It has been a banner year for movies about our military heroes. An American Sniper has grossed more than 300 million dollars, more than the other Best Picture Oscar contenders combined. Other recent offerings include Unbroken, The Imitation Game, and Fury. However, last week a book-turned-movie that has been many years in production premiered in California, and whose story I have been awaiting for a long time. When it comes to our area, I will see it first chance I get. I plan to take a lot of Kleenex, and I might just go with a bunch of ‘Nam vets from the Vets’ Museum so I can tell them one more time how sorry I am that I ever bought into the idea that they were “baby killers.” The movie’s name is Ride The Thunder: A Vietnam War Story Of Honor And Triumph.
It tells the story of Vietnam from the perspective of Vietnamese soldiers and the Americans who fought alongside them. It is without apology willing to say that the South Vietnamese are forever grateful to Americans for helping them fight communism, something that would send people like “my former self in another lifetime” into cardiac arrest.
There are a number of reasons why I want to see this movie, and they are not all cathartic. I will be the first to tell you that the facts of what occurred in Vietnam are murky to me, and I know from having lived on an intel base in Iraq that “human intel is the best intel.” In other words, human “source documents” are always the most accurate, and I am happier than I can say that such an outstanding opportunity to hear the voices of the battlefield brothers, and to also let them set the record straight has come our way. I hope that like Sniper, Thunder is a blockbuster.
Ride The Thunder’s author and the film’s Executive Producer, Richard Botkin, had the following to say about the era when returning vets were advised to not get off the plane in Oakland in uniform for their own safety: "The men who served in Vietnam are every bit as great as their dads and uncles who served in World War II, The reason they're not called the Greatest Generation is because Vietnam's generation had people like Jane Fonda out there muddying up the waters, and John Kerry. There were several hundred thousand junior officers who served in the Marine Corps and Army, and yet the only name that is ever recalled is Lt. William Calley. We've got to change that."
After the war had been over for several years, former President Richard Nixon lamented, "No event in American history is more misunderstood than the Vietnam War. It was misreported then. It is misremembered now."
Contrast those comments with those of our current Secretary of State, who threw away his Purple Heart: "We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service."
It appears rather, that after more than 40 years, a merciful God is making it possible for people like me to “know the truth,” and have that truth make all of us of the Woodstock Generation fully free. At last the honor that is due the warriors of America and Vietnam will be lavished upon them with no reservation, and I could weep for joy.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner