On average, military families will move to a new duty station every three years. Sometimes even more than that.
According to the Dartmouth stress test, the average civilian move — and everything that goes with it — causes a person to accrue 322 stress points.
The higher the stress points a person has, the more likely he or she is to get sick. At over 300 stress points, the average person has an 80 percent chance of getting sick, and it is the highest level on Dartmouth’s test.
That doesn’t even account for the rest of life’s stressors — just the ones that happen with a typical civilian move.
The more likely a person is to get sick, the harder they have to work to maintain their health and well being, and that’s where Walgreens comes in.
Walgreens is proud to serve the military community with more than 8,100 in-network stores Nationwide.
From prevention and wellness services like vaccines and screenings, to comprehensive medication reviews, Walgreens is truly an all-service pharmacy.
Providing for the health and wellbeing of you and your loved ones is the company’s passion, and they understand that it is yours, as well.
That’s why they are committed to providing the most in depth, complete care possible at every one of their locations.
Carrying over 18,000 items in its stores and more online, Walgreens mission is to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty retailer. Its purpose is to champion everyone’s right to be happy and healthy.
Over 75 percent of the country’s citizens live within a five-mile radius of a Walgreens store, making the health and wellbeing of you and your loved ones as stress free as possible. More than 10 million customers interact with Walgreens each day in communities across America, using the most convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and trusted, cost-effective pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice.
Providers at Walgreens pride themselves on their personal approach to wellness, a tradition dating to the personal example of founder Charles Walgreen himself.
Walgreen understood the stress of military life; he himself enlisted in the military before the company’s humble beginnings in 1901.
Walgreens knows that packing up and following your military member is a matter of loyalty and commitment to service, and that is why they are dedicated to serving the military community.
Walgreens makes the transition from duty station to duty station as stress free as possible by allowing customers to easily transfer their prescriptions between stores and from other pharmacy chains, in person, on line or using its convenient mobile app. Using a mobile phone and the Walgreens app, just scan a prescription label from a Walgreens or other store’s pill bottle to easily transfer prescriptions.
Their pharmacists are available to answer all of your questions and help you in deciding what’s best for you and your loved ones as you transition.
While moving is stressful, maintaining your health and wellbeing during a move doesn’t have to be.
According to legend, a few actually reputable sources, the entire course of the American Revolution could have been different if one German colonel had just been way better at prioritizing (and for those of you who may be a little rusty on your American Revolution skillz, a number of German soldiers fought for Britain during the war, thus the reason for a German colonel being at the center of this tale).
The story goes that George Washington planned to cross the Delaware River under the cloak of night to sneak attack 1,500 German troops in the very early hours of December 26, 1776. The Germans had way more soldiers, so Washington’s only advantage would be the element of surprise.
However, the thing about crossing an icy river in the dark in the middle of winter is that it takes forever, and Washington’s men were nowhere near where they thought they’d be by morning. They thus had to march towards the Germans in daylight. One local loyalist saw them coming, and frantically ran towards the German camp to warn Colonel Johann Rall.
Rumor has it that Rall was in the middle of a card game and refused to stop playing to listen to the English-speaking loyalist. The loyalist left him a note written in English that said something to the effect of “YOU’RE ABOUT TO BE ATTACKED, BRO,” but Rall was apparently too lazy to go find a translator to read it to him. Washington attacked, won the pivotal Battle of Trenton, and the rest is history.
Meanwhile, Rall was killed that day, and its said that the unread note was found in his pocket. So let this be a lesson to us all: always read early morning messages from frantic English-speaking loyalists.
Every high school student knows that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo helped spark World War I. But did you know that he wasn’t the only one killed that day? The other victim was his wife, Sophie, whom he married against everyone’s wishes. Their wedding pretty much cost Franzi everything – including his throne and his life.
What an Heir-Head
Franz Ferdinand was the greatest catch in Europe at the time of his coming of age, especially for the heir to Austria-Hungary (downgraded from the Holy Roman Empire in 1867). As nephew and heir to Emperor Franz Joseph I – husband of the tragically beautiful Empress Elisabeth, a.k.a. “Sisi” – Franzi could have his pick of any eligible woman in Europe. He couldn’t marry just any woman! According to aHabsburg family statute of 1839, archdukes and archduchess could only marry with the consent of the head of their house (i.e., the emperor). But the marriage market of late nineteenth century Europe was a small place. No matter which way he went, an archduke would end up wedding a relative; since she had to be Catholic, the bride-to-be would probably end up being a French, Bavarian, Portuguese, Italian, or Spanish princess, or even an Austrian archduchess cousin.
In 1915, Polish noblewoman, Princess Catherine Radziwill, wrote a fabulously gossipy memoir calledThe Royal Marriage Market of Europe, detailing the available royals of Europe and their family foibles. She snarked about Empress Sisi and her family, but actually had nice things to say about Franz Ferdinand and his marital choices – which went against the grain and wrought havoc in his family. Who was his choice? Not a royal princess, but a lady-in-waiting named Sophie Chotek.
By modern standards, no one would blink at a royal marrying a noblewoman – in fact, the bride would probably be of higher rank than many other princely wives-to-be. But for the tottering Habsburg-Lorraine family and its weakening empire, it was imperative to maintain a “pure” bloodline, one worthy of the perhaps oldest and most prestigious Catholic clan on the Continent. Only the bluest of blood would do for an empress consort! Which led to a hell of a family squabble…especially after Franz Joseph’s only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, committed suicide and didn’t leave behind a son.
I Keep on Fallin’…
Franz Ferdinand first met Sophie Chotek when she was a lady-in-waiting to the wife of his distant cousin, Archduke Friedrich of Teschen. The snobby, upwardly mobile wife of Friedrich – Isabella of Croÿ – was barely good enough to make it as an imperial wife. Gushed Princess Radziwill, “The young man — he was barely twenty-two at the time — fell in love with the Princess Isabella of Croÿ, whose father, the Duke of Croÿ, though belonging to the higher order of the German aristocracy, was still looked upon as a simple gentleman, in possession of large means and an old title.” Scandalous!
Isabella was “a clever, ambitious woman, who at once understood the immense advantages of such an un-hoped-for marriage,” and the imperial family tried to prove that her family wasn’t good enough, stating that Friedrich and Izzy’s wedding should be morganatic (a union between people of unequal rank, when any resulting kids usually can’t inherit any thrones involved). Isabella came up with enough evidence to prove her house was sufficiently ancient and high-ranking, so the Habsburgs begrudgingly allowed her into their family.
After Isabella got her long-awaited title of archduchess, she popped out eight daughters before giving birth to her golden ticket, a son. With so many marriageable girls, Isabella had a ton of matchmaking to do, and what better match could be made than with the heir of the empire? One of her daughters marrying the future emperor would also finally silence any detractors who complained about her own lineage. So ambitious Izzy, always playing up her family because of her own insecurities about it, set out to snag Franzi for one of her baby girls, bringing him over to her country house time and again. During this courting process – sometime in the 1890s, although the exact date is unknown – Franz Ferdinand met Sophie.
Photo: Unknown photographer
One Less Problem?
Each time he was invited to court his cousins, the more he fell for the one woman he wanted – and the one he couldn’t have. To be fair, Sophie’s background wasn’t exactly dirt-poor; it was just not up to imperial standards. Her grandfather was an Austrian count, while her diplomat dad worked all over Eastern Europe. Her clan wasn’t rich, but it was often in the wings of major imperial events, so Sophie would’ve known Franzi by sight. She was young, pretty, and refreshingly un-stuffy, compared to the rest of his family. In other words, perfect for the archduke. Princess Radziwill had fairly nice things to say about her, but admitted, “Her sway over the mind of her husband was unlimited, and, perhaps, even in excess of the love which he undoubtedly bore her.”
FF and Sophie could get married – and they were, wed by a mere deacon – but she could never have imperial rank and their kids couldn’t inherit. As von Wallersee-Larisch noted, “the Emperor soon realized the marriage was a complete success,” so he bumped up Sophie’s rank to countess, then duchess. She still trailed behind every royal woman of the court and was probably shunned by all the archduchess. A shame no one realized that Sophie and FF made a popular couple that might have improved the imperial public image…especially with their three kids – Little Sophie, Maximilian, and Ernst.
In June 1914, Sophie and Ferdinand went on a diplomatic trip to an already uneasy area: Sarajevo. Only here, when Franzi was on military duty, could the two unequally married lovebirds ride together in a car, so she accompanied him on the journey. The portents weren’t good – when the car overheated,Franzi quipped, “Our journey starts with an extremely promising omen. Here our car burns, and down there they will throw bombs at us.” While out and about in an open motorcade on June 28, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were both shot by Gavrilo Princip, a nationalist terrorist. This was after a failed bombing attempt occurred that same day, and FF decided to keep on trekking.
Sadly, these later shots were fatal. When Sophie slumped over her husband in the car, an already mortally wounded Franz Ferdinand shouted, “Sophie, Sophie, don’t die, stay alive for our children!” Both were later declared dead at the Konak palace. And, of course, Vienna took a hard line at the assassination of its heir and his wife. They declared war, and the rest of Europe chose sides…starting World War I.
During the George H. W. Bush Administration, the Navy and Marine Corps were pursuing two revolutionary aircraft. One was the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor intended to replace the CH-46 Sea Knight. The other was the A-12 Avenger, the planned replacement for the A-6 Intruder, the classic attack airplane made famous in the book and movie Flight of the Intruder.
Early on in the first Bush Administration, the Berlin Wall fell, thanks in no small part due to the Reagan defense build-up and more covert efforts (Peter Schweizer’s Victory tells that tale). For the world, the collapse of communism was a good thing. But for the V-22 and A-12, things started to get rough, as a “peace dividend” was eyed by politicians inside the Beltway. Then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney soon put both aircraft projects on the chopping block — the V-22 because of developmental test failures that resulted in several high-profile mishaps, and the A-12 for massive cost overruns well before a single airframe was ready to launch.
Congress acted to save the V-22 (over Cheney’s objections). The Marines then stuck with the plane during a lengthy RD effort. What the Marines got as a result of that decision was a game-changer, particularly when compared to the CH-46 Sea Knight, as the included graphic from the Government Accountability Office shows. The V-22 can carry half of a Marine infantry platoon almost 400 miles from its base at speeds of up to 275 knots. Compare that to the CH-46E’s 184-mile combat radius, and top speed of 166 miles per hour, and the fact it could carry only a third of a Marine infantry platoon.
Marines found the V-22 to be effective in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Air Force Special Operations Command proved their version’s mettle in a raid against ISIS in Syria. To put it bluntly, the V-22 proved Cheney wrong, while the Marines and AFSOC were rewarded for their perseverance and faith in the new technology. In fact, the V-22 could even add a new mission not planned for in the initial specs: Aerial refueling.
As we know from history, the A-12 Avenger was not so lucky. Trying to make a point with his budgeteers about fiscal responsibility, Cheney made that cut stick.
So what did the Navy lose out on? For starters, let’s look at the plane the A-12 was supposed to replace.
The A-6 Intruder was an all-weather attack plane that was designed to carry a large bomb load (up to 18,000 pounds). At the time it was designed, stealth technology and smart bombs weren’t in the picture. But the plane gave valuable service, both during the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, as well as also seeing action in smaller conflicts like the 1986 clashes with Libya and Operation Preying Mantis in 1988.
While the Avenger’s actual performance will not be known, some estimates are available, including a range of just over 900 miles, a top speed of 578 knots, and a bomb load of 5,000 pounds. Notable in this is that the plane was also slated to carry two AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AGM-88 HARMs for self-protection in addition to its bombload.
But the real game-changer was its stealth technology. The A-12, like the F-117, B-2, and F-22, would be able to evade detection by most radars, and deliver precision-guided weapons on to targets. Would it, like the V-22, have been able to do more? Again, we will never know.
These days, developing a new combat aircraft takes longer than it used to, as the F-35, V-22, and F-22 have proven. Part of it is because that to survive in a modern environment, the aircraft is, in one sense, a flying computer, running as much on software as it does jet fuel. There is a major implication to this. When your laptop has a software hiccup, it’s an inconvenience. When a software hiccup happens on a modern combat plane, it means the loss of an airframe, and possibly the pilot as well. So, the required level of reliability gets higher, and reaching that level of reliability will take longer and cost more money.
In an age where both Russia and China have become more hostile to the United States, and their militaries are bringing new weapons systems on line, one has to wonder if the presence of the A-12 would have helped.
The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.
However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.
His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.
McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.
Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).
Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).
The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.
As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.
The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:
We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.
We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.
“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.
Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.
I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.
Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.
I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.
Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.
I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”
As America’s elite, U.S. Navy SEALs are constantly called for operations around the globe.
With a motto of “the only easy day was yesterday,” the average day in the life of a SEAL is usually anything but. Whether they are deploying to global hotspots, honing new skills in some of the military’s toughest schools, or going through training evolutions stateside, SEALs learn to be ready for anything.
Here are 19 photos showing what they do best around the world.
The Isonzo campaign, fought in present-day Slovenia from June 1915 to November 1917 between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is one of the bloodiest series of battles during World War I, yet is hardly remembered outside of the countries involved. A dozen engagements that often ran into each other ended up costing 1.7 million casualties, and the stalemate was only ended with the disastrous Italian defeat at Caporetto.
After Italy entered the war in May 1915, the Isonzo Valley presented the only real option for serious offensive operations into Austria, since the remainder of the front was mountainous terrain heavily fortified by the Austro-Hungarians. But the Isonzo River, called the Sloca River today, presented a formidable obstacle, and the fortifications in the hills overlooking the river made any crossing almost impossible.
The Italian Army’s Chief of Staff, Luigi Cadorna, believed that a determined attack could break through the enemy lines, seize the strategic towns of Gorizia and Trieste, and set the stage for a march on Vienna. He assembled two field armies for the offensive, and the Austro-Hungarians, despite disastrous losses in the fighting in Serbia and Galicia, foresaw the coming attack and assembled 100,000 men for the defense.
Cadorna, like many of his contemporaries, was a firm believer in the offensive and the frontal assault, but operations in the area would not be easy. The Isonzo River was prone to flooding, and the terrain difficulties surrounding it were extreme, with enemy fortifications dug in atop steep rocky slopes. The Italian army was also suffering from a shortage of modern artillery, making a direct attack even more hazardous.
The Italian offensive began on June 23, sparking the First Battle of Isonzo. Italian soldiers found themselves charging head-long uphill into barbed-wire and fortifications that their artillery had been unable to break up, and attempting to cross the Isonzo while under ferocious Austro-Hungarian counter-barrages. The fighting raged until Austro-Hungarian reinforcements arrived and stopped the offensive in its tracks. The Italian Army had suffered nearly 15,000 casualties, nearly double the enemies, while achieving practically no real gains.
This was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout 1915 in three more failed Italian assaults, resulting in a quarter of a million casualties with no significant success. Cadorna showed himself particularly incapable of learning from the carnage, and was himself usually as far as 50 kilometers behind the front lines. He was also a savage disciplinarian, routinely ordering the execution of soldiers for cowardice and straggling.
A fifth attack in March of 1916 also failed, but then an opportunity seemed to present itself. After appeals from the French to lessen the pressure they were feeling at Verdun from the Germans, the Russians launched a massive offensive under General Aleksei Brusilov against the Austro-Hungarians at Lusk in modern day Ukraine. The Austro-Hungarians desperately shifted troops north from the Italian front, and Cadorna took advantage of this weakness. The sixth attack launched on August 6 was the Italian’s only real success of the entire campaign, seizing territory along a 20-km front and the town of Gorizia, but at the cost of over 50,000 Italian casualties.
The Italians continued to launch offensives into 1917, and despite Italy’s terrible losses the Austro-Hungarians were beginning to feel the war of attrition. They simply did not have the manpower the Italians had, and and their lines near Gorizia were on the brink of collapse. At last, appeals to Germany for reinforcements were answered, and a combined offensive was launched against the Italians at Caporetto, who were all forward deployed with no reserves for a defense in depth.
At 2 a.m. on October 24, a massive artillery barrage featuring high explosives, smoke, and huge quantities of chemical weapons caught the Italian 2nd Army completely by surprise. Their lines were broken almost immediately by special German stormtrooper units practicing new assault tactics featuring flamethrowers and the mass use of hand grenades. By October 30 the Italians had withdrawn past the Tagliomento river. Italy had lost over 300,000 men in a week, most of them taken prisoner.
The scale of the disaster led to the dismissal of Cadorna, shook the Allied governments, and led to France and England hurriedly rushing reinforcements to Italy. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians could not sustain the offensive, but Isonzo as a viable front for the Italians was essentially gone. Two and half years and more than a million and a half casualties from both sides had resulted in no gains to speak of.
Even in the carnage of World War I, the Isonzo campaign stands out for bloodshed concentrated in a single sector. Cadorna in particular was one of the most callous, stubborn, and unimaginative generals in a war noted for such leaders, and the Italian Army paid a terrible price for his ruthlessness and incompetence. The Isonzo and the disaster at Caporetto became a byword for failure in Italy, and the disillusionment caused by Italy’s massive losses in the war with little to show for it played a large role in the rise of fascism and dictator Benito Mussolini. Like so much of World War I, the Isonzo campaign played its own role in sparking World War II over 20 years later.
As such, they can not only strike within six feet of their aim point thanks to their precision guidance (an optional low-cost laser seeker will give the rounds the ability to engage a moving target), they can also travel over 12 miles when fired from a baseline mortar like the M120 120mm mortar or the M252 81mm mortar.
Now, imagine if these were dropped from a UAV from, say, 25,000 feet, as opposed to being fired by a mortar on the ground. During a presentation at the 2017 Armament System Forum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, Alan Perkins of UTC Aerospace Systems discussed how these mortars could be used on UAVs like the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper instead of the usual AGM-114 Hellfire missile.
The reason: The mortar rounds will have long range – in excess of 30 miles – when dropped from a UAV’s normal altitude. Furthermore their warheads are much smaller than the Hellfire’s. The 120mm mortar’s M57 round has about four and a half pounds of high explosive. Compare that to the 20-pound warhead on a Hellfire. That greatly reduces collateral damage, but when a 120mm mortar round lands six feet away from some ISIS terrorists, it still ruins their day.
In short, the old way of hitting ground targets for airplanes has become new again.
Much of the world knows how visually stunning films from India can be, especially since Bollywood produces an incredible number of colorful and evocative films every year. So it makes sense their recruiting videos would be just as visually appealing.
From the Indian Army’s YouTube page, comes a video titled “Indian Army: A Life Less Ordinary,” and it’s quite stunning.
The video gives an interesting look inside a foreign military, showing everything from troops marching, physical training, operating in the mountains, and special operations forces jumping out of airplanes.
YouTube comments, notorious for being so bad they sap people’s faith in humanity (they’re so bad Forbes wrote about them), are overwhelmingly positive, especially among those who appear to be the target age range for joining. Another win for the Indian Army.
It even starts with a little hat tip to famed Revolutionary War patriot captain John Paul Jones.
Check out the Indian Army’s full page of videos. They have some interesting recreations of the ADGPI’s win at the Battle of Haji Pir
When filmmaker Ken Burns and his collaborators previously tackled sprawling documentaries about the Civil War and World War II, their first obligation, he said, was to strip away the “barnacles of sentimentality” attached to both events.
That was never a problem with his latest military epic, “The Vietnam War.”
“No such sentimentality attaches itself to Vietnam,” Burns says. “So there’s a through line to the tragedy and the the essential horror and cruelty of war that is manifested everywhere.”
Covering 18 hours over 10 installments, the film recalls one of the most tragic chapters in American history — a conflict so divisive that, in the words of a soldier quoted in the film, it “drove a stake right into the heart of America.”
Ten years in the making, “The Vietnam War” (Sept. 17, 8pm, PBS) might be Burns’ greatest achievement yet in a career that dates back to 1981. It’s certainly his most complicated and challenging. To get to the heart of it all, he and co-director Lynn Novick relied on a wealth of archival materials, including stunningly revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.
Most notably, they solicited accounts from more than 80 witnesses from all sides of the war’s vast social divide: soldiers who fought in the war and Americans who opposed it, as well as North and South Vietnamese combatants and civilians. It was what the filmmakers call a “bottom up” approach with a preference toward mostly ordinary people with incredible stories to tell, rather than the usual talking heads. John McCain, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda, for example, are not interviewed.
Along the way, the filmmakers didn’t encounter as much reticence from their subjects as some might expect. Credit the passage of time.
“We generally found that there was enormous interest in having their story told,” Novick says. “They saw it as a chance to share experiences with the wider world that were very important to them and seminal, informative, and sometimes very, very painful.”
The result is a panoramic, immersive, intensely intimate and often heart-wrenching film experience that captures the human stories embedded within a war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans, and more than 3 million Vietnamese military personnel and civilians.
Burns, of course, realizes that many viewers will bring their “personal baggage” and hardened perspectives to the film. But he and Novick insist that they were intent on being as even-handed as possible.
“There isn’t a single truth in the war,” Burns says. “In fact, there’s many truths that can coexist, and that might help to sort of take the fuel rods out of the division and polarization that was born in Vietnam that continues to this moment.”
The Vietnam conflict had long been on Burns’ cinematic to-do list. But early in his career he felt the wounds were too fresh. And when he finally did approach the subject, he went in thinking he knew a lot about it, only to immediately learn he didn’t.
“It was a daily humiliation,” he recalls. “And the humbleness that you have to assume in order to get through the next 10 years is just that — humbling. So we just kept our heads down and worked to get it right.”
According to Novick, one of the key discoveries they encountered along the way was the continual privately expressed skepticism from government officials that the US could prevail in the conflict, which was carried out under five presidents.
“There never was a time when the people in our government who were pushing the war forward had total confidence that it was winnable,” she says. “You hear this drumbeat of doubt and lack of sureness that it can come out well, that we can accomplish our goals, that it’s sustainable. And that goes back to the earliest days of American involvement in Vietnam. … That was rather revelatory and devastating.”
It’s Burns’ hope that the film can open a national dialogue about Vietnam and get people to talk about it in a “calm way.” After all, so much of what occurred during the war resonates with the present: Images of mass protests across a deeply divided nation; a White House paranoid about leaks and at odds with the media; disagreements over American military strategy in far-off territories; acrimony over what defines patriotism…
“History doesn’t repeat itself. We’re not condemned to repeat what we don’t remember,” he says. “It’s that human nature never changes.”