RETURN WITH HONOR Add To My Top 10

Heroism and Endurance

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Content:

(BBB, L, V) Strong moral worldview where military personnel describe their experiences as prisoners during the Vietnam War; 1 obscenity in context; some violent descriptions & drawings of imprisonment & torture.

Summary:

U.S. soldiers held captive during the Vietnam War describe their ordeal through various interviews in RETURN WITH HONOR. Though it contains some graphic descriptions unsuitable for children, this documentary is an eye-opener for people to understand strength, endurance, faith, and freedom.

Review:

The Vietnam War has long been a controversial, multi-faceted subject told by those who fought in it, and those who protested it. However, in RETURN WITH HONOR, the surviving POWs, or Prisoners of War, tell their story. This angle depicts the courage of these soldiers, showing true heroism regardless of one’s opinion on the war and teaches viewers that freedom is a privilege, not a right.

In this documentary narrated by Tom Hanks (THE GREEN MILE, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN), several former Vietnam POWs describe their captivity for years in the city of Hanoi. Lt. jg. Everett Alvarez, the first in his family to complete high school and graduate from college, was held captive longer than any American POW in history, 8 _ years. Lt. Comdr. Bob Shumaker, a POW for 8 years, was tortured into signing a “confession.” Comdr. Jeremiah Denton blinked his eyes in Morse code to spell “torture” when put in front of news cameras.

Other POWs described how they spent their time in prison. Comdr. James Stockdale, in solitary confinement for most of his 7 _ years as a POW, said, “You better get to know yourself. And, you do.” Exercise became a routine, both physically and mentally. This was evident in Seaman Douglas Hegdahl, a crewmember on a navy ship who fell overboard and was captured by the Vietnamese. He was forced by his senior ranking officer to take an early release offer so that he could bring back the names of 268 American POWs that he had memorized during his two years and four months in captivity. Upon his return to the states, he recited the names so fast that his de-briefer asked him to slow down. Hegdahl replied, “No, it’s like riding a bicycle, you fall off.”

Many of these men also faced intimidation by those who held them captive. Lt. Col. Robinson “Robbie” Risner, a decorated Korean War Ace, was on the cover of TIME magazine and was told by his captors; “The only people we would rather have captured are Johnson, MacNamara and Rusk.” Lt. Comdr. John McCain, who was seriously wounded when he ejected and landed in a lake in the center of Hanoi, refused an early release though he was not expected to live. At this, the Vietnamese soldiers told him, “Things will go bad for you now.”

The presence of these and other men who served as POWs is powerful. In an interview style format, they describe their experiences with tears, pain, and sometimes laughter and joy. Their amazing survival is supported by in-depth footage from the war, and from drawings by self-taught artist Lt. John “Mike” McGrath, who drew his first picture on a prison wall with his own blood. McGrath vowed to remember everything he saw in order to draw it after his ordeal as a POW. By using these elements, the heroism of these men under extreme circumstances is revealed and communicated in a method that is extremely intimate.

Producers/directors Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders, who won an Oscar for MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION, have again established a perspective toward Vietnam that broadens the viewers’ understanding. Not only is the on-screen account of the POWs themselves effective, but the account given by their wives tells another side of the ordeal. Sybil Stockdale, wife of Comdr. James Stockdale, helped form the League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. She formed the group after experiencing the “keep quiet” policy of the U.S. Government, of which she said, “How can someone be missing? God would know where he was.” Other references to God are made throughout the film, making it obvious that many POWs had to rely on their faith in order to survive.

There is one obscenity describing a name for something in RETURN WITH HONOR, and some graphic descriptions of the soldiers’ ordeal, making it unsuitable for younger children. However, this documentary explores the issue with respect and is highly recommended for its positive portrayal of a horrid ordeal. RETURN WITH HONOR gives an insight that not only tells and teaches, but also instills respect for serving God and country, survival, heroism, and, ultimately, biblical values.

Lt. Paul Galanti, a POW for 6 _ years, puts things into perspective for today: “There’s no such thing as a bad day when there’s a doorknob on the inside of the door.”

In Brief:

The Vietnam War has long been a controversial, multi-faceted subject told by those who fought in it and those who protested it. However, in RETURN WITH HONOR, the surviving POWs, or Prisoners of War, tell their story. This movie depicts the soldiers ordeal and loyalty. The presence of these and other men who served as POWs is powerful as they describe their experiences with tears, pain, and even laughter and joy. Their courageous story is supported by war footage and drawings by one of the former POWs.

Filmmakers Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders, who won an Oscar for MAYA LIN, have established a perspective toward Vietnam that broadens awareness. Though this documentary contains one obscenity and some graphic descriptions, it explores the issue with respect and is highly recommended for its positive portrayal of a horrid ordeal. RETURN WITH HONOR not only teaches, but instills respect for serving God and country, survival, heroism, and, ultimately, biblical values. Lt. Paul Galanti, a POW for 6 _ years, puts things into perspective for today: “There’s no such thing as a bad day when there’s a doorknob on the inside of the door.