Heroes are born when their lack of selfishness shines through and overcomes all obstacles.’ At the height of the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s, one young man from the San Fernando Valley displayed unrelenting bravery by placing the safety of his fellow countrymen, Marines and soldiers before his own.
William T. Perkins was just 19 years old during while part of Operation Medina. The day of Oct. 12, 1967 was the day when Perkins catapulted himself onto an enemy grenade in order to spare the lives of those around him.
What makes this story even more heart-wrenching, is that Perkins was not on duty with a machine gun or any firearm for that matter. He simply’ was a man with movie camera.
Following his untimely death, Perkins was awarded the United States’ highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.
To date, Perkins is the only combat photographer in the history of the United States to earn such an esteemed recognition.
Thirty years later, friend and close confidante Craig Ingraham set out to portray what happened that fateful day in the Hai Lang Forest of Vietnam in a riveting documentary called ‘Above and Beyond The Story of Cpl. William T. Perkins, Jr. USMC.” The documentary will be airing throughout during the month of November on PBS.
It is a touching depiction of a young man full of hope who arrived in Vietnam with a camera and the goal of one day returning to America to display his artistic vision.
While the story ended in tragedy, Perkins’ legacy and self-sacrifice live on.
Coming from a modest background, Perkins attended James Monroe High School just a few blocks from Cal State Northridge.’ He dreamed of attending UCLA’s distinguished film school.
Perkins’ family had been proudly involved in America’s military, dating back to the Civil War.’ It seemed only natural that Perkins should serve his country in his family’s tradition. In reminiscing about Perkins, Ingraham paints a very rich picture.
‘We both became certified scuba divers together between high school graduation and the beginning of his military service,’ Ingraham said about their classes at Cal Acquatics in Woodland Hills.
‘We would go scuba diving off of Malibu, hunting for abalone, and spear fishing,’ Ingraham said.’ ‘We were high on life.’
At several points the film shows a very enthusiastic Perkins capturing his fellow soldiers on camera and usually with a great energy level.’ The piece can become quite emotional as the music becomes somber and ex-Marines are shown weeping when discussing Perkins’ last days.
The documentary aims at delivering a more poignant message than just one young man’s unfortunate destiny.’ It is quite evident that Ingraham wants his audience to understand the awful truths about war.
In commemoration of our troops this Veteran’s Day, it should be noted that violence never creates anything except more destruction and hatred.’ Countries should handle their differences in a civil manner.
‘War is terrible,’ said Ingraham.’ ‘The history of this democracy is engagement with foreign countries through diplomacy.’