Returning to Vietnam
November 6, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Just in time for Saturday’s Veterans Day holiday, WQED’s “Black Horizons” host Chris Moore revisits his past as a veteran for “In Country: A Vietnam Story” (8 and 10 p.m. Thursday, WQED-TV).
Moore, a native of Little Rock, Ark., left college to join the U.S. Army, becoming a member of the 46th Engineers, 20th Engineering brigade, responsible for building roads half a world away during the Vietnam War.
“I was a country kid,” he said. “I had been in college two-and-a-half years and I was muddling around. There was talk about getting drafted, so I joined the service to see what that was all about. To guys [over there] who were worldwise, who knew what life was like in the streets, here I was coming, going, ‘Woo hoo! Look at that!'”
As an Army private, he was taken under the wing of LeRoy Perry, the platoon sergeant, and Specialist 5th Class Andrew Boone.
“They’re five years older than me and said, ‘Come here, fool, before you get killed,’ ” Moore recalls of the old friends who joined him for the return visit to Vietnam that “In Country” documents. “They’re like my big brothers.”
Moore made the journey after urging from Tony Accamando, one of the members of the local charity Friends of Danang, which raises funds for humanitarian projects near Danang, Vietnam.
“He gently encouraged me to make that trip back with them to Vietnam as part of the healing process for all the veterans who went through that war experience. I listened to him for a couple of years politely and he continued to gently prod, and finally I thought it was a good idea,” Moore said. “But he always said, ‘Don’t go alone. Go with somebody you were there with.'”
After writing a proposal and securing underwriting for the film from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Moore made the trip with his two friends. Moore, Perry and Boone join members of Friends of Danang half-way through the hour, including Noreen Doloughty, a former Post-Gazette employee, whose father was killed in Vietnam when she was an infant.
“It’s not a travelogue, it’s a personal story, as most of my documentaries are,” Moore said. “It’s a personal essay of three men going back and confronting their past and coming to peace with it.”
The program was filmed in high-definition video by a crew of five that included producer Minette Seate and Darryl Ford-Williams, WQED’s vice president of production.
“Talk about an excellent opportunity to launch our local high definition [programming],” Ford-Williams said. “We shot in a place with the richest colors and most beautiful sights I’ve seen.”
Moore said he knows not every veteran will agree with sentiments about the futility of war — even a young, pre-Vietnam Moore was a hawkish adherent to the Domino Theory — so he keeps politics and parallels to Iraq out of the new film.
“We tried to avoid comparisons,” he said. “I think there might be one place where I say I wonder what it was worth now that America is Vietnam’s largest trading partner, but we didn’t want to make it a real political statement.”
Instead the film tracks the three men and their reaction to revisiting the past, including Moore’s own memories of his self-described racist reaction to the Vietnamese. When he realized he was doling out the same treatment he sometimes received at the hands of others back home, Moore said he knew a change in his own mind-set was in order.
“That’s when I started wondering, ‘What the hell are we doing?'” he said. “That’s when I started to question the futility of war. And I still question it today. There’s got to be a better way to solve our problems.”
(TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.)