It’s an exciting time for us at Veterans Advantage as we prepare for this year’s Veterans Week NYC, where we’ll celebrate you: our nation’s veterans, military members and military family members. This is an entire week of activities surrounding Veterans Day and the great parade that takes place that day.
One item on the schedule that I’m especially excited for is a special screening of HBO’s Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, which was recently re-mastered by HBO to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. I’m proud to say that IMAX has arranged this private screening of the newly-digitized documentary for Veterans Advantage members and their guests.
As some of you might already know, I was a member of the New York Vietnam Veterans Memorial Commission when we collected many letters written by service members like myself who served during the war. These letters were eventually compiled and published in the book, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, upon which HBO’s documentary of the same name is based.
The film, directed by Bill Couturie, features a selection of these letters written by American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at various and vastly different points throughout the conflict. Presented along with archive footage from amateur 8 mm film, NBC-TV and the Department of Defense, each letter is read by one of 40 Hollywood stars that took part in the production of this highly-personal look into the war.
Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Robert De Niro, Brian Dennehy, Kevin Dillon, Matt Dillon, Robert Downey Jr., Michael J. Fox, Mark Harmon, Sean Penn, Randy Quaid, Martin Sheen, Charlie Sheen, Kathleen Turner, Robin Williams and more, read words written by those who suffered through the war, even some of whom didn’t survive. From start to finish, Dear America is a comprehensive narrative of the extreme highs and lows our military members experienced, from relaxing and swimming on leave, to the nightmares of the battlefield.
This emotional journey won the Special Jury Prize for Documentaries at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival and earned HBO two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Informational Programming, and Outstanding Informational Special. Dear America also won awards from the CableACE Awards, International Documentary Association and Television Critics Association’s Program of the Year award.
The film is a living memorial for all of us who served in Vietnam and a powerful reminder to all – especially those in government giving the orders – of the true cost of war. For me, Dear America was summed up best by renowned film critic Roger Ebert, whose review of Dear America was included in his book: Roger Ebert’s Four-Star Review 1967-2007. I’ll leave you with his words:
“Choose any film as the best movie ever made about Vietnam, and this is the other half of the same double feature. Francois Truffaut once wrote that it was impossible to make an ‘antiwar film,’ because any war film, no matter what its message, was sure to be exhilarating. He did not live to see this film.”
The special screening of Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam will take place at the AMC Loews 34th Street IMAX Theater at 312 W 34th Street in New York City at 7 p.m. on Veterans Day, November 11, 2015.