Vietnam War documentary

South Vietnamese troops fly over the Mekong Delta, from Ken Burn's new documentary "The Vietnam War," which premieres Sept. 17 on NET.

Courtesy photo

Caught in the quagmire of the Vietnam War, army nurse Cheryl Feala had little information about the political climate back home and the demonstrations rocking the country. 

"The whole time you were there in Vietnam, the demonstrations, everything else didn't stop," said Feala, of North Bend, who worked as an Army nurse in a hospital in South Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.

But Feala said Ken Burns' expansive new documentary, "The Vietnam War," which premieres Sunday, will help veterans such as herself understand the war's impact.

Feala joined four other veterans Monday for a panel discussion following a sneak peek of the documentary at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, fielding questions and shedding light on the war and their experiences.

Panelist Dau Nguyen, who served in the South Vietnamese Navy, said the film balances the many different points of view.

"There are no sides in the movie," said Nguyen, who moved to Lincoln in 2003. "There is no American side, no North Vietnamese side. It only documents what happened, and that neutrality is important."

The screening included scenes from the 10-part series that Burns co-directed with filmmaker Lynn Novick.

They utilize photographs, TV broadcasts, home video, audio recordings and other archival footage to tell the story of the nearly two decades-long war that killed more than 58,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of North and South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.

One clip from Monday's screening detailed the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 that escalated the war.

Feala said the movie represents what she and other veterans experienced during the war.

"You get all these perspectives from both sides, and I think everyone has their own way of digesting that," Feala said. "Whether you were North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, or an American, you each had your own idea of what your role was in the war.

"Everybody had a purpose, they just weren't always the same."

The series was nearly 10 years in the making, featuring testimony from about 100 people involved in the conflict.

The film's first episode will premiere on NET (Lincoln channel 12) Sunday at 7 p.m. The next four episodes will air at the same time Sept. 18-21.

The final five episodes will air Sept. 24-28, also at 7 p.m.

Two more screenings, followed by a panel discussion, will be held at the Johnny Carson Theatre in Norfolk on Wednesday and at the Hastings Museum Super Screen Theatre on Sunday.

Both screenings are free and open to the public. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or zhammack@journalstar.com

On Twitter @zach_hammack 

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