Gig Line: Musical scores and war movies

Published 11:13 am Saturday, February 26, 2022

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There are movies – and then there are movies, and when it comes to illustrating the heartache of war, sacrifice and the aftermath, some films truly come up short.

Movies can move the needle when it comes to a fair critique. For example, my husband Billy, a U.S. Army Veteran who served in Vietnam during TET, verbalized much criticism about most movies depicting the Vietnam War. Much of the time, he’d either refuse to watch them or if/when he did, he’d express how “fake” and far from authentic seemingly based on “entertainment” rather than realism. If he watched one, he’d cuss aloud from sheer disappointment that they were so far from the truth of what our military men and women have been through.

For many years, Billy resisted watching movies about that time in his life. He didn’t want to hear it or see it on the big screen, then later he heard of a movie he did want to see. Based on reviews, he felt this movie would be worthy to watch and more authentic. It was “We Were Soldiers,” a 2002 depiction of war and the dramatization of the Battle of la Drang, November 14, 1965.

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The movie was based on a book “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young” by Hal Moore and Joseph L. Galloway. US Army Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore trained and led the battalion in Vietnam and by all accounts, he exemplified expert leadership and was well respected while protecting and serving. Throughout watching the movie with Billy, it was intense. His eyes never left the screen, and I could see on his face the way it personally touched him; the memories of that period in his life were evident. He sat on the edge of his recliner – literally – during most of it and when the movie ended, he complimented the actors and everyone else involved, but especially Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore. He was grateful for his critical influence telling the true story of what Billy felt had been such a “Hollywood” portrayal in the past. At times, his eyes were as big as saucers and he stared at the TV as if to bore a hole right through it. He became moved to the point of tears at times as he remembered those “Hell hole days” – the horrifying sounds of the injured and dying – I could see it, I could sense it. It was heavy duty. I knew not to ask questions during the movie – it was too powerful, too personal – in essence a visual album of first-hand hard experiences of what so many had endured. I had too much respect to interrupt and intrude on his focus. What he said later was, “That was the most realistic movie about the Vietnam War I’ve seen since I came home.”

After he had first watched “We Were Soldiers” on TV, he purchased several of the DVDs – he wanted a backup copy if anything happened to the first one and/or one to give to a friend. Later, he also bought the CD soundtrack of the movie. The first day we opened its transparent plastic case, we were sitting in his truck in our front yard planning to drive over to Nags Head. But once my hero stuck it in the CD receptacle and the haunting music began, it was as if he froze. We sat right there and heard all the soundtrack, “Sgt. MacKenzie” and the rest before he shifted into drive.

The emotion filled the cab of his maroon colored 2004 Toyota Tundra, so much so if it had been liquid matter, it would have poured out of the windows. It was full, just like Billy’s heart, his head, his recollections and his soul. Just feeling a glimmer of what I read on his face made me cry. I tried not to and I held it back as best I could, but when I turned my head slightly to my left, I could see the wet path of anguish that made its way down his face. While we had been married for 34 years back at that point in time, it was clear that my sweet, kind, loving “He Man” had suffered deeply yet masked it successfully for most of our years together.

After he came home and before we dated or married in 1968, I would see him at church and felt great respect for him and all of our military but that afternoon, it became more evident that he was not only the one and only true love of my life, but an incredibly strong soldier – a fighter for freedom, a defender of suppression and a tower of a man. God bless him and every soldier, airman, seaman and Marine who has fought in a war before Vietnam and since then.

If you are a veteran, thank you so much sincerely for your service and your sacrifice. If you’re a war veteran especially, you’re on a pedestal and I hold you and your brothers/sisters in the highest esteem. I love all our veterans and I’m humbled in your presence.

Remember that if you ever feel you want or need to speak with someone, professional care through the V.A. provides a Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 then press 1 or you can text 838255, so help is available 24/7 – 365 days a year. If you’d like to review the Veterans Crisis Line website first, search but at the very least, please consider reaching out to your personal physician or health care provider, to a close friend, a family member, a pastor or to another veteran who will likely understand how you feel. I am not a trained professional when it comes to P.T.S.D. or anything close, but I know that veterans are deserving of happiness, of good things in life and of peace. We probably all need to talk to someone (counselor, psychologist, etc.) at some point in our lives and it can lead to a very positive outcome.

When my Billy heard another soldier and Vietnam “brother” recommend that he “talk to somebody,” that encouragement is what made the difference and once he did, he found that his heartache, memories, feelings were very typical and he seemed to feel less isolated. He seemed happier. He smiled more, he laughed more and he was in a better place from that time forward until he passed a couple of years later.

Veterans understand each other far more than the rest of us. The kind advice his “brother” spoke to him recommending he seek counsel made an enormous difference in Billy’s life and I will forever be grateful.

If you are in the V.A. health care system for service-related injuries, illness etc. that’s good! If you aren’t, you might want to contact Dare County Veterans Service Officer (V.S.O.) Patty O’Sullivan to determine the possibility that you may be eligible for disability compensation. She’s an awesome lady driven to help each and every veteran that reaches out to her; she will do her very best to help you – that I can promise! Please call her office and leave a detailed voice mail at 252-475-5604 or email her at

Have you acquired your free Dare County Veterans Discount Card? Call me for details on that at 252-202-2058 or write to me at

Until next time, be healthy, safe and happy! Thank you for reading Gig Line and please stay posted – more great news is coming! God bless you and your loved ones and thank you again for protecting and serving our great nation. We owe you! I love you! Stay tuned!