July 17, 2008

Vets’ Story Unfolds on Film

By Randy Griffith, Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Jul. 17--When he came home from Vietnam 40 years ago, Army veteran Elmer "Snubby" Burket of Windber said he found his world changed.

Like many veterans featured in Northern Cambria High School student-produced video, "We Never Got the Welcome Home," Burket felt alienated by many of those around him.

Seeing the premiere Wednesday of the students' film helped continue to ease the pain, Burket said.

"Not only did you give us our respect back, you won the Vietnam veterans' respect," Burket told the seven students and their advisers after the presentation in Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Funded by a $10,000 grant from the History Channel, the video production centered frank interviews with Vietnam veterans from western Pennsylvania.

The project opened with a montage of war footage, followed by veterans talking about their entry to service and what they left at home.

Interview clips moved to the war itself, with former warriors speaking matter-of-factly about how they faced the often-horrific duties of jungle warfare and frustration over political limitations on the military.

Finally, the men described the protests, shock, indifference and antagonism they faced at home. One said he was spit upon.

"They captured a message, and there is truth to it," veteran David Weaver said after the film ended.

One dissenting voice came from Jim Scofield, a retired Pitt-Johnstown English professor. He took exception to the "big myth that veterans were spit on" but was soundly "booed" by the audience.

"They have no reason to lie about it," co-producer Casey Contres said. "We believe what they told us."


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