For the past three years I've been working on a book entitled Dear Karen, about my father's experiences in the Vietnam War and my experiences growing up the son of a Vietnam veteran. My father survived a thirteen month combat tour with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division from June of '68 to July of '69. Over the course of his tour he wrote over three hundred letters to my mother, his girlfriend at the time. I use these letters as a guide to trace his experiences in the war. Throughout the book I include meditations on how effects of the war touched me as small boy and continue to reverberate in my life today.
I've just completed drafts of both Part I and Part II of Dear Karen and have recently begun work on the last part of the book, Part III. I hope to complete a draft of Part III by the end of the summer.
Below I've included a short excerpt from a chapter about my father's time at Con Thien, just miles south of the DMZ:
I've never been to Vietnam, so it's hard for me to understand the nature of its heat, but my father tells me that a hot August day in St. Louis isn't close to a hot August day a few clicks south of the DMZ. I think the closest I might have ever came to understanding was in 2009. I was home for Easter and my family decided to visit the Butterfly House, part of the Missouri Botanical Garden, in St. Louis, a large conservatory fashioned to resemble a tropical rainforest, an environment in which thousands of butterflies can thrive.
When we entered the conservatory my eyeglasses fogged up immediately so that I couldn't see anything. I took them off and wiped them with my shirt but they fogged up before I could even put them back on. As I stood there nearly blind, trying to clean my glasses off my mother and sister made their way through the misty pathways and dissolved into the crowd until I could only faintly hear them talking over the din of the chatty senior citizens, their tired grandchildren, and the constant dribble of a phony waterfall. There was a lot of people there that day and I lost track of my father for a few minutes until he appeared, a blurry figure with a familiar limp. He came up next to me, very close, looked passed me and said, "this is just how Nam was." Then he turned and walked off, not really there, but someplace else. With little pale blue butterflies fluttering all around him, he raised an arthritic finger, and as if to make a point, but to nobody in particular, he said again, "this is how Nam was. This is just how Vietnam was." Without my glasses, he disappeared into the crowd of people. After a while I gave up trying to see anything, resigned to the fact that if this was how Vietnam was, I'd be a dead man.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments about the project please don't hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 10, 2011
Earlier this spring I completed my first feature-length documentary film entitled Bravo Whiskey. The film chronicles the journey I made with my father to reunite him with his old radioman and best friend from the Vietnam War, a man named Dan Bolyard. After I learned of his whereabouts in 2008, my father and I drove out to Bolyard's home town, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. Our visit marked the first time both men had seen each other since their days together in Vietnam, nearly forty years ago, and forever changed my understanding of a war that I was not in, but that continues to reverberate in my life. After our visit with Bolyard, my father and I continued our journey east to Washington D.C. to pay our respects at the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
You can watch a trailer here: Bravo Whiskey.
Over the next year I'll be submitting Bravo Whiskey to film festivals around the country. As I learn the status of each submission I'll post the name of the festival and screening dates here. If you'd like to purchase a DVD copy or to learn more about the project please e-mail me at email@example.com. DVD's are $20.00 and includes shipping.
August 17, 2010
Not long after the new year I finally sat down to begin work on Dear Karen, a book about my father, the Vietnam War, and my relationship to both. One part memoir, one part biography, and one part artist's book, Dear Karen tells the story of my father in Vietnam, my parent's love for one another in the face of such adversity, and what it means to grow up the son of a Vietnam veteran. To this end, I intend that the majority of the book will consist of colored prints of the actual letters that my father wrote my mother over the course of his thirteen-month tour of duty. My goal is to have a first draft finished by the spring and to start introducing the book to publishers soon after. Here is a short excerpt:
All the physical qualities of the letters, when combined with the few fragments of language that my father repeated time and again, that were punctuated only by his chilling accounts of thirst and sleeplessness, heat and booby traps, boredom and the monsoons, create a sorrowful cry that survives today as a meditation on loneliness, separation, longing, fear, and death. And it's in these passages, the ones wherein my father wrestles with death--the death of a buddy, the death of an enemy, his own death just narrowly escaped--that his letters reach their unsettling climax and arrive at a kind of poignancy that can only be achieved by the account of someone who was actually there. As I studied each one, it became increasingly clear that for me, these letters were about more than just my mother and father or tracing one man's experience of the Vietnam War and his struggle to survive it. Rather, they trace one man's desperate struggle just to communicate, to put into words and make sense of what he was thinking and feeling, all his competing dreams and suspicions, his fears and disappointments, his doubts, desires, and obsessions, one man's desperate struggle to negotiate the very depths of human emotion with the clumsy stuff of language itself. And yet somehow these letters are in fact able to communicate, and in many cases, far beyond the essential meaning of the words they contain.If you'd like to find out more e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My father, Joe Bozif, near "Dodge City," Vietnam, 1968.
Bravo Whiskey, 2011, video, approximately 70:48