LP councilman plays role in Vietnam documentary
La PORTE — Roger Galloway and Phil Zook never knew each other growing up only a few miles apart in La Porte County. Today they’re the best of friends, even though they live 200 miles apart.
They met in Cambodia in May 1970 during the Vietnam War.
Both men are featured in an Indiana-based documentary about the war, a companion piece to the 18-hour documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick scheduled to air beginning Sunday on PBS. Locally, it airs at 6 and 10 p.m. Sunday on WNIT, the PBS affiliate in South Bend, channel 34.1.
Galloway, a retired truck driver and member of La Porte City Council, plays only a small part in the hour-long film. But it’s an important part, according to filmmaker Ron Osgood.
“Roger’s kind of a hero in this story,” Osgood said.
Their experiences say a lot about the sacrifices made by veterans, their remarkable bravery in the face of death and the lifelong bonds that sometimes follow, according to Osgood.
Zook, who grew up in Michigan City but moved to Bloomington as a boy, was wounded on May 24, 1970, in an offensive known as the Cambodia Incursion.
Galloway dressed Zook’s wounds and carried him out of the jungle by foot. They waited together until Zook was evacuated by helicopter and eventually transported to a hospital in Japan.
The two didn’t see each other again for six months — until Galloway came back to the United States after serving his tour. They have been close friends ever since.
Zook, then a lieutenant, stayed in the Army and made captain before leaving the military. He retired recently after a long career as an accountant with the post office in Bloomington, Galloway said.
Galloway, who joined the Army just six months after graduating from La Porte High School, spent a year stateside before he was sent to the jungles of Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry Division,1st Rifle Company. He was a platoon sergeant and served one tour of duty.
“One was enough,” he said.
Galloway and Zook frequently talk about their experiences during and after the war.
“You’d know somebody a week and it was like you knew them a lifetime,” Galloway said. “We took care of each other because we had each other and that was it.”
After the war, nobody aside from comrades seemed to care, he said.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “We fought a war. It wasn’t any different than World War II or Korea or any other war. We fought for our country.”
Galloway said he hopes the documentary will help shed light on the war for everyone.
“Things are changing now,” Galloway said. “We try to make sure other veterans don’t have to put up with (what) we did.”
“Just Like Me: The Vietnam War — Stories from All Sides,” examines the war from multiple points of view — American as well as North and South Vietnamese. It also provides local perspectives from Indiana veterans and residents.
Hoosier filmmaker and Vietnam veteran Osgood, who included Zook in his 2011 documentary, "My Vietnam, Your Iraq," was hired by the PBS affiliate in Bloomington to do an Indiana-focused companion piece to the 10-part series, "The Vietnam War."
The filmmaker said Galloway was “a quiet guy who doesn’t really share a lot.” He said he could sense the interview was difficult for Galloway as he recalled his experiences.
“What I’ve learned by doing so many interviews is that a lot of these guys have held these stories in all these years and they’d really rather not talk about it,” he said. “They’ll tell you, though, if you sit down with them and get them in a comfortable situation.”
More information, including a trailer of the program, is available at wtiu.org/justlikeme.
"Just Like Me: The Vietnam War — Stories from All Sides," an hour-long, Indiana-focused companion piece to the 10-part documentary series "The Vietnam War," airs at 6 and 10 p.m. Central time Sunday on WNIT, the PBS affiliate in South Bend, channel 34.1.