Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Skywalker Ranch’

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Marines,Vietnam War

July 9, 2014

A True Friend to BRAVO!

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Meet Carol Caldwell-Ewart, BRAVO!’s Associate Producer. You’ve seen the name in the credits, perhaps even met Carol, but we’d like to tell you a little more about her.

Carol was our friend in Sonoma County long before we moved to Idaho and became filmmakers, and was quite interested and encouraging when we decided to tell the story of the Vietnam War through the experiences of Bravo Company during the Siege of Khe Sanh.

In spite of the fact that she works fulltime-plus, has many interests and talents such as editing, business and creative writing, travel, pottery, family and dance, Carol asked what she could do to support our efforts. She believed in what we were doing, and knew we couldn’t do it alone.

Carol Caldwell-Ewart. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

Carol Caldwell-Ewart.
Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

So Carol set forth and developed and managed three separate Indiegogo fundraising campaigns which were all successfully funded. Had it not been for these efforts, and her own personal donations, we would not have had the resources to complete BRAVO!

Once we had all our material gathered and interviews completed, it was time to choose an editor, and Carol played a significant role here as well. We were fortunate to hear from Vietnam veteran and long-time sound and film editor, John Nutt, who was interested in working with us, but we had not met him face-to-face—he lived in California and we are in Idaho. Once again, Carol stepped up. She went to see John for that critical first meeting and subsequently was confident it would be a good match. Sure enough, she was spot on.

Carol joined us at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County when we were there for the final sound re-mix. This was to be the first time she gained a glimpse of the breadth and power of the story she had worked so hard for. She was with us when we screened it to the employees of Skywalker Sound in Lucas’ state-of-the-art theater.

Once the film was ready to be shown to invitation-only crowds, Carol then asked to host one of our very first screenings for our northern California donors. She pulled out all the stops with the location, the food and beverages, and the huge crowd of friends, family and supporters.

Since then, Carol has attended many of our screenings, working in the background to be sure all the details were attended to, and handling DVD sales to enable us to talk with people. She has designed and printed programs, and pitches in to help the hosts when they need it, such as checking sound equipment, arranging food on platters, and directing guests to the venue. She is an excellent spokesperson.

We are also extremely grateful when we send text off to Carol and ask her to don her editor’s hat (of course, it’s a red one…Carol’s favorite color). We may have struggled and struggled to word something well and just not been happy with it. In a matter of minutes, Carol has reworded it to be exactly what we wanted.

Carol Caldwell-Ewart manning the goody table on the SS Jeremiah O'Brien. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

Carol Caldwell-Ewart manning the goody table on the SS Jeremiah O’Brien.
Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

Over these last four years, Carol says she has grown to love the men in the film and admire their courage in telling this story. Yet in all this time, she had met just one other Bravo Company Marine besides Ken. So when she learned there would be a significant number of the men in attendance at our recent screening in Springfield, IL, she decided to travel there to meet them. Carol flew there at her own expense, and knew each face the minute they walked in the room.

Little did each of them know whom they were meeting…this amazing woman who has championed them and their story from the very beginning. She has stood by them and honored them and given a great deal of herself to be sure the film did not languish in some obscure corner. Fortunately over the time Carol was in Springfield, the men did come to know her too.

And so here, on behalf of everyone involved with the film, we would like to express our deepest gratitude for all you have given, Carol, with no expectation of anything in return. We appreciate your warm smile, your keen mind, your generous heart, and your belief in all of us. May you receive the same degree of friendship you give so well.

Carol Caldwell-Ewart and  BRAVO! Marine Mr. Ben Long get acquainted in Springfield, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

Carol Caldwell-Ewart and
BRAVO! Marine Mr. Ben Long get acquainted in Springfield, Illinois.
Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

On the screening front, BRAVO! will be screened at the Union League Club of Chicago, 65 West Jackson Blvd, Chicago, Illinois on July 24, 2014. Sponsored by American Legion Post 758, this event begins with registration at 5:00 PM. The film will be screened at 5:30 with a Q & A session with Co-producers Betty and Ken Rodgers and BRAVO! Marine Michael E. O’Hara following the screening. Complimentary snacks will be provided and there will be a signature bar with beverages of your choice.

The program will end at 8:00 PM. Reservations are required. To reserve your seats please go to the Eventbrite registration page @

Please note, this event is business casual: no jeans, no denim, no shorts; shirts must have collars.
If you would like to host a screening of BRAVO! in your town this summer or fall, please contact us immediately.

DVDs of BRAVO! are available. For more information go to

BRAVO! has a page on Facebook. Please “like” us and “share” the page at It’s another way you can help spread the word about the film and what it is really like to fight in a war.

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

June 7, 2012

Filmmaker Ben Shedd on BRAVO!

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Ken and Betty Rodgers’ feature length documentary BRAVO! is the riveting story of the 77 day siege at Khe Sanh in Vietnam, where Ken was one of the Marines in that battle. BRAVO! combines new interviews with many of Ken’s Marine Khe Sanh colleagues and Vietnam era war stock footage, telling an almost half century old story as if it happened last week.

I’ve watched BRAVO! four times now at different screenings, two of the first screenings for colleagues and people in the film, one at the Veterans Hospital, and one for a university film class. Each time, it’s as if I were joining those men on the battlefield.

This movie is as powerful as the recent Afghanistan on-the-ground war documentary RESTREPO – this one from another war, Vietnam – and I felt just as viscerally involved in the events from decades ago as from just a few years back. The exquisite production work by Cinematographer Mark Spear, BAFTA Award winning Editor/Sound Designer John Nutt and four time Academy Award winning Sound Mixer Mark Berger at Skywalker Ranch slowly sweep me into Khe Sanh and, much like the battles of that place, moving back and forth from quiet tension to startling explosions, into the midst of deathly conflict, into the middle of events we struggle to comprehend.

Ben Shedd (Photo Credit: Richard Harbaugh/©A.M.P.A.S.)

BRAVO! flips documentary expectations upside down. The interviews, which would usually accompany footage showing events in a documentary, become the central events of this film. Indeed there is news footage from that long-ago time, but the vivid recollections of these Veterans create a visual landscape so detailed that I find myself wrenched by the life and death of war. I become one of their colleagues in that time and place and come away knowing both the tragedy and day-to-dayness of battle like I have never before imagined.

We hear vividly how the men of Bravo Company live every day today with their ages-old war memories, some having never told their stories before. I’ve read about the effects of post-traumatic stress and in BRAVO! I see and hear it in real time. When 4 or 5 of these men describe in detail an event in their Khe Sanh battles, all from their own memories, as if they were living it right now – not reliving things from decades ago – and all filled with the same details shaped with small variations from their own personal recollections, I feel startled how we – every one of us – must deeply imbed dramatic/traumatic events in our lives and shape our futures from past events, and say little or nothing as we move along in our lives.

I went out the day after I first saw BRAVO! and found myself looking at every single person who crossed my path, wondering and thinking what, like those men of Bravo Company, were people’s life histories, what were their back stories, what have they experienced that make them who they’ve become, and wondering what I and each of us carries with us as we make our way through the world and through our lives.

I’m a professional filmmaker, not a psychiatrist or psychologist, and what I see documented, with everything else in BRAVO!, is post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] in all its facets, in my face, a deep reality to understand and know and deal with.

Last week, I bumped into a VA doctor acquaintance of mine who was at the Veteran’s Hospital screening of BRAVO! and with my simple question asking him about the film, he responded with a shudder that now, two months later, he is still haunted by its visceral impact and clear-eyed view of the people in battle and the lifelong aftermath.

It’s taken me even longer to try to write some of what I felt and am still feeling from experiencing BRAVO! Thank you, men of Bravo Company, for telling us about yourselves. Thank you, my filmmaker friends Ken and Betty Rodgers.

The pacing of BRAVO! is superb, deliberate, delicate, harsh, real, raw, explosive sound vibrating to the core, the memories told like they happened just now, just last week, but in reality 45 years ago. Then is now…

I agree with D. Schwartz in his Cinesource Movie Review: “BRAVO! is an astounding motion picture, made more so by the fact that this is Ken and Betty Rodgers’ first film—one that looks, feels, and sounds as if it were produced by seasoned filmmakers. An instant classic, BRAVO! is a timeless portrayal of this ageless / undying / everlasting / perpetual human activity called war.”

I’ve made two dozen documentaries and screened hundreds of other excellent documentary films, and I put BRAVO! in the top 10 of all documentaries I’ve ever seen. Kudos to the whole production crew. Bravo BRAVO!

Ben Shedd, Academy Award and Peabody Award winning filmmaker and University adjunct faculty “Mine is just one voice. I hope you will see BRAVO! and read many other voices telling about the breadth and depth of this movie on BRAVO!TheProject blog.”

Film Screenings

September 21, 2011

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Waiting to Exhale is a film directed by Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker based on a novel by Terry McMillan and I want to get that attribution out of the way at the beginning of this blog post. The title of the film has always, for me, articulated an emotional moment loaded with all kinds of pop, sizzle, suspense.

That’s how Betty and I feel now. We are waiting to exhale. We went to Skywalker Ranch last night and screened Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor. The film showing was intimate. We knew some of the attendees well and some were first time acquaintances. Most of them were film people who work in some regard for Lucas or who use the facility to edit and mix movies for their clients or themselves. There were a few outside producers who came just to see the film and there were also some movie aficionados. Some of these aficionados we know well.

The sound in the theater was so perfect that at times I felt as if I was back in Khe Sanh, face down in the red mud of a trench, waiting for death to show his big, bony grin.  I have watched Bravo !I don’t know how many times and this time it was as visceral for me as it could get. When the final credits stopped rolling, I felt as if I’d been pounded on. The men in the movie loomed huge on the screen and their message came at me like lines of Marines assaulting a hill.

When Betty and I began this adventure, I had an idea in my mind what I wanted the film to look like when it was done. It is much better than what I imagined. I admit my prejudice, but I believe the film to be important, profound, disturbing, and necessary. It needs to be seen. It must be seen. It’s that good, folks.

One of the new acquaintances for us last night was a gentleman who is an actor, producer, film writer who is excited about assisting this film get viewed. He’s taken us under his wing and now joins a growing cadre of film folk who are advising us on how to move forward. We are grateful for this bounty of expertise.

After the showing we stood around for quite a long time and visited with him and other film people about techniques and quality, but mostly about the message of Bravo!

Right now we await word from Sundance. We await what will come in the world of distribution. We are waiting to exhale.

Documentary Film

August 13, 2011

On Skywalker Ranch and Sundance

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Last Thursday I filled out the application to submit Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. When I pushed the button to send off the application I felt…what did I feel? Relief? Yes, I felt relief, not like a great metaphorical weight lifted from my shoulders, but a sense of…of…yeah…we did this. We made this movie. We told this story, this old story. And it is old, a lot older than the forty-three years since the Siege of Khe Sanh lifted. This story is as old as mankind, I suspect. Death, fear, sacrifice, savagery. Everything one wants in a good action-adventure flick. But this story is true…or as true as can be after all the time for events to percolate, change, morph, be forgotten and then remembered.

It’s been a wild month. In late July we went to Rochester, MN and showed the film by private invitation first to a group of some of the interviewees and their spouses. Then we showed it by private invitation to a much larger group of men who survived the siege, or who were at Khe Sanh before or after the siege. In some ways, these are the most important audiences we will face, I think. Sure, this story is laden with messages that speak to all humanity about essential and timeless truths we seem to forget again and again. But the men in Rochester lived the essence of the movie and they would feel it more viscerally than anyone else.

After Rochester we proceeded to northern California and Skywalker Ranch to do the final sound mix. To observe longtime professional editors John Nutt and Mark Berger argue and wrangle over how the movie should sound made Betty and I feel as if they really cared.   They cared enough that they got emotional and scolded and sniped at each other, sometimes looking at Betty and me to see which one of them we agreed with.

The tension of the film mixed with the tension created by Mark and John’s disagreements made my torso hurt, like someone nipping at my skin with a sharp bayonet. But art—and even though the subject matter of Bravo! is somber, violent—it is still art. One of the things that helps create art is tension. Art, to succeed I believe, needs friction and conflict. Michelangelo’s art has tension whether it be sculpture or painting; so too, El Greco, and Picasso and Beethoven and Mick Jagger and Werner Herzog and Quentin Tarantino. The tension between Mark and John was part of elevating the art in Bravo.

And in Skywalker Sound’s Studio Mix E it was loud. The resonance reverberated off the walls, through the floor into the feet of the chairs and couches. It knocked pencils out of pencil boxes and—even though I have watched it so many times—surprised me, frightened me, regardless of the fact that I knew what was coming.

So…the movie is loud, and at times brash, speaks to indignations of living like a besieged rat; it is sad, somber, elevating, and in the end, redemptive.

Skywalker Ranch

August 1, 2011


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Early this morning I went out and walked the twenty-minute road from the guest quarters up to the Tech Building here at Skywalker Ranch. The fog hung over the surrounding hilltops and shrouded the redwood trees. Ravens squawked and robins twittered; myriad other birds tweeted, chirped and buzzed. Without binoculars I could not identify the species I was seeing.

Last night Betty and I saw flocks of turkeys. In one flock six poults no bigger than my fist scurried around with the hens and the toms as they foraged their way through the puffed white remnants of dandelion blooms and other various plants that have turned brown and stiff in the summer’s weal. As I watched them I thought how vulnerable they were to skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and the various large raptors that inhabit these coastal redwood ecoregions.

That vulnerability reminded me of what we came here for. To sound mix our film. And the subject matter—the Siege of Khe Sanh—and how we were so like these poults, we young Marines as we hunkered down in our holes and trenches and waited out the constant battering of artillery and mortar and rocket and sniper fire. How we waited to become unlike the poults, these foragers and defenders, to become more like the raptors, these hunters and killers, raiders, shock troops. Move to contact. Search and destroy. How we waited. How we waited, until we could join with the enemy and then the cataclysm, the personal cataclysm, like living the most frightening Old Testament war scenes, Joshua fit the battle of Jericho…stuff like that.

After breakfast Betty and I moved up to the Tech Building and sat in a modern, high tech sound theater and watched Mark Berger and John Nutt work their craft. Patience and skill…each moment had to be perfect. The sound not too loud, but loud enough so that the viewer knows viscerally how savagery feels. Sometimes they skirmished, more often they agreed, about how one thread of sound needed to work with other sounds. The result coaxes and coerces, seduces, cajoles and scares. Betty and I and our daughter Sarah and our son-in-law Baruch sat in leather chairs and couches, as we watched Mark and John work through scene after scene. Later we went up to the main house and after a tour of the library, dined on gourmet chow.

When we left the sound theater this evening, I felt as if I had been assaulted. My stomach hurt and my nerves were shot, frayed like the ends of a nylon parachute rope. The war crouched in the back of my throat, big and blustery, sneering and dangerous.

Soon we will be finished.

Skywalker Ranch

July 31, 2011

The Road to Skywalker Ranch

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Whether speaking metaphorically or literally, the road to Skywalker Ranch is laden with surprises. On a metaphorical plane, Betty and I marvel at the path that led us here . . . the bold idea for the film, the idea’s rapid implementation, but most importantly, the people we have worked with and with whom we will work. Twists and turns and surprises at nearly every juncture, and mostly pleasant, even exhilarating surprises. Like topping a humdrum, dry-season summit and having to catch your breath because of the towering copses of green trees, cacophonous bleats and rattles of wild animals and the chirps and peals of strange birds.

The road to Skywalker itself, the literal one, after turning off US Highway 101, is twisting and turning, up and down, curves masked by groves of live oak, madrone and laurel trees. As we near the Ranch, magnificent stands of Redwood trees, Sequoia sempervirens, line both sides of the road. Huge stones jut out of the golden grass of midsummer in this coastal forest ecoregion. The actual gate to Skywalker Ranch is unassuming, almost nondescript. You’d miss it if you didn’t know exactly where you were going.

When we went to San Antonio to interview the majority of the Marines in July 2010, we had no inkling that Skywalker would be one of the final destinations on the road to production of the film. We were sweaty and hot, anticipatory, even a little tremulous as we debarked our flight in San Antonio with Mark Spear and asked our questions, got our answers, got surprised, ate lots of great Mexican food in the ninety-eight-degree heat.

After Texas, when we went to Ann Arbor, Michigan and Washington, DC, or to Brown County, Indiana and Springfield, Illinois, Iowa City, Iowa, Omaha, Nebraska, the surprises continued to rear up and flash their brilliant neons.  Now, after Skywalker, where will the road lead us?

This evening we took a walk to inspect the Skywalker premises. The glass in the windows, the red brick in the Tech Building, the ivy on the walls, huge garden, rush-encircled pond, the veranda on the Main House, the covered bridge, the fitness center, the deer, the wild turkeys, olive trees, cattle, California Bay trees, apricots, corn, sunflowers, the swallows flitting across the skyline as the light from the setting sun striated in vertical lines, the late rays breaking over the top of a western butte. Like knowledge streaming into our brains.

Tomorrow we will begin working with John Nutt and Mark Berger and the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi, lost in the types of moments when Betty and I feel like we are barely holding on to a dream become reality, but the reality is big and broad and smiles like the mouth of the Sacramento as it empties from the Carquinez Straights into San Francisco Bay. After that, whence?

Khe Sanh Veteran's Reunion

July 26, 2011

On Rochester, MN

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Betty and I arrived in Rochester, MN with anticipation caught up beneath our lungs like gear jammed in a rucksack. What would these men of Bravo Company think about seeing themselves rendered on film like we had seen them…exposed, frightened, defiant, brave and glorious.

We were nervous. Excited. Even a little fearful.  Weather veered from hot and muggy to cool and windy, to rain, to overcast. The strawberry pannenkoeken were delicious, the Minnesota accents like cue balls clicking off the sides of nine balls. The Mayo Clinic loomed gigantic across the street and beckoned people from all over the world; all religions, and colors. The burkas, the kangas, the cowboy boots.

Every time I leave one of these Khe Sanh Veterans’ reunions I say I’ll never go to another. I have nothing in common with the other attendees but for the past experience of sitting in red mud waiting for the next NVA mortar to arrive. Waiting to live or die. Who needs those memories? Not that we don’t deal with thoughts and fears of the gulf between life and death all through our lives. But in our normal lives, life and death’s urgency gets kicked to the back of the six-by while we deal with traffic and bosses and spouses, children, the dog and cat, cleaning the garage. But at Khe Sanh, the conflict between living and dying clutched our throats moment to moment to moment. Like the hot breath of an Indochinese tiger pursuing us down the trail through a bamboo thicket.

We have nothing in common, nothing in common except….

But then the reunion date approaches and I become anxious and begin to remember forty-three years past and I begin to remember the reunion the prior year. Some men die between reunions, and I didn’t get to spend enough time with them. Some men don’t come back to the reunion, something made them angry, an incautious word may have stabbed them like a bayonet. It hurt. Some of us show up as if we are seeking things we lost and cannot find. As summer approaches, I need to move. I am drawn like a chunk of slag to a magnet.

As we showed the latest cut of Bravo! to the interviewees, I felt my heart hammer in my chest. Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they hate us for exposing them? Did we get the story right?

I think we did. Most said so. Some acted as if we had released over forty years of pent-up rage and fear. Some said very little. Betty and I choose to believe it was a success. We pleased the ones who mattered most.

Later, we showed it again to the greater membership of the Khe Sanh Veterans. I had similar fears, and different ones, too. Would they be angry because we didn’t include them in the movie? Would they find it credible? Again, the response was generous. Men and women had tears in their eyes; they gave hugs of gratitude to Betty and me. Not that some men didn’t have issues. They did, and if they didn’t I would wonder if the movie was really effective.

So now we are back home in Boise, getting laundry done and bags packed for the next leg of Betty and Ken’s fantastic journey. On to Skywalker Ranch, Marin County, CA to do the final sound mix.

I think we are almost finished with the movie. I hope so. I need to get shed of the nightmares this movie inserts into my dreams. Now we just need to get it seen.

Khe Sanh

July 16, 2011

On Red Clay and March 30, 1968

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Our readers who are not veterans of the many combat actions in and around Khe Sanh, Vietnam, may be interested to know that there is an organization of Khe Sanh veterans that hosts an annual reunion, sponsors scholarships for college educations and produces a regular journal titled Red Clay. The ground around Khe Sanh was that particular ferric-laden clay that sticks to everything and stains a bloody red. Red clay was one of the salient features of Khe Sanh that still lives on in the memories and dreams of those who struggled to get out of there alive.

In the latest issue of Red Clay, the editor, Mr. Tom Eichler, included a number of articles about Bravo Company. The list includes a reprinted newspaper article from Marysville, California about the movie Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, discussion and information on what has been called the Ghost Patrol that occurred on February 25, 1968 and an article written by Ken Pipes, the former commanding officer of Bravo Company during the siege and one of the men interviewed for the movie. Titled, “With Bayonets Fixed KHE SANH—30 March 1968,” which Lt. Colonel Pipes wrote some years back, the piece tells the story of Bravo Company Marines on March 30, 1968, which is also an event chronicled in some depth in the film.

Last week, I received a telephone call from Charles Davis, Lt. Colonel, USMC Retired. Lt. Colonel Davis was the S-3 officer for the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines and was tasked, as I understand it, with planning the event on March 30th. He told me that Fred McEwan, Colonel, USMC Retired, the commanding officer of 1/26 at the time and he, Lt. Colonel Davis, had been discussing Ken Pipe’s piece and thought that Ken had been overly modest about his contributions that day, and Lt. Colonel Davis sent me his thoughts.

Lt. Colonel Davis told me I could use his information if it helped our project and I thought I might quote some of what he had to say about Ken Pipes as Bravo Company’s commanding officer on that nasty, brutal and glorious day, 30 March, 1968. As for the plan he and his S-3 staff prepared for the day, Lt. Colonel Davis said:

…(it) contained some of the most extremely difficult and complicated maneuvers found in the small unit tactics handbook: movement to contact under cover of darkness coupled with a planned linkup prior to the attack. All of this occurred with a backdrop of continuous supporting fires from every weapon available to a Marine Infantry Battalion, as well as some borrowed from other services in the area. Normally a unit in the attack would use only one source of fire support at a time. In this raid 105’s, 155’s, 175’s, 4.2 mortars, 81MM mortars and Air were used to isolate the battlefield from the bulk of the enemy forces and our attacking company to maneuver within the defined area of concentration. This tactic required careful adjustment by the unit in the attack to prevent friendly casualties.

So, what we hear from Lt. Colonel Davis is that the plan was very difficult to institute and that Ken Pipes’ leadership was a key factor in its being implemented so successfully. More words on the matter from Lt. Colonel Davis:

A plan of attack such as the one Ken and his troops were asked to undertake would normally only be attempted after numerous rehearsals with well seasoned, experienced troops (a la Seal Team 6 in the bin Laden raid). Nothing about Khe Sanh was normal and therefore the question needs to be asked, why was the raid so successful? Ken, in his usually modest and unselfish attitude, attributes the success to those under him as desire for revenge and the efforts of his Officers and Staff NCOs. While I would never take anything away from their contributions, I would submit Ken’s strong will, military skill and determined leadership was the final factor that carried the attack to its successful completion… He led from the front. When the enemy using “imitative deception” briefly shut down fire support that allowed them to fire several mortar rounds, almost wiping out Ken’s command group and wounding Ken, he refused evacuation, continuing the attack. Even the loss of his artillery FO, Hank Norman, and his radio operator did not deter Ken from continuing the attack. (A key critical element in the planning of what should have been a Battalion raid was to make up for the lack of manpower with massive use of all available supporting arms.) Though painfully wounded, Ken strapped on the radio, coordinated the fire support and led the attack simultaneously. In fact, Ken even personally dispatched several enemy who attacked while Ken was overseeing evacuation of dead and wounded Marines. During the planned withdrawal, Ken was the last to leave the battlefield.

Those of us who served with Ken Pipes know that he was an exemplary commanding officer. In the best tradition of the United States Marine Corps, he led his men, as Lt. Colonel Davis says, “from the front.” When you are a Private, a PFC, a Lance Corporal, a Corporal, and you see your officers and staff non-commissioned officers leading you “from the front,” it makes it easier to charge into the breach of harm’s way and take the fight to your enemy, because that kind of leader shows you how effective combat needs to be accomplished under conditions of extreme difficulty.

And to those of us who served with Ken, we also know that he had other characteristics not always attributed to Marine Corps officers; he genuinely cared about his men and their concerns, he spent time with them on an individual basis, and he had and still has empathy. Lt. Colonel Pipes was awarded a Silver Star for his actions on March 30, 1968.

And for those of us who still survive those days in Khe Sanh, he still leads from the front.

On a separate note, next week Betty and I are on our way to Rochester, Minnesota to the Khe Sanh Veterans reunion. While there, we are going to show the movie, as it is now, to the men we interviewed. After that, we are going to take our show to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California where we will do the final sound mix with our editor John Nutt and the man who will actually do the sound mix, Mark Berger. We have a goal of finishing this film by August 15, 2011. Then we encounter a whole new endeavor. Getting it out so the world will know the story of Bravo and the Siege of Khe Sanh and the Vietnam War, as the interviewees see it now, forty-three years on.

Guest Blogs

June 29, 2011

Part IV

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In the latest update to the saga of Bravo!, co-producer Betty Rodgers remembers the people who made the film possible. And the events. And a few places.

The next step on our serendipitous journey was hearing the news from our profoundly creative editor, John Nutt, that he had arranged to complete our final sound mix at Skywalker Ranch in northern California.  Yes, as in Lucas Films, as in George Lucas!  John had said all along it would be great to mix it there, but these fledgling filmmakers knew little of the possibility.  The thought sounded very exciting, but when the mixing room was actually scheduled, it was nearly overwhelming.

John also explained that we needed to call and make arrangements to stay at Skywalker Inn because the days would be very intense, and we wouldn’t want to make the long drive to and from Skywalker Ranch every day.  It is located out in the hinterlands of Marin County.  So yes, we have confirmed our reservations.

As if that weren’t enough excitement, we then learned from John, a Stella recipient himself, that his colleague Mark Berger would do the final mixing.  Mark has won four Academy Awards and several Stellas (the British equivalent of an Oscar) for his work.  The thought of being in the mixing room…at Skywalker Ranch…with Mark Berger…and John Nutt…and my own husband who was a courageous Marine and is a brilliant mind, author and teacher in his own right…wow.  This is the stuff of which filmmakers’ dreams are made.

And it’s not just in the film end of this enterprise, but in all the avenues down which we need to proceed.  We can’t help but remember one of the first people to volunteer their expertise.   Dave Beyerlein, a website developer and cousin of a dear friend of ours, knew we were trying to put together something for Bravo!  A former Marine himself, Dave patiently guided us through the steps and did most of the work setting up  Our feeble attempts to learn social networking skills were then rescued by Eric Jacky, Amanda Turner, and now our nephew, Galen Rodgers.  All these youngsters are carrying us, Bravo Company, and this film with them into the future. 

Bravo! has also received media attention:  The Springfield, IL, State Journal-Register, the Alamogordo Daily News, the Idaho Statesman, the Casa Grande Dispatch, the Arizona Republic, Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star, and probably others we aren’t even aware of.  A friend of mine since high school, Frances Rae, wrote about Bravo! in northern California’s Territorial Dispatch.  Author and radio personality Amanda Turner has scheduled Ken for her show, the Writer’s Block, on September 15.  Tune in for live streaming on your computer at Noon MDT at

And so here we are today, scrambling to make all the final decisions and tie up loose ends, dealing with licensing and rights and permissions and where our dollars will best be spent.  And we realize how this project would have never come this far, this fast, without the continuing support and encouragement of our generous donors, friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, strangers, and people who know and respect the veterans who gave so much.  There are people who have checked in with us regularly with an inspiring thought, a word of encouragement, a nudge in the right direction, who understand the enormity and complexity of our undertaking.  There are people who have bent over backwards to provide helpful advice and information as we walk this path.

And all of this…all of it…because of the 18-year-old boys who were not afraid to put their own lives on the line, to go off to war on foreign soil in order to help preserve freedom and save a country from oppression.  They saw horrors they never want their children or grandchildren to experience, they did exactly what they were trained to do, they lost buddies and witnessed and exhibited heroism, and they will never forget this experience that changed their lives forever.  This is the story we are telling in Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor.   We are telling it because these men speak for all veterans, everywhere.

In the words of Alan Heathcock, author of VOLT (, “This film is an important historical and human document, priceless in its truth. I saw an early cut of this film and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The men of Bravo Company, who survived the siege of Khe Sanh, deserve to have their voices heard.”

Carol Caldwell-Ewart, Team Bravo’s online impressaria, says, “I saw the current cut of the film last night for the first time, and I believe that all who see it will be powerfully moved. It tells the story of this siege and its aftermath in the lives of the men who fought there with no flash and no glorification—it simply reveals the beauty of their love and sacrifice, their pain and courage and endurance.”

We have two days left on our Indiegogo fundraising campaign.  Donors have carried us over the top, but there are many more expenses ahead.  Please help spread the word so more people can join our other generous donors and be part of telling this important story.  

Bravo! co-producer Betty Rodgers is getting her camera ready to take to western Marin country.