Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

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

March 13, 2012

A Wonderful World Gone Mad

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Into today’s entry, guest blogger and Bravo! supporter Elaine Ambrose remembers the year 1968.

In the spring of 1968, I was a high school junior in a quiet farming village in southern Idaho. I remember my teachers telling us that our United States soldiers were in Vietnam because we had to fight a war against Communism, and I believed them. During that same time, Ken Rodgers, not that much older than I, was a Marine fighting for the Siege of Khe Sanh. I probably was playing saxophone in the school band on the day he was ordered to “affix bayonets” and be prepared for hand-to-hand combat in a steaming hellhole full of dead and dying bodies.

Ken and I met forty years later at various writing events and organizations in Boise. I took some writing and poetry classes from him and enjoyed getting to know his talented wife Betty. What started as a mutual respect for creative writing has turned into a profound admiration and deep friendship between us. When I heard that Ken and Betty were doing a film about a battle in Vietnam, I was excited to view the preliminary cut. That eager excitement turned to painful tears after the initial screening of Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor. The story is too raw, too powerful, and too incredible to comprehend with just one viewing.

My husband, also a Marine, and I hosted an additional screening of the film at our home last year. It’s difficult to describe the intense emotions that overcame the audience, many of them born long after the war in Vietnam was over. After the film, several of us sat around and talked openly about our feelings. For those of us who came of age during the late 1960s, it was our first real discussion of the war that fractured the country. If I could, I would go back and ask my high school teachers: What did we prove? What have we learned? This film doesn’t provide the answers; it tells the story of what happened.

To make this film, Ken and Betty set out with an inspired vision and a lofty goal. They contacted Ken’s former soldiers, gathered old news reels, made important contacts, organized the initial filming schedule, and learned by the seats of their pants how to make, market, and distribute a film. Professionals in the industry discovered their project and offered their valuable contributions. The “buzz” started last year, and now the film is ready.

On a spring afternoon in Idaho when I was learning to play the notes of What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, Ken Rodgers and the valiant men of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, were following orders and fighting for their very survival for an unknown cause. This film, with its ragged view of profound fear, heartbreaking loyalty, and absolute bravery, is for the survivors, for those who didn’t come back, and for those of us who were home playing in the band.

Elaine Ambrose is an author and publisher from Eagle, ID. Her author web site is www.ElaineAmbrose.com and her publisher web site is www.MillParkPublishing.com.