Directors Alicia Brauns and Christine Steele have cobbled together a Vietnam War documentary that is as fascinating as it is, at times, disturbing.
On Valentine’s Day, 1969 a Medevac helicopter crashed while under fire and two of its five crew members (Gary Dubach and Stephen Schumacher) were killed. The wreckage was retrieved and shipped back Stateside where, eventually, it came to the attention of Vietnam vet and sculptor Steve Maloney. The visionary artist sensed an opportunity to turn long-ago misery into an important part of the ongoing healing process for current-day war vets by refurbishing the shell of the helicopter, covering its outer “skin” with meaningful images then (e.g., a large slice of apple pie; a curvaceous bathing beauty) and now (utilizing graffiti to remember some of the colloquial names for the choppers such as Dust Off). Inside, rather than a fully outfitted cockpit and gunnery, a time capsule containing very personal memorabilia along with dangling reminders of the awful cost to all of those involved offer dozens of conversation starters for vets and newcomers alike.
The labour of love, remembrance and healing took the combined efforts of many who had survived the “hell in the jungle” and those just entering the military field.
The result is an incredible testament to both the actual crew involved almost 48 years ago and a concrete, cautionary reminder to those who have never shot a weapon in anger as to the deadly reality of failed diplomacy leading to armed conflict.
A specially commissioned song for the film by Jeanie Cunningham celebrates the bravery of the troops but, tellingly, with the line, The war never once declared, rekindles the debate as to just why 2.7 million Americans had to be put in harm’s way. As with current battles raging around the globe, the collateral damage and friendly fire tragedies on both sides prove yet again how little progress humankind has made in learning just how to get along.
Of course, those who do survive any brutal tour of duty are left with never-ending nightmares. It is reported that every 65 minutes an American war vet commits suicide, so even after apparent victories, the death toll continues to rise.
As is clearly stated before the actual film begins, there is some very graphic footage included between the documentation of Huey’s “artstruction.” Perhaps worst of those is seeing soldiers placing the ace of spades into the dead mouths of America’s enemies. Is there no dignity even in death?
From the mouths of two Vietnam vets: “I killed and I liked it”: “I enjoyed my work” will send unforgettable chills down the spines of many or induce, “Right on!” from some.
A viewing is recommended for all of those who may have lived through that “conflict”, the family members of those who didn’t, but, perhaps most importantly, those who may be inspired to use their power, influence or vote to make the War on War a winnable proposition. JWR