When PBS announced Ken Burns’ series The Vietnam War would air this fall, we realized it presented a special opportunity for WVPB to produce a companion film to tell West Virginia’s story.
Vietnam: West Virginians Remember – A Note From The Producer
A phone call solidified my determination.
A friend of mine put me in touch with Mr. Roger Booth of Boone County, WV.
With quiet grace and kindness, this former U.S. Marine took a phone call from a complete stranger, allowing me to put him through some very disturbing memories.
Just as the third phase of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam was coming to an end in September, 1968, Roger says his life – as he had known it - did as well.
“It was actually a quiet time where we were, the fighting had really died down. It was a pretty day as I remember, and you didn’t have many of them there.”
“I was in the bunker, and the next thing I remember I was waking up in horrific pain. I was confused and my vision blurred. I remember it was just chaos - lots of people tending to me. I couldn’t hear. Eventually, I was loaded into a helicopter and whisked away to a hospital.”
Later, visiting fellow Marines told Roger a stray mortar or artillery round hit just outside their bunker, collapsing it.
He was instantly paralyzed from the waist down.
“No one said anything else for months,” he said pausing. “After several surgeries, a doctor in Japan finally told me, ‘you’re never going to walk again.’ I was 21.”
The process of making this film has taught me there are as many perspectives on the Vietnam War as there are those who served. But I’ve heard shared experiences as well: fear, horror, loss, rejection, disillusionment, detachment, anger – and perseverance.
After years of struggling when he returned, Roger Booth put himself through WVU Pharmacy School, built his own handicap accessible pharmacy in Uneeda, WV, and has run a successful business employing others for many years.
“A lot of people that didn’t go, I think they feel guilty,” he said. “And I don’t want them to feel that. I didn’t have another option. So I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to make the most of what I can with what I have. It’s been a struggle, but I don’t complain. I am in many respects, very fortunate.”
We are grateful to all the Vietnam Veterans who have inspired and contributed in many ways to this program. We are humbled to tell their stories.
WVPB Executive Producer
Producer, Vietnam: West Virginians Remember
Vietnam: West Virginians Remember will air Thursday, Sept. 14 at 8pm on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.