“Beyond Glory” was a solo (one man) show about war veterans recollecting their combat experiences, which led to them being awarded the United States highest military award for valor; the ‘Metal of Honor’. Film and Broadway actor Stephen Lang, portrays eight different service men from Larry Smith book with the same title containing the oral histories of veterans of several wars.
Airing flesh-and-blood stories to the public is a worthwhile enterprise. It provides a reminder of the hardships, psychic stress and physical dangers men and women face on the front line. I enlisted in the Air Force to escape the assembly line during the Vietnam War and was sent to Germany to support the ‘Cold War’. My friend James was drafted in the Army and was involved in the ‘heat of battle’ in the jungles of Vietnam.
The military draft ended after the Vietnam War but we still have troops in harms way, all around the world. Most people don’t know about ‘the real military service’ unless they were in the service or someone from their family served. This one man play allowed the voices of military veterans to be heard without the drama associated with a war film. Actual combat is more than the “Call of Duty game” because people die and they don’t get up when you hit a reset button.
Mr. Lang individualized each of the eight portraits with precision and economy; a subtle adjustment of posture altered his physical presence, and a change of voice invokes a different hero, in edition, he did a good job of representing a diverse cross section of America – officers and enlisted men; men from European descent, African American and men of Hispanic descent.
Vice Admiral James B. Stockdalte was the highest-ranking Navel Officer who was captured in Vietnam. Commander Stockdalte (at the time) spent more than seven years as a prisoner of war. He said that a good officer suffers and endures, as much as possible, to set an example for the rest of the prisoners.
Daniel K. Inouye, the Senator from Hawaii was awarded his metal as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army during World War II in the year 2000, along with 21 other Japanese American heroes from President Bill Clinton. As a Japanese American he faced hostility when he returned and some of his comrades had families that were sent to internment camps from 1942 to 1945 but they received a formal apology in 1988 along with reparations.
When Stephen Lang talks about the art of telling real military stories he talks about some things I have heard from other combat military veterans.
First Lieutenant Vernon Baker another World War II veteran who was part of the all-Black “Buffalo” division that fought in Europe led a group of men in a brutal battle uphill to take a hilltop castle in Italy. First Lieutenant Baker received his Metal of Honor only after the Army did an investigation decades later. Art imitates life because the Marvel’s Comic’s Falcon, Sam Wilson is given Captain America’s, Steve Rogers shield and Thor’s hammer. But Lt. Baker had already laid the hammer down in real life.
U. S. Army Specialist Five Clarence Sasser, another African American Metal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War recalls the brutal slaughter in a rice paddy in Vietnam, in which only a dozen soldiers survived out of more than a hundred. He said the hardest thing was being pinned down in a rice paddy in the dark waiting for rescue and hearing others calling for help.
Staff Sergeant Nick Bacon from Arkansan said He never felt anything about killing the enemy. He was compassion for the the people. The war was never personal with him, he said it was a game of survival. The soldiers in “Beyond Glory” survived, some with disfigured bodies but all with their moral and psychological faculties intact. But that is not always the case.
Many of the military veterans I speak with still want to do something before it time for them to leave. So far this blog and my book is my legacy. If you don’t write your own story, no body else will. Comments are encouraged but this is my passion and my therapy.