"Last Days In Vietnam" Revisits The Fall Of Saigon

Apr 22, 2015

WXXI and the Little Theatre Tuesday night showed a film documenting the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War.


The screening of Last Days in Vietnam also provided local veterans such as Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch an opportunity to listen to one another.

"That's what those of us that came back from Vietnam...we didn't have that. We didn't have the community willing to let us talk."

The free screening of the Academy Award nominated documentary feature is part of WXXI's Veterans Connections in partnership with The Little Theatre. The film chronicles the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon.

Lazlo Felhazy is a counselor in the Veterans Administration's Vet Center Program, which works with war zone veterans and their families.

"Nobody knew how the Vietnam war was gonna end when it started. I don't think it was anticipated, I don't think it was planned. And there's so many forces, I'm sure, that suddenly converged. And it turned into chaos. Tragedy. Everywhere, on both sides."

Following the film, Felhazy and Beikirch participated in a panel discussion moderated by WXXI’s Veterans Affairs Task Force Chair Mark Leary.

Beikirch hopes that events such as this can encourage veterans to get help if they need it.

"The trauma of war is not a disorder. It's post-traumatic stress. You're calling it an illness. And, calling it an illness or a disorder, sometimes is not gonna make people wanna come out."

Felhazy has counseled veterans for years, and realizes not all veterans want to see this kind of movie.

"On the one hand, there's a resistance, they don't wanna be reminded, because of their own reactions, whatever they may relate to that. But, at the same time, it's also like a magnet, it pulls. And there's a curiosity. I often say to people that maybe, maybe you already have enough experience, and you don't need anybody else's."

Beikirch wants you to try to understand what it’s like to survive trauma like war.

"To say that you're going to go through a trauma and not be affected psychologically, emotionally, physically and socially, it's crazy. It's like saying you're not going to be able to sweat if you run a marathon. It's just a natural consequence."

Beikirch hopes veterans will participate in events such as this, and find people who want to listen to their stories.

"I just need somebody who's willing to listen. That will let me sort through all the hurt, all the pain that I feel inside. Confront it. Deal with it. Then, let it go.  Forgive myself. Cry tears. It's that understanding and that care; it's that support that will help me heal."

Beikirch told the audience at the Little Theatre he often thinks of the people who were with him back in the 1960s, both military, and those who lived in that part of the country.

"This movie will have an impact, whether or not you were in Vietnam or in any war, because it helps you understand the impact of the terribleness of war."

WXXI TV will broadcast Last Days in Vietnam on Tuesday, April 28 at 9 p.m.