This work is intended as a movie-length revival of the ABC-TV series The Wonder Years, which ran from 1988 to 1993. It had been my hope and vision that this miniseries be aired in the Spring of 1995 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.Now that that time has passed, I only offer it for your entertainment.
Some friends of mine who have read shortened versions of this script raised the initial criticism that the story was "too Lyle Padilla specific" and too autobiographical lacking the universality which was the mark of the series. The majority of those criticisms were promptly retracted as those readers got into the flow of the story. To those for whom that criticism persists, I simply maintain that, like Kevin Arnold, Winnie Cooper and Paul Pfeiffer, I was born in 1956 and graduated from a suburban high school in 1974. Like Kevin, my first car was a beat-up 4-door light metallic blue mid-1960s Olds Cutlass. I think that elements of my own personal life story ought to carry as much weight and credibility as the next person's as a storyline for The Wonder Years. I understand that a great many of the series scripts were based on individual experiences.
There are many intentions behind this script, not the least of which is to offer an alternate outcome for those fans of the series who share my sense of betrayal and outrage at the way the series ended, with Kevin and Winnie failing to keep their promise to stay together, particularly with the hints that the two of them had lost their virginity together. The basic idea for this script was conceived well before the final episode aired; I had initially decided to press on with the final draft while simply ignoring the last few minutes of that last episode, but then a burst of creativity gave me the means to accommodate those last minutes in a way that I think the audience will appreciate.
As stated, the original idea for this script was conceived a long time ago; to be exact, when I saw the pilot episode of the series which ended with the death of Winnie's brother Brian. I wish at this point to remind the readers/audience that at the time The Wonder Years premiered in 1988, there was another TV series on the air which was produced by the same studio and also depicted events 20 years in the past; that series was Tour of Duty, which chronicled the experiences of an infantry platoon in Vietnam. I had always seen Tour of Duty and The Wonder Years as two sides of the same coin, i.e. the battlefront and home front of the Vietnam War. My original idea was for a combined Wonder Years/Tour of Duty script, with Tour of Duty's Lieutenant Myron Goldman (played by Stephen Caffrey) turning up as a captain and the ROTC Commandant of Cadets at the college Kevin and Winnie attend. As the story evolved in my mind, however, the background of the character of Myron Goldman became too unwieldy and incompatible with the story development, and necessitated the creation of the character of "Mad Tom" Ward in his place. I have written the story, however, with Mr. Caffrey still clearly in mind to play the part.
[As an aside, the name of Thomas Ward comes from the first and middle names of a Union Cavalry officer who was the highest decorated soldier of the Civil War, with two Medals of Honor. His accomplishments were equivalent to those of Alvin York in World War I and Audie Murphy in World War II; but his name never became a household word like Sergeant York's or Captain Murphy's largely because he lived in the shadow of his older brother, a general whose overall campaigns were constantly in the headlines and limelight. Thomas and his brother both made a career of the Regular Army, and were killed together fighting the Sioux and Cheyennes in Montana in 1876.]
Inasmuch as the characters of The Wonder Years serve as a microcosm of my generation, the idea was irresistible for a story where Winnie serves as a microcosm of America coming to terms with Vietnam and beginning the healing process. Coupled with that was my long-planned intention to someday write a story depicting what it was like being an ROTC cadet during the Vietnam War. Those concepts served as the nucleus for this script. As the news broke of the impending termination of the series, rather prematurely in the opinions of myself and many other fans, I felt that its eventual return would be greatly welcomed. It is clear, too, that such a return would not be viable without Winnie; in fact, it is clear to me that the series' greatest nose-dive in ratings, during the 91-92 season, was due to her being written out of the episodes for virtually the entire first half of that season.
This script is dedicated those fellow alumni of the Air Force and Army ROTC Cadet Corps at Rutgers University who endured the spitting and anti-military epithets of the Vietnam War era with me. In the movie Heartbreak Ridge, there is a scene where Clint Eastwood's character, an old Marine gunnery sergeant, encounters a colonel to whom he seems familiar. As Eastwood puts it upon learning that he and the colonel were in the same regiment in Vietnam, "We sure as hell chewed on some of the same dirt!"
Turnersville, New Jersey
This script has been posted online virtually unchanged since 1996 or 1997. Having my original ISP sell off its webhosting and EMail division to a new ISP forced me to end up changing my website URL to my own domain name, and then revise the pages because of quirks in the new server system. This prompted me to consider other ways to bring this script into the 21st Century. One of the things that made both The Wonder Years and Tour of Duty very effective as series, in depicting events 20 years in the past, was the use of era-appropriate songs for background music. I tried to match that in this script in music directions. Back in 1997, YouTube hadn't been invented yet. The new feature I've introduced was in adding hyperlinks to these music references. Clicking on these hyperlinks will open a new window to a YouTube version of that particular song or other music piece, for your added enjoyment and in an attempt to emulate the ambience of the series.
Most of the videos are simple stills (although many have commercials), so you can return to this script window and just continue reading while listening to the music soundtracks without missing anything important in the video portions.
EXT DAY- A MILITARY CEMETERY. (1968)
(Scene from Series Episode of March 22, 1988) A wide shot shows rows upon rows of neatly lined headstones. Far in the distance, a funeral is taking place.
A SERIES OF CLOSER SHOTS shows a flag-draped casket suspended over a grave, with MOURNERS gathered to one side, a CLERGYMAN at the other side, and a uniformed HONOR GUARD lined up behind the head of the casket. KEVIN ARNOLD and WINNIE COOPER, both aged 12, are among the mourners, Winnie at the side of the casket, and Kevin with his father JACK, mother NORMA, sister KAREN and brother WAYNE at the foot of the casket. The clergyman delivers a benediction.
Brian Cooper lived across the street from me, and his death changed my life forever.
We must have faith, that none of God's children die in vain....
Kevin's glance shifts from the clergyman toward Winnie, who stands blinking and fighting back tears, and briefly glances back toward Kevin.
His sister Winnie had been my childhood playmate. On the day he died, I found Winnie alone in Harper's Woods and held her while she cried in my arms, and at that moment, she went from being my playmate to becoming the one true love of my life. For many years, I watched Winnie and her parents grieve and mourn their loss, and I grieved and mourned with them.
INT DAY- A WARD IN AN ARMY EVACUATION HOSPITAL.
from a viewpoint behind the shoulder of a PATIENT in a bed with severe burns on his legs and a gunshot wound in one thigh. A cavalry TROOP COMMANDER (a captain) sits at the bedside conversing with the patient.
Captain, I'd like to put Cooper in for a DSC.
It's done. Andujar requested it. I forwarded the paperwork to Squadron before I came here. Along with a recommendation for you.
I don't deserve a damn medal, sir! It should've been me going home in a box, not Cooper!
The troop commander pats the patient on the shoulder consolingly.
Don't punish yourself! You and Cooper both went above and beyond.
Before I forget. Do you have a little sister named Gwendolyn?
No, sir. Cooper did. Why?
The troop commander pulls a plastic-laminated wallet-sized photo of Winnie Cooper, age 12, from his pocket and shows it to the patient.
Our medics found this on the floor of their track. They weren't sure whose it was.
The patient reaches for the photo and reads the inscription on the back: "To the coolest big brother in the world. Love, Gwendolyn."
I'll take it, sir. I'm the one going home alive. I'll see that she gets it back someday. Only... what do I say to her? How the hell do you explain the 'Nam to a little girl like this?
What none of us knew was that there were others out there to whom Brian Cooper had been a brother, and that they, too, mourned his loss, and remembered him.
RUN OPENING CREDITS.
INT NIGHT- A BARN (1973)
(Scene from Series Episode of May 12, 1993) Kevin and Winnie, aged 17, sit with their backs leaning against opposite sides of a stall divider. Both are soaking wet with Winnie bundled up in a horse blanket, and both are forlorn and angry at each other. A thunderstorm rages outside.
... It's not like we're kids anymore. Everybody grows up. It's not like Peter Pan or something.
But somehow I thought... we'd be together, you know.
Yeah. Together forever.
It's not going to happen, is it?
They both close their eyes in anguish.
A gust of wind blows the barn door open. Kevin gets up and moves across his stall toward the door.
What was that?
A lightning bolt creates a ghostly image near the door. Kevin screams and vaults over the divider into Winnie's stall. Gasping, he slowly stands up and looks again at the door, where a horse snorts at him. He laughs, continuing to look at it.
Did you see that? It's a horse! God! It practically scared me to death! Can you believe that?
We hear Winnie sobbing. Kevin looks down to find her with her eyes shut tight, weeping. He looks open-mouthed at her.
Winnie looks up at him, tears streaming.
I don't want it to end!
Kevin kneels down next to her and kisses her. She smiles, opens her horse blanket and reaches out to partially cover him with it, and they embrace with long, tender, passionate kisses.
Once upon a time, there was a girl I knew, who lived across the street, brown hair, brown eyes. When she smiled, I smiled. When she cried, I cried. Every single thing that ever happened to me that mattered, in some way had to do with her.
That day, Winnie and I promised each other that, no matter what, that we'd always be together. It was a promise full of passion. And truth. And wisdom. It was the kind of promise that can only come from the hearts of the very young.
INT DAY- THE KITCHEN OF THE ARNOLD HOME (1973)
Kevin, Winnie and Paul sit at the table, filling out college admissions applications.
Winnie and I never forgot our promise. And just because we were very young, that didn't mean we weren't going to keep it. It's just that, being very young, Winnie and I hadn't even begun to learn what "no matter what" really meant.
Okay. Let's suppose everything works out, and we all get accepted everywhere we apply.
Where are we gonna go?
Well... I've really got my heart set on Ruysdael. It's almost up there with Harvard and Princeton. And it's far enough away that we're really going away to college, but close enough that we can drive home in a couple of hours whenever we have to.
Okay! Let's hope for Ruysdael, then. How about you, Paul?
Ruysdael sounds good.
Uh huh. For the same reasons you just said.
Yeah, but you've actually applied to Princeton and Harvard!
You'd actually pick Ruysdael over Harvard and Princeton, just to be with us?
Hey, don't knock Ruysdael! Just because it's closer to home doesn't mean it's not as good as the other places. Besides, except for the one semester I did at the prep school...
and the year you did at Lincoln, the three of us have been together our entire school career. Why break up such a great team just when the four most critical years of school are coming up?
Kevin and Winnie smile at him and pat him on the shoulder.
Thanks, Paul. That means a lot! To both of us!
INT DAY- A HALLWAY AT McKINLEY HIGH SCHOOL.
Kevin, Winnie and Paul converse as they walk to class.
And there you had it. We had our dreams and our plans and our hopes. All we had to do was play out the last few months of high school.
INT DAY- THE ARNOLD LIVING ROOM.
Winnie and Paul stand watching as Kevin sorts through the mail.
And keep checking the mail to see what the future held.
Kevin finds an overstuffed envelope.
This is it! A fat envelope from Ruysdael!... This looks like good news!
He opens the envelope and pulls out the cover letter, then reads it as Winnie and Paul watch anxiously.
"Dear Mr. Arnold. Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted as an incoming Freshman at Ruysdael University for the Fall 1974 semester!"
Winnie squeals delightedly and leaps into Kevin's arms. Paul puts his arm across Kevin's shoulders, laughing.
All right! Three for three! Ruysdael, here we come!
They separate and head for the kitchen.
Mom! I got accepted at Ruysdael! All three of us did!
INT NIGHT- THE ARNOLD KITCHEN.
Jack and Kevin sit at the kitchen table, looking over the family bank books and the admissions packet from the school.
But, as with everything else in life, it wasn't quite that simple!
I'm sorry, Kevin. It just doesn't add up. I can go ahead and send you to Dixon State, but if you want to go to Ruysdael, you're going to have to come up with the difference yourself.
How, Dad? I can't get a big enough student loan to cover it! I'm not eligible for any grants. I got the grades and SAT scores to get in, but not for one of their scholarships.
I know Al Pfeiffer's selling off some of his real estate to pay Paul's way in, but how's Winnie going to afford it?
Her parents put Brian's life insurance into a trust fund for her.
That's what I thought. It's a helluva way to come up with cash....
Believe me, Kev. I wish I had the cash to send you to Ruysdael. It's a damned good school, and I'm proud you got accepted. And if you can think of a way to make up the difference, I'll do what I can to help you. But if you can't, Dixon State isn't the end of the world.
INT NIGHT- KEVIN'S CAR
parked at "The Point" with Kevin and Winnie snuggling in the front seat. Eres Tu by Mocedades plays on the radio. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: Mocedades was a group from Bilbao, Spain, and their original Spanish version of this song hit the Billboard Top 40 chart in February1974, just around the time this scene takes place. When I inserted it into this scene I was completely unaware that there was an English version which was not a literal translation of the Spanish; it was B-side of the record but got very little airtime. However when I learned about the English version and heard the lyrics, I was floored by them in the context of this scene. I strongly suggest that you reread this scene while listening to the English version after you've read it listening to the original Spanish!)
Kevin, Dixon State isn't the end of the world! I don't have to go to Ruysdael, you know. I'll go wherever you go! Why do you think I applied to all the same schools you did?
Kevin looks into her eyes with pain.
No, Winnie! You had your heart set on Ruysdael. You can afford to go there, so don't let me keep you from going!
To this day, I'm not sure why I said that. It was one of the hardest things I had to say. Saying yes would have been the easiest, and in my younger days, I would have. But we were older now, more mature, crossing the threshold into legal adulthood.
Kevin, it won't be you who's keeping me! It's my choice!
Winnie, if you gave up Ruysdael just to be with me, you'd always resent it deep down inside. You'd end up resenting me.
I don't know.... I'd try not to.... But maybe you're right.
It'll work out somehow.... Look, how far is it from Dixon State to Ruysdael? A half hour drive? That's less than it took me to ride my bike to your house after you moved, before we got our licenses....
Winnie blinks and frowns.
And then something weird happened. Something very, very weird.
No, Kevin, that's not good enough!... This may sound silly... I never told you this, I never told anyone this, but the night we spent in that barn... I had this dream. When I woke up, I was so happy to see you that I pushed it out of my mind immediately. But in this dream, for some reason, I went away to school somewhere.... I'm pretty sure it was Paris.
Kevin turns white with shock, his mouth hanging open.
And then by the time I came home years later...
I was married to someone else and had a child.
Winnie gasps and also turns white.
Oh, my God! How did you know?
Winnie, I had the exact same dream! That same night, in the barn!
They both stiffen and stare wide-eyed into each other's eyes.
This is absolutely weird!
Yeah! I mean, we've always talked about being on the same wavelength and being able to read each other's minds, but this is something entirely different.
I don't know what your dream was like, but mine was so vivid! It was like we were actually transported to the future, and back!
Yeah! Mine, too! It was like Scrooge or that Jimmy Stewart movie or something!... But Winnie, that could never be our future! I mean, you're the only girl I could ever want to be the mother of my children. Even before I knew where babies came from, as soon as I was old enough to know that every kid had a father and a mother, I've always wanted it to be you and me.
Yeah. Me, too... but that dream was so real and so scary that... in September, Mrs. Ruebner gave me a catalog and an application to the Sorbonne in Paris. I didn't even ask her for it, she just had this idea that since I studied French and with my grades and SAT scores, it might be something I'd enjoy. But, Kevin, I got so freaked out that I tore them up and threw them in the trash as soon as I left the guidance office!
Yeah.... But ever since you told me your family couldn't afford to send you to Ruysdael...
You've been having the dream again!
You, too, huh?
But why Paris? That first time was way before Mrs. Ruebner came up with that catalog.
Kevin stares thoughtfully for several seconds, then blinks.
I think I know! Remember the first time I rode my bike to your house after you moved? When I got there, I said I felt like Charles Lindbergh...
... flying from New York to Paris!
They laugh, and then hold each other close.
Okay... but that still doesn't explain how we both had the exact same dream at the exact same time. Or why.
Kevin, maybe we'll never know how. But I think it's a warning to both of us. I guess most dreams like that are.
Okay, so it's a warning! We're just not gonna let it happen, Winnie! I don't know how yet, but somehow, some way, come Hell or high water, I'm gonna find a way to afford to go to Ruysdael!
INT DAY- THE MCKINLEY HIGH GUIDANCE OFFICE.
Kevin enters the inner office of his counselor, MRS. RUEBNER, who is seated at her desk. Next to her desk is seated SERGEANT FIRST CLASS COUSINS, an Army recruiter dressed in a Class A dress green uniform.
Or it would find me!
Kevin, this is Sergeant Cousins. I think he might be able to help you.
Kevin looks at SFC Cousins and halfheartedly shakes his hand.
Pleased to meet you, Kevin.
So. Mrs. Ruebner tells me that you're having problems coming up with the money to attend the college of your choice.
Yeah. Thanks. But I don't think your kind of help is the kind that would be very helpful to me at this point....
Yeah! Another one of Mrs. Ruebner's brilliant ideas, like packing Winnie off to the Sorbonne!...
You sound pretty sure about that, Kevin. But hear me out! What I've got to offer just might be one of the best kept secrets in college financial aid!
No, thanks. I already know about the G.I. Bill. I'm sorry, but there's no way I'm going to enlist in the Army for three years just so I can get free college tuition after those three years are up. I need to get into college this year!
Really! Ruysdael University, right?
Yes. Now, if there were some way the Army could pay my way through college first, and then I could serve my time, I'd be more than happy to consider it!
SFC Cousins and Mrs. Ruebner smile at each other.
Kevin, what do you know about the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps?
R-O-T-C? Well, my Dad went through Navy R-O-T-C in college to become an officer in the Marine Corps. He was telling me I should sign up for one of the R-O-T-C programs if I got into Dixon State or Ruysdael, just for the learning experience. I mean, you don't have to actually serve unless you do the whole four years, and you can drop out any time before your junior year. Right?
That's right, but that's not all. Did you know that the Army offers a full scholarship-- tuition, room and board, books, plus a subsistence allowance-- to students who meet the qualifications? They have to sign a contract to complete the ROTCee program, then serve four years Active Duty as a commissioned officer.
A full scholarship?
A full scholarship. To any school that hosts Army ROTCee. Which includes Ruysdael. Kind of like a G.I. Bill in reverse order! Only you start your Active Duty tour as a second lieutenant instead of a private.
EXT DAY- A BASKETBALL COURT AT A PLAYGROUND.
Kevin and Paul play a game of one-on-one as they converse.
An Army scholarship?
Yeah. I go through the ROTCee program, serve four years as an officer after graduation, and I don't pay a cent. I won't have to take any money from my folks, dip into my savings, or take out any loans.
Have you told Winnie yet?
No. I've just put in the application for it. I still have to take some tests, take a physical, get interviewed by a board of officers. It doesn't mean I'm going to get it. Or decide to accept it if I do get it. It's just a possible option. I don't want to get Winnie's hopes up.
What's that supposed to mean?
Don't you think Winnie might have some strong feelings about your joining the Army?
Well, yeah.... Which is why she doesn't have to know about it yet.
Kev, we're talking about Winnie here! You know, the love of your life. The girl you're planning on spending the rest of your life with.
Brian Cooper's little sister!
Hey, Paul! Vietnam's over! Didn't you hear? Nixon finally bombed the hell out of them, forced them to sign a peace treaty, then everyone went home! It was in all the papers last year!
Besides, the whole thing's made the country so isolationist, there's no way we're ever gonna get into another war any time that I'd be in. Stop worrying!
Hey! I'm not the one who might have a problem with it!
Good! Then if I get the scholarship, you can sign up for ROTCee with me!
Kevin uses the opportunity of Paul's shock to steal the ball, go out, and make a quick drive for a basket.
Aw! Cheap trick!
No! I'm serious! You don't have to commit yourself to anything for the first two years. And I'd really appreciate having you with me when I go through it, at least at the start.
Come on, Paul! It can't be that tough! I mean, my Dad went through ROTCee. And the Army doesn't try to make you crazy like the Marines do!
I'll think about it....
What've you got to lose? And do you have any idea what the starting base salary is for an Army second lieutenant?
INT DAY- A MEDICAL CLINIC.
Kevin sits on an examining table as an Army doctor examines him.
And so I pressed on with it. I passed the physical, no problem.
INT DAY- A CLASSROOM.
Kevin is among several young men taking a battery of service entrance tests.
The tests turned out to be a glorified, watered-down version of the SATs. And after all, this was just one option I was exploring. There were a couple of other irons I had in the fire, other scholarships I was looking into, that summer after we graduated from McKinley High.
EXT DAY- THE COOPER HOME.
Kevin and Winnie walk from the house to his car at the curb, Kevin dressed in a blazer and tie.
Which is why I figured I didn't have to tell Winnie exactly who I was dealing with at the time.
Yeah. Thanks. I'll need it.
They kiss, and then he gets into the car.
INT DAY- A CONFERENCE ROOM.
An ARMY INFANTRY MAJOR, an INFANTRY CAPTAIN and an ARMOR CAPTAIN sit at one side of a table in Class A uniform. On the wall behind them is a large color photo of General George S. Patton, flanked by a U.S. flag and a Department of the Army flag. Kevin enters, wearing the same clothes as in the previous scene. He shakes hands with the three officers, and the major tells him to sit.
This was it. The board of officers. The last hurdle.
So. Mr. Arnold. Why do you want an Army R-O-T-C scholarship?
Because I'm desperate to go to the same school as my girl friend, and I need the money to do it!
Well, sir.... To be perfectly honest, the free tuition is a large part of it.
The three officers smile at each other.
Well, Mr. Arnold, I'm glad you told us that.
Kevin looks alarmed.
Uh, oh! I'd been tripped up, trying to sound too sincere and honest!
Integrity is just about the most important trait in a good officer. And let's face it. Money is inherently an important factor for anyone asking for a scholarship. I personally am suspicious of the integrity of anyone who won't admit to it.
Whew! Dodged that bullet!
Of course, there are other sources of money out there. Do you understand what the Army is all about? What our mission is, why we exist?
Now, Dad had given me an idea of the kind of questions to expect, so I wasn't unprepared.
Well, sir, the way I understand it, the Army's job is to prepare for war and to fight wars to defend the country and its interests.
And speaking of dodging bullets...
Okay, so you understand that we're in the business of fighting wars. That involves killing and getting killed. How do you know that, if the time ever comes, you'll be able to hold up mentally when people are shooting real bullets at you? Or that you'll be able to squeeze the trigger when there's a real live human being at the other end of your weapon?
Kevin glances up at the picture of General Patton.
I don't, really.... All I can say is, I'm just your average, ordinary American kid. And if the time ever comes, I've got as much potential to find it within me, as the millions of other average American kids who've fought in all our wars. Just as my father did before me in the Korean War.
The officers glance at each other, impressed.
Okay. So you have as much potential as the next man. But is that what you really want? Do you really want to be an Army officer, and why?
Well, my parents always raised me to appreciate the good things we have in this country. All the freedom we enjoy, all the rights we're given. And they-- my Dad in particular-always reminded me of the responsibilities that came with those rights. And how all that freedom came through the sacrifices of all the men who've served and fought for our country.
And I want to say something else. There were two guys I knew really well, from my neighborhood, who went to Vietnam and fought. One of them, when he came home... well, I watched while other kids from my home town called him a murderer to his face. And the other guy... well, he never got to come home at all. I feel like I personally owe both these guys something. I want to serve.
The officers nod to each other, again impressed. They and Kevin begin conversing less formally, smiling and relaxed.
A funny thing happened that day. And I'm not sure how it happened. Like I said, Dad had given me an idea of what kind of questions to expect, so I'd started formulating the answers in my mind that I thought the officers would want to hear. But to this day, I don't know. Maybe hearing the words come from my own mouth forced me to believe them. Or maybe those beliefs were always there, deep down inside, just waiting for a moment like this to be tapped and brought to the surface. In any case, when I left that interview, I suddenly realized that I really did believe what I'd said, and that I'd spoken from the heart.
EXT DAY- KEVIN'S CAR
as it travels down a freeway with Kevin at the wheel. He sings along elatedly as Come and Get It by Badfinger plays on the radio.
Those officers didn't come out and tell me that day that I'd earned the scholarship. They said I'd get the final word in the mail. But they also told me I had plenty of reason to be optimistic. And even though it wasn't final, I felt exhilarated. I'd just gone through a major rite of passage into adulthood. I'd taken the largest step up to that point in my life toward independence. Toward manhood. All that was left was to wait for the final word. And if the news was good, to find the right moment to tell Winnie about it.
INT NIGHT- THE ARNOLD LIVING ROOM.
Kevin and Winnie snuggle up on the couch, watching Errol Flynn as George Armstrong Custer and Olivia DeHavilland as Elizabeth Custer in They Died With Their Boots On on TV. Both appear saddened.
So, did the Lambert Foundation ever tell you why they turned down your application?
No. You know they never tell you why. I guess they figure my Dad makes too much money or something.
And that was the last of the scholarships and grants you applied for?
The last one she knew about, anyway.
I don't know, Kevin. I'm not sure I could stand going to Ruysdael without you.
Winnie, we've already talked about this. I'll come over from Dixon State to see you. Every day, if you want! I promise!
It won't be the same.
On the TV, Olivia DeHavilland helps Errol Flynn put on his sword belt in their living quarters.
You know, I'm sure you're the first soldier that ever became a general, without letting his belt out.
Oh ho! But you wait until we get that staff job in Washington after this campaign's over. I'm gonna grow a big tummy on me...
... like General Winfield Scott, you know. HO! HO! HO!
And we'll grow fat and happy together!
And people will say, "Don't tell me that life in the Dakotas was so full of hardships. Look at General and Mrs. Custer! They certainly grew fat and happy on it!"
You... You have been happy here, haven't you, Libby?
Don't I look happy?
Kevin and Winnie look away from the TV and into each other's eyes, both blinking mistily and smiling sadly.
Oh, God! That look! Those vulnerable doe-eyes, looking to me for comfort.... It was time to tell Winnie about my application for the Army scholarship. To pull her out of her despair, to give her that one last glimmer of hope...
On the TV, Errol Flynn finds a diary in a dresser drawer and reads it.
...It wouldn't interest you. Just the silly things that seem important to a woman.
"Tomorrow, my husband leaves, and I cannot help but feel that my last happy days are ended. A premonition of disaster such as I have never known is weighing me down. I try to shut it into my heart, but this is almost unbearable. I pray God I be not asked to walk on alone."
Kevin grimaces uncomfortably.
Or maybe not!
You know, I probably wrote that or something like it every time you went away, even for a day's journey. You know how foolish women are! Every parting has its own fears and anxieties.
Of course. I often feel like that myself. But it... it has its bright side, too. The more sadness in parting, the more joy in the reunion.
Winnie forces a smile at Kevin. On the TV, a bugle sounds in the distance.
Boots and Saddles....
Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland embrace.
Walking through life with you, Ma'am, has been a very gracious thing.
They embrace again, and then Olivia DeHavilland swoons as Errol Flynn leaves.
Winnie cuddles up closer to Kevin, blotting a tear on his cheek.
On TV, Errol Flynn mounts his horse and trots to the front of the Seventh Cavalry. The regiment rides out of the fort into the rising sun, to the strains of Garryowen on fife and drums.
Kevin, let's change the channel. Okay?
What? Come on, the movie's almost over. We're coming up on the big climax.
Kevin, you know how I feel about war movies.
Kevin looks uncomfortably at her, then reaches for the remote and changes the channel.
Yeah. I know. Besides, everyone knows what happened to Custer, anyway.
Uh huh. And at that moment, it wasn't just Mrs. Custer who was weighted down with a premonition of disaster!
EXT DAY- A SEACOAST HIGHWAY.
Kevin' s car speeds along with him at the wheel and Winnie next to him.
MUSIC: Beach Baby by First Class.
EXT DAY- A BEACH.
Kevin and Winnie, in swimsuits, hold hands as they run into the surf.
Now, mind you, I wasn't being insensitive as to how Winnie might feel about the whole thing, or being cavalier about not telling her about it.
The two stand in the surf, laughing playfully and splashing water at each other.
I was just simply in one of the biggest dilemmas of my life. It felt like a no-win situation. At that point, I just wanted to enjoy what I could of that summer, before the situation forced itself on us, one way or another.
Winnie leaps off her feet into Kevin's arms, and he whirls her around as he stands in the surf, but there is an underlying sadness in the eyes of both. We hear the lyrics of the song more clearly.
"Oohh, I never thought that it would end,
Oohh, and I was everybody's friend!
Long hot days, cool sea haze,
Jukebox plays, but now it's fading away...."
INT DAY- THE ARNOLD KITCHEN
Kevin sorts through a pile of mail on the kitchen table.
SLOWLY FADE OUT MUSIC.
Now, after nearly a year of filling out applications for college admissions, loans, grants and scholarships, and then awaiting responses to them, I'd learned one thing: good news never came in skinny white business envelopes.
Kevin finds a thick manila envelope addressed to him. The return address is headed: "DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY. HQ U.S. ARMY ROTC. FT BRAGG, NC." He looks at it anxiously.
The funny thing was, I was holding a fat manila envelope, and I had a pretty good idea what was in it. But at that moment, I didn't know whether I really considered it good news or not.
INT DAY-THE ARNOLD LIVING ROOM.
Jack and Norma sit on the couch watching TV as Kevin enters from the kitchen.
I got a packet in the mail from the Army. They've awarded me the ROTCee scholarship. If I accept, I can go to Ruysdael, all expenses paid.
Norma smiles excitedly, gets up and embraces him.
That's great, Honey! Congratulations!
Jack shakes Kevin's hand.
Congratulations, Kev! I'm real proud of you.
They all seat themselves. Jack shuts off the TV with the remote.
Of course, that means I'd have to serve four years in the Regular Army after I graduate.
And it's okay with you?
Kev, you're a legal adult now. You're old enough to make your own decisions. And I think you could do a helluva lot worse than four years as an Army officer with a diploma from Ruysdael.
Of course, I am partial to the Marines, and to Navy ROTCee, I wish they'd had ROTCee scholarships in my day!
Now, of course, I was proud to have the scholarship! Of course I was glad to receive my parents' congratulations. I just... wasn't prepared to have the whole thing be a done deal that fast!
But I remember when Wayne tried to enlist, you tried to stop him. You called him a young dumb kid!
He was. You won't be. You'll have four years of college under your belt before you go on active duty. And you've always been more responsible than your brother.
That's not true, Dad. I'm not as responsible as you think. Like... remember the weekend the two of you went away to Cousin Iris's wedding, and the house got trashed with a wild party? You made Wayne clean up everything.
Jack and Norma nod.
That wasn't Wayne's party. That was me and my friends.
Yeah. We know.
We sort of figured it out when we saw you washing and polishing Wayne's car afterward.
And you didn't punish me?
Well, I figured what you were doing was penance and humiliation enough. And one of the most responsible things I'd ever seen you do. And I apologized to Wayne afterward, and gave him a bonus on his allowance.
Don't sell yourself short, Kevin. You've got a good head on your shoulders.
And there you had it. My parents had given their blessing. But maybe that's not what I was looking for.
But... aren't you worried that I might have to go to war someday?
Of course. And I'm glad you're thinking about it. It's the young dumb kids who get sucked in by the security and the benefits and the promise of seeing the world. The ones who lose sight of the fact that the Army and the Marines exist only to go to war. They're the ones who lose it when the bullets start flying for real.
Honey, no mother wants to see her son go to war. But I watched your father go to war in Korea years before you were born. It wouldn't be something I haven't had some kind of experience with.
There is a moment of silence as Jack and Norma look knowingly at each other.
Kev, isn't there someone else you should be talking to about this?
The real reason you're so hell-bent on going to Ruysdael in the first place!
You know, Honey, if you don't want to accept the scholarship, there are a few other choices. I've talked to Mrs. Cooper about it, and she thinks that Winnie would go to Dixon State with you, if you asked her to.
I know. But how would Mr. and Mrs. Cooper feel about that?
Well, they do think that Ruysdael is a much better school, with a much more prestigious reputation. But they would give Winnie the freedom to make that decision herself. All of us know how you and Winnie feel about each other. We've always known. We know that it's no longer just puppy love, that it's a real love and that it's very important to the two of you. And that you're planning on a future together.
Well, I could never ask Winnie to give up a chance to go to Ruysdael. Especially now that I've got a chance to go there with her. Ruysdael was my first choice, too.
We just want to make sure you're making the decision for the right reasons. Like I said, you could do a lot worse than four years as an Army officer. But the way you and Winnie feel about each other, this isn't the kind of commitment you should make without talking with her first. You owe her that much.
I know, Dad.
You know, Kev. Having said what I just said about having a good head on your shoulders, you have done a few dumb things that have ended up hurting that little girl. And you've been lucky in that she's always managed to forgive you for them. Don't press your luck.
Yeah, I knew what I had to do, all right.
INT NIGHT- WINNIE'S DORMITORY ROOM AT RUYSDAEL.
Kevin and Paul help Winnie unpack her things while her roommate, MAUREEN, arranges her own things. Winnie becomes more and more forlorn as they approach completion. We hear I Honestly Love You by Olivia Newton-John coming from Maureen's stereo.
Winnie arranges three framed photos on her chest of drawers: a studio portrait of her parents, a Senior Prom photo of herself and Kevin, and a photo of herself at age 12 with glasses and her hair in pigtails, with her brother Brian. Maureen steps over and studies the photos.
Who's he? Your brother?
Hey, he's cute! When do I get to meet him?
Maureen turns bright red.
He... he died in Vietnam. Six years ago last week, as a matter of fact.
Maureen nods sympathetically. Kevin glances uncomfortably toward Paul, who stares back meaningfully at him.
Well, I guess it's time to go.
Yeah, me too. I've gotta get settled in, too.
Winnie takes Kevin's hand as they step toward the door. She casts her head downward.
It was nice meeting you, Kevin.
It was nice meeting you, too, Maureen.
Hey, smile, Winnie! I don't want to see you frowning like this.
I miss you already.
We're going to be all right! Hey, we survived your moving across town back in Ninth Grade, we're gonna survive this!
We didn't exactly survive my moving.... We broke up.
And then we found each other again! We've always found our way back to each other, Winnie. You and I have been through too much together not to make it this time. Hey! It's not like Ninth Grade. We're a lot older, and I've got wheels! I'm gonna be a lot closer than you think!
Hey! At least this isn't Paris, right?
No, it's not.
I'll be back before you know it! I promise!
They embrace tightly. She blots a tear on his cheek, and then they separate very slowly.
I'll see you.
Hey, Winnie. Just remember I'm just two flights downstairs. In fact, come by my room in the morning and I'll walk over with you for Freshman Orientation.
Sure. Thanks, Paul.
INT DAY- A DORMITORY HALLWAY.
Winnie stands holding a notebook before a door with a sticker on it which reads, "Paul Pfeiffer '78." She remains forlorn as she knocks on the door. Paul opens it and steps out in the hall.
Hi, Winnie. How you feeling?
Hi. I'm okay, I guess.
You sleep well last night?
No, not really. How about you?
Okay, I guess.
Has your roommate moved in yet? I notice yours is the only name on the door.
Yeah, he's inside. In fact, he's going to Freshman Orientation with us.
Is he nice?
I think you'll like him. He's real easy to get used to!
Kevin opens the door with a mischievous grin, sticks a sticker below Paul's name which reads "Kevin Arnold '78," then smiles at Winnie. She gasps in disbelief.
Come on! We're gonna be late for Freshman Orientation!
She throws her arms around him, and they hold each other tight.
See! I told you I'd be a lot closer than you thought!
She kisses him, and then after hugging him a little longer, elatedly strokes his face as she draws away.
What are you doing here?
I told you! We're gonna be late for Freshman Orientation!
You're really going to school here?
Kevin closes the door, pulls a key from his pocket to lock the deadbolt, then takes Winnie's notebook and cradles it under his arm. They hold hands as they follow Paul toward the stairwell.
Uh huh. I'm here to stay! You're stuck with me for four more years. At least!
She looks dreamily at him.
Then all that stuff about not being able to afford coming here. You just made it all up to surprise me?
No, no! That was all true. But I got a scholarship at the last minute. I did want to surprise you. And I didn't want to get your hopes up.
Paul glances back at them and then rolls back his eyes.
You're really here! I mean... I'm not going to wake up any second now and find myself back upstairs with you on your way to Dixon State?
It's no dream, Winnie! I'm really here.
Well, whoever gave you that scholarship, I owe them my undying gratitude!
Which was exactly what I was hoping she'd say. Hey! There was a method to my madness! Okay, Winnie. just remember that thought when I tell you the rest of the story!
INT DUSK- THE DINING HALL AT RUYSDAEL.
Kevin and Winnie eat at a table facing each other with Paul next to Kevin. Winnie gets up and goes toward the food line.
How long do you think you can keep this up?
Keep what up?
You know we have our first Military Science class tomorrow. What're you gonna do? Spend the next four years hiding from her whenever you have to wear a uniform? And then what happens after we graduate? No, don't tell me! You're gonna marry her and then leave for work every morning in a suit and then change into a uniform in the car!
Okay! I'll tell her.
Yeah! That's what you've been saying ever since you first talked to the recruiter!
I'll tell her tonight. Now.
They silence abruptly as Winnie returns to her seat. Paul glares impatiently at Kevin.
EXT DUSK- THE RUYSDAEL CAMPUS.
Kevin, Winnie and Paul exit the dining hall, Paul continuing his impatient glare toward Kevin.
Winnie. You... want to go for a walk?
I'm gonna head back to the dorm. I'll see you guys back there.
Paul walks off toward the dorm.Kevin places his arm around Winnie's shoulders as they walk.
ANOTHER ANGLE shows Kevin and Winnie walking up onto the campus green, a large expanse of well-trimmed grass and shade trees running between the rows of ivy-covered academic buildings. She rests her head on his shoulder and squeezes him tight around the waist.
Isn't this a beautiful campus?
It's gonna be great here! Everything's so perfect! You and I...
You know, Kevin, you never did tell me who it was who gave you your scholarship.
Kevin blinks, then looks at her.
And there it was. The inevitable.
Which is not to say that the inevitable can't be presented in the best possible light!
You know, they didn't just give me a scholarship. They guaranteed me a job after graduation, working for them.
With a starting salary of over twelve thousand a year.
Winnie looks at him in amazement as they stop walking.
Twelve thousand a year?
Yeah. Isn't that great? I mean, even if you don't work, the two of us could live very comfortably on that alone!
Which was true. Remember, it was 1974, before years of double-digit inflation. A three-bedroom house cost less back then than most cars do today.
Kevin, this sounds too good to be true!
It's true, Winnie.
Winnie hugs him, smiling and closing her eyes.
Then everything is perfect.
He looks at her guiltily. She looks back at him, and her ecstasy fades.
Well, I'd taken the best possible light as far as it would go. And now the look on my face told both of us that it was time.
So. Who are "they"?
The... the government.
Winnie turns pale, her heart sinking rapidly.
What exactly do you mean, "the government"?
The U.S. Army.
Winnie flinches, almost as though punched in the stomach.
And the job after graduation?
I... I go through the R-O-T-C program here at Ruysdael. And after graduation, I serve four years as an officer, starting as a second lieutenant.
Winnie grimaces in anguish, then turns her back to him and puts her face in her hands. Kevin looks at her helplessly for several seconds, placing his hand on her shoulder.
And I guess I knew there was one more inevitable question coming.
Winnie wipes her eyes and slowly turns back toward Kevin, then looks hurtfully at him.
Kevin, why didn't you tell me about this first?
I... I was afraid to, Winnie. I was afraid you'd talk me out of it. Afraid you'd insist on going to Dixon State with me. Or worse, my being stuck at Dixon State, with you up here...
The pain in Winnie's eyes gradually, subtly shirts from that of anger to that of empathy.
...instead of what we have now. I was afraid of our being apart. Afraid of... of Paris.
You know, Winnie, nothing's really changed from a minute ago, when you were saying how perfect everything was. It's just a job. A good-paying job that'll support both of us. And it won't be like when...
... like back in 'Sixty-Eight. Vietnam's over. And because of what happened, there's no way we're gonna get into another war anytime I'll be in. And after the four years are up, we're free to do whatever you want.
Winnie looks at him, still showing pain.
I'd prepared myself for any possible reaction from her. A cry. A scream. A slap in the face. Walking out of my life forever. But what I got was...
I'd like to go back to my room now.
Are you okay? Are you mad at me?
I don't know! I don't know how I feel, Kevin. I'm just too... too overwhelmed right now....
She starts walking back toward the dormitory area. He walks with her, placing his arm around her shoulders, then leans over and kisses her on the eyebrow, but she stares blankly, neither rejecting nor reciprocating his affection.
EXT DAY- A MONTAGE OF SCENES
of the Ruysdael campus. It is springtime.
MUSIC: Life is a Rock by Reunion.
Things were kind of touch-and-go for the next couple of months, but by Thanksgiving break, Winnie's and my relationship was pretty much back to normal. By the Spring of 1975, Paul, Winnie and I had settled into our new lives at Ruysdael and were getting ready to wrap up our Freshman year.
INT DAY- A CROWDED DINING HALL.
Kevin, Winnie, Paul and Maureen eat and banter together.
In a lot of ways, it was like the old days when the three of us lived on the same block and went to the same school. We were maturing and making new friends, but we still did everything together.
INT DAY- A LARGE LECTURE HALL.
Kevin, Winnie and Paul sit together, taking notes as a PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, with a beard and dressed in jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and workboots, lectures on Freud's defense mechanisms.
We had a lot of classes together.
EXT DAY- THE COOPER HOME.
Kevin's car is at the curb. Kevin puts a suitcase in the trunk as Winnie embraces MR. & MRS. COOPER on the doorstep. She and Kevin get in the car, waving.
INT DAY-KEVIN'S CAR AS IT MOVES DOWN A HIGHWAY
with Kevin driving, Winnie next to him and Paul in the back seat, again bantering and laughing.
Of course, we went home and came back together.
INT NIGHT- CLOSE SHOT
of Kevin and Winnie reading from the same textbook.
And we did our homework and studied together.
The camera zooms back to show the interior of Kevin's and Paul's dorm room, Paul sitting on his bed, Kevin and Winnie on his, all three very casually dressed.
One thing Winnie and I both loved was that great innovation of the 1970s, the co-ed dormitory.
INT- THE DORMITORY LAUNDROMAT.
Winnie helps Kevin sort his laundry. She grimaces briefly as she holds up a military olive green fatigue shirt with the name tape ARNOLD and U.S. ARMY above the pockets.
And I guess, if Winnie wasn't too thrilled about my ROTCee scholarship, at least she had accepted that it was the only way for us to keep our promise to stay together.
EXT NIGHT- A WOODED AREA.
The camera pans across the woods to show several Army two-man shelters set up in bivouac. At one end of the bivouac area, Kevin and Paul lie prone among some bushes on a slight rise overlooking an open field. Both are dressed in fatigues and field jackets, with camouflage cloth-covered "steel pot" helmets and web gear, and each holds an M-16 rifle with a blank adaptor.
March, 1975. Paul and I had just celebrated our nineteenth birthdays and were on our first field exercise with the cadet corps at Ruysdael.
So, are you sorry I talked you into signing up with me?
No, this isn't bad at all. Besides, I can drop out anytime I want to, no strings attached, no questions asked. Or go in the Guard or Reserves after I finish the program. I haven't signed my life away yet! And I still can't believe you didn't talk to Winnie about it first.
Okay, I was a craven coward! But what I kept telling myself-and everyone else-- was...
Hey! I wanted to surprise her! And don't think I didn't appreciate your playing along with it!
Yeah, you surprised her, all right!
That look on her face! She was on Cloud Nine for days... and I don't think she took the news too badly. Considering.
It could've been a lot worse. She could have walked out of my life and never spoken to me again. I knew she'd come around after a while.
You really think she's accepted it?
I think she realizes that she and I would both be pretty miserable right now if I'd ended up at Dixon State.
I just hope that being together here is worth four years in the Regular Army.
Paul, will you quit making it sound like I've sold my soul? You seem to be enjoying this grunt stuff more than I am! Besides, I think what sold Winnie on this whole deal was my having a guaranteed job after graduation. How many other Freshmen can say that? Hell, we're set! In fact, right now I can't think of too many reasons why we can't get married sometime before graduation!
Have you actually talked to her about getting married since you told her about the scholarship?
Well... not really....
I mean, hey! I figured ever since were little, Winnie and I had always known deep down, without ever talking much about it, that marriage was waiting for us somewhere down the road. We'd been more or less engaged to be engaged since the summer after Tenth Grade.
Kev, is Winnie prepared to spend at least four years being married to an Army officer?
Paul, we're still Freshmen! She's got the next three years to get ready for it....
Yeah, when you're nineteen and in love, that's the way you think!
Let me rephrase that. Is Winnie prepared for you to spend four years in the Army? I mean, it wouldn't be any big deal for almost any other girl. But Winnie...
Paul, it's been almost seven years since... Well, Vietnam's been over for over two years now.
Uh huh. That's more or less what I'd said to him, and to Winnie, when I first told each of them about the scholarship. But by March of 1975, something had changed.
I don't think the Vietnamese on either side think it's over. Neither does the media.
There's no American troops left in 'Nam except advisors and Embassy guards. It's not our fight anymore. The South Vietnamese are on their own.
Yeah, well, try explaining that to Walter Cronkite. Or to all those weirdo radicals who spit on our uniforms and put graffiti on our building!
You heard right, folks. Our building. Paul and I had kind of found a home away from home in Army ROTCee.
Kevin and Paul hear footsteps and rustling sounds in the brush behind them. Kevin glances over his shoulder while Paul quickly rolls over from the prone position and sits up, leveling his M-16 at the source of the noise.
Halt! Who's there?
FRANKIE MOLINA and GARY ROBBINS, two other Freshman cadets, appear as shadowy outlines in the darkness.
It's me, Paul. Gary. And Frankie's with me.
What's the password?
Aw, come on, Pfeiffer! You know it's us!
And you know the procedure!
What's the password?
There is a brief silence.
Hey, Frankie! What's the password again?
Donkey! What's the countersign?
You are relieved.
Kevin and Paul stand as Frankie and Gary come up to them, also with field gear, helmets and M-16s.Frankie is a swarthy, muscular youth with a thin moustache, while Gary is tall and lanky with a wisp of blond hair protruding from the front of his helmet.
So how you guys doin'?
Okay. We had a pretty quiet shift.
Yeah. We didn't hear or see anything.
Gary drops to the prone position and lays his M-16 in front of him. Frankie takes a few steps with Kevin and Paul as they head toward their shelter.
"Come on, Pfeiffer, you know it's us!"? God, what did I do to get paired up with this doofus? He thinks a kill zone is pizza dough stuffed with ricotta cheese!
Have fun, Frankie.
Paul pats Frankie on the shoulder, and then Kevin and Paul continue across the bivouac area while Frankie returns to the Observation Post.
Kevin and Paul come up to their two-man shelter. Paul deftly removes the magazine from his M-16, clears the chamber, catches the blank cartridge as it ejects, reinserts the cartridge into the magazine and places the magazine in the pouch on his web belt.
Hey, don't forget to clear your weapon! I'd hate to have you roll over in your sleep and end up busting our eardrums!
Kevin starts fumbling with his M-16.
It was amazing! I'd dragged Paul into the Army ROTCee program with me, practically kicking and screaming, and now he'd turned into Sergeant York and Audie Murphy rolled into one!
How do you do this again?
He follows Paul's directions as Paul speaks.
It's the button on the right side forward of the trigger. Take out the magazine, then pull back the charging handle. And be ready to catch...
Kevin clears the chamber of his M-16, sending the cartridge tumbling onto the grass at their feet.
Uh, I lost it!
They both kneel down and pull their GI flashlights from their suspenders, then shine the red-filtered lights on the ground around them. Kevin finds the cartridge and picks it up.
Maybe you should go into artillery or armor when you graduate. Their bullets are a lot harder to lose!
INT NIGHT- THE TWO-MAN SHELTER.
Two sleeping bags are laid out side by side on inflated air mattresses. Kevin and Paul crawl inside, then lay their M-16s, helmets and web gear between the sleeping bags, then lie down.
Isn't this great? Just like the good old days! You know, like in my back yard when we were kids?
Only more fun!
Yeah. Better toys to play with. And a bigger yard!
Well, yeah... but on the other hand, your standard Government Issue two-man shelter is a lot smaller than your old tent was back home.
Or maybe we were just a lot bigger. It had been years.
EXT NIGHT- CLOSE SHOT of a pair of hands holding an artillery simulator and pulling the safety pin.
MUSIC: Paint it Black by the Rolling Stones. (Author's Note: this song was the original theme for Tour of Duty per my comments in the original introduction.)
A WIDER ANGLE reveals the hands belonging to CAPTAIN THOMAS WARD. He is a young but wizened officer of about 30, with a rugged look and build, dressed in fatigues, steel pot and web gear with a Colt .45 automatic in a hip holster. He wears the crossed sabers of the Cavalry branch on his shirt collar and the rampant black horse shoulder patch of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment on his right shoulder, the place for a past wartime unit patch.
And of course, we realized that things were never going to be exactly like the good old days.
Capt Ward lobs the artillery simulator into the woods on the edge of the bivouac site. It WHISTLES as several offscreen voices scream "INCOMING!" As the simulator EXPLODES, Kevin, Paul and the other cadets in the bivouac area scramble out of their shelters, putting on their helmets and web gear, loading their M-16s and forming a defensive perimeter. More artillery simulators explode, and parachute flares and star cluster flares light up the area.
Kevin snags his foot on the support pole of their shelter as he and Paul crawl out, collapsing it. He and Paul run to a position near the Observation Post and lie prone. Another platoon of cadets appears in the woods at the edge of the open field, and an intense firefight with blank ammunition ensues.
EXT DAWN- THE BIVOUAC AREA.
The two platoons of cadets are gathered in a circle with Capt Ward and TWO SERGEANT INSTRUCTORS conducting an after-action review. Frankie stands with Kevin and Paul.
You met all different kinds of people on a college campus in the Seventies. But for me, some of the most memorable were those associated with ROTCee at Ruysdael. And topping the list was Assistant Professor of Military Science and Commandant of Cadets, Captain "Mad Tom" Ward.
Capt Ward leads Frankie into a discussion about his part in the firefight.
He hadn't been at Ruysdael very long when Paul and I started, but he'd become quite a legend. Most of that reputation and the nickname "Mad Tom" had followed him from Vietnam where he'd done two tours in the Cavalry and earned the Purple Heart and every combat medal but the Medal of Honor.
The discussion degenerates into an argument between Frankie and an UPPERCLASSMAN who admonishes him, Kevin, Paul and Gary.
Well, you shouldn't have left that gap in your sector! You screwed up again!
He raises his arm to get their attention; the cadets freeze in awed, fearful silence as he continues softly.
Guys, it doesn't matter who screwed up. It doesn't matter how many times you screw up. As long as nobody gets hurt for real and no property gets damaged, this is the place to screw up.
He wasn't anything like we imagined a military training instructor would be. He didn't fit the stereotype.
As long as you learn something from each screwup that you can file away for future use, and you do your best to keep from making the same screwup over and over, that's more valuable than getting things right. I'd rather have each one of you get shot a thousand times with blanks out here if it keeps one of you from getting shot once with a real bullet on a real battlefield.
Kevin, how could you have covered that flank without leaving a gap in your front?
Frankie, what's your solution?
Well, Claymores might hold them off at first, but not in a sustained attack. Once they're used... I say we could have taken one man and put him way out on the flank and forward to hit the flankers on their flank.
Naw, then you're writing the guy off. And once he's been blown away, you've got the same problems as when the Claymores are used up, plus one sure casualty. What is the solution, Captain?
Beats the hell out of me!
There is stunned silence, then the cadets laugh.
He was easygoing and down-to-earth. He had a sense of humor. He called each of us by our first names, and you kind of knew that he wouldn't have minded if you called him Tom or even Mad Tom to his face. But none of us would dare to even think about it.
Seriously, there is no quote-unquote solution. This is a game, guys! Just like football or basketball, you try something one day and it might work, another day you might get the crap kicked out of you. You think out your options, you weigh the risks, you prepare for as may contingencies as you realistically can, then you go for it. It's a game but it's a high stakes game. A lot higher stakes than with these pro athletes who think the universe revolves around the Super Bowl or the World Series. This is Life or Death!
The man had our respect without ever having to ask for it. He had a sense of humor but he took his job seriously. He was a professional. In short, he didn't fit the stereotype of the military training instructor, but he was an officer and a gentleman.
Paul, you did say something that I want all of you to think about. You're going to have to expose some of your troops to high risk, but you never write a man off. Sure, it's easy to theorize and hypothesize, but when you're dealing with someone you know-- someone whose family you're going to have to write to if he doesn't make it-- it's a lot different. Suicide missions are not the way we do things, and that's what makes us different from most of our enemies.
EXT DAY- A PAVED ROAD RUNNING THROUGH THE WOODS.
An Army van is parked on the shoulder and the cadets are lined up at the rear, turning in their M-16s and helmets to the two sergeants and putting on baseball-style fatigue caps. Capt Ward leans casually against the side of the van, still wearing his helmet.Kevin, Paul and Frankie turn in their weapons and helmets, giving their last names and reading off the rifle serial numbers. As Frankie removes his helmet, we see that he has a high-and-tight crewcut while the rest of the cadets have hair barely short enough to meet military grooming standards, if that.
That was Frankie Molina, another memorable character. Frankie was a Freshman from the suburbs like me and Paul, and he was on scholarship like me. But he was a little more intense than we were about the military.
They sit at the edge of the woods with the others.
It still bothers me that we can't march back to campus with the rifles and helmets! It's like we're ashamed of being soldiers.
It's another ten pounds we'd have to carry, that's why.
Besides, Frankie. Haven't you ever heard of Kent State? People on civilian college campuses get very nervous if they see men marching around in fatigues and helmets and carrying rifles.
Of course I've heard of Kent State! It's one of the darkest days in American history!
A National Guard unit fired seventy-three rounds into a crowd and only killed three protesters, and one ROTCee cadet who wasn't even in the kill zone!
This draws a mixed reaction from the other cadets. Some laugh and cheer, others, including Kevin and Paul, give him a "What? Are you crazy?" look.
Make that a lot more intense than we were.
Frankie, you're a man after my own heart!
But you're not going to get it!!!
Everyone laughs. Frankie eyes Capt Ward's pistol.
Can't wait 'til I'm an officer, and can carry a weapon any time I want.
Actually, in Captain Ward's case, he didn't get to carry a pistol because he was an officer. He got to carry it because he was Mad Tom Ward. Nobody in his right mind who knew him would try to make him take it off.
By the way, guys. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't know about Kent State. I wasn't around at the time.
I was in Cambodia, committing all those unspeakable crimes against humanity that they were protesting!
The last cadet turns in his rifle and helmet and is handed a guidon by one of the sergeants. ANOTHER UPPERCLASSMAN stands before the cadets.
Okay! Fall in, column of twos!
The cadets put on their field packs and fall in with the guidon bearer to the fight front, Kevin and Paul toward the rear and Frankie behind Kevin. One of the sergeants closes the back doors of the van and opens the side door.
You coming, Captain?
No, you guys go ahead. I'll march in with the troops.
He removes his helmet and puts it in the van.
Oh, yes. There was one other thing about Mad Tom Ward. By the time of the Vietnam War, the U.S. Cavalry no longer rode into battle on horseback, of course, but in tanks and armored personnel carriers and helicopters.
Capt Ward reaches into the van, then puts on a black Civil War era cavalry officer's slouch hat with gold acorn cord, then removes his web gear, straps on a leather sword belt with a Civil War cavalry saber on it, then transfers his .45 automatic to a long revolver-style holster on the sword belt.
But you couldn't tell him that. He was such a hard-core John Wayne horse-cavalry traditionalist, legend had it that the reason he'd been so eager to volunteer for Vietnam was because he thought he was going to be fighting Rebs, not Reds!
Capt Ward takes position alongside the column, grinning boyishly. He draws the saber and holds it in the carry position as the van pulls out and drives down the road.
Company! Forward, harch!
He waves the saber forward and returns to the carry position. He and the column march forward after the van.
A NEW ANGLE shows the column proceeding down the road out of the woods toward the Ruysdael campus about two miles distant.
Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he!
Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he!
He called for his fife and he called for his drum and he called for his privates three!
He called for his fife and he called for his drum and he called for his privates three!
"I wanna three day pass!" said the privates!
"I wanna three day pass!" said the privates!
Fighting men are we!
Fighting men are we!
There's nothing so fair that it can compare with the Armored Cavalry!
There's nothing so fair that it can compare with the Armored Cavalry!
EXT DAY- THE RUYSDAEL CAMPUS.
The column marches through the university gateway and goes through the dormitory section of the campus. Capt Ward starts singing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon in time to the marching, and the cadets pick it up, standing tall as they sing. They move toward Kevin's dorm building, where a number of students sit on the lawn, studying and enjoying the spring weather, including Winnie. Upon hearing the singing, she gets up and steps toward the walkway as the column passes. Kevin and Paul turn their heads slightly, smiling and making eye contact with Winnie as they sing. She lifts one hand and waves her fingers at them.
Yeah, you had to hand it to Captain Ward. He made us feel proud. He made us feel good about ourselves.
There are obvious mixed emotions on Winnie's face: deep love and affection for both Kevin and Paul, but also much pain and anxiety. Capt Ward notices Winnie and stares at her for several seconds with an uncharacteristic melancholy and haunted look. Winnie notices him staring, glances him over and then turns her head away from him.
It was straight out of a John Wayne movie: a rite of passage into American manhood; male bonding under a flying guidon; soldiers standing heroic and tall, marching and singing before the adoring eyes of the women we loved, and the appreciative, esteemed gaze of the public we faithfully served....
As the cadets finish the song, the column passes through the campus green between the academic halls. On one side is the Army ROTC building. Opposite the building, a half dozen STUDENT PROTESTORS including BAXTER SCHULTZ, walk in a circle, carrying signs which read "Peace Now!"; "U.S. out of Vietnam"; "ROTC off Campus!" etc.
Nazi Storm Troopers!
The cadets and Capt Ward march on, most of the cadets with contempt on their faces as the epithets continue.
Well, before the adoring eyes of the women we loved, anyway. After all, this was the Nineteen Seventies!
You can sneer and you can laugh!
You can sneer and you can laugh!
But you won't when they bring back the draft!
But you won't when they bring back the draft!
Yeah, you can yell at us with slander!
You can yell at us with slander!
But one day I'll be your commander!
But one day I'll be your commander!
Am I right or wrong?
Correct me if I'm wrong!
One, two, three, four, one, two... threefour!
Capt Ward halts the column at the rear entrance to the Army ROTC building. It is a two-story building which blends in with the other academic buildings on the campus green, with a plain white sign beside the doorway which reads "Department of Military Science." The walls are marred by two prominent painted graffiti: a blood red "Murderers!" and a large black peace symbol. Capt Ward tells the column to fall out, then sheathes his saber. The cadets drop their field packs and head toward the building.
There was one thing you could definitely say about Frankie Molina. You could always count on him to say, and do, the things the rest of us young, impressionable Freshmen were too inhibited to.
Frankie steps up to the peace symbol graffito and stares thoughtfully at it.
Sir, is the university maintenance ever going to clean up this wall?
Well, we put in the work order three weeks ago, so don't hold your breath!
Well, sir, since we've gotta wait anyway...
Frankie reaches into his field pack and pulls out a bottle of liquid shoe polish. By using it to paint engines, horizontal tailfins and a string of bombs, he turns the broken-cross portion of the peace symbol into a planform view of a B-52 on a bombing run.
Yeah, 1975 was a crazy time.
INT DAY- KEVIN'S AND PAUL'S ROOM AT RUYSDAEL.
Kevin and Paul wear khaki summer Class B uniforms. Paul sits on his bed buffing his shoes while Kevin inspects himself in the mirror. Winnie sits on Kevin's bed, holding a notebook and a political science textbook on her lap. A small black and white TV is on, with a news program reporting on the North Vietnamese invasion of the South.
Do you guys really need to wear your uniforms to Poli-Sci class?
Well, we've got Military Science right afterward, and we really don't have time to rush all the way back here and change.
What's the matter, Winnie? You ashamed to be seen in public with us in uniform?
Winnie hesitates, partially distracted by the TV news.
It's just that you guys take so much abuse in that class!
INT DAY- A CLASSROOM.
Kevin and Winnie sit near the back of the class, Paul on Kevin's other side, Frankie in front of Paul and also in uniform, the three conspicuous among about fifteen OTHER STUDENTS. The shades are down. Professor BEN KLINGHOFF stands at a projector at the back, showing the Leni Riefenstahl documentary Triumph of the Will.
Actually, being in ROTCee in 1975 was no big deal. Other than having to keep your hair short with no beard, and wearing a uniform two periods a week, you were just another student.
On a screen at the front, we see scenes of Hitler being welcomed by the townspeople of Nuremberg; Hitler Youth children participating in boisterous competitive sports; Storm Troopers goose-stepping in review before a cheering populace; Hitler walking up an aisle in the midst of thousands of SS and Storm Troopers in perfectly aligned ranks, to stand and address them from a marble Roman-style forum with flying swastika flags and sculpted Nazi eagles atop columns. The film ends, and Klinghoff, a short, balding, mustached man in his forties, shuts off the projector.
Students raise the curtains and turn on the lights.
Pretty shallow piece of propaganda!
I can't believe this film won so many awards. The propaganda aspects were so obvious!
That's cause the boor-geese classes of the world gave their tacit endorsement to Hitler's genocide and oppression!
Or maybe it's because, when this movie was made in 1936, the world couldn't have known about the genocide. Most of the concentration camps hadn't been built yet, and there were no credible reports outside Germany about those that did exist.
A rather biased opinion, isn't it?
No, I'm just citing the historical record here....
A historical record created by the boor-geese class who chose to turn a blind eye to Hitler's oppression.
Kevin and Paul look at Frankie, ready to jump to his aid. Winnie squirms anxiously in her seat.
Okay, so what other feelings did you have watching this?
I got chills down my spine! Seeing them use the eagle, the symbol of fascist oppression... I could almost see the fascist eagle spreading its oppressive wings over all of Europe!
Sure! In twenty-twenty hindsight after World War Two's been over for thirty years!
Well, actually, the eagle wasn't the traditional symbol of Fascism....
There! No reason to get paranoid and defensive over all this!
It's a much older symbol... of European Imperialism!
Kevin and Frankie look at each other, and then at the American Eagle crests on their uniform garrison caps which sit on their desk tops. Kevin slowly slips his cap off the desk and under his seat as Winnie looks sympathetically at him.
On the other hand...
What other feelings did it stir up? How about those scenes with the Hitler Youth, playing all those games and drinking milk? Didn't it make it look like the Hitler Youth was the most wholesome children's club in the world? Didn't you just want to join in on all the fun?
Kevin, Paul and Frankie smile cynically at Klinghoff while the remainder of the class except Winnie shake their heads in denial. Winnie continues her sympathetic look toward Kevin and Paul.
No, that was too blatant and naked a ploy by the Nazis, to lull the boorgeese into a false sense of security.
Dumb-ass would-be radical doesn't even know how to pronounce his own rhetoric!
Well, then. How about those scenes at the rally itself? How did you feel, seeing those tens of thousands of SS Storm Troopers lined up in mass formation?
That really gave me chills. They looked like neatly trimmed hedges at first. Then I realized they were men. The same men who ran the death camps and killed all those millions!
But didn't the image make you wish you were one of them? Didn't you wish you could stand there in those ranks and be one of Hitler's all-powerful elite guard?
There is more head-shaking in denial among the class.
I'm sure you guys did! After all, ROTCee does rhyme with Nazi!
The three flush with rage, especially Frankie, with Winnie wincing in pain for Kevin, as the rest of the class laughs with some applause.
Lock and load! Fix bayonets!
No, that's just not the way it is....
Oh, come on, Mr. Molina! Surely it must have stirred up your Fascist blood!
Frankie flushes even redder, his jaw hardening, his fists clenching.
We sat there, bracing ourselves, waiting for Frankie Molina to explode into a homicidal rage. And then it happened.
Paul stands up suddenly.
Look, we don't have to take this crap! Doctor Klinghoff, with all due respect, sir! Excuse me, but if it weren't for some other men who wore this uniform, this country would be a Fascist state! Only you and I wouldn't be around to see it! I would've never been born, and my parents would have been gassed and cremated in a concentration camp. Along with you and your family, Doctor Klinghoff! So get off our case, will you? Sir! Please!
The entire class, including Klinghoff and especially Kevin and Winnie, is shocked into total silence.
Yep, you were just another student!
EXT DAY- THE CAMPUS GREEN.
Kevin, Winnie, Paul and Frankie walk from the Poli-Sci class down the length of the green toward the Army ROTC building. Winnie remains quiet and pensive for most of the conversation.
Hey, Paul! You're really eating up all this Army stuff, aren't you!
Hey! I don't know about you guys, but that "ROTCee rhymes with Nazi" crap really got to me!
Yeah, but I've known you all my life, and this is the first time I've ever seen you tell off any teacher!
Klinghoff's a pompous ass! We don't have to take this crap!
Besides, if I hadn't said something first, Frankie would have killed him!
Nahhh! Rearranged his face a little, but not killed him....
Seriously, though, it's about time someone else besides you got a few good lines in!
God! I've created a monster!
They slow down as Paul looks at Kevin.
Hey, Kev. I don't know if you realize this or not, but I'm no longer in this just because you need a buddy to be in the program with you. I like the program! I'm probably going to finish it and accept a commission. At least in the Guard or Reserves.
Winnie becomes visibly bothered by this.
God, I have created a monster!
No, if anyone's created a monster, it's Captain Ward. He's really shown me that soldiering is an honest and respectable profession, just like optometry or law or teaching. Certainly an honorable profession if not outright noble.
Captain Ward. He's the one who wears the black cowboy hat and the sword when you guys are marching, right?
Cavalry hat. And saber.
Yeah, that's Captain Ward, all right.
He gives me the creeps....
Mad Tom Ward gives you the creeps!
There's just something about him that I don't like.... Something that frightens me.
Hey, come on! You've never even really met him! He's a helluva nice guy!
As a matter of fact, we've got a few minutes before class starts. Why don't you come in and I'll introduce you!
No!... No, thanks!
Nothing to be afraid of, Winnie! You'll like him. He doesn't bite!
Yeah! He might even end up recruiting you! You know, we don't have very many women, but ROTCee has been co-ed for a couple of years now.
Winnie gives Frankie a brief, exasperated glare and then gives Kevin a pleading look. He lets go of her hand and she walks on toward the dorm as the three boys enter the Army ROTC building.
And so, off we went to Military Science class, to learn how to kill and eat babies and operate concentration camps.
INT DAY- A CLASSROOM IN THE ARMY ROTC BUILDING.
Capt Ward conducts the class with Kevin, Paul, Frankie, Gary Robbins and several other cadets, all in summer khaki uniforms. On the chalkboard behind hind is written:
Factors in Military History analysis:
Okay, good. Can you think of any other long term effects of the Gettysburg Campaign?
Well, it gave General Custer a big head that got him killed a few years down the road!
There is some laughter among the class.
Okay, we'll go into more detail about the emergence of the Union Cavalry later. But how many of you think that that's a valid assessment?
Three other cadets including Gary raise their hands. Capt Ward nods.
Yeah, you know, even the current Army manuals and textbooks on Armored Cavalry operations take cheap shots at Custer. Okay, to digress a little here, this is just Mad Tom Ward's personal opinion here, but let's say you served brilliantly and heroically for fifteen years, and then one day got killed under circumstances where there were no reliable witnesses who survived. The only eyewitnesses were all on the other side and even they conflicted. And the evidence says maybe, maybe you screwed up. I'm not asking for an answer here. Just ask yourself: would you want to have your fifteen years of brilliance erased, and be remembered only for that one screwup that may or may not have happened?
It was kinda strange. And sad. You could see in his eyes that Mad Tom Ward, the hardcore John Wayne traditionalist, was hurting. And you knew he wasn't just hurting over some dead historical figure from a hundred years ago.
Kinda like Richard Nixon!
The class laughs, and Capt Ward smiles.
Kinda like a lot of people I can think of. Okay, what are some of the other long-term effects of Gettysburg?
Let's go back to these five factors. What about some of the effects on the political situation?
I'd say the biggest political effect had to be that it killed off the possibility of the British recognizing the Confederacy.
No, didn't that pretty much happen earlier with Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation?
You're both right in a way. Okay, Kevin. What can you add to this discussion?
Well, the Emancipation Proclamation had made it difficult politically for the British and the other Europeans to oppose the Union based on the slavery issue, but it was still undecided.
So . . .
Well, Gettysburg pretty much let the world know that the Confederacy had no way of winning the war.... So foreign recognition may or may not have been viable at the start, but Gettysburg was the final nail in the coffin.
Okay, I'll buy that. What about some of the other political outcomes of Gettysburg?
It gave Lincoln a great opportunity to make a big political speech!
Is that what it was, Gary?
Sure, sir. People remember it more than they remember the battle. That's what they remember Lincoln for the most, don't they?
But was that his intent? It definitely had a long-term political impact, so I'm not arguing that that's an incorrect answer. But was politics his motivation? Was he saying, "Hey! Remember this in the next election!"?
I... I don't know. Maybe.
Capt Ward reaches toward the desk and picks up a copy of the book The Twentieth Maine by John J. Pullen. He opens it.
This is a good book, by the way. Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in military leadership. And it also has the best perspective on Lincoln's few words that I've ever seen:
"Today, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is usually surrounded by an aura quite different -- the softness of spring weather on Memorial Day, the serenity of events past and gone, forever unchangeable. But Lincoln spoke here in November 1863, with another bleak winter coming on and victory nowhere in sight. And some of his urgent meaning, as it applied to that day, has been lost in the music of the words.
"...This was a fighting speech, in a sense a continuation of the Gettysburg battle effort, using as its motivating emotional force the inspiration of the deeds and sacrifices of Union soldiers on a field where their presence could still be felt. 'It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have thus far so nobly advanced.'
"The issue was still to be decided. The war was far from won. Let's push on with it, said Abraham Lincoln...."
He closes the book and looks out at the class, all of whom are sobered and silent, some blinking.
Was that politics?
EXT DAY- THE REAR OF THE ARMY ROTC BUILDING.
Kevin, Paul, Frankie and most of the other members of the Military Science class exit and step onto the back patio, where they discover puddles of animal blood splashed onto the patio floor. As Capt Ward follows onto the patio, three plastic bags full of more blood are thrown at the patio from the campus green, rupturing and splattering on the uniform trousers of Kevin, Paul, some of the other cadets, and Capt Ward.
shows Baxter Schultz and about a dozen other protestors standing on the green nearby, carrying signs.
That's the blood on your hands from Vietnam, you Fascist murderers!
R-O-T-C off campus! U.S. out of Vietnam!
They repeat the chant over and over as they walk away slowly. Capt Ward turns to a cadet.
Go get the colonel!
The cadet reenters the building. Frankie leans over, dips his finger in the blood and sniffs it.
It's just pig blood.
Really? How can you tell?
I'm half Filipino. My grandmother actually cooks this stuff!
And you eat it?
Not since I was old enough to realize what the hell I was eating!
LIEUTENANT COLONEL DENNIS HUGGARD, the Instructor Group commander, steps out onto the patio. He is a medium height but heavy-framed man in his forties with a crew cut, and wears Infantry branch insignia and a 101st Airborne Division patch as prior wartime unit.
He and the cadets snap to attention.
As you were.
They relax. Capt Ward and Lt Col Huggard look at the blood, then stare stone faced at the chanting protectors, Huggard with his arms across his chest.
Remember, guys! The Army exists to protect these people!
The Voltaire Paradox, sir?
The Voltaire Paradox.
All right! Listen up! I want all of you to think about something here!
The cadets turn toward Huggard. He lowers his arms.
I want you all to think about what's happening here. Now, the Army puts a lot more money and intensity into the cadets at West Point than into you folks. But there's one thing inherent about ROTCee that makes better officers, and the Army's finally catching onto this. Those of you who stick with the program: when you pin on those gold bars, your beliefs, your moral convictions, and your dedication to duty will have been challenged, tested and tempered in a way they simply can't over at West Point. Right here in this forge... the Real World. The guys at West Point don't have to live, eat and study with those people. You do, so you're one-up on the West Pointers! You guys got that?
EXT DAY- THE DORMITORY BUILDING.
Winnie sits on the grass under a shade tree, reading a textbook. Kevin and Paul approach the building, still in uniform with blood-spattered trousers, and both angry. Winnie gasps as she sees them, then stands and rushes up to them
Oh, my gosh, Kevin! Are you guys hurt? What happened?
No, we're okay. It's probably not even human blood.
Kevin looks at her and places his hand on her shoulder, then blinks and shakes his head.
Listen, Winnie. I'd rather not talk about it now! Okay?
As long as you're not hurt.
They continue to the dormitory entrance, Winnie lagging behind with a confused look.
Come on. Let's get these things in the wash before it sets
INT NIGHT- KEVIN'S AND PAUL'S ROOM.
Kevin sits at his desk, Paul on his own bed, and Winnie on Kevin's bed. Winnie holds a General Psychology textbook open.
As I was saying, all in all we were just ordinary college Freshmen....
Right. The collective unconscious.
That was Anna Freud. The concept that, through the evolution of man and civilization, we've all inherited a common core of experiences, memories, instincts and basic response patterns.
Right concept, wrong person. It was Carl Jung.
At least he was one of Sigmund Freud's proteges. You were close.
Frankie enters the room. He appears stunned.
Hi, Frankie! We're studying for the Psych quiz. Wanna join us?
You mean you guys are still studying for Gorley's class? I thought you guys would've started packing by now! At least you should've, Kev!
Packing for what?
My God! You guys didn't get the word?
No. We've been studying up here since dinner. What word?
President Ford's ordered a full reserve mobilization! That means ROTCee's shutting down in all the colleges nationwide. All the advanced cadets are gonna get commissioned and put on active duty right away. The basic cadets are being given the choice of either getting out completely or going to a crash-course Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning. Except for you and me, Kev. We're on scholarship status, so that means we have to go to Benning for O-C-S.
Kevin, Paul and Winnie are stunned, Winnie turning pale with her eyes glazing over.
The North Vietnamese sank one of our missile frigates and a destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin, damaged a carrier and a couple of other ships. Ford's already ordered airstrikes on Hanoi, the 82nd and 101st Airborne are on their way back over there. Looks like we're going back to 'Nam and finish this whole thing once and for all!
Kevin and Paul stare at him with their mouths open. Winnie's eyes begin to water and she starts shaking visibly. She reaches for Kevin's hand and clutches it tightly.
When... when do we leave?
Probably in a week. More orders are coming in the morning.
Oh, God! No!
The non-scholarship guys.... Do we go the same time you do?
We'll know more in the morning.
Man! It looks like today's going to be another date which will live in infamy! April First, 1975....
Kevin and Paul nod in grim agreement, and then do a double-take.
This whole thing's an April Fool's gag!!!
Frankie bursts out laughing as Kevin and Paul start throwing pillows, caps, paperback books and other non-lethal objects at him. Kevin and Paul laugh with him until Winnie suddenly stands up, still crying.
You're sick, Frankie! That's the sickest thing I've ever heard in my life!
He reaches after Winnie's hand, but she pulls it away and storms out of the room.
INT NIGHT- THE DORM HALLWAY.
Winnie rushes down the hallway with Kevin following. She enters the Women's bathroom and slams the door in his face. We hear her sobbing inside. Paul and Frankie step into the hallway and Kevin walks back toward them, glaring at Frankie.
Nice play, Shakespeare!
Hey! What did I do? Screw 'em if they can't take a joke!
Kevin rushes at Frankie and slams him into the wall.
At that moment, I think I could have killed Frankie. For hurting Winnie. For bringing her face to face with her worst possible nightmare.
Hey, lighten up, Kev! You guys thought it was funny, too, until she started crying.
Kevin grabs Frankie's collar with both fists and pushes him against the wall.
No, it's not funny!
Paul steps in and pries them apart, but Kevin maintains his grip on Frankie's collar.
Kev, calm down!
Yeah. What's so terrible about it? Look, you and Winnie are engaged or pretty serious or something, right?
Yeah! So what?
Think about it, man! What I just said wasn't that farfetched! That's what they did with ROTCee in World War Two. And what happens after we graduate? You guys might have to face that reality someday.
Kevin looks blankly at Frankie with his mouth open, and slowly relaxes his grip.
And that's when it hit me! Frankie hadn't brought Winnie face to face with her worst possible nightmare. I had.
What's with her, anyway?
Kevin's grip tightens on Frankie's collar again.
Kev, he doesn't know!
You... you want me to tell him?
Kevin releases his grip.
No, I'll tell him.
INT NIGHT- KEVIN'S AND PAUL'S ROOM
as they and Frankie reenter.
Look, Frankie. War and Vietnam are very painful subjects for Winnie. Her only brother was killed over there in Sixty-Eight, back when we were only twelve years old. She's never really gotten over it. In a way, I'm surprised she's not out there picketing our building and throwing blood at us.
And that's no April Fool's joke, either!
Aww, man! I didn't know! I'm sorry!
It was the first time I'd ever seen Frankie Molina look embarrassed about anything. And as mad as I was for his upsetting Winnie, in a way I was glad that only Paul and I were there to see it.
INT NIGHT- WINNIE'S ROOM.
Winnie sits alone on her bed with a single desk lamp on, keeping the room dim. A small black and white TV is on, with a local late night news program reporting on the progress of the North Vietnamese invasion of the South. She holds the framed portrait of herself and her brother Brian. Her misty-eyed gaze shifts around from the photo to the TV to her reflection in her dresser mirror. Kevin comes to the partly open door, knocks, and then enters.
Winnie, are you okay?
Hi. Come in.
Listen. Frankie asked me to tell you he's really sorry. In fact, he's asking if he can come up here and tell you himself .
I think by now I knew Winnie well enough to know that an apology from either me or Frankie wouldn't do any good. But I also knew she needed me.
I don't want to talk to Frankie....
I was just sitting here, thinking about Brian. Thinking about how he should have finished college by now... how he might have been married with kids. How he has no real legacy other than our memories of him... and thinking about how you and I are as old now as he was when he died....
She stands and hugs him tightly, tears streaming. He hugs her as tightly.
Hold me, Kevin. Just hold me. Don't ever leave me.
I won't, Winnie. I'm right here.
INT DAY- THE PSYCHOLOGY LECTURE HALL.
Kevin, Winnie and Paul sit together prior to the start of class, smiling and laughing as they converse. Frankie enters and sits next to them. Winnie glares at him, stops talking and turns away.
Things were kind of strained the next few days. Winnie and I never talked about what had happened. She didn't want to. Still, things were pretty much normal... unless Frankie was around.
EXT DAY- THE CAMPUS GREEN.
Kevin and Winnie walk down the green, holding hands with him carrying both their books and notebooks. Frankie lags several feet behind. Paul is in the awkward position of walking almost even with Kevin and Winnie while trying to maintain a conversation with Frankie.
Now, as boneheaded as Frankie's gag may have been in retrospect, Paul and I knew he'd meant no harm. He was our friend-- Winnie's too-- the first real friend we'd made in college, the first one we'd allowed into our little circle from back home. Still, I had to consider Winnie's feelings. All I could do was hope that this whole thing would eventually blow over.
INT EVENING- THE DINING HALL.
Kevin, Winnie and Paul sit at a long table eating dinner, Kevin and Winnie facing each other, Paul next to Kevin. Kevin has a notebook on the table with his name on it. Frankie approaches the table carrying a tray and starts to take the seat next to Winnie and opposite Paul.
Frankie, my roommate's gonna be sitting there.
He moves around and takes the seat on Kevin's other side.
So, Frankie. I was just telling Winnie and Paul here how I've figured out how Doctor Gorley gets away with acting so crazy in Psych class. Somewhere out there, a psychologist named John B. Gorley is roaming around the country, looking for the escaped inpatient who stole all his credentials!
They all laugh.
And for a moment there, it looked like everything was back to normal, and that the whole thing had blown over. And that's when it happened.
Winnie looks over at the dinner line where she sees her roommate Maureen with a tray. Winnie beckons her over, and we see Baxter Schultz conversing with Maureen, also holding a tray and following her toward the table.
Oh, God! Look what's coming!
Is it...? Yes it is!
What's he doing with her?
I don't know. Who is he?
Lock and load! Fix bayonets!
Maureen and Baxter reach the table. Maureen sits next to Winnie and opposite Paul. Baxter puts his tray down on Winnie's other side, but after seeing a glaring Frankie, does not sit.
Winnie, this guy came by the room looking for you, so I thought I'd bring him over.
Kevin squints at Baxter.
So you're Gwendolyn Cooper?
Yes. Everyone calls me Winnie.
Hi. I'm Baxter Schultz. I'm the secretary for the Ruysdael chapter of Students for Democratic Progress.
Uh, we're organizing a student rally a week from Friday, and we were wondering if you might want to help us.
A peace rally. A rally to call for the end to all American involvement in Southeast Asia.
A stab-our-allies-in-the-back rally!
And a get rid of ROTCee rally, only we knew this guy wouldn't have the nerve to say it in front of Frankie Molina.
We've already gotten the Administration's approval. It's in conjunction with rallies going on at several colleges across the country at the same time.
Oh. Why me?
A friend of yours who's in our chapter all the way up at Alaska State called us. Uhh... she gave us your name and told us about your brother. She said you might be sympathetic to our movement.
Winnie looks thoughtfully at Baxter while Kevin shows a rapidly sinking feeling. Kevin takes a drink from a glass on his tray.
Now, wait a minute! There was only one person I could think of that Winnie knew in the entire state of Alaska! And that person was...
Uh huh. Karen Arnold. She mentioned how you and your brother lived across the street from her.
Kevin flushes and chokes briefly on his drink.
Arrgh! My own sister! Nobody ever told her the Sixties were over. She majored in Radical Chic as an undergraduate, and was now in the graduate program for Social and Political Activism!
Winnie sits pensively, avoiding eye contact with Kevin.
So... what did Karen think I could do for you?
We were wondering if you could say a few words at the rally. About your brother. So nobody ever again has to die needlessly like he did. Karen spoke very highly of your public speaking skills.
Naturally, we weren't expecting an answer right away. But we have a meeting in our office at the Student Center at eight o'clock tonight. You're more than welcome to stop by.
Now, I could still remember the last time Winnie had gotten involved in something like this. Back during the Seventy-Two elections when she'd joined the McGovern campaign. She came out of it totally disillusioned and feeling used, so there was no way she was even going to consider such a thing...
I'll be there.
... but she did!
Baxter pulls a business card from his jacket pocket and hands it to Winnie. He notices Kevin's name on his notebook.
Any relation to...
No. She must belong to some other Arnold family.
Well, seriously, Karen is my sister.
And our Dad was a captain in the Marine Corps, and is proud to have fought against Communist aggression in the Korean War. So you figure out which one of us is the genetic mutant!
So, we'll see you at the meeting. Excuse me.
He picks up his tray and moves across the room.
Bye-bye, now!... I'm going to miss that guy... if I don't get enough target practice!
Winnie, you're not really going to that meeting, are you? I can't believe...
Kevin, I can't believe you denied Karen like that!
Winnie looks around uncomfortably at the others.
Can we talk about this later?
Fine. I don't really want to talk about it now, either.
One confrontation at a time!
INT NIGHT- KAREN'S APARTMENT IN ALASKA.
Karen is on the phone; there are a handful of other students having a meeting in the apartment with her.
Yes, I gave them Winnie's name! I think it's about time she got a chance to speak out and tell the world what a senseless waste it was for Brian Cooper to die in Vietnam!
INT NIGHT- THE FLOOR LOUNGE IN KEVIN'S DORM.
Kevin sits in the phone booth in the corner, holding the receiver.
Look, Karen. I don't like the way your organization is exploiting Winnie and her family's tragedy like this.
INTERCUT THE TWO SCENES AS THEY CONVERSE.
We're exploiting the Cooper family? Well, how about the way the Fascist establishment exploited Brian Cooper and turned him into cannon fodder?
Fascist establishment? Cannon fodder?
Karen, it wasn't that simple. War never is.
Well, listen to you! You've become quite the imperialist warmonger yourself!
You've sold out, Kevin! You've accepted their blood money, so now you're spouting their propaganda!
It's just a scholarship!
It's blood money, Kevin! The Fascist imperialist establishment is buying you off and turning you into a mindless killer robot! They're turning you into a hired killer for the military-industrial bourgeoisie!
Blood money? Killer robot? Military-industrial bourgeoisie?
Karen, this is me! Kevin! Your little brother, remember? You can talk to me in plain English!
They're brainwashing you, Kevin! You're so caught up in the Fascist imperialist rhetoric and regimentation that you can't think for yourself anymore!
Well, then maybe you shouldn't even be having this phone call with me! After all, it's being paid for with all that blood money!
Well, maybe you're right! Peace!
Karen hangs up. Kevin looks at the receiver in his hand with his face screwed up before hanging it up. He steps out of the booth to find Winnie sitting in a lounge chair waiting for him.
Hi. I'm ready to talk now.
Paul's at the library. Let's go to my room.
He reaches for her hand, and she takes it, although a little stiffly.
INT NIGHT- KEVIN'S AND PAUL'S ROOM.
Kevin and Winnie enter, and he turns on only his desk lamp, so the room remains dim as they sit on his bed.
So... did you go to that meeting?
Yes, I did. Kevin... I'm going to speak at that rally. I want to do it. For Brian.
Uhh, Winnie... you realize this jerk Baxter or whatever his name is... well, these people are the ones who threw animal blood at me and Paul the other day. The ones who call us Nazi Storm Troopers and baby killers.
I know how you feel about them. But this is going to be an orderly public assembly.
Yeah. That's what Berkeley and Kent State started out as. Still, I had to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if they weren't giving us the same.
Winnie, you've known Paul and me all our lives. We're no baby killers or storm troopers. Paul's certainly no Nazi. Heck, even Frankie. He could use a little social polishing here and there, but he's no hired killer.
That's not it. In a way, I'm grateful that Frankie pulled that gag. It's made me face up to the reality of what's going to happen after graduation. Kevin, I'm doing this for you and Paul, as much as for Brian.
Come on, Winnie! What do you want to do, get rid of ROTCee? I don't think a student rally's going to accomplish that, and even if it did, I'd lose my scholarship and have to leave Ruysdael. Is that what you want?
Winnie hesitates for a long time, her eyes misting.
No... I don't know!... Kevin, please listen to me. One of the reasons I've felt so close to you all these years is that when Brian died, you were there for me. You've always been there for me.
Winnie, you can't tell me after all these years that all I've ever been to you is a substitute big brother!
No! Of course not! That's just the point.
When I lost Brian, my life almost fell apart. You held it together for me. And the thought of my ever losing you the way I lost him... I know I could never handle that.
Kevin reaches for her hands.
I wanted to promise her that nothing was ever going to happen to me. To remind her again that Vietnam was over and that I'd never have to fight in a war. But not only would she not have listened, recent events had already shown me that it would probably be a lie.
I'll never leave you, Winnie.
I know there isn't much I can do to keep you out of the Army, and if you have no other choice, I'll follow you. But if making this one speech will help prevent you from ever having to go to war, then Brian's death won't have been such a waste.
I understand that. But, Winnie... I don't think... I don't think Brian would want his name thrown around like a political football like this.
He was my brother, and if anybody has the right to say anything about him, I do.
It was impossible to argue with her on that point, of course. But I always remembered Brian Cooper as the epitome of the word "cool." And something told me that he wouldn't want to be remembered as a helpless victim or as someone else's stooge.
So, what are you going to say?
I don't know yet. Baxter and the others... they're suggesting I let the people know about all the pain Mom and Dad and I have suffered. How so many other families have suffered, and how so many more are going to face the same needless suffering if we don't end our involvement in Vietnam, about how meaningless Brian's death was.
I'm going to take my time to find the right words. For the first time in six and a half years, I can do something for Brian.
Kevin reaches for a towel and dabs away her tears.
INT DAY- THE CADET LOUNGE IN THE ARMY ROTC BUILDING.
A CLOSE SHOT shows a pool table with the rack of balls breaking. The camera zooms back to show Frankie following through with his cue stick while Kevin stands behind him also holding a cue stick. Paul sits in a nearby armchair reading Capt Ward's copy of The Twentieth Maine, all three in civilian clothes. Kevin and Frankie play a game of Eight Ball as they converse.
So, you guys going home this weekend?
Well, I've got a Calculus quiz on Monday I have to study for, so I'm staying. But you're going home, right, Kev?
Yeah, Winnie wanted to work on that speech at home this weekend, so I'm taking her.
Aw, man! I really opened up a Pandora's Box with that April Fool's gag, didn't I? I'm really sorry, Kev.
Yeah. It's snowballed into something too big to handle.
Well, you can't blame Frankie for it, Kev. All he really did was bring something to the surface that's been festering for months. Besides, Karen had an even bigger hand in this.
Yeah, well, don't remind me!
Well, Winnie's a big girl now. You've got to give her the freedom to do this or you might lose her.
I don't have a problem with anything she might have to say. What's killing me is that she's going to be up there doing this with those... those...
Pinko commie bastards!
Well, even those pinko commie bastards gotta have the freedom to speak, too. It's part of the Voltaire Paradox.
Oh. Captain Ward never talked to you guys about that?
Well, he was telling me once about how he got spat on and called a baby killer when he got off the plane from 'Nam. So what helped him to cope with it was remembering a quote from Voltaire: "I may disagree completely with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it!" So even though Voltaire was a Frenchman, that's what Captain Ward calls the whole essence of being an American soldier these days: the Voltaire Paradox.
Well, that gave us some new thoughts to chew on. And elevated our opinion of Mad Tom Ward to even greater heights.
INT DAY- KEVIN'S CAR
as it drives down the highway. Kevin drives with Winnie quietly resting her head on his shoulder, staring thoughtfully into space.
Things were still kinda strained between me and Winnie. She wasn't being cold to me, but I think the drive home that Friday afternoon was the longest Winnie and I had ever spent alone together without saying anything.
INT DAY- THE COOPERS' LIVING ROOM.
Mr. Cooper opens the front door and lets Kevin in.
Hi, Mr. Cooper.
Hi, Kevin. You just missed Winnie. She and her mother went to the cemetery to visit Brian's grave. They just left a couple of minutes ago.
Oh. Maybe I can meet her there.
Well... that might not be a bad idea. But before you go, Kevin, can we talk for a second?
They sit in armchairs in the living room.
I knew what was coming. He was going to take this opportunity to ream me out. For accepting the scholarship and joining the Army. For putting his daughter through the hell she was going through.
Kevin, I just want you to know, in spite of what Winnie's going through right now, that I understand what you had to do, and I don't disapprove.
Even with what happened to Brian.
I never blamed the Army for Brian's death. Maybe I blame Congress a little for enacting the draft laws. And Lyndon Johnson for getting us into Vietnam. But Brian did what he had to, just like you did what you had to. And the Army didn't kill Brian.
I... I never knew you felt that way. I mean, Winnie told me about the protest marches the three of you went on.
Vigils, not protests. There's a subtle difference. And I did it mostly for Mrs. Cooper's and Winnie's sakes. To maintain peace in the family.
I guess Winnie never told you why her mother and I almost divorced the year after Brian died.
Not all the details.
Well, you two were only twelve, thirteen while it was happening; she may not have understood the details herself.... Now, Brian was my son and I loved him, and I'd give anything, including my own life, for him not to be dead. But I'm proud that he joined up when his country called. I'm proud of Brian and what he did. Mrs. Cooper.... well, she doesn't quite see things that way. She feels that Brian died for nothing and that everything to do with his death-- the war, the Army-- was a mistake.
The final straw that caused us to separate that June after he died was when the Army wrote and told us that Brian had been awarded a medal, and asked us if we wanted them to arrange some public award ceremony. Mrs. Cooper tore up the letter. I felt like she had destroyed a very important part of Brian's life and legacy.
Then you don't think his death was a waste?
I don't know. I don't think I'll ever see any good come out of it, but once I got past the anger and grief, I began to feel that Brian's time was up, that that was his destiny. That if he hadn't gone, he would've cracked up drag-racing his El Camino or something. And that it's useless to ask, "What if?"
What about me, Mr. Cooper? Aren't you worried for Winnie that something might happen to me?
No. Not really.
Kevin, I remember the night after Brian died. You walked Winnie home from Harper's Woods. What made you go out there?
Well... I just had this feeling-- I can't explain it-- that Winnie was out there and that she needed me.
So some unknown force sent you out there.
That's why I'm not worried. When Winnie needed you, God sent you to her. I have faith that He won't take you from her.
Kevin smiles thoughtfully.
It was the first time I'd ever really talked to either of Winnie's parents about Brian's death. And it made me realize, more than ever, how special and precious the love was that Winnie and I had for each other, and how much of a hand God or fate or destiny had in shaping the life we shared.
You and Winnie had your first kiss that night, didn't you?
I didn't think she ever told anyone.
She didn't. Parents just know these things. Maybe someday you'll know the same things about my grandchildren.
Thanks, Mr. Cooper.
EXT DAY- THE CEMETERY.
The Cooper family car sits parked on the shoulder of the driveway as Kevin pulls in behind it in his car and parks. He gets out.
KEVIN'S POINT OF VIEW shows Winnie kneeling at Brian Cooper's headstone, and Mrs. Cooper standing back a few feet . Both are moist-eyed.
ANOTHER ANGLE shows Kevin walking up to them. Mrs. Cooper sees him, places her finger to her lips and steps toward him.
Hi, Mrs. Cooper. Is she okay?
Yes. She just wants to spend a little time with her brother.
Kevin looks at Winnie, and then at the headstone which reads:
Winnie sees Kevin and stands. They come together and he holds her in his arms.
I just wish I knew what he'd want me to say.
INT DAY- A DORM BULLETIN BOARD.
A pair of hands tacks on a printed flyer which reads:
MUSIC: Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
By Monday of the week before the rally, the entire university student body had gotten word about it.
EXT DAY- THE CAMPUS GREEN.
Baxter and two other student protestors hand out flyers to every student passing through.
A CLOSE SHOT of the front page of the University newspaper shows an article heading which reads: "Peace Rally Set For Friday."
You couldn't turn anywhere without seeing something about it.
EXT DAY- THE CAMPUS GREEN.
Capt Ward exits the rear of the Army ROTC building and walks onto the green. A female protestor handing out flyers with her back to him turns suddenly, shoves a flyer in his hand and then turns white as she sees who it is. Capt Ward laughs and shakes his head as he walks away.
INT DAY- THE DINING HALL.
Kevin and Winnie sit eating. Baxter approaches their table with two other STUDENTS (different from those in previous scenes) and introduces them to Winnie while ignoring Kevin. Kevin sits quietly with a disdainful look.
There was no mention of Winnie or any other individual in anything written about the rally. Still, thanks to word of mouth, Winnie Cooper was fast becoming a minor celebrity at Ruysdael.
INT DAY- THE POLI-SCI CLASSROOM.
The class is in attendance with Kevin, Paul and Frankie again in uniform. Professor Klinghoff concludes the class discussion.
A reminder, ladies and gentlemen, that I've decided to cancel class on Friday so you may attend the Peace Rally.
Especially since our own Miss Cooper here will be one of the featured speakers. Not only are you encouraged to attend, but I'll be up front by the speaker's platform, so if you check in with me, I'll give you extra credit on the final.
EXT DAY- THE CAMPUS GREEN.
Frankie and Paul walk ahead of Kevin and Winnie, all headed toward the Army ROTC building.
There's a fine line between encouragement and coercion here. Now, if Klinghoff were to deduct points for not attending the rally, we'd have a better case. But even if we had a clear cut case of political coercion, you know the Administration would never do anything about it!
I get the definite feeling I walked into the middle of a George Orwell novel here! Wasn't it just last week Kllnghoff was using the Nuremberg Rally to illustrate how conformity to mob thinking could be so insidiously oppressive?
Well, there's nothing insidious about this. This is Orwell's Two-Minute Hate period, only it's gonna be a couple of hours worth.
The two of them stop and face each other while Paul and Frankie turn up the walkway to the building entrance.
If you can't be for me, then please. Don't be against me!
Kevin places his hands on her shoulders.
Winnie, I'm not against you. I love you. I've loved you since...
... since you and I were this little. How could I ever be against you?
Then don't put down what I'm doing! I love you, too, Kevin. That's part of why I'm doing this, even if you can't understand that.
Look, Winnie. I just can't stand to see them use you like this. And I don't want to see you get hurt if this thing turns ugly on us.
I just wish you could understand.
I understand perfectly! Winnie, don't you get it? If Brian were alive, they'd be calling him a baby-killer, too! To them, he'd be one of us!
Winnie pauses, angry and confused.
I have to go.
Kevin heads toward the building while Winnie continues down the main walkway, but she keeps her head turned toward him as she walks.
And I knew she didn't just mean back to the dorm. But all throughout the life Winnie and I shared together, there were many moments that were driven by forces beyond our control: fate; destiny. This was one of those moments.
As Kevin disappears into the building, Winnie bumps into Capt Ward who is coming from the opposite direction.
No problem. You okay?
They look at each other with immediate, intense reactions upon seeing who the other is: Winnie with discomfort and anxiety; Capt Ward with the same haunted look seen earlier.
I'm... I'm fine.
Excuse me. Do I know you, Miss?
Well... Kevin Arnold's my boyfriend, and I'm good friends with Paul Pfeiffer, too. You've probably just seen me hanging around with them.
Yes, I have, but I don't think that's it.
I feel like I know you from somewhere. I just can't place it....
Excuse me. I have to go.
She continues quickly toward the dormitory area while Capt Ward enters the building, still haunted.
INT DAY- THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE ARMY ROTC BUILDING.
Lt Col Huggard stands in the orderly room by the desk of the civilian secretary, speaking on the phone. The SECRETARY and the two sergeants sit at their desks. Kevin, Paul, Frankie and two other cadets stand in the hallway nearby, transfixed by Lt Col Huggard's end of the conversation. Capt Ward enters the hallway from outside and also listens.
Hell, no, we're not going to shut down on Friday! That's exactly what those people want to make us do! You're responsible for arranging security!... Look, a little graffiti and animal blood is one thing. But what we've got here is a University-sanctioned activity that's a potential mob scene, with my building and my people as the most convenient target.... I've got one hundred and fifty Ruysdael University students who use this building, and just because they wear a U.S. Army uniform two or three periods a week doesn't make their safety any less the University's responsibility! ... Okay, fine! I will go higher for this!
All the way to the top.
Evelyn, please call Doctor Weinstein's office and make an appointment for me, ASAP.
Any time in particular, Colonel?
ASAP! One of the other officers can cover class for me if they have to.
Now this was serious. If Colonel Huggard was willing to drop everything to talk to the University President, you knew he wasn't just dismissing this as a few words of dissent at an orderly assembly.
Lt Col Huggard turns toward Capt Ward as the secretary picks up the phone and dials.
Tom, put the word out. No uniforms for cadets on Friday. Classes as usual, but civvies only.
Why look for trouble? There's ways to show the flag without hanging out your butt as a convenient target.
Think of this as an exercise in Cover and Concealment!
You heard the Colonel, guys.
He and the cadets turn toward the classroom, Kevin last. Capt Ward places his hand on Kevin's shoulder.
Excuse me, Kevin.
I just ran into your lady friend outside, and I was wondering if you could tell me...
You mean Winnie, sir?
The name electrifies Capt Ward. He gasps.
He closes his eyes almost prayerfully as Kevin looks incredulously at him.
In the few months I'd known him, I'd seen Captain Mad Tom Ward in many guises: a dedicated professional; a masterful teacher; everybody's favorite uncle; John Wayne on horseback. At that moment, I saw yet another different guise: a crusading knight who had completed his quest and found the Holy Grail.
You know her, sir?
Come by my office after class, Kevin. We've got a lot to talk about....
INT DAY- CAPT WARD'S OFFICE.
Kevin follows Capt Ward in. Capt Ward sits at his desk and Kevin stands at attention in front of it, saluting nervously.
Needless to say, that class ended up being just about the longest hour and fifteen minutes of my life. While everyone else was discussing military history, my imagination ran wild as to why Mad Tom Ward wanted to see me, and how he could have possibly known Winnie.
Capt Ward returns Kevin's salute.
Sit down, Kevin. Relax. Please.
Kevin seats himself, still nervous.
So... how long have you known Winnie?
Funny he should be asking me that question! Still, I was the Freshman cadet, and he was the Commandant of Cadets.
We've... we've known each other all our lives, sir. She lived across the street from me when we were kids.
Capt Ward smiles, then blinks with misty eyes.
Oh, my God! You're... you're Karen's little brother!
Kevin again looks incredulously at him.
Oh, my God! I'd been found out! A student protest was threatening to sweep Army ROTCee with a storm of violence, and now I was going to catch hell because both my girlfriend and my sister were involved in it! But no. The look in Captain Ward's eyes told me I had nothing to fear. Still, I was so overwhelmed that I couldn't fathom what was going on here.
Yes, I am, sir. How do you know...
And how's Winnie been? Have you been good to her? Taken good care of her? Has she been happy?
I guess so, sir. I mean, I like to think I've done my best to take care of her, ever since we were kids. As for her being happy, I like to think she has been for the most part. I mean, she's had a few rough times in her life, ever since her brother...
He stops in mid-sentence, then stares at Capt Ward with his mouth open.
And then suddenly I knew. Even before Captain Ward said anything else, I knew.
EXT DUSK- THE UNIVERSITY GATEWAY
as Kevin's car exits.
INT DUSK- KEVIN'S CAR
with Kevin driving and Winnie next to him.
Kevin, what aren't you telling me?
What do you want to know?
Out of the blue, one of your professors invites you to his home for dinner and tells you to bring a date?
Yeah!... That's all there is to it!
And I wasn't even really stretching the truth. Even though they were strictly on the Army's payroll, on the University register, Colonel Huggard was a full professor while Captain Ward and the rest of the officers were assistant professors.
Well, you only have three courses that I'm not in. Which prof is it?
All right.... It's... it's Captain Ward.
I knew it! Kevin, take me back!
Come on, Winnie. They're expecting us!
Kevin, you don't really think that having one of your R-O-T-C instructors talk to me is going to change my mind about the Peace Rally!
Of course not! You don't think I'd have the nerve to invite myself to an officer's house for dinner, do you?
Well, he's probably got more reason than you do to stop me from speaking.
It's nothing like that! That's not why he invited us.
What else am I supposed to think?
Trust me, okay?
EXT DUSK- THE WARD HOME
in a suburban neighborhood much like Kevin's and Winnie's own childhood neighborhood, with children playing and riding bikes in the street. Kevin's car pulls into the driveway. He and Winnie get out; he reaches for her hand and she gives it, albeit reluctantly. He rings the doorbell.
The door opens. Capt Ward stands in the doorway dressed in slacks, loafers and a polo shirt. He smiles. Winnie remains uncomfortable.
Good evening! Come on in!
INT DUSK- THE WARDS' LIVING ROOM.
As Capt Ward lets Kevin and Winnie in, JANET WARD stands nearby, with the couple's TWO CHILDREN, a 7-year old girl and a 5-year old boy. It is an ordinary middle-class suburban living room; the only indications that it belongs to a military family are a family portrait with Capt Ward in a dress blue uniform, an aged authentic Civil War saber on the mantelpiece, and among other photos on the wall, a tintype of an ancestor in a Union cavalry officer's uniform.
Sir, I guess you've already met Winnie....
Yes, I have. This is my wife, Janet. And our children, Brian and Stephanie. Jan, this is Kevin and Winnie.
The two couples exchange handshakes, Winnie remaining uneasy.
It's so good to finally meet you. We've waited a long time for this moment.
Winnie looks at her, puzzled.
Please, have a seat.
Kevin and Winnie sit, and Capt Ward seats himself in an adjacent armchair. There is an uncomfortable moment of silence, and then Janet places her arms around the children.
Why don't you kids give me a hand with dinner?
They exit toward the kitchen. Capt Ward looks at Winnie; he is no longer haunted, but he is clearly drawn toward her with as much emotional intensity as before. He reaches out for her hand. She becomes even more uneasy.
Forgive me for staring, Winnie. I don't know why I didn't see it before.... Well, I guess I did subconsciously. You look so much like your brother!
The statement jolts Winnie. She stiffens and draws her hand away.
You knew Brian?!?
Capt Ward looks over at Kevin.
I... I didn't tell her, sir. I thought it would be better if you did.
I was Brian's platoon leader.
First Platoon, Kilo Troop, Third Squadron, Eleventh Armored Cavalry "Blackhorse" Regiment. Vietnam Central Highlands, 1968. Private First Class Brian Cooper was a good man. One of the finest and bravest men I've ever known.
Winnie pales and her eyes burn with angry tears.
He was my big brother, and I loved him. And he died when he was as old as I am now, with his whole life ahead of him.... Excuse me. Kevin, can we go?
Please stay, Winnie. I've wanted to find you and tell you this for over six years now. I'd given up hope of ever finding you three years ago. That you and I are finally sitting here together is nothing short of a miracle.
Kevin reaches and puts his arm around Winnie, then strokes her upper arms. She remains tense and resistant.
Everything you've just said is absolutely true. Brian did die young, with his whole life ahead of him. And he loved you very much, Winnie. And I think there are a few things he would want me to tell you for him that nobody else can. And I owe it to the man to let you know these things. Please.
You owe him?
More than I'll ever be able to repay.
Please, Winnie. Please listen to him. For Brian.
Winnie slowly eases her tensions, then nods, drawing herself closer to Kevin for support.
Now, I only knew your brother for a few months, but when you're facing death together every day, time loses most of its meaning. For much of those few months, he was just another member of my platoon.
SLOW DISSOLVE TO:
EXT DAY- A TOWN IN SOUTH VIETNAM'S CENTRAL HIGHLANDS (1968).
The town is small but relatively developed. Two M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers configured as Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicles (ACAVs) are stopped at the town square. A few more ACAVs move through the streets, with more forming a perimeter along with M-48 Patton tanks along the edge of the town.
Brian didn't make a big impression either way at first. He was a good soldier, he did his job, he got along with everyone else-- he was just one of the guys. He didn't stand out-- good or bad-- until that morning in August when our troop was sent in to reinforce a town in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border, which was being defended only by the local militia. And we arrived a day too late....
In the town square are about a dozen dead bodies of townspeople, lying face down. A team of men from Ward's platoon, including Private First Class BRIAN COOPER, is detailed to put them in body bags.
One of the bodies is that of a girl of about twelve, with her hair braided into two pigtails in the way Winnie wore hers at the time. Brian Cooper sees the body and he draws back, turning white. He hesitates, and then his hands shake as he turns the body over on its back.
Beside one of the ACAVs, Ward (then a Second Lieutenant) speaks to his Troop Commander (the same Captain who appeared in the hospital scene in the prologue).
It's the mayor and his family, the constable-- who was also the militia commander-- and his wife, and the schoolmaster and his family. Interpreters say the VC just came in the town after dark, rounded them up, called out the town and shot them in front of everybody.
Where the hell are the news correspondents and TV cameras when you need them?
Forget it, Tom! It's not news when Charlie does it. Only when someone on our side does it!
Did the militia put up any kind of resistance that you know of?
No, sir. Nobody fired a shot. Some of them even turned their weapons in to the VC. They were that spooked.
That's what I'm hearing from the other platoons.
Aw, what the hell's the use?
The Troop Commander leans, weary and demoralized, against the front slope of the ACAV.
I think this is the part where John Wayne turns to Victor McLaglen and says:
"Sergeant, I think it's about time we did retire!"
He pulls a map from his trouser pocket and unfolds it on the front slope of the ACAV, then points to it.
Okay, are you clear on where I want you on the perimeter?
And Tom. While you're preparing your positions, keep in mind that you're liable to take fire from inside the town, too!
Carry on. I'll check on your positions later.
Ward walks over toward the other ACAV where he is met by STAFF SERGEANT ANDUJAR, leader of the team, which rides in the ACAV with him.
All done, Lieutenant. But I think you'd better take a look at Cooper, sir.
Why? Is something wrong?
He's around back. Barfing his guts out.
Ward walks around to the rear ramp of the ACAV. He finds Brian Cooper on the ground nearby, on his knees and doubled over.
It wasn't a very flattering story to tell an eighteen year old girl about a deceased older brother she idolized, or to tell me about someone I liked to remember as the epitome of cool. But somehow that gave it the ring of truth. And I knew Winnie and I would get a straight story that night.
You okay, Coop?
Brian Cooper stands up, pale and breathing heavily.
I'll be okay, Lieutenant. I just need a couple of seconds.
What's wrong? It's not like this is the first time you've ever seen a dead body... or smelled one.
No, sir. I can take a dead VC, I can take the dead bodies of other GIs, I can take dead adult civilians. But that little girl... I've got a little sister about her age, sir.
He waits several seconds, unable to think of anything to say. Finally, he backhands Brian Cooper on the upper arm.
We've gotta press on, Coop. Mount up.
EXT, JUST BEFORE SUNSET- THE EDGE OF THE TOWN.
The ACAV is positioned behind a berm and concertina wire, pointed toward an open field with jungle at the far end. Other vehicles are positioned along the edge of town in a defensive line, alternating M-48s and ACAVs. The men of Ward's platoon sit around the vehicles, eating C-rations.
He said that the whole troop had trouble pressing on that day, that that morning had highlighted how futile the whole war could become. But Brian took it the hardest.
INT- THE ACAV.
Ward sits inside the ACAV alone, talking on the radio. When finished, he notices Brian Cooper sitting on the lowered rear ramp, holding an unopened box of C-rations on his lap, brooding.
Still not eating, huh, Coop? I noticed you skipped lunch, too.
I'll be okay, Lieutenant.
That's what you said this morning. Come on in here. Let's talk about it.
Brian Cooper enters the ACAV and sits on the troop bench opposite Ward.
Are you giving me permission to speak my mind, sir?
Hey! Your ass is out here on the line with the rest of ours! You damn well better have the right to speak your mind.
I don't know, Lieutenant. Is it true our Army gave the town militia two whole companies' worth of rifles and ammo? And that they never fired a shot when the VC came last night? That's what Sergeant Andujar says.
Yes. It's true.
Then what's the point in our being out here? They're not putting their asses on the line for their own people, so why the hell should we?
Whether or not you know it, Coop, everyone's been asking that same question around here. Even us officers!
Do you have an answer? I mean, a little girl who could have been my kid sister gets blown away, and they didn't care enough to try and stop it! Nobody cares, here or back home!
You know what the kicker is? Back home, they call us baby killers! There was this gal back home I grew up with. And when I joined up instead of taking off for Canada, she called me a baby killer! She's known me all her life, she lives across the street. She was my friend. That really hurt.
Coop.... Uh, Brian. Tell me about your little sister. Tell me about that street you grew up on.
Brian Cooper unbuttons a shirt pocket and pulls out a plastic laminated wallet-sized photo of Winnie. He hands it to Ward.
Her name's Winnie. Well, it's Gwendolyn, actually, but up until this year nobody called her that. When she turned twelve, she started insisting that everyone call her Gwendolyn, but I'm sure that won't last. You know girls at that age. She was a real tomboy, but the folks say now she's starting to notice boys and wear dresses and skirts more regularly. I think she likes the boy across the street-- that girl Karen's little brother. She starts Seventh Grade this year. Honor student, does a lot better than I did.
And your neighborhood?
They're renaming the school after Bobby Kennedy. I left my 'Fifty-Nine El Camino up on blocks on the front lawn.... I guess everybody thinks I'm the big cheese among the kids in the neighborhood. Kids play ball in the streets. It's home. What else is there to say? Your typical baby boomer suburbs.
Wally and Beaver Cleaver live to our left, Ricky and David Nelson live on our right, Jeff and Mary Stone live across the street....
Yeah, I get the picture.
Except for that flake, Karen! Somehow I can't picture Shelley Fabares calling the boy next door a baby killer....
So why didn't you take of for Canada?
'Cause I'm an American. When all this is over, I want to take my El Camino and cruise my own street, listening to the Beach Boys on the radio, not some street in Canada listening to Anne Murray or Gordon Lightfoot!
Yeah, sounds like the street I grew up on. I'm from Levittown, New York. We're talking the original prototype baby boomer suburbs here!... So how come you didn't go to college like most of the suburbanites? Not many of you among the draftees.
I wanted to get my service over with. Besides, you may be seeing more of us. They're getting a lot tighter with college deferments nowadays.
So you could've gone into ROTCee in college. You're a bright kid. You'd make a good officer.
With all due respect, sir. I knew enough about the Army to know that you lieutenants have the worst casualty rates of all the ranks!
Karen's Dad was a Marine officer in the Korean War. Talked about it once or twice, about how he was wounded on Old Baldy, but made captain because he was the only lieutenant in his unit to come off Old Baldy on his own two feet. So why do you put up with it? You a lifer?
I don't know. I used to think I was. Now I want to make sure my little girl Stephanie grows up in a neighborhood like Levittown. I've got a little six month old daughter I haven't even seen yet....
Brian, what do you think would happen if someone came some night and rounded up some of the families on your street and shot them in the back? What if it was... Winnie you had to put in that body bag?
Jeez, I don't know, Lieutenant. Up until this morning, the thought never occurred to me. It's just so unthinkable, so incomprehensible.
Maybe that's the point to our being out here.
How do you figure?
I figure the reason we go to war in godforsaken places, like the 'Nam and Korea, is because having to fight over our own homes is so unthinkable. If we come all the way out here to this cesspool and fight to protect people who don't even care, then anyone in the world who might want to take our homes has to think real hard about what would happen to them if they tried. It keeps it unthinkable.
Are you saying that we're not really trying to save South Vietnam?
Oh, we're trying, all right. But if we can't, then we can look at this as a delaying action. Buying time.
Buying time for what?
Not for what, Brian. For whom. For my daughter. For your little sister. And even for that flaky chick across the street! What's it worth to you, Brian, to know that we'll never have to dig in like this on the edge of your home town? Granted, we're not completely faultless, that some of our stray rounds cause civilian casualties too, but that's part of war. What's it worth to you to know that what's happening here will never happen back home? To me, it'd be worth my life.
Maybe mine too... but will they ever understand that back home? I'm not afraid to be out here getting shot at, as long as it means something back home.
Don't hold your breath waiting for thanks, Kid. This is a thankless war. Most people can't grasp the concept of a delaying action; they think it's a euphemism for retreat and defeat. But the bottom line is, if you have to pick a place to go fight a war, better the 'Nam than the Suburbs, right?
They both laugh.
EXT DAY- THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS (1968).
The cavalry troop (ACAVs and M-48 tanks) advances across a broad grassland interspersed with patches of jungle and brush, toward a town in the distance. The troop is on line. Ward rides in the machine gun cupola of his ACAV. Brian Cooper, Sergeant Andujar and the rest of the team ride in the troop compartment.
He told us that after that day, they talked occasionally about home and being from the suburbs, but all in all, Brian went back to being like any other member of the platoon. And it stayed that way for about a month, until the day the troop was sent to clear out and secure another town that overlooked the Cambodian border....
The grassland erupts with explosions as North Vietnamese forces open fire on the troop from the jungle and from the town itself, with anti-tank field guns, rockets, mortars and machine guns. The M-48s and ACAV machine gunners return fire while the vehicles charge at full speed.
The ACAV charges toward the town, Ward laying fire with the cupola .50 caliber machine gun while the team machine gunners fire the two M-60 machine guns from the armored gun mounts at the corners of the troop hatch.
A North Vietnamese antitank gun fires at them from the edge of the town. The round explodes on the front slope of the ACAV, jolting it and its occupants, and blowing out the interior access panel to the engine compartment; the engine dies and the ACAV coasts to a stop. The DRIVER presses the start button, then tinkers with the choke and other switches to no avail. Smoke starts to seep out of the engine compartment, both inside and outside the vehicle.
No Go, L-T! She won't start!
Drop the ramp!
Dismount! Assemble in those woods over there.
He waves his arm toward a tree line about 60 to 70 meters to their right, then returns to the machine gun. He lays covering fire on the gun positions at the edge of the town while the rear ramp is lowered on the ACAV. The team leaps out and runs for the trees as there are more explosions around them and enemy machine gun fire rips up the ground. Ward continues firing as the smoke from the engine compartment thickens and then flames come out near his legs.
Another antitank gun fires. The round explodes at the base of the cupola, knocking it out of its ring and slamming it back against Ward's chest, although the frontal armor plates save him from the blast and shrapnel. He is pinned in the cupola ring. He struggles to push the cupola but it is too heavy to move, while the flames from the engine compartment singe his trouser legs.
The team reaches the trees and takes cover, still receiving some machine gun fire from the town. The two machine gunners return fire with the M-60 machine guns; Sergeant Andujar takes a headcount.
They'd all made it to safety, including Brian. All except...
Where's the Lieutenant?
The team members glance around and then look back at the ACAV, the front end of which is shrouded in smoke and some flame. They see Ward struggling in the cupola.
Brian Cooper stares at Ward, hesitates a second, then drops his field pack.
I'll get him, Sarge!
He sprints back toward the ACAV, screaming and firing his M-16 toward the town, before Andujar can either approve or object.
Cover him, guys!
Enemy machine gun fire rakes the ground behind Brian Cooper. He reaches the ACAV, enters through the rear ramp and climbs to the roof next to the cupola. He and Ward struggle to move the cupola, with Ward clenching his teeth in intense pain. More machine gun bullets strike the ACAV.
Brian Cooper lifts the machine gun from its mount to lighten the cupola, then throws the machine gun off the front end of the ACAV. He braces himself against the armor plate at the corner of the troop hatch and places his feet against the rear of the cupola.
On three, Lieutenant! One... Two... THREE!
The two men heave and move the cupola a few inches back toward its normal position, enough for Ward to squirm loose and drop to the floor of the ACAV, his trousers scorched and smoldering. Brian Cooper jumps down after him, grabs a fire extinguisher from the driver's compartment and sprays Ward's legs, then helps him stand.
The two men exit the ACAV from the rear ramp, with Ward staggering and Brian Cooper supporting him with one of Ward's arms across his shoulders. They run toward the tree line with explosions and machine gun fire continuing around them. The fuel tank on the ACAV ignites, enveloping the vehicle in a flash fire.
About fifteen feet short of the tree line, Ward and Brian Cooper are hit by a burst of machine gun fire; one bullet hits Ward in the thigh; two bullets hit Brian Cooper in the torso. They both collapse onto the ground.
Sergeant Andujar throws a smoke grenade between the wounded men and the enemy positions, then he and the driver run out and drag Ward and Brian Cooper the rest of the way to the trees. The team members lay them out and begin first aid. Both are in shock but still conscious.
Medics are on the way! Hang in there, Coop! Hang in there, Lieutenant!
MUSIC: Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds.
EXT DAY- AN OPEN FIELD A FEW HUNDRED METERS TO THE REAR OF THE BATTLE AREA.
An M-113 configured as an ambulance sits in the field, with a smoke grenade burning nearby. A UH-1 Huey helicopter in Medevac configuration touches down near the M-113. MEDICS carry Ward, Brian Cooper and two other CASUALTIES from the M-113 to the Huey on stretchers.
INT DAY- THE HUEY
as it lifts off. Ward and Brian Cooper lie side by side as medics continue to work on their injuries. Brian Cooper is given a plasma transfusion. A medic gives Ward a drink from a canteen, after which he regains a little strength and turns his head toward Brian Cooper.
Hang on, Brian! We're going home.
Brian Cooper looks over at him. He is very pale, but calm and lucid, not showing pain.
You gonna make it, Lieutenant?
Yeah, Brian. Thanks.... You saved my life, buddy....
Now, don't you die on me! That's an order, soldier!
Brian Cooper laughs, then coughs violently. The pain shows briefly on his face and then fades. He becomes even calmer, accepting death.
Mom should be starting dinner right around now.... Dad should just about be pulling into the driveway, coming home from work.... Winnie's probably out in Harper's Woods, playing with the kids across the street.... School starts again tomorrow.... God, I wish I was a kid again... but what they say is true. You can't go home again....
Of course you can, Brian! Maybe you can't be a kid again, but you're going home. You're gonna get your El Camino running again, then you're gonna go cruising with Beach Boys music blaring on your radio....
The Huey banks into a turn, giving them a view, in the distance, of the town in ruins and burning as the M-48s and ACAVs of the troop overrun the North Vietnamese defenses.
Better the 'Nam than the Suburbs, right?
They both laugh weakly.
INT NIGHT- THE WARDS' LIVING ROOM.
Kevin has one arm around Winnie, who tightly clasps his other hand in both of hers. The tears are streaming freely on both their faces, and Capt Ward is also misty eyed.
From the time I first decided to accept the Army ROTCee scholarship, I never imagined I'd ever let myself cry in front of my commanding officer, especially a hard-core John Wayne cavalry traditionalist. But this was Captain Mad Tom Ward. He wasn't there as my commanding officer, but as someone with whom we shared a bond. Someone who felt the loss of Brian Cooper perhaps as much as Winnie and her parents did. This was okay.
I was at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas for eight months, then went home on convalescent leave. As soon as I was well enough to travel in July of 'Sixty-Nine, I went to your home to look you and your parents up, but there was nobody home.
That was the summer my parents were separated. When my Dad moved to Chicago and my Mom and I went to my Aunt's.
Oh, my God! One nightmare on top of another!
It was. It was only for a few months, but it seemed like years.
I found out later that your parents declined to attend a ceremony for the awarding of Brian's Distinguished Service Cross. I was sad to hear that, but somehow I understood. I understand even more now.
Anyway, when I returned to duty, I went to the officer advanced course at Fort Knox and then returned to the Blackhorse Regiment. When I finished my second tour in 'Nam in Seventy-One, I went back to look you and your folks up again, but of course by then you'd moved. The new owners wouldn't give me your new address. I'm sorry it took this long to find you.
There is a pause, and then Winnie sits up straight and pulls slightly away from Kevin, releasing her grip.
You made all this up! Kevin, you told him all those things about me and about Brian! And about Karen!
Capt Ward gets up and goes into the adjacent family room.
Excuse me. I'll be right back.
No, Winnie! Why would I?
Winnie is still tearful, and looks very torn and confused.
To make me change my mind about the Peace Rally....
Capt Ward returns, holding two picture frames.
No, Winnie. Please believe me. I really did know Brian.
He hands her one of the frames. It contains a photo of Ward and his platoon in jungle fatigues with weapons and combat gear, posing alongside an ACAV. Winnie's eyes focus on Brian kneeling in the front row, and then on then-Lieutenant Ward standing behind him.
Brian sent us a copy of this picture about a week before he died. I never noticed any of the other faces in it until now....
All right. So you knew Brian. But you still could have made the story up.
Capt Ward hands her the other frame. It is a Purple Heart medal certificate awarded to 2nd Lieutenant Thomas H. Ward for wounds received in action on 4 September 1968.
The Fourth of September, 1968. I think that's a date that's been burned into all our memories. And when Brian and I were Medevac'ed, some of our personal effects got mixed up, and I ended up with this.
He hands Winnie the wallet-sized photo of herself which Brian had shown him in the flashback sequence.
I planned on returning it to you when I looked you and your folks up. I guess it took a little longer than I'd planned. I guess that's also why I felt I knew you.
Winnie turns over the picture and reads the inscription on the back: "To the coolest big brother in the world. Love, Gwendolyn." More tears well up and she shakes.
I believe you.
She clutches Kevin's hand and he holds her tight.
When you lose a man in battle, especially like in Brian's case, you incur a lifelong obligation. The dead become a part of you, and you become bound to make a part of them live on through you. That's why tonight means so much to me, just meeting you. I needed to know that you were okay, and to do whatever I could for you.
That's also part of why I got as little torqued off at Gary Robbins in class last week for calling the Gettysburg Address a "big political speech." Any man who's ever been left alive among his dead buddies after a battle feels that Lincoln speaks directly to him.
Winnie blinks and then takes a deep breath.
Captain, thank you.... What you've told me... means a lot to me. But I'm sorry. I'm going to speak at the Peace Rally on Friday. I'm not going to change my mind.
Nobody's asking you to, Winnie. God, no! Nobody can stop you from saying what you want to say in public, and nobody can force you to say anything you don't want to. That's the beauty of this country. And in the end, that's really what Brian Cooper died for.
Winnie looks at Capt Ward thoughtfully, her lips quivering. She bursts into tears, and then she and Kevin hug each other tightly.
PARTIAL DISSOLVE TO DOUBLE EXPOSURE
with the kiss and embrace scene from the Series Pilot Episode, with Kevin and Winnie, age 12, sitting together on a boulder in a woods. He holds his New York Jets jacket draped over her shoulders, and then they kiss, then hug each other tightly with Kevin stroking Winnie's hair.
It must have been fate that I ended up being the instrument that brought Winnie and Captain Ward together. Even if I hadn't been, it meant a lot to me just being there. Winnie and I had come full circle since that night nearly seven years earlier. As a boy, I held Winnie Cooper in my arms while a frightened, angry and hurt little girl cried out, asking why the big brother she worshipped had been taken from her. For nearly seven years as we grew, I held her hand and bore witness while that little girl painfully and wordlessly continued to ask why. That night, as a man, I held Winnie Cooper in my arms while a young woman finally got her answer.
FADE OUT DOUBLE EXPOSURE
Kevin and Winnie kiss, then he pulls out a handkerchief and dabs away her tears and then his own. They both blink, smile sadly, and then Winnie takes a long look at Kevin, her eyes showing a new understanding. She turns to Capt Ward.
Captain... Was Brian... in love with Karen?
I couldn't tell you for sure, Winnie. I want to say yes to that, but I honestly don't know. I can tell you that he did talk about Karen more than once... and that her calling him a baby killer hurt him more than anything else. But then again, that's what hurt the most for all of us.
Oh, yes. There is one more thing I want to tell you concerning your brother. My son's name is no coincidence.
Hey, Brian, can you come in here a minute?
Five year old Brian Ward comes through the door.
I want you to meet some very special friends of mine. This is Kevin Arnold, and this is Winnie Cooper.
Hey, neat! My name's Cooper, too! Brian Cooper Ward!
Winnie and Kevin look at him, their hearts melting.
Yes, Brian. Do you remember the story I told you about the man you're named after? The man who saved my life in the war?
Brian Ward nods and smiles.
Winnie is his sister.
Does that mean we're related?
Yeah. Kind of....
EXT DAY- THE CAMPUS GREEN
to the rear of the Army ROTC building. There is a moderately large crowd gathered across the width of the green with their backs to the building, facing a scaffold mounted with a large amplifier-speaker system and microphones. Several policemen stand at the perimeter of the crowd and in a line between the crowd and the building. On the back patio, Kevin, Paul and several other cadets sit or stand watching, all in civilian clothes, but with Frankie wearing jungle fatigue pants with a T-shirt imprinted with Army parachutist wings. He leans against the wall next to his B-52 graffito. On the second floor, Capt Ward stands prominently at an open window wearing his summer khaki uniform.
There are several people on the scaffold, including Winnie and Baxter. Winnie looks decidedly out of place in a pastel dress while Baxter and the others-- male and female-- are dressed in denims and tie-dyes. Several in the crowd wave anti-ROTC and anti-war signs and CHANT: "OUT OF VIETNAM NOW!" in between the sentences of the SPEAKER at the microphone.
The end of American Imperialism in Vietnam is at hand, and we stand here ringing out its death knell!... And to insure that there are no more Vietnams, we must rid ourselves of the breeding grounds for America's Imperialist swine!... We must begin by ridding this campus
of that Imperialist swine farm behind you!
The crowd applauds and chants. At the building, Capt Ward shakes his head with a cynical smile. Kevin, Paul and the other cadets roll their eyes back except for Frankie, who produces a bayonet from the cargo pocket of his pants and coolly uses it to clean under his fingernails.
The speaker moves aside and Baxter takes the microphone.
Our next speaker...
Our next speaker is a student here at Ruysdael, one of our own who has felt firsthand the tragedy of Vietnam. I'd like to introduce Gwendolyn Cooper, Class of Seventy-Eight.
Winnie goes to the microphone holding a set of notes, to a round of applause. She is somber and apprehensive.
My brother, Private First Class Brian Cooper, was killed in action in Vietnam on September Fourth, 1968. I loved him, and I still miss him after all these years. He was the best big brother any person could have asked for. I guess he could have been anybody's big brother, but he was mine....
Brian wasn't an officer. He was drafted. I don't think he would have gone on to be a career soldier. He wasn't in the Army long enough for anybody to really know what kind of a soldier he would have become. But Brian went when he could have easily asked for a deferment or left the country, and he believed in what he was doing in Vietnam...
... and I'm sorry, but I'm not going to stand here and let his name and the honor of his memory be stained by people who didn't even know him saying that he was a baby killer and an Imperialist tool!
The crowd is stunned, first into total silence, and then into indignant murmurs. Baxter stands there dumbfounded.
Winnie looks across the green at Kevin, and then despite the distance has a long moment of eye contact with Capt Ward.
Winnie has been my lifelong companion and soul mate. She was the first girl I ever kissed, the only woman I've ever made love with, and now she's the mother of my children. Over the span of our lifetimes, there have been very few days we didn't see each other, and for almost half those years, very few nights we didn't sleep together. There have been countless moments when we laughed together and cried together. And countless moments when I saw a fire in her eyes. But even though I was a good fifty feet away, I had never before or since seen that fire burn more brightly than at that moment. It was a fire of raw courage and determination in the face of sheer terror. Somehow I'm sure I was seeing the same fire that Brian had in his eyes just before he left the safety of the trees to rescue Mad Tom Ward.
Winnie looks at her notes and then stares into the crowd.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln was burdened with the seemingly impossible task of burying an unacceptable number of dead from a bloody and unpopular war, while trying to bring back together a nation which had been violently torn apart. Today, we as a nation are again faced with those same tasks, and Mr. Lincoln is no longer with us. But in 1863, he left the words to guide us: "It is for us the living... to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...."
The crowd's murmur of indignation becomes louder as she recites the quote. There are some hisses and boos, and two or three cries of "Imperialist tool!" and the like.
Kevin backhands Paul on the upper arm; the two of them unobtrusively slip down the back steps of the building and work their way around the crowd toward the scaffold. Kevin beckons Frankie, who puts away his bayonet and joins them.
It may be too late to save South Vietnam from the Communists. Maybe in hindsight it was a mistake to try. But my brother Brian gave the last full measure of his devotion to a cause much, much bigger than just the South Vietnamese government, however moral or immoral it might be. It was the same cause of which Mr. Lincoln spoke a hundred and five years earlier.
There is open booing and catcalling from the crowd. Winnie fights back tears, then takes a deep breath and stands with her head high.
The same cause which makes this very assembly possible...
The jeering increases even further. She puts her notes aside.
... and gives me the freedom to stand here and disagree with you without having to offer any apology.... You know, it does hurt to stand here and listen to your booing and insults... but in a way, the pain I'm feeling right now is worth it... because in its own strange way, it lets me know that my brother Brian didn't really die for nothing after all!
The jeering and murmurs reach their peak and then drop off abruptly as Winnie steps off the scaffold and walks toward Kevin and Paul.
Baxter returns to the microphone but is still dumbfounded.
Our next... Our next speak...
Both Kevin and Paul embrace Winnie, and then she and Frankie clutch each other's hands. They all turn and look up to the window where Capt Ward is standing.
Capt Ward snaps to attention, looks squarely at Winnie, smiles proudly and salutes.
Beside Capt Ward, the image of Brian Cooper wearing jungle fatigues appears, also smiling proudly at Winnie, blows her a kiss, then fades out.
A few people leave the crowd, but it remains generally intact and then resumes chanting. Winnie and Kevin put their arms around each other and start walking toward their dormitory, away from the building, the scaffold and the crowd. Paul and Frankie stand smiling after them.
A MONTAGE OF NEWSREEL FOOTAGE
depicts the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists, including footage of the Boat People, and the famous scenes of American helicopters pulling refugees from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, and landing on aircraft carriers.
MUSIC: One Tin Soldier by Coven, starting with the second verse (1:07 on this link).
In the Spring of 1975, South Vietnam fell to the Communists. Most historians would say that that was the end of the war, and that it was the first war that the United States ever lost. It would be years before the wounds of Vietnam would be healed across the nation. Frankie Molina, Paul Pfeiffer and I were long gone before an R-O-T-C cadet could again wear a uniform on the campus of Ruysdael University without being jeered, or called a baby killer, or just plain looked at funny.
EXT DAY- THE WARD HOME.
The Cooper family car pulls into the driveway, with Mr. and Mrs. Cooper in the front seat, Winnie and Kevin in the back. They come out of the car as the four members of the Ward family come out to meet them. There are warm bittersweet greetings as Winnie and Kevin introduce her parents to the Wards.
But for Winnie Cooper and her parents, the healing began that Spring of 1975. Because that's when they learned that a part of her brother Brian still lived on, and that part finally came home to them.
FADE TO CREDITS.
To the longer version, The Wonder Years: A Time to Kill, a Time to Heal
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