A personal documentary about a public subject, My Father’s Vietnam personifies the connections made and unmade by the Vietnam War. Featuring never-before-seen photographs and 8mm footage of the era, My Father’s Vietnam is the story of three soldiers, only one of whom returned home alive. Interviews with the filmmaker’s Vietnam Veteran father, and the friends and family members of two men he served with who were killed there, give voice to individuals who continue to silently carry the psychological burdens of a war that ended over 40 years ago. My Father’s Vietnam carries with it the potential to encourage audiences to broach the subjects of service and sacrifice with the veterans in their lives.
My Fathers Vietnam shares the story of Peter Sorensen, and two men he served with who were killed fighting the Vietnam War. Peter Sorensens son, filmmaker Soren Sorensen, was only a child when he first visited the Vietnam Memorial on a family trip to Washington, DC in the mid-80s. The sight of his teary-eyed father making pencil rubbings of two names, out of the more than 58,000 etched into the granite wall, remained in his mind well into adulthood when he decided it was time to have a serious conversation with his father about the War. The conversation with the father unexpectedly led the son on a multi-year odyssey, as he located and interviewed surviving family members of the two fallen soldiers: Loring M. Bailey and Glenn D. Rickert. When Peter Sorensen graduated from college in 1968, he wasnt exactly supportive of the Vietnam War. Traditionfamily members involved with every American military conflict since the Civil Warand a knack for journalism informed his decision to enlist in the Army. But his choice wasnt really a choice at all. Sorensen and countless others, realizing they would eventually be drafted, attempted to leverage experience and education in order to secure military occupations that satisfied obligations while minimizing risk. Elizabeth Sorensen, the filmmakers mother and Peter Sorensens wife, remembers watching her husband leave for Vietnam. They had only been married a few weeks, having moved their wedding date to comply with Sorensens orders to ship out. The flight, Peter Sorensen remembers, was just like any commercial flight with meals and flight attendants. It was, he says in the film, like nothing was happening. But, after a nerve-jangling 45-degree approach designed to avoid enemy fire, Sorensen found himself in Cam Ranh, surviving his first incoming rocket attacks, and wondering if hed live 24 hours.
Before shipping out, Peter Sorensen met fellow Connecticut resident and aspiring writer, Loring Bailey. An enthusiastic Hemingway devotee, like Sorensen, Baileys letters home from Vietnam were deliberately upbeat, displaying his talent for writing and a wry sense of humor in the face of war. Rik Carlson, Baileys brother-in-law, remembers a letter from Christmas Eve 1969 in which a soaking wet Bailey describes an impromptu holiday in the jungle, complete with a miniature die cast De Tomaso Mangusta sports car, sent by Carlson to Bailey, under a tiny tree one of the units machine gunners received by mail. Bailey wrote, Lo and behold, there will be toys under the tree come Christmas. Perhaps this is the Christmas Eve and Christmas to make the rest worth while.Baileys lieutenant, John Wilson, recalls being thrown through the air by the explosion that killed Bailey in March of 1970. There wasnt anything left, Wilson says of Baileys death. Peter Sorensen met Glenn D. Rickert, the other name Sorensen would make a rubbing of at the Wall years later, while working in the Army's 61st Public Information Office in 1970. Rickert flew light observation helicopters (LOH and was in the process of adopting an infant Vietnamese girl from an orphanage in Quang Ngai when he was tragically shot and killed. Rickerts widow, Margie Belford, was informed of her husbands death on Memorial Day in 1970 after attending a parade with Rickerts parents. The adoption was never completed. Peter Sorensen returned home in 1970 a changed man. His startle reflex heightened, he had difficulty understanding people when they talked due to permanent hearing loss. He was eventually diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) though no treatments have ever helped. I still feel guilt for surviving, he says, and that doesnt go away. Peter Sorensen had always wondered where Loring Bailey was buried. After a few unsuccessful attempts to locate his friends grave, he gave up. In 2000, on a fateful Memorial Day weekend over 30 years after his friends death, the cover of the local newspaper featured Loring Baileys parents, Loring Sr. and Dorothy, now in their nineties, keeping the memory of their son alive. The Baileys, it turned out, were living just a few miles from the Sorensens in Southeastern Connecticut.
A personal documentary about a public subject, My Fathers Vietnam personifies the connections made and unmade by the Vietnam War. Featuring never-before-seen photographs and 8mm footage of the era, My Fathers Vietnam is the story of three soldiers, only one of whom returned home alive. Interviews with the filmmakers Vietnam Veteran father, and the friends and family members of two men he served with who were killed there, give voice to the individuals who continue to silently carry the psychological burdens of a war that ended over 40 years ago. My Fathers Vietnam carries with it the potential to encourage audiences to broach the subjects of service and sacrifice with the veterans and their lives.