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Veterans and Flagler students team up to produce documentary on Vietnam

Mar 4, 2011
by Priscilla Proctor

Harry Mansford, a Vietnam Veteran and St. Johns Country resident, says he can still hear a helicopter well before anyone else can.

“I have a hearing problem, and I can still hear one even when it’s off in the distance, “he said. “I suppose it’s because that sound is embedded in my brain.”

Mansford is one of five Vietnam Veterans who participated in a documentary called “Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice and Courage; Local Neighbors, National Heroes.” He also served as a Sergeant in the Marine Corps in the war from 1965 to 1966.

Michael Isam, a Vietnam veteran himself, was one of 15 Flagler College students who participated in the creation and filming of the documentary for a communication class television workshop. Isam was both the scriptwriter and the narrator for the documentary that featured numerous vets.

The documentary was directed by Flagler College alum, Josh Wallace, ‘04, who is also the Flagler College TV Station Manager, and produced by Michael Rothfeld, president of the Florida Veterans Programs & Projects Inc. Rothfeld and his organization were responsible for producing two other similar documentaries on WWII and the Korean War.

“When we made the WWII documentary, all of the veterans were very anxious to have their stories told,” Rothfeld said. “When we started working on ‘Korea: The Forgotten War,’ they [veterans] were thrilled that we were going to interview them. In the beginning, when we first started placing calls to the Vietnam veterans, they wouldn’t talk to me; they were very leery.”

Isam said, “They weren’t certain how we would portray them, and we understood why. The Vietnam War is still such a political soccer ball. It is kicked all the time.”

The documentary dispels certain myths about the Vietnam War; for example, many believe that most who fought were drafted when the reality is that two-thirds volunteered. It also reveals that 2.59 million Americans served in the war, one out of 10 Americans lost their lives, and 58,169 were either killed or missing in action (MIA).

For many, the memories of the war are still with them and tough to talk about. Tom Crawford, who was a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, said he still has disturbing dreams about the war.

Wallace said he learned a lot about the war during the making of the documentary.

“Documenting their personal stories was really eye-opening,” he said. “It’s just a war you don’t hear too much about because it’s always over-shadowed by the political issues related to that particular war.”

Isam said the Flagler College students, under the guidance of Wallace, did most of the work for the documentary.

“The students really did the lion’s share of the work,” Isam said. “They were the ones who carried around the cameras and lights, amongst other things. They set everything up, got it running, did the actual filming, then brought everything back into the editing booth and said, ‘OK, capture all of this.’ ”

The documentary aired on WJCT TV, the PBS affiliate in Jacksonville,Fla., throughout the week surrounding Veterans Day in November.

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