GRAHAM, Wash. -- Gary Birka hopes his home movies from nearly 50 years ago will teach future about what war looks like.
“I would like people to understand what people go through for our freedom,” said Birka. “It’s pretty tough sometimes.”
Birka has about a half-hour of film from his tour in Vietnam between August of 1969 and August of 1979.
The Private First Class filmed helicopters, airplanes and the terrain.
But his favorite shots in the half hour of film are of he and his new friends fooling around during breaks.
“We were instructed, ‘Don’t get close with the guys, because they might not come home with you’, which was very true.”
Some of the people he filmed and took pictures of were killed in Vietnam.
Birka has contacted some of his friends who did survive the war and the decades since and is editing their still pictures in with his home movies.
Birka hopes those veterans will share his final film with their relatives so everyone will appreciate the sacrifices made during wartime.
He said he wants future veterans to get more respect than he and his friends got when they returned.
“It’s so much nicer to receive a ‘Thank you for your service,’ as opposed to a rock or spit,” said Birka.
Birka’s glad he brought his camera for another reason -- he thinks it saved his life.
His last movie was filmed moments before his platoon was ambushed. Birka was hit in the back with shrapnel. He was injured, but the impact was softened when the shrapnel hit his movie camera, which was in his backpack.
“It saved my life,” said Birka. “It definitely saved my life.”