Memorial Day weekend was a delightful one for me. I spent time lounging in the sun, reading, swimming, doing laundry, running with my dog, and spending time with loved ones. I did some thrill-seeking as well, but it's likely best to leave those details off record. Those whom don't know me well might find such thrill-seeking beyond unladylike (just ask in person, and we'll chat about it). All in all, though, it was exactly the relaxing weekend I so desperately needed.
On one of my adventures in running with my dog, I stopped to talk to a neighbor named Dennis. We've waved / chatted previously but I had the chance to actually introduce myself this weekend. Inevitably, our conversation turned into one about Abandoned Allies when he asked me what I do. (That's always a tough question for me these days; which of the many businesses/projects/jobs should I disclose?) You should have seen his eyes lit up when I told him about the film. Dennis said that he had served in the United States Army for many years. He had just missed serving in Vietnam, too.
A subtle joy came to his face when he started talking about his time in the Army, as he took a break from planting grass. It was as if times of joy and youth flooded his memory, because the hard work of gardening and stagnant heat seemed to disappear from his face. He smiled while he talked. I returned his smile and after he paused I said, "Thank you for your service." The gratitude seemed to surprise him.
This happens frequently these days.
The film has introduced me to so many fine men of all walks of life and ages. We talk at great length about their tough training, time in the service, and how it changed their lives. We talk about politics and what's happening today. We talk about the film, too, since they seem to have a lot of questions about it.
Mostly I do a lot of listening and observing. These strong, reserved men have me absolutely mesmerized when they talk--no matter whether they're retired or still serving. I want to spend hours talking to them, hearing their personal stories. I share with them my gratitude for serving so that I can enjoy living in a free country. It's as if they're being appreciated for the first time when I tell them thank you.
Our world today is very different than it was many years ago. My grandparents were of a generation that served because it was one's duty. My parents were of a generation that saw the true ugliness of war broad casted in the media, as so many of their young friends came home in coffins and public opinion of the war turned into violent opposition. Where does my generation stand? What will the historians write about us, and our war?
So many of my hours are spent editing this film. Piecing the clips together to make some semblance of an interesting, entertaining story. And at certain moments, the story gets to me. Really gets to me. All of the chaos that is this lifetime--the events, tragedies, beauties, people, moments in time--they all stop floating at random and line up to make absolute and perfect sense to me.
In those moments, when I let it all sink in, I find myself weeping. There is so much beauty in this story, and in our lifetime. There's so much pain and suffering, too. It all becomes a bit too much for me on occasion, and I stop and weep. All of that chaos lines up to make perfect sense, and I see and feel the bigger picture almost as if it were tangible.
Every day I ache to show you this film. I ache to finish it, to make it the best it can be within our limits, and to open your eyes to what I have seen and understood. I only hope that you forgive my developing skills as a storyteller and filmmaker, and appreciate the truths as I have discovered them or seek out these truths on your own.
If nothing else, I hope that you'll thank the service men and women you meet. Give them a hug. Buy them a drink. Tell them thank you. This includes our Montagnard allies. My heart is filled with gratitude.