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Connecting with the Blues

Documentary seeks to set history straight

Apache Troop, 1st Squadron of the 9th Cavalry Regiment, is the focus of the documentary "APACHE BLUE: Welcome Home." Photo credit: U.S. Army

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APACHE BLUES: Welcome Home is a documentary produced by two filmmakers seeking to reconcile what they learned in school about the War in Vietnam versus what they heard from that war's veterans.

A screening and discussion of the film will be held this Veterans Day weekend at 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. 

Dave Merlino and Dustin Sweet were both born after the Vietnam War. They did not live through the politics of the time; they did not see the news reports or photographs.

In school, they observed that World War II veterans were heroes and that Vietnam veterans were indiscriminate killers. 

They learned that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD but that Vietnam veterans were suicidal and angry. 

Merlino and Sweet wondered about this and other disconnects between how Vietnam veterans were treated differently than the veterans of other conflicts.

"APACHE BLUES: Welcome Home is the journey to find out how this happened and remind us that no matter what we think of the politics of the time, or reasons why we are engaged in this conflict, these men were just trying to make it home," Merlino and Sweet wrote in a release.

"It's a journey of understanding, of finding heroes in a place we grew up thinking we, as a society, were never supposed to look."

To take that look, the filmmakers traveled 22,000 miles over 18 months to interview 10 veterans of Apache Troop of the 1st Squadron of the 9th Cavalry Regiment, the first air assault unit in history.

Comprised of gunships (the Reds), scout helicopters (the Whites) and infantry soldiers (the Blues), and used as a Quick Reaction Force, the Blues of Apache Troop engaged enemy units, rescued downed aircrews, and came to the aid of other units under fire.

"If you were a Blue you were going to get a Combat Infantry Badge, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, veteran Joe Kelbus said in a 2008 interview.

The unit became one of the most decorated by the end of the war.

"By starting with the big picture and drilling down to the most intimate and personal level, we will separate the pop culture and media ideology from the faces of the war; the faces of heroism," concluded Merlino and Sweet.

The Museum of Flight, 9404 East Marginal Way S,

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