Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Tucson’

Amazon Prime,Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Veterans,Vietnam War

April 25, 2018

April 25–50 Years Gone

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On leave at home in Arizona, waiting to head to Camp Pendleton for my next Marine Corps billet, I spent a lot of time partying and sleeping and driving around at five AM on dusty farm roads, moving at 70 MPH or faster in my parents’ brown Buick LeSabre, a chilled can of Coors on the seat between my legs.

Feeling guilty because I’d promised the men of Bravo, 1/26, special things that I would send along when I got home: brownies, cookies, a fifth of Chivas Regal. Instead of arranging to send those goodies, I got drunk and ate home-cooked chow and aimlessly drove amongst the cotton and alfalfa fields like a sheriff’s deputy speeding to a bank robbery.

Cotton crop ready for harvest near the author’s original home in Arizona

Later in the Arizona mornings, with a newspaper on the kitchen counter and a cup of Folgers steaming in my hand, I read about the war. Most of what I read concerned news about battles in places I did not know, head counts of dead people, both the enemy and our folks. I suspect I hoped for news about the men I’d served with, but 1968 was a tumultuous year for the war and a host of stories were out there; too many, I imagine.

Even though I tried, I couldn’t shove scenes of my year at war out of mind. Wrecked helicopters and busted sandbags and triple canopy jungle that hid who knew what, the tangle of vines, and the last two-and-one-half months of my tour, the thump and thunder of incoming, incoming, incoming.

All the images and sounds of war got mixed up in keg parties in the foothills north of Tucson and me in the Buick LeSabre, sitting in the drive-through lane at six in the morning at Pinal Liquors waiting for them to open, or on a date in Tempe with one of my old girl friends, me not having anything to say about anything that were familiar to her about English 101 or Sociology or what kind of swimming suits her other friends were planning to wear when they went water skiing at Saguaro Lake the next weekend.

On Easter, my mother demanded I go with her to church where she had volunteered me to deliver a speech about the war in Vietnam. I stood up in a church for the last time—unless it was for a wedding or a funeral—and tried to get the words out that might enlighten folks about what it was like to crawl through mud and slime to save your life.

Afterwards, all the ladies in the church who were friends of my mother’s cornered me with attempts to tell me how glad they were that I made it home, but to me it was like being trapped, under attack by an enemy I could not understand. I didn’t think I could somehow explain that instead of a brotherhood based on Jesus like we’d heard about that day, I survived because of a brotherhood based on the 7.62mm bullet and the bloody bayonet and the M79 grenade launcher, and that my salvation at Khe Sanh came in part from men I didn’t even know—nor probably ever would—who sortied out of Thailand and Guam with B-52s loaded with tons of bombs and by jet pilots who dropped napalm on the NVA hidden in the valleys to our front and all the supply flights that kept us knee-deep in ammo and fed with a minimum amount of chow.

So I fled church for a Camel cigarette and another sortie down to the liquor store for a six-pack of Coors and a pint of Old Crow. Ooorah! And then I drove around the streets I used to know, and thought and remembered.

When I pondered then and think now about Khe Sanh—the Americans who died in that place, and who knows how many of the enemy—I see the red dust on everything and the red mud that got on your hands and face and stuck like cement to whatever it came in contact with: M16s, entrenching tools, jungle boots. I see trenches roaring with runoff from rain, rain, incessant rain, and I see Marines standing knee-deep in the torrent as the black night surrounds them, choking down their thoughts of home. I see men crammed into bunkers sharing lies about sex and home and cars and fighting. I see grunts storming up the sides of steep hills choked with jungle grass that sliced their skin. I see bodies on the ground, their faces the yellow tint of the dead. I see myself leaning over to find out if I know who the dead might be. I see a hell of a waste of lives spent over a piece of land that, when matters settled out, wasn’t that important.

Blogger Ken Rodgers at Khe Sanh just before the siege began in January 1968. Photo courtesy of Michael E. O’Hara.

I see young men who went to war as Marines and who for the most part proved eager to quash the evil of the world. In my mind’s eye I see many of their names etched into the black stone on The Wall and who they were and what the did in Vietnam will weigh down my thoughts as long as I am able to think.

The memories of the dead—and the living—are strong.

***

NEWS!

BRAVO! is now available in digital form on Amazon Prime. Please check it out if you are interested, and please consider sharing this news with your friends and contacts whom you think might be interested in seeing the film. And please ask them to give us a review if they would. It will help get the film out to a broader audience.

This link will take you directly to BRAVO!’s Amazon Prime site where you can take a look at the options for streaming: https://amzn.to/2Hzf6In.

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ON THE SCREENING FRONT:

At 3:00 PM on May 27, 2018, BRAVO! will be screened in Paris, TN at the Krider Performing Arts Center. You can find out more about this event and the Krider Performance Art Center here.

***

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.

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

April 11, 2018

Home

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Fifty Years Gone—April 11, 1968

I fidgeted inside a Continental Airlines 707 in Okinawa waiting for the B-52s lined up on the flight line to take off. I glanced at the tattered and dog-eared pages of a Max Brand book I’d been trying to read for months about a buckaroo named Destry. Then I peered around at the others on the flight, all of them Marines (other than the crew), none of whom I knew. I looked out the port hole and studied the B-52s again. Their dark fuselages ginned-up images of hell, avengers and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When the B-52s finally rolled forward, their long wings drooped and prompted metaphors of sharp-taloned hawks.

And then we were airborne, over the Pacific, headed for home, my thoughts saturated with scenes and noises and stenches of the battlefield. And even though I tried to read about Destry, nothing else managed to crowd into my mind except memories of Khe Sanh.

We flew over Iwo Jima. It looked like a distorted version of a figure eight and I wondered about all those men who had died over that little piece of volcanic rock.

Iwo Jima from the air.

At El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, we deplaned. I wanted to drop down, do a pushup and kiss the deck, but I didn’t. We put up with Marine Corps hassle as we processed to go on leave and then board a bus to LA and the airport.

After I got my airline ticket to Tucson, I called home, trying to tell someone that I needed a ride, but no one answered. I finally contacted the mother of my best friend who told me she’d make sure someone showed up to get me.

I waited in the airport lounge, smoking Camels and drinking real beer—Coors beer—wanting someone to say something about me being home, being alive, being a Vietnam vet who’d sacrificed for his county. Nobody said a damned thing except the bartender who muttered “thanks” when I left him a tip.

Not long before I climbed aboard my flight, a young Marine came in and plopped down at the bar in a seat next to me. He was going on leave before shipping out for Nam. He wanted to know what it was like. I said, “Keep your head down.”

On the flight to Tucson, I sat next to a girl who seemed about my age. She wouldn’t look at me. I could have struck up a conversation but I didn’t know what to talk about. I didn’t think she’d care about 152mm artillery rounds that shook the ground, severed arms and legs, and if they landed too close to you, forced blood out of the pores of your body.

At Tucson, my parents met me as I headed down a set of stairs to baggage claim where my best friend and his fiancé waited. I could tell by the way they all stared at me that I wasn’t quite the person they’d expected.

We went to a well-known Mexican food restaurant in Old Town. I craved green chili. After we sat, I ordered a Coke. I wanted a beer but didn’t think my mother would approve.

Our meals arrived and I talked about Khe Sanh, what I saw, how I felt. They didn’t look at me, just turned to on their ground beef tacos, their green chili and queso enchiladas.

For decades after, when thinking about that moment, the top of my father’s balding head would invade my mind. It was what they showed me as they ate: the tops of their heads.

Blogger Kn Rodgers at Khe Sanh in 1968. Photo courtesy of Michael E. O’Hara.

At the time, I thought nobody was interested in what happened and maybe, in general, that was the attitude of a lot of Americans; they didn’t want to have to consider the particulars of death and carnage. But now, I think, my family and friends just didn’t know how to respond to what I described, since the Siege inhabited a universe too far outside the ken of their experience.

So, I just shut up.

By myself in the back seat of my parents’ Buick, riding through the black Sonoran Desert night, I looked out the window and thought about Khe Sanh, the siege, the dead, my fear, the memories of which I naively imagined would just slip away.

***
NEWS!

BRAVO! is now available in digital form on Amazon Prime. Please check it out if you are interested, and please consider sharing this news with your friends and contacts whom you think might be interested in seeing the film. And please ask them to give us a review if they would. It will help get the film out to a broader audience.

***

ON THE SCREENING FRONT:

At 3:00 PM on May 27, 2018, BRAVO! will be screened in Paris, TN at the Krider Performing Arts Center. You can find out more about this event and the Krider Performance Art Center here.

***

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.

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

April 6, 2018

Juxtaposition

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We have posted poems here friends as well Marines who fought at Khe Sanh and elsewhere during the Vietnam War, including poetry from friend and supporter Betty Plevney, Vietnam veteran and Marine Barry Hart and most recently Bravo Company’s Skipper, Ken Pipes. Poems are a good way to capture the imagery and action related to combat.

Recently I wrote a blog about the Payback Patrol of 3/30/1968. One of our friends, Susan Parker, who is an ardent supporter of BRAVO! COMMON MEN, UNCOMMON VALOR, read that blog and was moved to compose a poem.

Susan Parker. Photo courtesy of Susan Parker

She captured, in my opinion, both the agony of combat and the disconnect between the world at home and the world of war. Check it out!

Juxtaposition—March 30, 1968

By Susan Parker

Dressed in jungle green,
you ran through the hell fires of war,
blood trickling down your face,
the stench of phosphorus and death
pungent on the tropical air, dragging
dead and dying men through a muddy trench,
grenades and bombs exploding,
sounds of gunshot ringing in your ears.

Fearless in facing the enemy,
you were “cutting the mustard.”

Dressed in virginal white,
I strolled the length of a red-carpeted aisle,
sheer tulle veil covering cheeks ablush with excitement,
high-heeled satin pumps pinching manicured toes,
gardenias glistening with morning dew
softening the early spring air,
organ music of “Here Comes the Bride”
echoing through the church.

Ignorant of your courage and sacrifice,
I was cutting the wedding cake.

Writer and poet Susan Parker was born in a small town in Northern California but never enjoyed the cold, gray and damp weather. One who embraces change, she traveled south throughout the years finally moving to Tucson, Arizona where she found warmth and inspiration for her writing. Susan is the author of Angel on My Doorstep—An Ordinary Woman’s Journey with Those from the Other Side, an autobiography of her lifelong paranormal adventures, with emphasis on those that took place before, during and after her husband’s passing. She has also published a book of poetry, Lady by the Bay, and recorded a CD, She Rode a Wild Horse, which includes her original Western poetry along with poems written by others.

Susan Parker on the left with Vietnam veteran Eric Hollenbeck of Blue Ox Millworks, Eureka, California. Photo courtesy of Betty Rodgers

About her inspiration for her latest poem, “Juxtaposition—March 30, 1968,” Susan says that during one of her conversations with Ken several years ago he mentioned the importance of the date to him. Susan realized that this was the same date that she married her first husband, and how different their lives were on that day. With a twinge of guilt, she thought to herself, Ken lived in a nightmare world while I lived in a fairy tale world, oblivious to the horrors of war.

Reading Ken’s blog post this March 30th, she was moved to tears. Her muse shook her by the shoulders and shouted, “You have to write this, this juxtaposition of your lives on that day!”

And so she did.

***

On the screening front: On April 7, at 1:00 PM Bravo will be screened at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho. following the screening, there will be a panel of Khe Sanh survivors who will talk about the experience. You can find out more about the event and the Warhawk Air Museum here.

At 3:00 PM on May 27, 2018, BRAVO! will be screened in Paris, TN at the Krider Performing Arts Center. You can find out more about this event and the Krider Performance Art Center here.

***

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.

Documentary Film,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

February 1, 2012

One Hell of a Story

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From Elko, Nevada, where there is a threat of snow, news on the news of Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor. Read co-producer Ken Rodger’s guest blog   posted at James Goertel’s All Lit Up, at NextTV, on the genesis of the movie from his escape from Khe Sanh until today, February 1, 2012. The post is at http://bit.ly/A001S1.

Guest Blogs

June 27, 2011

Part III

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Co-Producer Betty Rodgers continues comments on the creation of the movie Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor.

And then, serendipity stepped in…the delicate thread that weaves a web we could never have conceived.  After returning home from Washington, DC, and cataloguing all our materials, Ken and I went to visit our son and his family before Christmas of 2010.  His hometown newspaper, the Casa Grande Dispatch, published an article on Ken and Bravo!, and old acquaintances commented how they were eager for the film because they’d finally get to know the story of Ken’s experience.  He had never talked about the war after returning home.

It so happened that the Associated Press picked up the story, and it was published in several Arizona newspapers. At the same time, a sound and picture editor from northern California visited his daughter in Tucson.  He, John Nutt, and his wife Ann saw the article, and Ann suggested that John contact us and offer to help with Bravo!.  He was reluctant because he said it appeared the project was nearly complete.  Ann persisted and one day our phone rang. The caller said he was looking for Ken Rodgers the filmmaker.  It was John, who explained he was a Vietnam Veteran and had worked in film for 40 years.  He was interested in working with us, and we discovered his credentials were impressive.

While considering John’s offer, Sharon Larson of Larson Sound here in Idaho worked with us on all our audio recordings, cleaning them up and making them more intelligible where needed.  Sharon has been another “You can do it” cheerleader and referral source from the first time we met.

We took a little time to respond to John’s offer because we were considering local editors, and working with John would be a long-distance affair.  But we went to meet him, and that was the beginning of a thrilling and eye-opening adventure.  This was a man who believed so deeply in giving voice to these 15 survivors that he has lived and breathed their story for months, patiently guiding and teaching us along the way.  We are able to work with him closely thanks to telephone, email, and Federal Express/UPS.  The first rough cut was a revelation.  We were stunned by John’s insight and mastery of this story that speaks for all veterans, and at his ability to move it into the dimension of film with the materials we had provided.

We invited a few folks over to view the first rough cut with us, eager for their reactions and feedback.  Their response was strong validation…two thumbs-up from all. 

Backing up a bit, after our interview with Bravo Company Marine  Steve Wiese, Steve found some old cassette tapes in his mother’s belongings.  Come to find out, she had sent him tapes while he was at Khe Sanh, and he had recorded daily life in the trenches.  Steve thought she had taped over his recordings long ago, but no, they were still intact.  Very clear were the sounds and experiences of Bravo Company, as true and authentic as one could hope for.  It was an incredible find.  When he contacted Ken about whether of not we could use them, there was no hesitation in our positive response.

We also did some research on two very famous photographers who were at Khe Sanh, Robert Ellison and David Douglas Duncan.  Ken remembered Mr. Ellison taking his picture at least twice, and that he had perished in the crash of a C-123 at Khe Sanh.  We tracked down his work, did not find images of Ken, but did find images of Bravo Company during the siege.  They are held by an agency, and we are deciding how many of them to purchase licenses for.

David Douglas Duncan is still alive.  He is 95 years old and lives in southern France.  His body of work is held at the University of Texas.  We wish to use 4 of his images.  The procedure was to compose our request to him in the form of a letter, fax the letter to the university, who in turn faxed it on to Mr. Duncan in France.  We did this, and about a week later, Mr. Duncan called to discuss our project.

First of all, as a fellow photographer, talking to a man of his stature was such a privilege.  He is lively and wise, and asked many questions, among which was, “Where was your husband’s company located at the Khe Sanh Combat Base?”  When I said, “Next to the ammo dump,” there was a long pause, and then he said, “Oh my God.”  (This huge store of ammunition was targeted and blown up by the NVA.)  More questions, and a discussion about his latest book to be published soon, all images taken with a Nikon COOLPIX point-and-shoot.  Then he said, “I approve the use of these photos,” and this remarkable conversation was over.  Now we are working with the university to purchase licenses for those images.

The magical thread takes us to another remarkable person, a friend of John’s, Christopher Beaver. John showed Chris, an award-winning and passionate documentary filmmaker, the first rough cut to get his reaction.  He offered to speak with us, and told us we had a very important film, to take our time and not rush into things, to submit it to film festivals, and allow it to take on its own life.  Here, in Chris’ words:

“Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor is an important and deeply affecting film about the sacrifices and the courage of the Americans who fought in Vietnam. The emotional message of the film is as timely today as when the first American troops entered Vietnam.

“After watching the film, I sat in a deep personal silence remembering the friends who returned from the war and those who did not.  I wanted to express my gratitude to the men in the film for sharing what they went through, to say to each one of them that after hearing their words and seeing their faces I better understood what they endured then and what they still endure today, and that I hoped in the future that together we might find a better path to follow than more warfare. 

“To participate in the creation of this film is to honor those who served in Vietnam and to help heal the wounds that remain from the war that took so many lives and so deeply divided our country.”

To participate today, please click on www.indiegogo.com/bravo-common-men-uncommon-valor.  With 4 days left, we have surpassed our goal of $3,000 but as you will read, there are many other expenses to fund.  Stay tuned for Part IV, “coming soon” as they say in the film business.

Betty Rodgers is a writer and photographer turned film maker. Along with her husband Ken, she is husbanding the movie, Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, from beginning to end.