The Last Full Measure (2019) Script

3 00:03:39,632 --> 00:03:42,112 103.6, WPTZ.

All news radio, traffic, sports and weather together AM.

In the district there is a pile up on Constitution.

Yes, hi, Dr. Linman's office, please.

This thing cheats.

This is terrible. Uh..hello?

Hi, I'm Tara Huffman, and I have an 8:15 amnio scheduled, and we're totally stuck on Constitution.

I'm so sorry, can you hang on a second?


Hi, Celia, I'm on the other line.

Wait. Celia?

Okay, alright.

Quickly, quickly. Okay.

Hey, what's up?



I'm gonna call you back. Just meet me downstairs.


Peters just fucking quit.

You owe me a quarter.

What happened? Why?

I--I don't know. I don't know what happened.

Okay, there is a metro station two blocks away, why don't you take it?

Are you sure?

Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry.

It's okay. Thank you.

Alright, buddy, take care of your mom, okay?

Alright. Good luck. Okay.

I'll call you later. Okay. It's gonna be okay.

Alright. Bye.

I called as soon as I heard.

It's your job to keep my pale-ass out of the stink O'Neil, you're my Kevlar.

How was I supposed to know the secretary was gonna call a press conference, let alone resignn today. Did he have a reason?

The secretary? Oh, yes.

He wants to spend more-- More time with the family?

Oh, Jesus. Is Stanton there?

He brought the donuts. Of course, he did.

What's my day like? Your 1 o'clock, is early, and your lunch scrubbed. What 11 o'clock?

Master Sergeant Thomas Tully.

Never heard of him, re-schedule.

We missed you at the brief.

I got to have my ear to the rail, Carl, or that train might have run me over.

Well, if you'd be here on time, you would have heard it like the rest of us.

You must've known something.

Hey, I was here, you weren’t.

It's on you. I--I-- I got you a doughnut.

It's got..sprinkles.

My wife had a amnio. Oh..

Oh, right. Priorities.

I don't know how you do it. Wife.. kids, hamster.. Oh, it was Gerbil.

Mercifully, he finally went tits up.

Life refined itself if you're patient.

It was a shock, but I'm finally over it.

You okay? What's--what's-- What's bothering you?

I'm a government lawyer about to be unemployed.

Oh, come on! You're a superstar on the verge of free agency.

You will find something.

In the middle of an election year? Not even Tiger could sink that put.

What makes you think I can?

Because your political Darwinism is absolutely instinctual.


Oh, you're welcome. You remember that decorations review I gave you in July?

It's a vague potential memory.

A Medal of Honor upgrade?

You have a status briefing.

When? Now.

With who? Master Sergeant Thomas Tully.

Air force para-rescue, retired.

Flew in from Daton. Your 11 o' clock.

He's the guy's buddy.

Who's guy?

What guy? The Medal Of Honor candidate.

Why he won't just... come himself?

Because it's posthumous.

You better read down.

Here you go.

Christ, I-- I've been reminding you since July.

We're talking about one of the blodiest in the days of the war.

Pit saved lives.

And he was awarded with a Air Force Cross.

What's wrong with that? It was downgraded to the Cross.

We put him up for the Medal of Honor.

That's different. Sergeant.

I'm gonna tell you something you probably already know.

Decoration upgrades are rare.

The criteria for review is new information.

I figured the "no information" part was your job.

This was 30 years ago.

I mean, is there an agenda you have I should know about?

Justice delayed is justice denied.

That's my damn agenda.

Sergeant Tully, Secretary of the Air Force..

..resigned today.

In three months, everyone in this office is gonna be gone, including me.

This will take years.

We're gonna follow-up on this next week.

Secretary Peters?


I'm Thomas Tully.

Air force para-rescue.


Defense Contract Audit Agency is looking for a Regional Director.

That one would be a step backwards.

Okay, well, you're now officially on your own.

Don't be like that. Call sheet is in your computer, the Secretary is looking for you and your wife called.

Wait. Why?

Well..she didn't say.

No. Peters.

He wants to see you in his office in five minutes.

Congratulations on the job, Carl.

No moss growing under your feet.

Thank you Mr. Secretary.

Sit. Sit down.

A Master Sergeant Thomas Tully doesn’t think we're giving this MOH matter a fair shake.

That's a misunderstanding.

That's what I said.


Operation Abilene was one of the bloodiest battles in the entire war.

The 'Vietnam' War.


An entire company nearly wiped out but for this PJ's efforts.

Para-rescue jumper.

Pitsenbarger is a legend in the PJ community.

I understand that.

Well, Carl's putting together your itinerary.

You'll collect combat testimonies, personally, and prepare a package for a full decorations review.

But we're about to present the budget to committee.

Yeah,well, Carl has it covered.

I've been working on it.

All year.

And now you're working on this.

The Medal of Honor is the highest recognition of Military valor there is.

Patton said he'd have traded his command for that ribbon.

Eisenhower - the white house.

Now, why do you think four star Generals and Presidents would say something like that?

Honestly, I have no idea.

Well, that's a very good place to start.

I'm off the budget because of some grunt-case met Peters in the shitter. Are you kidding me?

He's not a grunt. He's Air Force.

And you're off the budget because you embarrassed him.

Who? Tully? No. Peters.

Look, uh, I've never done a medal review, I--

I-- I don't have time for this.

What job did you get, anyway?

I'm Legislative Director for Madison Holt, if it's any of your business.

Chairman of Armed Services?

Is there another? Look..what, do I have to spell this out for you?

This is crazy.

Take a few days, go collect some war stories, have Celia write up a summery statement requesting more time.

We look like we give a shit, just till it rolls-over to the next poor slob who takes your job, and you're out of it, before Appropriations even sniffs the budget.

That's it? Yeah, that's it.

It's only gonna be a day, honey.

We're getting fire from all corners.Over.

Carlie-6-dawn 3.




Everybody down! Take cover! Contact!Victor Charlie!

We have wounded and we are taking fires!

Heaven-1, Pedro inbound, say, two mikes out. Copy that, Charlie-6. We're inbound now.

Charlie-6.. Get behind now!

They have mortars and automatic weapon now.

It's an ambush! Keep moving! Hey, Tully! It doesn't look too good down there.

They don't know how to load the litters. Holy shit! It's the medic.

Okay. Somebody needs to go down there... and get 'em straightened out.

No way, it's hotter than hell down there, Pits.

Those people can't wait. They've lost the medic. Let me go down, speed up the whole deal.

As soon as we have their wounded, you're back on this bird.

Roger that.

You be goddamn careful.

I'm going down!

Get the fuck out of here!

Sounds like a suicide mission.

Suicide is hopeless.

What Pitsenbarger did was it was valor.

It was a hell of a thing see from where I was sitting.

Then why didn't he get the medal in '66?

You must have some opinion. If my opinion mattered this would have been done long ago.

Do you do something, Sergeant?

Do you have a job or a hobby or is this your full time thing?

I'm a palliative nurse.

I work with terminal patients and their families to clarify End-of-life goals and symptom management. Psycho. Social.

Spiritual support.

Do you make your own bed?


That's a simple question.

My wife does it.

It must suck to be her.

Is there...a point here somewhere?

We'd been down this road before.

You're just the FNG.

Sergeant... this

..old-pet project of your's has been in a coma for three decades.

There's nothing in this for me, but I'm here anyway.

So, what do you want?

Sorry to keep you--

I nap more than I used to.

Mr. Pitsenbarger, sir.

You know, I'm just getting old. It's, uh.. hard, it's.. keeping awake long enough to enjoy it.

Oh, thank you. Well.

Thank you. So.. you're the new one.

The new one?

If you want the real story about Abilene, you will need to talk to the mud soldiers.

And they are?

You do work in The Department of Defense, right?

They are the Army guys, on the ground.

Charlie Company. 16th Infantry.

The big red one.

Well. as far as they're concerned, you see, it wasn't Bill's fight.

Bill was Air Force.

Charlie Company took 80% casualties, that's 34 KIA's.

In the same day.

Bill was a part of it, of course.

But, he wasn't one of them.

We have to respect that.


Now, Billy Takoda lives over in Sterling County, that's about an hour's drive from here.

Over the years, the wives have tracked down most of the guys.

You might want to start with them.

And this Billy guy is he..Will he talk to me ? Is he alright?

Two of you should get along fine.


What the hell are you yelling for?


Billy Takoda.

Not an easy guy to find.

Y’all be careful down there, you hear?

Jeremy. Stay out that water.

So, what's your story?

Why are you here?

Well, I appreciate what you've been through.

Uh..I'm here to help.

If you wanted to help, you'd pick up weapon, get some skin in the game, friend.

You'd acknowledge you own a piece of every bomb drop, every bullet fired in every skirmish since you've been born.

That you have blood on your hands. You understand?

Second chance.

Why are you here?

It's my job.

I don't have a choice.

See? That's progress.

Vulnerability in communication.

Honesty builds trust.

That's the only real currency we get left in this world.

Now you can trust me?


Do you mind...if I.. Uh..

I'm, uh, here so I can hear your side of the story.

I talk.

You listen.

Vietnam wasn't my first square-dance.

I was a dog-faced lifer.

A natural war fighter.

I loved it.

Nothing...made me feel more alive.

But I had never seen nothing like Abilene .

Lost men like that.


Fuck! Medic! Let's go!Let's go!

Medic! Jan, Cover me!

Medic! Take cover!

Oh, god! Goddamn it, Jerry, you alright?

Contact! Victor Charlie!

Let's move! Let's move! I'm hit!

We have wounded and we're taking fire!

Oh, fuck!

They have mortars and automatic weapons now.

- It's an ambush! Oh!


Where'd he fit in all of this?

Well, I had lost my medic.

We had no LZ, so... we called in air force Helos.

Pedro. Pedro. It's Charlie-6, be advised.

We are in a tight one down here.

Multiple casualties, we need you soon as contact, one 'o clock.

Advise when you got us in sight, over.

Copy, Charlie-6. Pedro has your smoke.

Pits came down, saved lives.

Evaced wounded.

Died fighting alongside men he never even knew.

Get down, airman!

Get down! Okay.

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Slow it down!

Nothing but your man into the basket .

Okay, now.


Take hold these.

Yeah, yeah.

Nice and easy, now! One!

Two. Three.

Alright, hang tight, buddy.

I'm gonna need you to do something for me, alright?

Keep the pressure on it, alright?

All the way up, you keep that pressure on. You're going home.

Lift me! Alright.

Okay! Take er up!

Alright, hang tight, bud. Move it!

Hold the line! Hold the line! Come on.

What's the story, Lieutenant? We've got a 100 meter perimeter.

We're taking fire from everywhere.

We've got two KIA's and at least eight wounded that I know of.

Alright, I'm gonna need two of your guys.

It's your show, airman.


Tully says this whole medal thing was your Idea.

Is that true?

Uh, I made out the paper work, sent it up the air force chain, that's all.

But he never got the medal? Uh-uh.

Not the big daddy, no.

Why not?

It was war.

Pits wasn't the only one, you know.

I must have wrote over a dozen letters to parents and girlfriends.

After that, all you can do is make amends and try to forget.

How do you do that?

Like I said, ---

You went-- You went back to Vietnam?

I didn't understand the world anymore and the world was sure as hell didn't understand me, so, where the hell else was I gonna go?

After I got healed up, this old high school buddy of mine called and invited me for beers.

Now, we sitting at the bar and he shooting shit about girls, and how we used raise hell back in the day.

More we talk, more I realized it was nothing hit, you know.

Then he blurts out, " Hey, You got Purple Heart. What happened, you get shot?".

It gets real quiet.

All these drunk assholes just staring at me.

All that I could hear is screams from the jungle that day and

artillery whistling in, and I started to get pissed.

So, uh..

I pulled my shirt up just to shut him up.

He looks kind of awkward and then he started chuckling, saying, "What was you doing? Running away?"

You know what? Maybe I was.

Maybe that's what I've been doing all this time.

I was a refugee in my own Country and that hurt way more than those bullets.

Does it still hurt, Grandpa?

Oh, only on the inside, baby boy.

Come on, kids. It's time to eat.

Honey, I think this Gumbo about ready.

I'm gonna need you to get on the record.

That's about as on the record as you gonna get.


Donna Burr ? Hi.

Hey, man, he doesn't even get up till 8 o'clock.

Oh! Uh..I'm sorry.

Scott Huffman. DOD.

He--He works nights?

Jimmy's PTS.

He's OCD.

He suffers hallucinations and about fifty other war related effects.

He sleeps during the day because the night just plain terrifies him.

Do you even know any Vietnam vets?

No. It's, a new experience for me.

How did you two meet?

You mean what do I see in a section-8 like Jim?

No. Not at all, ma'am. I'm--I'm just--

I was his nurse.

At the VA.

You can learn a lot about these guys hanging with them.

What they did, what it cost.

And every day he finds the courage not to stick a gun in his mouth.

So, I think he deserves a little compassion.

And believe me, I get a lot more than I give.

So, If he wants to sleep during the day that's okay with me.

So I saw Frank Pitsenbarger.

And, uh.. he told me you have a contact list.

For all the charlie company guys that you put together.

So, that's what you want?

Well,.. no, I would.. love to talk to your husband, too.

I hope you're sincere about this, because Jimmy is tougher than a two dollar steak, and he can smell a wreck from mile up wind.

Well, I don't have a position here or an opinion--

Here's your list.

Thank you.

You want to talk to Jimmy, you gonna have to wait.

I'm not making any promises. Thank you.


Sleeping on post get you fragged in my unit.

You know what I'm saying, sir?

People around here, think I'm a goddamn vampire. Maybe they're right, too.

Because I ain't slept in the dark for 32 years.

You know what I'm saying, sir?

You know what that is?


No. No, I--I don't.


Big red one.

1st Infantry Division.

Baddest goddamn GI's ever laced a boot.

Is that loaded?


You know what you call a gun that ain't loaded?

A fucking stick, sir.

You know what, Jimmy? Uh.. can I--

Can I call you Jimmy?

I'm a civilian, so, you don't have to call me sir. The only reason I'm talking and not shooting, is cause of Tully.

You say this is all about Pits getting the medal, ain't that right?

Right. Absolutely.

Because I don't give a shit about you.

I don't give a shit about anything.

I just want to be left goddamn alone!

You understand what I'm saying?

I mean I been fucked over and fucked around.

Nobody knows what went down with me over there.

Nobody knows!

You understand what I'm saying, sir?

Listen, man, I--

I didn't come here to get shot at, or to rattle your cage. I'm just--

I'm just here because Tully said your statement was important, as did Mr. Pitsenbarger.

I was oldest FNG they'd ever seen.



Goddamn Okinawa.

Ten years and I've never squeezed off one round.

You understand what I'm saying, sir?

FNG? What--What is that?

Fucking new guy.

No more than tits on a snake.

FNG's got people killed.

All them years waiting, come Easter '66, I'm in goddamn Vietnam.

I mean, I didn't sign up for the shit.

33 years old, I was gung-ho and ready to kill something.

Hey, Ray.

You short, right?

32 days and I'll be swimming in Schlitz unless you get me killed.

How long it take you to grease your first dink?

You know what I'm saying? Get off my back.

What's your problem, man?

You two trying to get each other killed? Hm?

Mick, get the hell away from here.

Hey, you know better, right?

Keep the eyes open, will 'ya?

Down! Down,down,down!

Incoming! Get down! Get down!

How many? Where are they? I got 'em.

What do we got? Gooks. Three of 'em.

I--I--I got a one.

I got one.

Holy shit.

Nice shot. -Charlie-6, Charlie-3.

Here, sir.

Charlie-6. Lieutenant, what the hell is going on up there?

FNG bust his cherry that's all.

Copy that. Anything else?


Roger that. Charlie-3 out.

Jeff, check his entrail, then shove a couple of grenades up under.

If anybody comes for him, we'll know.


Welcome to Nam, Jimmy.

Come on. I got 'ya.

I ain't never seen nobody died before.

That little matter sucked all the past right out of me.

You understand what I'm saying, sir?

I felt real bad about that for exactly twelve hours.

And then I didn't feel bad about nothing.

I thought this was going to the bottom of the pile.

We are the bottom of the pile.

Some guy named Raymont called, said he was confirming.

Today's adventures in post traumatic exorcism.

Hopefully he won't have a gun.

Sit down and walk me through the requirements for a congressional decorations package.

New eye witness statements. Okay, we're doing that.

DOD report of casualty.

Well, he's definitely dead, so that's two.

And chain of command endorsements.

Bingo! Where are they?

Because some guy named Kepper wrote the after action report and passed it up.

It'd have to had been approved from Bien Hoa..

Saigon to here at the Pentagon.

Well, that'd have been protocol. Right. So where is it?

A lot can get lost in 32 years. I mean.. this is the Government we're talking about.

Well, if I can't find the chain of command endorsements, this thing is DOA.

I'm out of it.

Why not ask Kepper?

Because he is living in Nha Trang which is in Vietnam and that's 11 time zones away.

There is this new invention called the telephone.

Look, apparently, this guy is some christian burn-out, smoking ganja under the Bhodhi Tree.

I'm not..going there.

Is that the budgets option? Yeah.

Alright, I'll call you from the room.

I come out here, knock out a box or two, check my targets, pick up my brass.

Keeps me civil with the kids, you know.

I hear you went to see Jimmy Burr.

Yeah. Ahem.

He kills things to release stress.

Flower of box, 75 meters.

Yeah, he's got a bullet in his head still.

It didn't kill him, so they slammed him into the VA.

Doped him up for about 20 years.

Can't imagine why.

It's a hell of a thing, you know.

Have somebody die so you can pop Melons and shoot rabbits by the light of the moon.

Weapons clear, Gene.

Weapons clear.

Your reputation precedes you.

Jimmy isn't a fan.

Yeah, Tully either.

Well, if you guys want this guy to get the medal I gotta get statements.

Testimony. It was one day, decades ago.

Pitsenbarg came into that shit storm on purpose. I mean, how do you account for that?

Duty. Commitment.


Pick one.

I kept telling him to get out.

But he wouldn't go.

Even his CO ordered him to back up.

That bird was getting ripped up, but he waved them off.

Probably saved them, too.

Hell, he was Air Force.

He shouldn't even have been there.

Non of us should. How so?

We were already been out two weeks on patrol, but once we tangled with those NVA forces, naturally, we got the duty.


Bait. Brother.

Live bait.

Everybody down!

They put us there and they contact Alpha or Bravo would flank and we'd grind 'em into pulp.

Take 'em out at whatever cost.

Search and destroy. Notches on your pistol, baby.

Kill ratio, body counts..

It was total bullshit.

Wesmoreland, McNamara, Johnson.

That's how they kept the money flowing.

Kick an anthill, grease a mess of gooks, next day the NVA would be right back again.

What's happening? Well, the gooks, sir!

Where? Over there, sir!

This place is crawling with them!

Move! Move!

They're in the trees! They're in the trees!

They're in the trees!


Cover me!

We didn't have a fucking chance.

Ah, you're dogging it.

Just so you know, I can't find the chain of command endorsements in the Pitsenbarger file.

So, put it in your report.

I am missing something.

What are you doing?


This thing was ancient history before you were born.

Let me let you in on something.

It is an undisputed fact at the Pentagon that all the real hardware goes with the officers.

There's been one enlisted Medal Of Honor in in the history of the Air Force.

So, somebody makes endorsements disappear because a guy is enlisted?

It's not a can of worm you want to open.

Why not?

Because confronting the Air Force Decorations Board is not in your best interests.


I'm getting a shower. Yeah.

Let me count.

Hey, there, hotshot.

I thought you'd fell off the planet.

I'm pacing myself. It's the long way down.

What can I do for you?

You ever hear of a General John A. Hackmyer?

He was one of the Army silver backs, down in Saigon, during the war.

He was also the Service Secretary that approved the Medal of Honor review division.

Can you get track him down?

I mean, he is probably fertilizer by now, besides, you're the one with the DOD security clearance.

Maybe we don't want the DOD to know.

Can you hold on a second?

We don't?

Chain of command endorsements are an essential element for congressional review.

And they're not in the file.

What are asking me?

I'm asking you if it's possible that what we're looking for is really lost.

What are you doing?

I'm doing my job.

What do you-- What do you mean, what I'm doing?

It's a rare quality these days.

What, did you grow a conscience?

Not at all.

It's a waste of energy.

Well, I'll sniff around.


Daddy! How are you doing, Mister?

We have company.


Long drive from Wellington on a school bus.

I don't have a car.

They let me take her home.

Who wants to go to the Fort?

Me! Okay.

Thanks for the coffee.


You mess with my head, man...

The way you came to see me.

Started having dreams again.

Can't sleep.

Probably normal.


Sit down.

I, uh,

When I got out of the Army Hospital in Saigon, I wanted to wear my dress uniform for my mother, even though I knew.. even they they carried me off the plane. She was.. she was crying when she saw me, I had ribbons and my Purple Heart.

They took me strait to the VA.

And I was in there for months before I got home, and I never saw that uniform again.

She packed everything up from the war in my duffel.

Like it never happened, you know.

And I guess I didn't care, 'cause.. they're sitting at her attic ever since.

My daughter is a shrink.

She told maybe it would be good for me to unpack it.

Everything was still there,

smell of the war still on the clothes.

And, uh..


Pits gave that to me.

He asked me to take care of it.

He asked me to bring it to her.

That guy saved my life and it was it was one small thing that he asked of me.

But I wouldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.


You know what that makes me?

1954, snowed all night. Oh that was a beautiful Christmas.

I got Bill his flexible flyer.

It still out there in the garage.

You were close?

Sure. But, uh..

I was on the road in those days I missed so much.

Oh.. Yeah.

You close to your dad?

Actually, I'd never met him.

Why--Why did you let him go?

Why didn't you stop him?

You can't teach your children values and then just withdraw because you are afraid of what you might lose.

It just seemed like such a high price to pay.

If not my son then whose?

My neighbours?

My sisters?


Bill, he honored all of us by serving, and it's no small thing.

No disrespect.

None taken.

In 1965, the first ground troops landed at Da Nang I had the thing on TV all the time.

A couple of weeks later, the US Embassy was bombed.

Americans his age stared dying, boys from our own town.

I--I think it moved him.

He came to me one night.

I knew what he was thinking.

God, it sent a jolt right through me.

But he went easy on me.

He never asked for permission.

I think he knew what it would mean later if something happened to him.

And by the time I woke up he'd already gone.

The next time I saw him,

he had a haircut and orders.

I was never so frightened and I was never so proud.

I can't help it but I still miss watching him mow the lawn out there.

The smell of fresh cut grass on his sneakers.

And how he folded his clothes even when they were dirty, cause he knew it pleased his mom.

And I miss the way he tapped his cleats for luck when he went up to bed.

And the way he always found me

When he crossed home plate.

There's a thousand things like that.

But mostly, I miss what I didn't get to see him do.

What do you mean?

Well, I never got to see him marry or fall in love with a child of his own.

Because only then

could he understand how much his father loved him.

I--I have a son.

Then you know what we're talking about.

Who is, uh, Jenny?

Oh, Jenny.

Reiner. So beautiful.

She came to live with us when Bill was overseas.

You see, Mr. Huffman..

we actually lost two children that day.

Here are her letters.

She gave them to us when she got married.

But we could never bring ourselves to read 'em.


I--I want to be clear.

This process doesn't take months.

It takes years.

Scott, I have cancer.

I should've been gone already, if you'd believe the doctors.

But he's a fighter. My man.

I'm sorry.

Dying isn't harder than losing a child, I promise you.

Do what you can, son.

Thank you.

He sleeps so soundly.

He has no worries.


He had everything.

People really cared about the guy, and really loved him.

How could he give all that up?

He knew what he was leaving behind and still he...

..had such certainty.

Of what?

That no bullet was gonna stop him from being who he was.

I never felt that certain about anything in my entire life.

I have.

Look, we gonna play possum, alright?

No matter what, don't move, don't breathe.

Come on. Come on. Hurry up.

We have contact all around us!

VC got the whole goddamn battalion out of bed for this one.

We gonna tighten up that circle, right now.

Takoda still out there, sir.

Let's find out! Willie and Burr, too.

Nobody gets left outside the perimeter.



Whatever it is you want, it's okay.


Is anybody alive?


I can't breath.

Well, they messed you up good, Lieutenant.

Get me out of here, will you?

I need your help with your Lieutenant, okay?

You with me? You gotta help Willie.

We can't leave him. Sh..Willie’s gone, friend, alright?

Pal, are you with me? Look at me.

You with me? Yeah.

Alright. Come on.

Up you get. Come on, grab a shoulder.

One. Two. Three. Let's go! Let's go.

This way! It's Takoda. For Christ sake, don't shoot.

Going down over there.

Over there. That's it. Easy, easy, easy.

Move! Move!

Snap it and pack it, alright?

And not too tight, alright? just.. venous pressure. Alright.

Okay, that's it.

That's it.


Hey, you're doing great.

You're doing just great.

Alright, okay.

One. Two. Three.

I need you to hold that, alright? Don't let that move.


Why are you here?

Because you're here.

Did he.. say anything?

He never says anything.


Somebody somewhere likes you. Hey, Carl.

The FBI is doing due diligence, you're on the short list for Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.

What did you tell 'em?

That you're lying womanizing pimp and you cheat at hoops.

They assured me those all are occupational requirements.

And what about the MOH?

MOH? I already assigned it.

I mean, I probably should have done it in the first place.

Somebody is bound to pick you up. I see Senator Holt's peddling an election in your memoir.

Yeah, should read it. You might learn something.

You write any of it?

Every other word.

That's good, Carl.

First time you told the truth in four years.

What's the matter with you?

You don't want the best civilian job in the Pentagon?

I mean, This-- This makes you.

Just easy moves from here on out.

Not to mention, getting you back to Appropriations.

I need to finish this report.

Are you Kidd--- Look at me.

You're predator, man. You're a goddamn meat-eater.

That single instinct has taken you very far in a very short time. So, don't get sentimental on me now.

So you're gonna... patch the review? Yeah, absolutely.

I'll send an intern down to pick it all up. Wow. Congratulations, man.

I think I'd be better at this second time around.


Well, you could read the instructions.

That would be cheating.

Stanton was looking for you.

Well, he found me.

I'm on that short list for Assistant Secretary For Legislative Affairs.

What about Dave Croft?

Croft's out.

Oh, that's great, then.

It's a career maker.

E Ring View of the river.

Well, since they threw in their view.


I mean, what's wrong with that?

What about the MOH?

Uh..Pitsenbargers are in town.

Franks having some tests done at the VA.

What's wrong with him?

Ewing's sarcoma.


They're gonna be here for Thanksgiving.

Maybe they will see our situation and meet Luke and you--

You're not using us as your excuse.

Our life is not excuse, Tara, it's a fact.

Besides, Stanton said he's gonna have someone pick it up right where I leave off.


We were Michigan fans long before we were moved to Buckeye county.

It's more than a football game when the Wolverines come to Columbus.

You still go to the game?

Oh, god, no. Not-- 1965.

I'm sorry.

Talking about Bill is one of the greatest joys of our life.

Keeping him alive keeps us strong.

It's how we balance our grief and how we live a happy life without him.


Is that a game?

Oh, this is a machine that gives me my medicine.


We're minutes away. Yeah.

We're ready.

May I help? Oh, uh..

Luke,honey, why don't show Alice and Frank your room?

Okay, okay. Thank you.

How do you think I should do this?

Be honest.

I meant the turkey.


May I, uh, give the blessing?

Yeah. Of' course.


Heavenly Father, please bless this food that it may nourish this growing family and the friendship between us.

And give praise to this young man as he honors us with his commitment to ensure that the sacrifices of the fallen were neither in vain nor will they ever be forgotten.


What do you say, mister? What are you doing here? Tully had your number, so, I called and talked to your wife. Nice woman.

She told me where you was at.

Sit down.


No. No.

You tracked me down to give me this?

You.. never appreciate what American artillery can do.

Till you see it waste your own people?

What are you talking about?

First round killed three, for sure ain't no telling how many of the wounded would've died later..

..if the VC hadn't got to 'em first.

If you give your shooters a good plat them red lays could put .105 round inside of pickle barrel I got the distance correction wrong.

We got thumped by our own shit.

What are you saying?

It was blue on blue, brother.

Friendly fire, ain't no getting around that.

Damage. Damage!

Solo 3 has a fire mission.


Direction, 3-1-0.

Distance 300 meters.

We will adjust.


Adjust left one hundred!


What the hell was that? can I get some ammo please?

I need some fucking ammo!

Man down!

Silo 3 has fire mission.

Drop 100. 5-4-6.

Make it danger close! Roger that, Sergeant.

Make it danger close!

Move up!


Oh, god. Mick!

So when Tully says I'm the one what started it that's what he really means.

Truth is I killed my own men.

If I get those numbers right Pitsenbarger probably never even gets that call.

Never comes down that wire or never... saves my life.

Maybe he is the one sitting on a river bank somewhere with his grand kids around.

And that'd have been fine by me.

Instead he is dead, and they give me the goddamn Silver Star.

For what? Surviving?

I sit around year in and year out, thinking about 20 seconds

32 years ago I wished to God I could have back.

Surviving isn't a crime.

No, it ain't.

It is a life sentence.

Getting that medal for Pits for his family and for the men I lost, might be the only decent thing I get to pull out of that war.

So, why don't you go on back up to Washington and make that happen, alright?



I'm thirsty.

Okay, buddy, let's get you a drink.

Daddy, are those the Army men you're helping? Yeah, they are.

Do you want me to be a Army man?

Hey! What's going on?

He just needs a drink.

Oh, I see. Let's go get you some water, huh?


Everything okay? Yeah. I'll see you in a bit.

Okay. Alright.

Let's get you some water.

--I was deployed to Vietnam at a very interesting point during the war and ,naturally, what prompted me to write the book.

I was initially serving as the G-3 Operations Officer for the first Infantry division.

The Big Red One.

And we were deployed,uh, north west of Saigon.

At a very crucial area next to the Capital-- Hello?


Thank you.

Where is he? Can I see him? Slow down.


Hey, Frank.

Got someone here to see you.

It's the FNG.

Mr. Huffman. How are you doing, Frank?

Oh, the better if I seeing you.

Thank you for coming.

Of course.

He gave me a call and, uh, here I am. Right.

Is he dying?

We're all dying someday.

I think he's holding on

for you to get this done.

Why are you in the middle of everything?

I mean,.. what's in it for you?

He didn't save your life.

Didn't he?

So you feel like you owe?

Ha-ha. Absolutely.

You asked me if I had an agenda.

It's those people upstairs.

And what about you?

We'd already been out two weeks out patrol, but once we tangled with those NVA forces, naturally, we got the duty.


Bait. Brother. Live bait.

They first said to make contact, Alpha and Bravo would flank and we'd grind 'em into the pulp.

Why don't just ask Jonsie Keppler?

I mean, he wrote the after action report.

He's a sage in South East Asia.

We're hoping that you'll see him.

If there is anyone who knows where the bodies were buried that's Keppler.

I found this.

May 2, 1966 interview with Mr.Kurts.

Expat. Sergeant Jonsie Keppler.

He wrote the after action report. Apparently.

What I can't understand is why nobody from the DOD ever talked to him.

South East Asia is supposed to be beautiful.

Over there. Okay.

Hi there!

You pray, Mr. Huffman?

Not really.

I didn't either.

I Prayed that day.

I prayed for miracle.

One came.

His name was Pits.

We're gonna get you home, hah?

You good to go back home?

Alright? You gonna have one hell of a story to tell her.

She gonna be impressed with this one.

Alright, I got some pain relief coming up.

Alright, hold tight, bud.

Hold tight.

There you go, buddy. There you go.

One. Two. Three. Up.

Pits, come on!

Come on! Alright, buddy.

Here we go.

Get it up!


Come on!

Pits, let's go!

Come on!

The after action report that you wrote on the battle.

A lot of it is missing.

Everything that I wrote went up the Saigon Chimney 32 years ago, brother.

Look, I--I talked to lot of guys in Charlie company, and no one seems to know, I mean, who even thought of Operation Abilene in the first place?

Company CO, Mad Maddi Holt.

Madison Holt?


He is big shot in Washington now, I think.

Yeah, Senator Holt.

Maybe he gonna be the Secretary of Defense one day.

He was a good CO.

That was a very bad day.

So why are these vets comin here to see you?

Why they come here is none of my business.

And what do you do here?

I live. I love.

And listen.

So you listen to them? Yeah.

To the vets? Uh-huh.

I try to re-write the story, help 'em.

But you can't change the past.

But you can change your perspective.

You can create new memories, happy memories, even in a sad place.

It's choices.

Our guys come through here?

People think the war is who those men are, it's not. It's what happened to 'em.

They just want me to kinda go through stuff with them.

Hey.. I wanna show you something.


This is incredible.

I never brought anyone who didn't feel happy here.


You did all this?


Oh. You know where we are?

Uh... no.

This is where he came down.


I thought I saw an angel.

You know, he was right in front of me, all clean and pressed.

Air Force. Hah.

This is Abilene.

Here? Right here.

Under your feet.

But now it's Avalon.



Now, how can that be possible to have those two things in the same place?

You just stay here for a while.

And breathe.

Let it go.

The veterans hold something for all of us.

They take the shame of war, denial,


They just come here so somebody will listen to them.

That's why medals are so important, it helps.. helps bring us together.

Tell stories.

I--I'm just a witness.

You're a witness too.

The Vietnamese love their khong loi.

It's symbolic for letting go.

And if you have something that you.. you want to leave here, something you brought with you, you don't want to take back,

just let go.


I'm on the hot with red lay!

Tell him to drop it on top of 'em.

Charlie-6, emergency fire mission. Damage. Damage. Charlie-6, Emergency fire mission.

Tango, 6-3-3.

Damn it!

Damage. Damage. Charlie-6.

Emergency fire mission. tango-6-3-3-

This is broken arrow, we are being over run.

Hold this, keep the pressure on it.

Somebody still out there!

I need you to do me a favour.

I need to get this to someone. No.

Please. No!

Just stamp.

I'll hold on to it until you get back. Okay.

What are you doing, man?

You have done enough, brother. You be still.

Come on!

Pits came down and saved lives.

Evaced wounded.

Fought and died alongside men he never even knew.

You pray Mr. Huffman?

I prayed that day.

I Prayed for miracle.

I ain't never seen nobody die before.

Coming out!

That little matter sucked all the past right out of me.

You understand what I'm saying, sir?

All this hellfire coming in, to him it was like nothing could hurt him.

He was there to save lives, and that's what he was doing.

Who knows how many guys walk around live today because of him, what he'd done.

When he didn't come back.

I felt like the best part of me went down with him.

I still think about it this day.

If anybody deserved to get out of that hell alive it was him.

Make yourself at home.

You know, I can have you arrested.

Senator Madison Holt.

Formally Colonel Madison Holt.

1st Infantry division, on the big red one.

Senator’s distinguished to Military career's a matter of public record.

It's undisputed.

I've bought the book, Carl.

Yeah? Did you read it? Or did you just look at the pictures.

Holt was of part of the brass that cooked up Operation Abilene.

You're not really suggesting that Holt ordered an NVA ambush?

I'm suggesting that it would be pretty convenient for you to keep that off the record.

Which is why you put me on him, because... you knew I'd dump it.

You know, Holt's gonna be Secretary of Defense someday, maybe even President.

You had them.

Command endorsements, all this time.

I'm taking them.

Have you ever been the subject of opposition research?

Because if you even twitch on this, I will have them on you like spray paint.

You will never get another mortgage, passport or Sam's Club membership card, let alone a political appointment.

But I'm not worried about all that.

Why not?

Because it's not in your nature to spit in face of the man who could just as easily make you.

What's my nature?

Climb, prosper, expand the gene pool, just like the rest of us.

I'd appreciate if you'd leave the place the way you found it.

And.. don't forget, we get to squash.


Jenny.. sometimes it's difficult to understand why we've been sent here.

Or to explain what happens.

I only have a minute since we got a call to make pickups near Xa Cam Mai, about 30 clicks from here.

You know, Jenny.. the only thing I fear of dying is the dreams of you won't come.

The Death is dark and still, and endless like these jungle nights.

But sometimes I think, Jen.. maybe it's this place I'll wake up from.

Safe and warm in your bed.

The morning light streaming in.

But if it the thunder here thats real, and if this letter should reach you instead of me then know that I'm never far.

Take care of mom, and especially dad, because.. he will take this worst of all.

Tell them I'm sorry for what I've put them through, but that I'm sure of my purpose and in the words we all believe:

" These things we do that others may live."


You have an impeccable record.

The secretary is giving you his highest recommendation.

Thank you, sir.

So why do you think you'd be effective in this position?

Well, I'm connecting, ambitious, persuasive, not afraid to make enemies and..

I' want this job more than anybody.

At least that's what I would have said a month ago.


And today?

Today I'm...

..just unavailable.

Air Force?


I'm sorry about your buddy,man.

I'm so sorry.

The whole time I'm washing him.

You know, his feet, his hands,

I didn't feel anything.


That's when I knew I'd been there.. too long.

I shipped him back, and I finished my tour and I got on with my life.

Did you?

Did I what?

Get on with your life?

I'm standing here.

You know, when I was five years old, I watched my father pack up his things in his car and leave my mother and me.

I was so afraid.

It hurt so much.

I ran out to the driveway and I shoved my hand in the car door as he slammed it shut.

I thought that if he saw I was injured and really hurt and he would have to take me to the Hospital and doctor would tell him to stay and take care of me.

But he just rolled away.

I chased his car down the street, my hand all mangled and

tell my mother she scooped me up.

You know, you were marked.

Just like you.

What happened to you on April 11th, 1966?

My friend died.

What happened to you?

I told you.

It's okay.

It's not okay.

It's just-- Nothing about it is okay.

Just tell me.

What is it? What-- What was it? What happened?

He died. He got killed. He-- got shot in the head, and you know, it's war. Right.

Right, it was war, so how long are you gonna punish yourself?

Punish myself?

What was the thing you did?

What'd I do? Yeah.

Just tell me, what was the thing you did? Now, you stop it.

Just want to talk-- Stop! Stop you son of a bitch! Stop it! You didn't say it.

Say what?

He knew it was dangerous.

I told him to be goddamn careful and--

And, what?

No, no, no, no.

I'm not doing-- Doing what?

Doing this.

I told him to come back up, get back on the wire, get back in the ship.

He didn't do that. Why he didn't do that?

Get back in the ship. Because he couldn't.

Because people needed him. Yeah? Yeah?

Yeah? Yeah? Well, fuck you! And--

Oh, god.

It's got to hurt to be mad at him.


What else happened to you, Tom?

I--I stayed in the bird.

I--I-- I didn't go down, I--

I was relieved. I--

I stayed, you know, where it was safe.

God, when I found him I was..

I was glad

that it wasn't me.

I didn't wanna be dead and I was alive and

it felt good.

You did feel something. Yeah, I felt the shame!

You're not a coward,Tom.

You're a hero.

Deal with that.

Just let me..

Let me have it for a while. Come on.

You , uh, know what I want?

I do.

I want some grace.

I want some serenity.

I want country to honor my brother before his parents.

I want my friend, your friend,

I want his father to leave this place in peace.


Can I get you anything else, Senator?

No, thanks, hon. You can put it on my number.

Okay. Thank you.

Gentlemen. Hey, Carl.


Do I know you?

I'm sure hope so.

Master Sergeant Thomas Tully.

38th rescue squadron, Operation Abilene.

Uh, you want to speak to the Senator you go through channels. It's alright, Carl.

I'll talk to these men.

Sir, this is a

1966 routing memo between you and General Heckmyer, downgrading the William H. Pitsenbarger's Medal of Honor request to an Air Force Cross.

It's dated on October 7th, 1966.

Guys, you might give us a second?


Have a seat.

We have an opportunity to upgrade the Cross to the Medal of Honor.

To cut through the bullshit we need a Congressional sponsor.

Mr. Stanton doesn't think you'd favor the publicity of being associated with Operation Abilene during an election year.

You have no idea what you're starting.

I think I do, Carl. Did you ever been the subject of opposition research?

Because of even twitch on this I will have them on you like spray paint.

Information was removed from the original package to disqualify the Decorations Board's review for Congressional reapplication.

We have since recovered those documents.

This -- This communique is simply response to the Colonel’s MOH request, saying that Air Force Cross was awarded instead.

That's pretty open to interpretation.

Uh, you're under no obligation to respond any of this.

If you'd send it up the chain why didn't he get it then?

Honestly, I don't know.

Maybe it fell through the cracks somewhere.

Maybe MacVee didn't wanna call too much attention to one of the bloodiest days of the war.

Or maybe I just didn't fight hard enough to get this man what he deserves.

Senator, your political enemies will take full advantage of any admission of wrong doing, your Military judgment would be called into question, and they will turn this whole deal to a Medina standard.

He's right, sir. They might.

What happened on Operation Abilene one of the darkest days of my life.

You're hurt, Lieutenant.

Why are you still here?

I won't leave till you have all my wounded.

What happened here?

You marched us right into a kill sack with no idea how we were gonna get out.

That's what happened here.

Can somebody explain this to me?!

Can somebody explain this to me?!

You tell me!

You know, I think we all died a little bit that day.

You tell me!

Mistakes were made, this was probably one of 'em.

We went to see General Heckmyer, at the VA.

He verifies your story, sir.

Senator, please.

It's my job to protect you.

Protect me from what, Carl? From everything.

Usually we're judged by what we do, but I find that what we don't do is what haunts us.

Here's the plan.

We're gonna roll the dice, we're gonna go with the truth, no matter how uncommon or uncomfortable that maybe.


I refer you to S-2549, page 44, title 5, Military Personnel Policy, subtitle E, Other Matters.

Yes? This amendment authorizes.. a posthumous Medal Of Honor For Air Force Staff Sergeant, William H. Pitsenbarger.

For conspicuous gallantry in action in Vietnam, 11th April, 1966 during Operation Abilene. Uh, Mr.Chairman, point of order?

The Chair recognizes the distinguished gentleman from North Carolina.

The rules of this committee prohibit Authorization language to be included in this Appropriations bill.

Will the chair yield?

Chair apologizes to the gentleman of Ohio but this committee has much business before it today, and so, we must move on.

Mr.Chairman, I sincerely appreciate it, but it should be Mr. Chairman! obvious there is absolutely nothing in this amendment--

The Vietnam war was over.

Long ago. I know, Bob, I was there.

Then maybe you should take a rest.

Stop kicking that dead horse.

Gentleman, this is point of order.

I'm sorry, we must move on.

Chair recognizes the lady from Florida.

Uh, yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Senator, what the hell happened in there?

That distinguished gentleman from North Carolina shut us down, that's what the hell happened. Just like that?

Look, it's payback, alright?

I Harpooned the tobacco subsidies in his last session.

Unfortunately, he's a ranking member so there is not a lot I can do about it.

But I promise you, I will get this in next years bill.

Hopefully, by that time the distinguished gentleman would be dead.

So will Pitsenbargers father.

What? He's dying, sir.

Oh, Jesus.

I didn't know about that. I'm.. sorry.

I'm truly sorry.

So that's it?

Unless you have a tobacco subsidy to horsetrade with the Senator from North Carolina.

What about those men?

What about Pits?

Holt says he will get it on the bill next year.

And Frank?

I can't cure a cancer, Tara.

If I push this any harder I really ruin my career.

It's interesting.


In 12 years I have never seen you back off of anything.

I'm scared.

Fear is good.

Fear is a survival instinct.

You're supposed to be afraid.

Use it.

You turned down a significant career opportunity to finish this.

You figure out why four star Generals and Presidents would trade legacies for a medal?

Because they know that guys like Pitsenbarger don't do what they do for them.

They do it for each other.

A life for a life.

That's big stuff.

There are worst things that can happen to a man than getting killed in a war.


Like.. losing men, losing a child, a father, having to live with that.

And you think a piece of ribbon is gonna change that?

I'm gonna go public with the story.

I'm gonna name names.

Shaming the Appropriations in front of the Washington press core on the eve of a national election sounds a little dangerous.


But it will be great Television.

Well done.

Thank you.

Mr. Huffman.

I'm Mary, -We're gonna put a wire on you. Okay.

We have you on the split screen so the anchors are gonna be able to hear you, but they're not gonna be able to see you.

-Okay. Alright, come with me.

Daddy, are you nervous?

I am, but I'm not afraid.

Alright. all set.

In an unusual move today, a member of the Department of the Air Force a gentleman named Scott Huffman went before cameras to accuse high ranking Senators and their staffs of playing political football with Military valor.

--HR to send Appropriations bill, it stalled in the Senate when a Pentagon staffer and his lawmakers--

It's a bill including a recommendation for a posthumous Medal of Honor for William H. Pitsenbarger is now heading to The Oval Office and President Clinton is expected to sign that bill.

Hi. Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon, sir.

Thank you. Thank you. An airman named Bill pitsenbarger will be awarded the Medal of Honor today for his service in Vietnam.

He gave his country what Abraham Lincoln once called:

"The last full measure."

The US Air Force Museum

I'll be right back.


It's good to see you, man. It's good to be here.

So.. the.. lady in red behind me, she is,uh, the address on this letter.

Bill gave me this.

He asked me to give it to you.

I'm sorry it took so long.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Amid the gloom and waste of war, we occasionally witness a brief but brilliant flash of personnel valor so radiant it becomes impossible to ignore.

Such is the heroism of William Hart Pitsenbarger, who was moved by higher angels of duty, courage and sacrifice to make on behalf of men he did not know and a nation that until now did not know his story.

The most supreme sacrifice.

Frank, Alice, on behalf of the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress for conspicuous gallantry, extreme valor and intrepidity, at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty, I award the Medal of Honor to airman first class William Hart Pitsenbarger.


Alright, now, this-- this isn't in your program,but if you could give me just a moment more of your time,

I'd like to recognize some guys who are going to hate me for doing it.

Now we have with us today some of the veterans of Operation Abilene.

Charlie Company, Second of the 16th Infantry.

Now these man were the witnesses to Bill Pitsenbargers heroism and they've worked and worked for 32 years to see this day come.

Would you honor us, please, by standing and being recognized?

And with the Airman of Pits's unit, The Airspace rescue and recover service, also please stand.

And any other PJ's from Vietnam, would you rise?

If there are any other US veterans here today, will you please stand?

If there are wife’s or parents here, would you stand?

And any children or grand-children, would you join us?

And other friends or family anyone who has been touched or moved in any way by the actions of this Medal of Honor recipient would you also stand?

Look around.

This is the power of what one person can do.

Thank you, son.

So you don't forget us.

Thank you.

Daddy! Hah!

Hey, little man.

I'm glad we got to come.

Oh, me too.

Where is your mommy?

Looking good in that uniform, Jimmy.

This is my son, Luke.

Nice to meet you, soldier.

I wanted to say

I wanted to say thank you.

You understand what I'm saying, sir?

Your welcome, Jimmy.

But, you really don't have to call me sir.

Sure, I do.

Why is that?

You earned it, sir.

Yeah, you take care now.

Because there is a jungle out there.

What's your name?


I'm Tommy.

Early on, you said there was nothing in this for you.

Of the millions of men and women who served in the American military, 3,498 received the medal of honor

18 of them were from the United States Air Force.

Three of them were Airmen.

One of them was William Hart Pitsenbarger.

On April 11th 1966, when we took off on that mission, Pits made a statement, he said:

" Sir, I don't feel good about this mission."

They were prepared for us, they knew we were coming.

They were in ground holes, in trees and on the ground and as we walked they just simply closed the back door.

So they started calling us to help them get out the wounded, and Pit said let me put me on the ground, I can organize this much better.

I said, "I don't want to lose you, Pits."

And it's hotter than hell down there because the war, and fire fights going on all the time, you could hear the stuff.

So down he went.

My initial thought when I'd seen him repelling out-- coming out of the helicopter was

"What in the hell this guy is thinking coming down here?."

There is not a one of us that wouldn't have left there if we could and the only guy that could leave is Pitsenbarger, and he didn't.

Marty Collin was on the ground and he sent for me because he said "I want somebody to know what Pits did so that he get to reported it back in case I die."

At that time Marty had been shot five times.

When we found out the next morning that he had been killed, we were just...

it was a sad time everybody.

To me, this is one of the most important things I did as The secretary of the Air Force.

Well it should have been handled by itself It was just a fundamental wrong It was wrong to Bill Pitsenbarger, it was wrong to his family wrong to the airmen who supported him.

And when we think about it was extraordinary to have people worked for it over 30 years to get this done.

I mean, these people had their own lives, wives, children, grand children.

And this was a passion for them, and I just thought that was extraordinary.

And I just, I felt and I ordered to Pits.

Not just myself, there were other people who feels the same way, specially our whole crew.

We owe it to him.

Bill's blood is mixed with ours forever.

I mean, he is our brother.