"Vietnam: West Virginians Remember" Wins National Documentary Award
West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s film "Vietnam: West Virginians Remember" has won a top award from the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) for outstanding achievement in the documentary category.
The one-hour documentary, written and produced by award-winning executive producer, Suzanne Higgins, features the experiences of five West Virginia combat servicemen. It explores the reasons more than 36,000 West Virginians served during the Vietnam War and speculates on why the death rate was so high for West Virginians who served. The documentary is a companion film to Ken Burns’ PBS series, "The Vietnam War."
Chuck Roberts, executive director and CEO of WVPB said it’s an honor to be among NETA award winners because there were only five documentaries nominated from PBS stations across the country.
"NETA Awards recognize public broadcasting’s finest work," Roberts said. "We couldn’t agree more that ‘Vietnam: West Virginians Remember’ was an incredible production that told a complex and sensitive story that truly needed to be shared.
"Per capita, our state residents served the most and lost the most in Vietnam, a war that lives on as our country’s most controversial and, for the thousands of surviving West Virginia veterans, haunting memories remain. We were humbled to hear those stories and honored to share them."
The award was presented during the 2019 NETA Conference and CPB Public Media Thought Leaders Forum at the Marriott Downtown at City Creek hotel in Salt Lake City.
The film also examines the conservatism and political environment of the time, both nationally and in the Mountain State. It traces public opinion of the war, from support of actions by the Kennedy administration through the U.S.’s ultimate pullout of Southeast Asia in 1973. Higgins said the films shows a variety of perspectives on the war.
"The process of making this film showed me there are as many perspectives on the Vietnam War as there are those who served, each one unique," said Higgins, who met and talked with dozens of Vietnam veterans. "But I heard shared experiences as well: fear, horror, loss, rejection, disillusionment, detachment, anger – and perseverance."
With an original musical score, "Vietnam: West Virginians Remember" threads intimate conversations with Vietnam veterans with background and analysis, using personal photos and home movies. Additional video and film was provided by the West Virginia State Archives, the James E. Morrow Library of Marshall University, and the West Virginia and Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries. Visual material was also obtained from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, veterans’ groups, the U.S. Defense Department, and various private and public domain collections.
"Vietnam: West Virginians Remember" received financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support was provided by AARP, the West Virginia Lottery, and Bowles Rice, Attorneys at Law.