The Villages Florida —
Ears perked up when Vietnam War veteran John Thomstatter spread the word about a special screening of Ken Burns’ latest work.
The topic hits close to home for the more than 500 members of Chapter 1036 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
“The Vietnam War,” the latest PBS documentary from Burns, doesn’t premiere until Sept. 17. But a portion of the 18-hour epic will be screened from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday at the Eisenhower Recreation Center, 3560 Buena Vista Blvd.
A discussion with local veterans — including Thomastatter, 71, who served in Vietnam from 1967 to ‘68 in a support role with a maintenance company — will follow.
“I’m sure it will be a touching movie,” said Thomstatter, who serves on the chapter’s board and as newsletter editor.
WUCF TV, Orlando’s PBS station, urges those who want to attend to register for the screening at conta.cc/2uyDBjX.
The documentary will play in 10 parts on PBS: The first five episodes are at 8 p.m. Sept. 17-21, and the final five air Sept. 24-28. Each broadcast will repeat immediately after the premiere on this Sunday-Thursday scheduling.
Starting Oct. 3, the series will air weekly at 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Nov. 28.
“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” Burns has said in a statement. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way — from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”
WUCF TV is working with several community partners to tell the story of Vietnam veterans and Orlando’s Vietnamese community through this film. Plans include collecting oral histories, photos and artifacts for an exhibit on Orlando’s Vietnamese community in a partnership with the Orange County Regional History Center.
Thomstatter, a native of Johnstown, Pa., said the documentary no doubt will bring back memories for members of his group, the largest Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in Florida.
He said he was fortunate to make it out of Vietnam unscathed.
“We were fortunate that we only had a one-year tour,” Thomstatter said.