Thursday, January 24, 2013


Vietnam war haunts Dobama stage

Reviewed by FRAN HELLER                       

“Ghosts of War” begins as Vietnam veteran Jim Kyle (George Roth) walks on stage bearing a bouquet of yellow flowers, his mien somber and introspective. Jim sits, then opens a footlocker, from which he removes a storehouse of memories: a basketball, a folded U.S. flag, photographs of all the men he lost in his platoon. Soft background music gives way to the drone of a helicopter and the sounds of combat, hurtling the audience back to the late 1960s and the Vietnam War.“Ghosts of War,” a documentary play by Cleveland playwright, director and freelance journalist Christopher Johnston, is the true story of Jim Kyle and his best friend, Danny Nicklow, Marines who served in Vietnam.
Kyle survived. Nicklow died with most of his company on a hill in South Vietnam. He was 20.
Written with the expertise of a seasoned journalist, “ Ghosts” is a 90-minute monologue of anecdotes interspersed with facts and figures of the war, excruciatingly detailed material that could prove dry in the hands of an actor less gifted than Roth. He can find passion and heart, even in raw facts.
The play is smartly directed by Charles Kartali.

Roth makes a cast of one seem like an entire company as he recounts the story of two best friends and the people who affected them. Projections of grainy photographs of family members and happier times, of the guys in Jim Kyle’s platoon and of the Vietnam countryside heighten the drama.

In Roth’s rich storytelling, we come to know Jim and Danny intimately, from the time they met working a summer job at a marina in Maryland. Jim describes Danny as a super athlete; charismatic; a blonde-haired hit with the ladies; a regular guy from a well-to-do family, yet unspoiled and civic- minded, foregoing a full football scholarship to Youngstown State University to serve his country. Jim describes himself as self-absorbed and only interested in girls and sports, the idea of serving his country during a war something he would never consider – until the news that Danny had been killed in action, a tragedy that would change Jim’s life forever, including joining the Marines.

The war doesn’t stop when its survivors return home, notes Jim, who was discharged in 1971. The play traces his postwar years and self-destructive lifestyle, including drinking, bar fights, marriage and divorce. He takes his anger out by making tons of money – and then losing it.
Jim spends 1967 to 2007 trying to find out how his best buddy died. His tenacity pays off, and in the tear-filled finale, he pays choked-up homage to his mentor and hero.
At times, the production suffers from factual overload and needs trimming, but its emotional impact clear. It is a salute to all who went to war but never came back – and to the friendship and love of two real men in real time.

WHAT: “Ghosts of War”
WHERE: Dobama Theatre at Heights Library, 2340 Lee Rd, Cleveland Hts.
WHEN: Through Sunday, Jan. 27
TICKETS & INFO: 216-932-3396 or

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Back in the World on March 30

THE HILL--A Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed creating a working holiday to celebrate Vietnam-era veterans. March 30 of each year would become “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” if Senate Bill 83 passes.

That’s the day in 1973 when the last United States soldiers to leave Vietnam arrived back in the United States. A number of Vietnam veterans testified before the Senate State Affairs Committee that such a holiday would be long-overdue recognition for their military service.

“What we would like to do is have this as a recognition of the fact that we were called or volunteered, we served, we came home, we did our duty,” said Phil Braeger of Watertown.

Lawmakers took turns praising the veterans.

“I only have two words: thank you,” said Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg.

“Anything we can do as a legislative body to continue to make you folks feel welcome at home and be welcome in our communities is extremely important,” said Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot.

The committee approved SB 83 unanimously, sending it on to the full Senate.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


'Nam Huey on Display in Pittsburgh

Kaitlynn Riely / The Pittsburgh Press
STEELTOWN--At the Heinz History Center today, some assembly was required.
The project was to piece together about 20 olive drab green parts to rebuild a UH-1H helicopter -- better known as a Huey -- used during the Vietnam War. The Army aircraft will be part of an upcoming exhibit at the Strip District museum called "1968: The Year That Rocked America," a traveling exhibit created with the Minnesota Historical Society.

"This is probably the largest artifact we've dealt with to date," said Emily Ruby, assistant curator at Heinz History Center. The helicopter, when completed, is 20 feet long and 8 to 10 feet wide, with two blades on top that are each 22 feet long.
Her staff had help putting the helicopter together from local Vietnam veterans.
"It's a way for us to connect with veterans in the community," she said.

The work started this morning, and at noon, about two dozen people -- museum staff, people involved with the Minnesota Historical Society and local vets -- paused to take a photograph in front of the partially completed Huey.

The helicopter, built by Bell Helicopters in 1966, was used by the Army in the Vietnam War from 1967 through 1970. The Minnesota Historical Society obtained the refurbished and rebuilt helicopter a few years ago for use in its exhibit.

Jim Puhala, 70, a retired North Strabane lawyer, watched this morning as the helicopter formed. He flew a similar, though slightly smaller, Huey during the war, when he spent most of 1967 in Vietnam as a gunship pilot and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service.
Though he flew them, he never saw one being assembled, he said.

"I said, if I ever knew how they put it together, I never would have flown," he joked.

The Huey will be one part of an exhibit that tells the story of a year in American history that witnessed, among other events, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the national launch of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which was produced in Pittsburgh.

The exhibit opens Feb. 2.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.