MOUNT VERNON — MTVarts, a nonprofit, all-volunteer theater company in Mount Vernon is honoring Vietnam veterans this Veterans Day with a special production of “Welcome Home: A Tribute to Vietnam Veterans,” on Nov. 11-12 at Knox Memorial Theater in Mount Vernon.
“My main exposure to the Vietnam experience was through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy watching his older brother putting away his high school football and seeing him board a plane in route to Vietnam,” said show director Bruce Jacklin. “There were no emails, texts, or Facetime to keep in touch. Only the evening news offering any peace of mind that your son was not a part of a deadly conflict.”
Jacklin’s brother, Lt. Col. Steve Jacklin, is the author of “The Journey: A Veteran Service Memoir,” upon which the show is based. He, along with Susan Rudd Hamilton, adapted the story into a musical for the stage. Steve joined the Marines in 1969 and did two tours of duty in Vietnam as a basic infantryman. After release from active duty, he attended Otterbein College pursuant to a baccalaureate degree and a commission to second lieutenant in the Marines. Steve left the infantry to attend Naval flight training in Pensacola, Florida, where he was awarded his pilot wings in 1979. He left active duty in 1988, continuing his military service in the Ohio Army National Guard. Subsequent to 9/11, Steve was ordered back to active duty where he performed duties in the Pentagon until his retirement from military service in September 2004. Steve retired in 2010 from the Veterans Administration pursuant to a writing career. His published writings include: music albums “Storyteller Journey, “The Writers’ Series” and “Where the Hell is My Parade,” book of memoirs “The Journey” and musical “Welcome Home.”
Susan Rudd Hamilton, a longtime theatre troupe, writes and directs whodunnit and comedy plays and authors romance, mystery and teen books. This is her first musical collaboration with more to come, she says.
“The Vietnam War is a hellish moment in time that I feel is not often discussed properly in schools but is also overtly glorified as the setting for numerous ‘one-man army’ stories through print and media,” reflected Mason Mickley, cast member portraying “Gung Ho” Tucker. “I don’t fee like the impact, severity and overall actual story has ever been properly told, nor has the credit, honor and respect ever been truly given to the brave souls that were often forced to the front lines without question. I’m excited to be part of something so raw, so true and so genuinely authentic that will tell just a few of those thousands of stories that deserve to be heard.”
“The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American service members and wounded more than 150,000. And for the men who served in Vietnam and survived unspeakable horrors, coming home offered its own kind of trauma. They had abuses hurled their way and others remember being spat on,” said Bruce. “As a military force, Vietnam veterans were met with none of the fanfare and received none of the benefits bestowed upon World War II’s ‘greatest generation.’ This show is dedicated to them.”
The show can be seen for two nights only, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 11 and 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Knox Memorial Theater. Tickets are $20 and all veterans receive free admission at the door. Please note the show is rated R for mature language and subject matter.
Show sponsors include White Castle, VFW Post 4027, AMVETS Post 95, Knox County Veterans Service Office, Veterans Service Administration, Knox Memorial, and with assistance of proceeds from Stein Brewing Co.’s Boo n’ Brew event.
For information and tickets, visit www.mtvarts.com, www.knoxmemorial.org, or go to Park National Bank on the Square in Mount Vernon.