Veterans attend pre-screening of documentary

September 8, 2017 GMT

Community members got a sneak peek at a new documentary series about the Vietnam War on Thursday.

A special pre-screening of “The Vietnam War,” directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, was shown at North Platte Community College. The screening features excerpts from all 10 of episodes of the series, which totals 18 hours and officially premiers on Sept. 17 on NET.

The documentary uses accounts from nearly 100 witnesses, including Americans who fought in the war and those who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. These testimonies are combined with footage from the time to tell the story of the war.

Those who missed Thursday’s screening, another will take place at noon on Sept. 15 at the Prairie Arts Center. It is free and open to the public.

A panel of local veterans including Kevin Kennedy, Duane Deterding, Ron Books and Larry Steele discussed their take on the film and answered questions from the audience, which included a number of Vietnam veterans.

“I thought the movie was outstanding,” said Books, who served in the U.S. Army. “I thought it was a part of history that not many of use take a look at completely.”

Kennedy thought the film was good, but worried it didn’t focus enough on the soldiers who were trying to help people.

“We didn’t shoot kids and burn down buildings,” said Kennedy, a former Marine. “We were too busy protecting the South


As a result of his service, Kennedy ended up with Agent Orange poisoning — a topic that was brought up by a veteran in the audience who said he’s been able to get help from the VA.

“How many veterans here have Agent Orange poisoning?” another asked from the audience.

Nine men raised their hands, a reminder of the lasting effects of war. Kennedy returned to Vietnam six years ago and said the people and the country are also suffering from the effects of chemical warfare. Kennedy said he believed the VA was making strides in providing treatment, but agreed that many veterans have had to wait too long for help.

He said it was important to continue contacting representatives, sharing stories and educating as many people as possible about the war as well as the more than 58,220 soldiers who never came home.

“What we need to do is spread the word more about what we are and what our country is about,” Kennedy said, encouraging people to stand with one another. “Good, bad or indifferent, we take care of each other ... War is politics, but people are people.”

For more information about the series visit pbs.org.