“We Were Soldiers” is the true story of the first major battle between the Americans and the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war.  An Air Cavalry unit (helicopters are used to transport troops instead of horses) led by Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson) are sent to an area to find and engage the enemy.  The problem is that the Americans are severely outnumbered as they have landed at the base of a mountain fortress holding thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers.  What follows are several days of brutal fighting that is almost non-stop, giving the audience a taste of what combat is like.

One unexpected aspect of this movie is that we get to see the battle from the perspective of the Vietnamese soldiers — why they fight, their convictions, their pain and suffering.  But mostly we see the war the way Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson) and his soldiers of the Air Cavalry unit have seen it.  Adding more depth to this work are the scenes involving the housewives of the U.S. soldiers: their day to day activities that make their lives seem so normal; and the dread of not knowing when that letter from the government will come to let them know that their husbands have been killed in combat.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Gibson is praying to God, asking for protection for his men.  Gibson acknowledges that the Vietnamese will also pray to God, asking for victory; but Gibson asks God to ignore their heathen prayers and allow the Americans to blow the little bastards to hell.  Ha!  Now that sounds like my kind of prayer!

My most memorable, movie moment of “We Were Soldiers” is the sequence when Gibson, awake before dawn and dressed in his combat gear, kisses his sleeping children and wife, then walks out of the house.  One look on his face and you know that he’s thinking there’s a chance that may be the last time he’ll see his family.  He walks alone, in the dark, to the rally point where he and his men will board buses to take them to the airport.  He stands alone, face filled with troubling emotions, and he lowers his head.  Then he slowly looks up and smiles, seeing one soldier after another walk to the rally point.  From here on, this is his family, and they will have to take care of each other if they want to survive the nightmare that they are going to.

I’ve read a short interview of Lt. Colonel Moore where he was discounting Vietnam movies like “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now” because those movies had elements of U.S. soldiers committing murder and rape, and doing drugs; and that Moore never saw such things during his time in Vietnam.   Fair enough.   But keep in mind that just because you haven’t seen something happen, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.  I’ve never seen anyone get murdered, but I do know it occurs.

M

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