July 17, 2021

Last week, The Long Walk Home hosted a special movie screening for Veterans, family members, and supporters. Dozens of attendees came out to the American Legion in Venice, FL for a special viewing of “Back to China Beach”. The film was directed by Dave Barnes, a local Penascola filmmaker. Helping to orchestrate the event was Co-Producer Mike Cotton, who prefaced the screening by discussing the film’s background and production process.“This film really took on a life of its own,” said Cotton. “I probably talked to over 200 Vietnam Veterans.”

“Back to China Beach” showcases a lighter side of the Vietnam War. The film tells the story of U.S. troops who were able to find respite on My Khe Beach, just off the shores of Da Nang, Vietnam. Surfing was a popular pastime there, providing soldiers with an escape from the violence, however brief it may have been.

This is not to say that “Back to China Beach” is a wholly lighthearted affair, as it also explores the violence, suffering, and trauma that both the U.S. soldiers and native Vietnamese had to endure. The film also shows that when Veterans of the Vietnam War returned stateside, they were met with protests and an overall negative public opinion. Fortunately, the attitude toward those soldiers has shifted positively in the years since the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam in 1973. “The movie nailed it,” said one of the Vietnam Vets in attendance on Saturday.

Our organization is grateful to have had the opportunity to show “Back to China Beach” and to bring more exposure to the stories of Vietnam Veterans. We are always eager to bring Vets together by hosting events such as this, as our founder Ron Zaleski puts it. If you have [an event or cause] that you’re doing and you want our help, let us know,” said Zaleski at Saturday’s screening. “We’ll get behind it. We have to work together.”

Ron Zaleski founded The Long Walk Home in 2006 with the belief that Veterans deserve better. To bring awareness to the Veteran suicide crisis, Zaleski walked barefoot across the Appalachian Trail in 2006, and then across the entire country in 2010. “It’s unacceptable that we have 22 Vets killing themselves every day,” Zaleksi said on Saturday. “If I can help save one of them, that’s what I’m about.”

If you would like to donate and stay up to date with our events, please visit thelongwalkhome.org

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