Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

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

January 7, 2015

Author Julie Titone Muses on War and Writing

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When I drive U.S. Highway 95 through North Central Idaho, I often stop near the top of White Bird Hill. A shelter there overlooks the battlefield where Nez Perce braves tangled with the U.S. Cavalry in 1877 before taking their epic flight toward Canada.

One time, a Montana family was there beside me, surveying the high-country panorama. Two grade-school boys were debating who kicked whose butt in the historic battle. Finally the younger one turned to his mom and asked, “Did we lose?”

An older man who was with them replied. He said: “Everybody loses in war.”



Uncle or grandpa, I don’t know. But I’d bet that man was a veteran. I heard his same weary conviction in the voice of Ken Rodgers when he told me once, “Nobody hates war more than a soldier.”

If you’re reading this, you know Ken served in Vietnam. He and his wife, Betty, created the “Bravo!” documentary about the siege of Khe Sanh, capturing the memories of Ken and the other Marines who survived those 77 hellish days. They travel widely to screen the film.

I know Ken and Betty because I’ve been on a similar journey, giving readings from the Grady Myers memoir “Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War.” The title comes from the way American soldiers pronounced beaucoup dien cai dau, a French-Vietnamese expression that meant very crazy. Off the wall.

I was married to Grady during the 1980s. Like Betty, I was the wife who decided those war memories should be preserved. Besides, as a journalist, I knew a good story when I saw one: A funny, artistic and nearsighted Boise teenager is transformed into Hoss, an M-60 machine gunner who nearly dies in battle.

PFC Grady Myers

PFC Grady Myers

I was the scribe for “Boocoo Dinky Dow.” Grady, a professional artist, provided illustrations. After he died in 2011, I published the book.

I found it satisfying to honor a talented man, the father of my son, by making his experiences part of the Vietnam War literature. “Boocoo Dinky Dow” is in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial archives and Texas Tech’s Vietnam Archive. It has found its way into libraries and veterans’ centers, has been discussed in book stores and living rooms. Grady’s war-related artwork is now in the permanent collection of the National Veterans Art Museum.

Publication did more than end a decades-long book project. It started a personal journey. My life is richer for the torrent of stories coming back at me in return for sharing Grady’s.

I’ve heard stories from Marines, Navy and Army vets. But also from nurses and protesters and USO performers. And COs who were conscientious objectors and COs who were commanding officers. And pilots and submariners, professors and cops. And women who waited for brothers and sons who came back unscathed, at least on the outside. I’ve talked to people forged by war and people broken by it.

Even the stories I don’t hear intrigue me. At “Boocoo Dinky Dow” readings, I’ve learned to watch for the guy at the back of the room, a guy in his 60s. He sits there, arms crossed, maybe nods a time or two. As others in the audience come up to chat, I look over their shoulders and see him head out the door. Can he not bring himself to talk about what he did in the war, having suffered what journalist David Wood calls “moral injury”?

Author Julie Titone and Vietnam Veteran Bill Crist at the National Veterans Art Museum

Author Julie Titone and Vietnam Veteran Bill Crist at the National Veterans Art Museum

Maybe he doesn’t feel worthy of recognition. Or doesn’t think he’ll get it. One combat vet told me, “I don’t want to be thanked for my service. I didn’t want to go. I was drafted.” Two sentences later, he was explaining how he worked hard not to resent Iraq and Afghanistan vets for having been welcomed home by the public.

Mixed emotions and complexity are the hallmarks of this war-story enterprise. How must it feel to have watched buddies die in a war that became a synonym for failure? Last time I Googled the words “another Vietnam,” there were 143,000 results.

I feel plenty of confusion myself. I grapple with the increasing awareness that, in addition to horror and waste, war yields friendship, pride, and the occasional vanquishment of evil. War is a stage for both despicable crimes and crystalline acts of conscience. As Grady’s memoir and the “Bravo!” documentary show, war can inspire art.

Author Julie Titone with Khe Sanh Veteran Steve Orr

Author Julie Titone with Khe Sanh Veteran Steve Orr

When Ken told me that “nobody hates war more than a soldier,” he was responding to some angst I shared with him. I was fretting about the fine line that exists between honoring warriors and promoting wars. I didn’t want to step over that line. Frankly, I’m still not sure where it is.

But Ken is right. Most combat veterans fully understand the words that Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe said in surrender. That he was tired of fighting. That he would fight no more, forever.

Julie Titone’s articles and photographs have appeared in regional, national and international publications as well as college textbooks and literary collections. She lives in Everett, WA. To learn more about the authors of “Boocoo Dinky Dow” and to order the book, visit

Guest Blogs

May 30, 2011

Part 1

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Today, Betty Rodgers, one of the producers for Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor, muses on veterans and Memorial Day.

I was conceived not long after WWII ended. During that conflict, my maternal grandmother was a Gray Lady in the Red Cross, my mother was a Red Cross employee and USO volunteer, my biological father was a stretcher bearer in the European Arena, and my Aunty Kay was a WAC officer in New Guinea where she met her future husband, Harry Dennis, an officer who was serving there as well. Needless to say, I grew up in a family that honored and respected veterans for their service to our country and the preservation of freedom. Aunty Kay and Uncle Harry went on to become leaders in the American Legion and my aunt fought long and hard for women’s veteran’s rights and the betterment of medical care and conditions in veteran’s hospitals nationwide. Some of the most treasured books on Mother’s shelves are about WWII.

They had all believed that WWII would be the war to end all wars so their children and grandchildren would never have to experience battle.

Then came the Korean War, and after that, the war of my generation, the Vietnam War. That’s when Aunty Kay and Uncle Harry’s sons (my cousins) all enlisted in the military, along with many of my childhood friends. My first serious boyfriend was killed in Vietnam when he stepped on a landmine.

Fast forward to 1985 when I married Ken Rodgers, a Vietnam veteran. One of his best friends told me that Ken was a true war hero, having served at Khe Sanh. I gradually learned more and more about his experience and how it impacted his life, but never more than when I met the men he served with in Bravo Company and heard their shared stories in Washington, DC, in 1993. These were Marines with the same heart and beliefs as our WWII veterans, but the way it all played out in their lives was completely different. They were not respected and considered heroes by the general American public.

In July 2008, Ken and I once again attended the annual reunion of Khe Sanh veterans. Again, I listened and observed the bond that existed from the common experience of Bravo Company. I saw men from every walk of life, with every color of skin, with every possible philosophical bent, who would have never known each other except for the Vietnam War. I saw how their Company Commander, Ken Pipes, was still leading his men, and the mutual love and respect that comes only from knowing each other’s heart under the pressure of terrifying adversity.

At the next reunion in 2009, it became clear that the story of Bravo Company was slowly evaporating with each telling, and was just as relevant as the wars of previous generations. We also realized we were losing the men one by one, and with them, their stories. Ken and I agreed the history needed to be preserved in some way as soon as possible, and we sought and received the thumbs up from Ken Pipes.

The question became how to go about it. Write a book? No. Oral histories? Not enough. Documentary film? Perfect. Could we do it? Let’s give it our all. And so far the journey has been humbling, enlightening, encouraging and inspiring. I’ll talk more about it in Part II. In the meantime, we’re coming in the home stretch on creating the film.

And so today, Memorial Day 2011, I remember and thank all the people in my life, and Ken’s life, and yours, who have served our country and its fundamental purpose as stated in the Preamble to the Constitution, to “…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”

Betty and Ken Rodgers have been hitched together for over twenty-six years. Bravo! Common Men, Uncommon Valor is just the latest of a string of successful collaborations.