Before I begin I need to apologize to everyone for the inaccuracies I will undoubtedly put forth here. They are not intentional and I hope the basic story does not suffer.
My website has no commercials or ads. But I am going to blatantly appeal to all of you reading this to go to another website and spend money. Last post I introduced you to Pat and Cheryl Fries.
Pat and Cheryl have done some amazing work on the half of the Vietnam vets. I am asking all of you to buy at least two DVDs at this website. The first is titled, “In The Shadow Of The Blade”; the second is titled, “When I Have Your Wounded”. If any of you are able to watch either one of these documentaries and not shed a tear, I will cheerfully buy the DVD from you.
I first met Pat and Cheryl at a VHPA reunion when they were working on “In The Shadow Of The Blade”. The movie was close to our hearts because, among others, it told the story of Lt Douglas and all the lives his tragic death touched. It is a far reaching story that I’d like to briefly summarize for you here.
The primary persona in this story are:
Lt Leslie F Douglas (AKA “L” “T”) and his crew mates Lt Richard Dyer, SP5 John L Burgess and SFC Juan C Diaz. All of whom died when their Huey was shot down during the Cambodian campaign on 30 June 1970.
John Gooseman (AKA “Goose”). The door gunner on that Huey and sole survivor of the crash that day.
Two of my closest friends that were my hooch mates for most of our tour: Jim Coleman (AKA “Choo Choo” or just “Chooch”) and William Tritt (AKA “Harv”).
Of course the families of all concerned have been enormously impacted in ways no fiction writer could imagine.
The story begins the night before that fateful mission. Harv was assigned the mission and was hit with an impacted wisdom tooth. Lt Douglas told him that he would take the mission and Harv was to see the flight surgeon the next morning.
Another crucial aspect of this story is the relationship between Chooch and L.T. They had a connection because they both had infant daughters back home that were starting out life without dads. In the event one of them should die in Vietnam they promised each other to visit the other’s daughter and tell her about her dad and what he did in the Army.
Many of us made similar pacts but none of us could foresee the enormous burden that would fall upon the survivor.
I’m not privy too nor can I remember all of the intricacies of the lives of the survivors but I’ll give you what little I can remember.
Chooch could not bring himself to visit LT’s daughter for many emotional reasons.
Harv was racked with guilt and had great difficulty even going to the service we held at our unit shortly after the crash. I can’t imagine the emotional problems he has to process for the rest of his days. We are screwed up enough anyway.
Goose was overwhelmed by the trauma and loss so common to sole survivors of such horrific events. He eventually tried to contact LT’s daughter and learned that her family had been devastated by Leslie’s death. She was raised by her grandmother after her mother was institutionalized. The story threw him deep into all the bad places such experiences send you. It was a place that Pat and Cheryl helped him leave behind and become very close to LT’s daughter.
Enter two struggling journalists with an idea for their first documentary film about Vietnam. They would acquire a rebuilt UH1 and pilot and fly it around the country to show the survivors of deceased Vietnam vets the one thing that bound all of us together, the Huey. Their story is one of incredible perseverance, luck and sacrifice to pull several different stories together and show how the Huey was the one common denominator.
There is so much more; Chooch and LT’s daughter not only meet but he ends up giving her away at her wedding. I can’t even write about it without choking up. But you all know that I am all marshmallow under that rugged facade.
Anyway, this movie has changed all of our lives. For the better. And, it is only the tip of the iceberg that is the good these two have done. The second movie,”When I Have Your Wounded”, is the incredible story of how the tradition of the “Medivac” mission was defined in Vietnam by the heroics of one man. A must see.
There are so many stories of how these two have influenced the lives of Vietnam vets that I will revisit at least one more at a later date. Until then I’m asking all of you to go to: www.arrowheadfilms.com and buy at least these two films. If I had the resources I would gift you all with copies. If you can comply with my request, my eternal gratitude. They have not grown rich from their enterprises but they deserve to. Such is the fate of most documentary filmmakers. We can’t all be Ken Burns.
Tonight I’m in Amarillo on my way to Denver; the weather is perfect, hope yours is also.