In the fall of 1969, Kregg Jorgenson was an Army Ranger serving in the jungles of Vietnam. He, and his five-man team, would quietly patrol the jungle for weeks at a time, looking for signs of the enemy to report back to Command. On a perfect day, they did not engage the enemy. November 17th, 1969 was not a perfect day.
Discovered by a vastly superior enemy fighting force, they were surrounded and attacked. Two of the five men were killed within the first minute, including Kregg’s best friend who was fighting right beside him. Another was horrifically wounded, leaving only Kregg and his team leader to fight off the enemy until help arrived. Only help was not coming. Command told them the area was too “hot” and they needed to leave their dead and make it to a different extraction point. Even after an hour of vicious fighting, they refused to leave their dead. They continued to fight until help finally arrived.
Kregg was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for that day, but he still refuses to consider himself a hero. He also turned down a non-combat assignment to ride out the rest of his tour of duty and instead volunteered for Apache Troop.
Apache Troop was the unit sent to rescue soldiers who needed to be helped out of tenuous situations. Kregg joined the unit because he did not want any other soldiers to feel like he had felt on that fateful November day. Kregg is just one of the many heroes of Apache Troop; men whose stories deserve to be heard.
Filmmakers, Dave Merlino and Dustin Sweet, were both born after the Vietnam War. They didn’t live through the politics of the time, didn’t see the news reports on TV every night or the pictures in the paper the next morning. All they have known is what has been reported and produced in films and other media since the war.
They learned from Hollywood that World War II veterans are heroes who rose up and helped save the world from an evil madman, while Vietnam Veterans slaughtered innocent villagers. They learned that Vietnam Veterans are suicidal and angry, while Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD and need our help to ease their pain. They learned from the pictures in their history books that World War II veterans persevered to raise the flag over Iwo Jima and kissed pretty girls in Times Square, while Vietnam Veterans executed enemy soldiers with a pistol to the head and bombed villages while naked kids ran screaming through the streets. World War II veterans returned to parades and acclaim. Vietnam Veterans returned to protesters throwing garbage at their buses and hurling names like “baby killers”.
It has been through conversations with Kregg Jorgensson that the filmmakers have come to see to just how hurtful this narrative has been to these valiant men. In APACHE BLUES: The Soldiers Unknown, the filmmakers will explore the disconnect between the politics of the day and the way society treated these men when they came home from a war they didn’t start.
APACHE BLUES: The Soldiers Unknown” is the journey to find out how this happened and remind us that no matter what we may think of the politics of the time, or reasons why we were engaged in this conflict, these men were just trying to make it home. It’s a journey to find heroes in a place we grew up thinking we, as a society, were never supposed to look.