 1, 1968. First Platoon ran an ambush the night of April 30 and returned into the perimeter early on the morning of May 1. During the day, 9 rounds of incoming mortar fire were received and one Marine was wounded. The company also took incoming machine gun fire.

On May 1, 1969, I was deployed at Marine Barracks, 36th Street Naval Station in San Diego, California, where I worked in the Navy Brig Base Parolee dorms, harassing prisoners, holding snap inspections and throwing improperly arranged footlockers out the windows three stories down into the yard.

Bravo Company was part of a battalion landing team and took part in a heliborne and seaborne assault rehearsal north of the NamO Bridge near Danang in anticipation of more rambunctious action in the days to come.

On May 1, 1970, I was out of the Marine Corps attending a local junior college in Central Arizona and working as a sheetrock humper on the construction of some high schools in the Phoenix area.

Bravo Company and the 26th Marines no longer existed in terms of a combat unit in Vietnam on May 1, 1970. Their last activities in-country were in March of that year and Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment now exists in the history of the Corps and the hearts and memories of the Marines and Corpsmen who served.

Documentary Film,Guest Blogs,Khe Sanh,Marines,Meet the Men,Vietnam War

March 22, 2012

Meet the Men of Bravo!–Frank McCauley

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Bravo! Marine Frank McCauley introduces himself.

I was born in Boston, MA, but raised in San Diego from the age of 10. I was 17 when I enlisted in the Marines, had just turned 18 in December, and arrived in Vietnam in mid-February.

Frank McCauley as a young Marine

There, I was a machine gunner stationed along the perimeter of the base, just inside of the smoldering garbage pit. I learned early on that if you wanted to avoid stirring the latrine barrels while the burning diesel fuel turned it to crust, look busy; field strip the machine gun down to a blanket of nothing but pieces. It looks daunting and they were uncomfortable asking me to leave that blanket of parts to go stir shit. Yippee!!

I have always been interested in working on and fixing old cars and classics. My current project is a ‘38 Ford Deuce Coupe that is in remarkable condition, but a ways from driving down the road at this point. If you were to ask my wife, she’d say it’s a piece of junk that I’ll never finish.

I have also spent a great deal of time, lately, on a 1990 Jeep Wrangler which I brought back to life. It is nearly bullet-proof, road worthy and fun to drive.

Frank McCauley at his interview in San Antonio, TX for Bravo!

I also enjoy going on trips on my motorcycle, being alone with only my thoughts to keep me company. I’ve never enjoyed being a part of a group. I am very much a loner and enjoy being in charge of my own destinations and time schedule; it avoids conflicts.

Frank McCauley’s interview riveted our attention in the film both when he described arriving at Khe Sanh during the siege and while in the midst of a fire fight, suddenly recalling his time at the rifle range on Camp Pendleton.