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The website of Florida Veterans Programs and Projects, Inc.

The website of Florida Veterans Programs and Projects, Inc.

Project News

December 31, 2011

FVPPI 2011 Year End Summary of Accomplishments

Continued sending Care Packages (along with Coquina Veterans) to troops in Iraq & Afghanistan

Finished filming, editing & distributing POW documentary

Distributed POW documentary to: Amelia Island Museum of History, Museum of Science & History (MOSH) in Jacksonville, Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, Andersonville, GA National Historic Site & Museum, Menendez High School and the St Johns County Main Library

We entered into a distribution deal with Rolling Thunder Florida whereby they would pay for FVPPI to distribute, at no cost, the POW doc to schools, libraries, veterans groups, museums, etc.

Presented a POW show at Anastasia Baptist attended by over 1000 people and 25 veterans groups

We spoke at: MOAA, AMVETS 45, DAV Chapter 6, Coast Guard Flotilla, St Johns County Commission meeting, Lake City VA Medical Center, JD's radio show, Carl Burchfield's radio show, Melissa Ross' PBS radio show and at Veterans park, telling the story of the 4 POW's in the documentary

The POW documentary was shown on WJCT TV, PBS affiliate in Jacksonville three times on Veterans Day

FVPPI sponsored the Traveling Vietnam Wall and brought it to St. Augustine

Invited over 25 local POWs to our Nov 6th POW Tribute

Sponsored a POW essay contest at Menendez High School with $ 600 in prizes and presented students with the prizes on stage at Anastasia Baptist

We will be producing a new documentary, "Commitment to Honor" with the students of the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville

November 7, 2011

The November 6, 2011, premier of "PRISONERS OF WAR: Stolen Freedom"


See more photos here

November 4, 2011

Essay Contest Winners

In connection with our latest documentary, "PRISONERS OF WAR: Stolen Freedom", FVPPI sponsored an essay contest at Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, Florida. The winning essayists are Kelsie Ozanne, Joanna Radcliff, and Emilia Sopranzi. Congratulations to all.

Prisoners of War: Courage Prevails

by Kelsie Ozanne

War. Only three seemingly minuscule letters when put together create a catastrophic impact. For those that have had to endure war, they know all the pitfalls. But, even on the darkest days, American wars have guaranteed us our independence. The speckle of light that always prevails through the brutality of war is courage. Courage found in prisoners of war.

Stanley Willner was a duty officer on the SS Sawokla in World War II. The SS Sawokla was torpedoed by a German ship in the Indian Ocean on November 29, 1942. Willner spent two months in a German hospital because he was injured in the attack. Then, Willner and his mariners spent three months on the Michel before being turned over to the Japanese at the Changi Prison Camp in Singapore. Willner's doctor gave him a letter to give to the Japanese about his medical condition; and when he delivered it to them, he was hit by the broadside of a sword. This was just the beginning of the gruesome time Willner spent as a prisoner of war.

After being held in Singapore for a couple of months, the American mariners were sent to work on the Burma railroad project. They were forced to work on the Bridge over the River Kwai. Willner and the other workers had to endure being starved and beaten by the Japanese commanders. Willner started out at 135 pounds and during his forced labor dropped to a mere 75 pounds. Some accounts of the punishments on prisoners of war of the Bridge over the River Kwai included savage beatings, being made to kneel on sharp sticks while holding a boulder for one to three hours at a time, and being tied to a tree with barbed wire and left there for two to three days without any food or water.

Willner's close friend, Dennis Roland, was being held captive with him. Roland was severely ill from malnutrition so Willner stole a duck from the river to keep him alive. He bribed a British soldier to keep the duck in exchange for an egg a week. The British soldier was killed; the Japanese boiled him alive, after he had supposedly overheated their bath water. However, Dennis Roland survived because Stanley Willner risked his life to save him.

Stanley Willner was not released until the war's ending in 1945. Willner was a prisoner of war for almost three years. When he returned home, he received no veteran benefits or awards. All that Stanley Willner received was agonizing memories he could never erase and the loss of many of his friends from the war. But, Willner did not mind. All that mattered to him was that he stood up for his country and survived.

Willner, along with Denis Roland, was given the chance to go back to the Bridge over the River Kwai in an act of reconciliation. However, Willner was unable to walk across the bridge aside the other prisoners of war. He said, "Although I can understand how Dennis [Roland] feels about the experience he had as a POW, and how he believes that one should forgive, I believe that I'd have to go along with you and say that there is just too much to remember. However, I don't think one should carry the remembering so far that they would exclude the newer generation from acts of friendship, or hold them responsible for the acts of their fathers. But, as you well know, all the forgiving, all the forgetting, and all thoughts and acts of friendship has to be done on an individual basis. I suppose what I'm trying to say is: regardless of how one feels as an individual, we who were Japanese POWs must make every effort to see that it doesn't happen again."

Stanley Willner, a name most people would not recognize, was a prisoner of war. He was a hero, a fighter, and a friend. Through his hardships, perseverance, courageousness, and compassion, we can see what America is built upon. America is brave soldiers going through the length and breadth of the world for our independence. Prisoners of war had their independence taken from them and for that, we may never be grateful enough.

POW- "Stolen Freedom"

by Joanna Radcliff

P.O.W, prisoner of war - those three words describe Michael D. Benge along with many other people who were captured by the enemy during a war. These men and women endured awful treatment as well as lost years away from their homes and families. Although some returned home, many are still missing. Some of their stories are inspiring and represent a pure example of human survival, and sheer determination. Michael D. Benge's story is among them.

Benge, born in 1935, grew up in Oregon. After college, he got into International Voluntary Services which placed him in Vietnam for two years. He also worked with AID - the Agency for International Development - as an agricultural advisor. In the year 1968, Benge was captured in his jeep near South Vietnam. His life began to plummet from there until 1973 when he was released.

The Vietnamese treated Benge as if he were an animal. Benge described being held in cages or tied to trees; he slept on the rocky, unpleasant ground every night. The prisoners and he had little to nothing for food; they were served "boiled manioc" which is a starchy root from a cassava plant. No three course meal, no juicy steak grilled to perfection, no homemade mashed potatoes; just boiled manioc every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Vietnamese wasted no time as they kept the prisoners moving. They went through mountains and jungles traveling over a hundred miles. The prisoners exhausted from the constant walking also became sick with malnutrition and dysentery. Benge eventually developed cerebral malaria including symptoms such as headache, fever, vomiting, convulsions, and sometimes death. Betty Olsen, one of the prisoners with Benge, helped Benge stay alive. Benge along with the other prisoners like Olsen had sores coating their bodies, gum infections, and their teeth were loose. Olsen, now a good friend to Benge, grew weak to the point where she could not move along with the rest of the group. The Vietnamese pursued to drag and kick her, and when Benge tried to help they would hit him with their rifle butts. Olsen passed away soon after and Benge was handed over to the North Vietnamese.

His trek was not over though. Benge became devoted on keeping himself alive. This is where the human survival and determination come into play. Benge would lay in river beds so fish could feed off his dead tissue. He ate raw fish and frogs, sometimes swallowing them whole. Benge did anything he could to keep himself healthy; his appearances, however, begged to differ. Many people at the camp suspected he was around seventy years old when in reality he was only in his thirties. Benge kept marching north, and after five years of being a prisoner, he was released in the year 1973. Afterwards, Benge returned to South Vietnam to continue his work. Today, Benge is looked upon as a hero for he attempted to save Americans prior to his capture.

"In order to survive, you have to will yourself to survive through determination. If you lose hope, you will die," said Benge in an interview. Michael D. Benge's captivity proved that with endless perseverance and hope, you can make it - you can survive. There are many prisoners of war who were put in the same situation as Benge. They were all put through the same decision: keep myself alive or face death. For Benge, death was not an option, and he pulled through all the way. I think we, as a society, should look upon, not only Benge's story but other prisoners of war as well, with honor. These men and women had their freedom taken away, and for some their freedom was never returned. In the end, it is important that we recognize and honor the men and women who endured the misery and the pain. For me, I give my upmost respect to every man and woman who became a prisoner of war. They are some of the true heroes in this country, the United States of America.

Floyd James Thompson

by Emilia Sopranzi

Floyd James Thompson was born in July of 1933. Growing up he was your average American kid. He was drafted into the US army in 1954. At first he was reluctant and often rebellious, but after completing training he decided he liked the military and made it his career. In 1963 Thompson was to serve 6 months in the Vietnamese war. Going into the war Thompson had to leave behind his wife, Alyce, and three children. He didn't know anything about Vietnam and certainly had no idea he would become the longest captured prisoner of war.

On March 26, 1964, less than three months from arriving in Vietnam, the observation plane Thompson was in was attacked. The plane crashed and many died. However Thompson survived with just a few wounds and a broken back. Shortly after the crash, the Viet Cong captured him. The Viet Cong provided Thompson with practically no medical attention, and refused to believe his back was broken. Thompson was unable to care for himself with his broken back and caught malaria. To avoid death he forced himself to move around and within months he was able to recover enough from his back injury to walk. The Viet Cong separated Thompson from other prisoners.

The Viet Cong marched Thompson blindfolded up the Ho Chi Mihn trail in 1967. It was during this time that the torture became extremely violent and unbearable. When Thompson refused to sign a statement saying that US involvement in Vietnam was criminal they denied him food for days, locked his hands and feet together, made him sleep in a small wood cage, and slammed his head onto the ground by yanking his hair until he was unconscious.

Eventually Thompson was allowed to be associated with other US prisoners and during this time Thompson made an escape attempt with a man named Lew Meyer. They did escape but they were weak and they were captured by the second day. When they were captured they were severely punished; they were both beaten and starved. Then in January of 1973 Thompson was transferred to the Hanoi Hilton and was in the first group to be sent home in the Homecoming Operation.

When he arrived home his wife and kids along with many spectators who wanted to witness the homecoming of the longest held prisoner of war greeted him. Thompson was shocked to see how much his children had grown, and was disappointed to find out that his wife had been with another man while he was being beaten and starved. Alyce, his wife, moved herself and their children into the home of another man. She claims to have done this to keep herself sane, and for the safety of her children. When Thompson arrived back home Alyce went back to Thompson, but they faced many problems. Thomson couldn't forgive her for the way she lived while he was captive and they divorced in 1974. Thompson had trouble readjusting to regular life after being held captive for so long partially because he spent 5 years completely isolated from other Americans when he was a prisoner. Five years without talking to a single person who speaks your language can damage the human brain. Thompson fell into depression and became an alcoholic in 1977. Thompson went to therapy and got his life back on track but in the winter of 1981 he suffered a stroke that left him handicapped.

After his stroke Thompson decided to retire in Key West Florida. It was here where he practiced and recovered lost communication skills. It was also here that Floyd James Thompson was found dead at age 68 in July of 2002. Remember Thompson's story and honor him and all the other soldiers who suffered as prisoners of war.

July 24, 2011

Trailer "PRISONERS OF WAR: Stolen Freedom"

July 14, 2011

November Show Announcement


July 4, 2011

Preview of our interview of Giles Norrington


Giles Norrington said when he came home after four years, 10 months and nine days in a North Vietnamese POW camp, he and other ex-POWs were treated like American heroes. But, he added, "We were not always brave."

"What we did was survive in difficult circumstances through faith in others, faith in ourselves, faith in God and faith in our constitution," the retired Navy captain said during the recent DoD POW/MIA prayer breakfast in Arlington, Va. The event highlighted the 25th anniversary of the return of the first Americans held captive in Vietnam.

"There were times I could have died a happy man, but there was never a consideration of wanting to die, praying for death or considering killing myself," Norrington said. "Suicide wasn't part of the equation for any of us. There was never a time when I didn't believe I would come home. The thing was to come home with our honor intact." He said the POWs' motto and way of life was "Return with honor."

Shot down during a bombing mission in May 1968, Norrington said he received severe burns on both hands, a leg and the back of his neck and he couldn't fully close his hands for about a year. Initially, his North Vietnamese captors threw him into solitary confinement at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" POW camp and used his wounds to intensify his pain and suffering.

"They used every kind of torture that can inflict injury," Norrington said. "They abused my wounds -- beatings and things of that nature."

When they realized the severity of his wounds prevented him from taking care of his basic human needs, the North Vietnamese moved him to a room with two cellmates. In 1972, Norrington was incarcerated in a large room with 56 other navigators and pilots.

"I was very lucky, or blessed, whichever way you want to look at it, in that my wounds healed completely," Norrington said.

He said in addition to bad treatment, nutrition was poor. "Each day they'd go to the local market and purchase the cheapest, most abundant vegetables they could find and boil them into a soup for us," he said. "Typically, we had pumpkin soup for four or five months and cabbage soup for three or four months. We called one weed 'sewer greens.' It wasn't very tasty, but was probably very iron-rich."

The first year was the most difficult because Norrington heaped enormous guilt on himself for having been shot down. "It wasn't my fault, but I felt it was," he said. "Probably the most difficult day was in October 1972 when I found out my mother had died.

"It was a learning lesson from beginning to end," he noted. "Faith in God, faith in our country, faith in our country and its constitutional underpinnings, faith in one another and faith in yourself were the things that sustained me. Prayer was a very important component."

Sometimes Norrington prayed for hours during his captivity. "I discovered in lengthy prayers, it's a little like poetry," he said. "It reminds you of the glory of the nature of God." He said God hears all prayers and answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is "no" sometimes "not yet" and sometimes "wait and see."

Since retiring from the Navy in 1988, Norrington has been involved with the Salvation Army, an executive director of an American Red Cross Chapter in New London, Conn., and director of the AIDS Service Agency in Norfolk, Va.. He's now writing crime prevention training courses for the Washington-based National Crime Prevention Council.

"I don't know what road I would have walked had I remained free. I don't know what changed. But I can say, when I came out I was different from the person that went in," he said of his nearly five years as a POW. "I had a greater appreciation of life and a wonderful appreciation of people about me. I discovered resources in myself I'd never had to tap in freedom. Among them was a perfect willingness to depend on the person beside me and to allow that person to depend on me.

"Prayer helped me get through a lot of the tough times -- still does," Norrington said.


Drawing by Giles Norrington, recalling his captivity. See more drawings here

Watch for a preview of our up-coming documentary, Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom, featuring the stories of four local veterans who were POWs.

July 4, 2011

Premier of Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom

The premier of our latest documentary is to be Sunday, November 6, 2011 at Anastasia Baptist Church, in St. Augustine. Doors will open at 1:30 PM; the show starts at 2:30 PM, with the documentary following the speakers.

May 29, 2011

FVPPI President and Executive Producer featured in Times/Union article

Rothfeld, a retired New York City schoolteacher, has helped keep their war stories alive, turning to documentary filmmaking to tell of the one-time fighting men who live all around him. "Not bad for a retired guy, huh?" joked Rothfeld, some of whose films air Sunday on WJCT TV-7. It all began when he found out there were 34 World War II vets just in his neighborhood, Coquina Crossing, a 55-plus development in St. Johns County.

Read the complete story

May 22, 2011

Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom

Due to production issues, we will be premiering our latest documentary, Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom in November at a local high school. The documentary will feature a WW II veteran who was a POW in Burma, a Korean War POW and two Vietnam POWs. We are looking for financial support for this documentary as well as corporate support for the event programs.

See details below.

February 18, 2011

New Project Announced - Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom

The heroic stories of northeast Florida POWs has been largely ignored. This documentary will showcase their stories of their captivity, the brutality they endured, their return to freedom and return to normalcy. It will be a positive uplifting experience. We will have them share their remembrances from WW II, Korea and Vietnam. Where appropriate we will have their family members speak of the emotional trauma these men suffered, how they adjusted and how it affected their family.

We will start with a brief history of Prisoners of War, International Law and Geneva Conventions. We will use appropriate Public Domain historical footage.

We will be contacting a Jacksonville resident, Mary H. about appearing in the documentary. We may use her story in the documentary. Mary is credited with designing the black POW/MIA Flag that is the only other recognized American National Ensign.

As we have done with our Vietnam documentary, we will seek to dedicate the documentary in honor and memory of a local POW/MIA.

The closing credits will scroll a list of NE FL POW & MIA's if we can locate a full accurate list.

We will try to have ex POWs from Jacksonville, Palm Coast, St. Augustine and Daytona to get a good geographical representation.

This project will be privately funded and filmed by Eclipse Recording Co. in St. Augustine.

Our target date of completion is Friday Sept. 16th, 2011 which is National POW/MIA Day. We have already reserved the Flagler College Auditorium in St. Augustine for the documentary premiere.

FVPPI Tentative POW Project Outline
Newspaper Ads/ Circulate POW questionnaire, (January, February)
Meet with PBS to discuss documentary story line and script (February)
Audio interview those submitting questionnaires, and secure Releases (March, April)
Committee meets with interviewers to review summaries of interviews and select 5 finalist interviews for documentary, (April)
Film finalist interviews, (April, May)
Formulate script and story line from interview summaries, (May)
Dedicate POW doc to memory of Michael Scott Speicher
Story about the creator of the POW/MIA Flag (resident of Jacksonville)
Documentary, to include the following information about the POWs:
Military Record
Capture story
Captivity description
How they were treated by family and community after return from captivity
Effect of capture on POW and family
What they did in life after return from captivity and military discharge
Film company to: (June, July, August)
add historical footage/period music that is in public domain
add credits supplied by FVPPI
Voice over to introduce documentary and at the end describe story of Florida's MIA's and perhaps list FL MIA's

The committee will review documentary progress on a monthly basis and will meet with the film company monthly to offer content suggestions.

Sept. 16, 2011 premier documentary at the Flagler College Auditorium at 7 pm.

Florida Veterans Programs & Projects, Inc.

Corporate Sponsorship Levels (all donations are tax deductible)
Silver: less than $ 400.00
Corporate recognition in our event program
Gold: $ 500 to $ 750.00
Corporate recognition in our event program
Corporate recognition to audience
VIP Seats at documentary premieres
Platinum: over $ 1000.00
Corporate recognition in our event program
Corporate recognition to audience
Unlimited VIP Seats at documentary premieres
Onscreen Corporate recognition (in credits)
Executive Producer Credit: over $ 2500.00
All of the above plus onscreen credit as Executive Producer

We have produced three documentaries about World War Two, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
All our films feature local Florida veterans.
All documentaries have been broadcast on WJCT TV, the Jacksonville PBS affiliate.
We have premiered all our documentaries at the Flagler College Auditorium to audiences of over 800.
We have Friday September 16, 2011 at 7 pm reserved for our POW premiere at the Flagler College Auditorium in St. Augustine. Sept. 16 is National POW Day.

FVPPI is a 501 C3 Corp. We are registered as a Public Charity under section 170 of the IRS Code, sections: 2055, 2106, or 2522. All contributions are tax deductible.

December 31, 2010

2010 FVPPI Summary of Activities and Accomplishments

In 2010 FVPPI -

- continued to send Care Packages to troops in Iraq & Afghanistan on a monthly basis

- published a 20 page color booklet with the heroic stories of local Vietnam veterans and we distributed the booklets at our veterans show at Flagler College, to all the St. Johns County libraries, high schools and veterans groups

- sponsored a Flagler College student essay contest on Vietnam, which featured a $500 prize

- distributed DVDs of the Vietnam documentary to St. Johns County libraries, high schools, veterans groups, museums and to the Flagler College Library

- made cash donations to Wreaths Across America, Vets-4-Vets, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart

- presented our annual veterans show at Flagler College Auditorium

In addition -

- the Vietnam veterans who were featured in our documentary spoke at the Council On Aging, the Orange County Regional History Center, and the Amelia Island Museum of History

- WJCT TV, (the local PBS affiliate) showed our Vietnam documentary five times in November

December 6, 2010

Praise for our work

Dear Mr. Rothfeld,

On behalf of the Amelia Island Museum of History, I want to thank you, Tom Waskovich, Harry Manford, Coy McDonald, Tom Crawford, Paul Heagy, Terry Allan and everyone at Florida Veteran's Programs and Projects for sharing your wonderful new documentary with our community. As the local chapter of the Veterans History Project, the museum has always worked closely with our area's veteran groups and it was great to hear the first-accounts of a war that certainly shaped an entire generation.

The film was great, but having the actual veterans present to discuss their service made the program wonderful. The dynamic group of speakers helped put a face on a conflict that is usually discussed in political terms, rather than focusing on the men and women who sacrificed so much for their country. Your group does great work and we hope that you continue to give voice to our area's veterans.

Please let us know if you're planning another film or if we can ever assist with a future project.

Alexander Buell
Education Director, Amelia Island Museum of History

November 26, 2010

Premier of: Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice & Courage


November 7, 2010 was the premier of the latest of our documentaries. To celebrate we had an epic event at Flagler Auditorium in St. Augustine, Florida. Follow this link to see photos of the premier and to view the documentary.

The event was covered by The St. Augustine Record. The story can be read here.

We received many comments about the project - a few of which follow -

The Patriot Guard Riders wish to extend our sincere thanks for the honor of being invited to honor all the Veterans present at the documentary Sunday, November 7th. A very well done to all of your groups for putting together an outstanding presentation. Please keep us in mind should you or any of you need us in the future. Thanks again.
John Vincent
Senior Ride Captain
Patriot Guard Riders
Jacksonville, Florida

As a sailor who served from 1966-69 on the USS John R. Pierce (DD 753), I remember the shoddy treatment handed out to those who wore the uniform. I salute your effort to set things right and give the vets a proper welcome home. Your film and introduction was warmly received by the veterans at the screening, and just as importantly, by the families and todays youth.
Bill Korach
St. St Augustine Council
Navy League of the United States

Dear Mr. Rothfeld:
First of all we would like to thank you so much for all your work on behalf of veterans and we want to let you know that we thoroughly enjoyed your documentary, Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice and Courage. Congressman Ander Crenshaw sent us a letter about your event and we were very happy that we drove the 50 miles (one way) to attend. Thanks to you and all those who made it all possible. My husband, Frank, spent 22 years in the Army and 2 years in Vietnam.  He was seriously injured during his first tour when he was shot down while flying his attack helicopter. Several people played a huge role in saving his life, so we can really relate to all that we heard yesterday.
Mary C. Alverson

Hello Michael,
Well done sir. That was a great event. Kudos to you and all those who helped bring that to fruition.
Michael S Davis

I saw the Service, Sacrifice and Courage video on TV. My husband was walking by the TV and immediately sat down. It is really moving. So nice to let the vets just tell their stories. I'm sending the link to your site to my high school classmates up north. Whether we liked the war or not, the soldiers who fought there, by choice or by draft, deserve our respect and our attention. I wish I could have been at the variety show. You all do such good work!

One more time I want to say thanks to you and all of the folks who worked on the FVPPI Vietnam Veterans program. It was truly an honor to represent the stories of all of the other Vietnam Veterans.
Take care,

Hello Michael
I have been totally overwhelmed by events the past few days. The best came in the mail yesterday: I received a card, hand made from an 8 yr old girl from Elkton, thanking me for my help to our country and wishing me a Happy Veterans Day. This experience has been beyond words. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this event. Thanks to the committee for selecting me.
Best to you all
Paul H.
October 8, 2010

New documentary to air on public television

Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice and Courage is to be shown on the Jacksonville PBS affiliate station, WJCT. Look for it at these times:

Sunday, November 7, at 1:00 PM on WJCT 7.1 (main channel)
Monday, November 8, at 11:00 PM on WJCT 7.1 (main channel)
Wednesday, November 10, at 9:00 PM on WJCT 7.4 (WJCT More!)
Thursday, November 11, at 8:00 PM on WJCT 7.1 (main channel)
Sunday, November 14, at 11:30 AM on WJCT 7.1 (main channel)

October 3, 2010


September 13, 2010

Vietnam documentary takes unique First Coast angle

By Timothy J. Gibbons

When the filmmaker first approached Tom Waskovich to talk about the Special Forces soldier's experience in Vietnam, Waskovich hesitated.

Many documentaries about Vietnam focus more on the politics than the people, Waskovich said, and he didn't want to contribute to another one.

The film he wanted would "forget about the political baloney and just tell the guys' stories," said Waskovich, a St. Augustine resident.

And that's what he got.

"Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice and Courage" is the story of "local neighbors, national heroes," focusing on five First Coast men who fought in the conflict.

Excerpted with the intent of fair use from the Florida Times-Union, September 9, 2010. Read the entire article here.

Lunch and Learn with Vietnam Vets (facilitated by Michael Rothfeld)

Lunch & Learn with Vietnam Veterans:

Earl Kidwell
Tom Crawford
Harry Manford
Tom Waskovich
Terry Allan
Paul Heagy
Jim Vanairsdale

Thursday, September 9 from 1:00 - 2:00 PM

Join us at River House, 179 Marine St. for a lunch and learn you won't forget! A group of seven local Vietnam veterans share their experiences serving in this controversial war and tell how they learned to deal with and overcome the challenges and obstacles inherent in being a Vietnam Vet. The program is facilitated by Michael Rothfeld and is free of charge. Lunch is available for purchase from the River House Cafe.

Please contact Linley Harriss at 209-3646

May 1, 2010

Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice & Courage

A trailer for the documentary Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice and Courage. This project was produced by Florida Veterans Programs and Projects, Inc and Flagler College TV Workshop class.

A special twenty page booklet has been created to accompany and expand on the documentary. It will be distributed to schools libraries and museums. It will also be available for no charge at the premier of the documentary in November at Flagler Auditorium (see date and time below). It is also available as a free download by clicking the link below. (Right click or control-click then select Save to Desktop.)

Download the Booklet

Press Release -

Flagler student wins essay contest

"Was I learning about the Vietnamese money and medical packs he brought in? Yes. But I was learning so much more about what it meant to serve not only my country, but also others. I was also learning how to be a better man. Service does not equate to weakness. It is the opposite; it is a strong man that can put his ego aside to help achieve the greater good" wrote Jeff Givens in his award winning essay.

Little did Jeff Givens, the winner of a $500.00 scholarship, and 15 fellow students realize what they were getting into for a 1 credit class when they enrolled in the T.V. Workshop class of Flagler College Communications Department.

The project, a documentary about the Vietnam War, took all semester and required an extraordinary amount of hours outside of class to perform the varied tasks involved in making a documentary. They had no idea that they were going to learn a lot of history, up-close and personal history, of what it means to go to war.

When presented with the task of writing a 500 word essay on what they learned during the making of the documentary, the collective groan could be heard 3 rooms away. But the incentive of $500.00 in scholarship money for the best essay seemed to lighten the load considerably.

Earl Kidwell of Florida Veterans Programs and Projects, Inc. (FVPPI) was charged with the task of reading the thirteen entries and deciding the winner. "It was not an easy task. I read each essay about 8 times. I put aside the 3 or 4 I thought were the best and then read through all of the rest again and again to make sure I didn't miss anything the previous times. Jeff's essay was the one which clearly embodied the essence of the subject." He came to understand that war, by its very nature, brings about an entirely different meaning to the words Service, Sacrifice, and Courage than when used in an everyday context.

The documentary, entitled "Vietnam: Service Sacrifice and Courage" is the third installment of veteran history projects undertaken by FVPPI. The documentary attempts to correct myths about the war and concentrate on the men and women who, in spite of their exposure to the worst that war has to offer, made a successful transition to civilian life. It embodies the stories of 5 local Vietnam veterans.

"This documentary would not have been possible without a sizable donation from Allied Veterans of the World, Inc. & Affiliates,"" said Michael Rothfeld, president of FVPPI. "They gave money not only for the documentary, but also for the scholarship. They are true Angels.

Jerry Bass, National Senior Vice-Commander, Allied Veterans of the World, Inc. responded for the organization saying "It is not only our pleasure, but our duty to our veterans to make sure these stories of their service, sacrifice, and courage are shared."

The premier of the documentary is scheduled to be held on November 7, 2010 at 3pm in the Flagler College Auditorium, 14 Granada St., St Augustine. The premier is free and open to the public.

Along with the premier will be a "Veterans Variety Show"" performed by the Coquina Players to "Welcome Home" our Vietnam Veterans.

left to right: Earl Kidwell, FVPPI; Jeff Givens; and Jerry Bass, Allied Veterans of the World

Service, Sacrifice and Courage

by Jeff Givens, Flagler College

I thought I knew all I needed to know about Vietnam. It was unpopular; we lost a lot of troops and it occurred during my parent's generation. My education was not wrong: just incomplete. All of the personal stories that truly flesh out what war is really like had fallen through the cracks. I had never talked to a Vietnam veteran. In this essay I want to talk about how they embodied service, sacrifice and courage.

Service. It was towards the end of the shooting schedule and we were all getting tired. I was asked to come in and help shoot the medals, supplies and pictures that Paul Heagy had brought back. I was not overly excited but I had to do it for the class. When Paul arrived he was in great spirits and was happy to help. He not only told us about the things he had brought, but let us touch them and arrange them the way we wanted. Later, while I was shooting I noticed he had sat down and was going through all of his slides with a classmate, telling the story behind each photo. It was then that the character of this man struck me. He was the one volunteering to give up his time to help us out. Was I learning about the Vietnamese money and medical packs he brought in? Yes. But I was learning so much more about what it meant to serve not only my country, but also others. I was also learning how to be a better man. Service does not equate to weakness. It is the opposite; it is a strong man that can put his ego aside to help achieve the greater good. It is the weak man who must refuse to serve for fear his weakness will be revealed.

Sacrifice. 58,261 is a big number. As with numbers of dead, such as WW 2, Korea and Iraq, they are just big numbers. It is hard to connect or understand what it means that 58,261 of our men died. Harry Manford, Tom Crawford and Paul Heagy helped me to understand. Seeing these men recount memories that are older than me, and hearing in their voices the deep sadness over the loss of close friends and the brutality of war was sobering. The story that Harry Manford told about the American soldier having to hold his intestines in after being hit by a grenade made me understand that what our troops do for this country is not to be taken for granted. The most memorable, and saddest story was that of James Toothacker. Leaving his young bride back home only to die after thirty days in Vietnam made me see that the effects of war do not stay on the battlefield. Unlike our men, they always come back home.

Courage. For me this has always been a tough trait to pick out in others. Courage is still hard to find in most but through this project, I can see it clearly in our veterans. To go through what they did and emerge stronger on the other side is nothing short of a miracle. It spoke volumes to me about the training that they endured and the character that it built in them. It also showed what men my age are capable of doing. Most of these men were my age or younger during their tours of duty. Listening to Tom Waskovich talk about running Special Operations as a nineteen year old instilled confidence that I too can make an impact at my age. That age is secondary to motivation. Courage does not come easily. All of these men at a young age decided to make a choice to serve our country. For that reason, I am thankful for their service, their sacrifice and their courage.

January 11, 2010

2009 FVPPI Summary of Activities and Accomplishments

We have sent and are continuing to send packages to Iraq and Afghanistan, monthly
We produced two Fund Raisers, a Penny Social and a Benefit Show, both at Coquina Crossing
We donated a large outdoor flag to St. Joseph Academy
We donated an award winning print of two WW II soldiers to Coquina Crossing for permanent display
We produced a Korean Veterans Celebration at the main Jacksonville Public Library (seating 400)
We produced a Korean Veterans Variety Show at the Flagler College auditorium (seating 800)
We donated a shadow box Battle Flag to the St. Johns County Veterans Service Office
We produced a Korean War documentary featuring five local Korean War heroes
Our documentary was broadcast on local PBS (WJCT-TV) three times in November
We donated copies of the Korean documentary to all St. Johns County libraries
We presented Korean War veterans & documentary at the Amelia Island Museum of History
We presented Korean War veterans & documentary at Edgewater High School auditorium, Orlando
We presented Korean War veterans & documentary at Orange County Regional History Center, Museum
We sponsored a veterans essay contest at Flagler College, winner given $1,000.00
We sponsored a veterans essay at contest Liberty Pines Academy, three students given total prizes of $600.00

For 2010 -

We have started our next project, a Vietnam documentary, working with the Flagler College Communications Dept. & featuring the heroic stories of local veterans.

We have contacted Flagler College and requested a November 7, 2010 date to present the premier of the Vietnam documentary as well as a Veterans Day Variety show.

We will be meeting with the President of the St Johns County School Board, then making a presentation to the Superintendent of Schools and the School Board to further using veterans as "living history."

2008-2009 Project News