Butterfly Lanterns

Gentle things...these powder wings. Butterfly at Rifle House Cemetery, Belgium. (P. Ferguson image, September 2005)

Gentle things…these powder wings. Butterfly at Rifle House Cemetery, Belgium.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2005)

Letting Go


This is Abilene…right here under your feet…but now its Avalon. Now, how can that be possible to have those two things in the same place?
(Kepper. The Last Full Measure, 1:15:37 – 1:15:58).

It was a recent re-watch of The Last Full Measure, a film in search of the Medal of Honor for William H. Pitsenbarger…a United States Air Force Pararescueman killed 11 April 1966, Xa Cam My, South Vietnam that leads me on this day’s thoughts. It is one of many films about this war…Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter…Platoon…Full Metal Jacket…but it is in its measure, its metamorphosis that we might find hope amidst the colour of gentle things.

William H. Pitsenbarger was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2000. (Wiki image)

William H. Pitsenbarger was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2000.
(Wiki image)

Though there are the usual inclusions found in films inspired by a true story sometimes….sometimes these conduits help in reaching to the hopeful hearts of ourselves. To this I speak of Kepper’s (John Savage) butterflies, Burr’s (Peter Fonda) war related effects…the terror of the night…you take care now cuz its a jungle out there, Takoda’s (Samuel L. Jackson) progress…vulnerability and communication, honesty builds trust…It’s the only real courage we’ve got left in this world. Mott’s (Ed Harris) Pit’s letter to Rachel…I’m sorry it took so long…and Peters’ (Linus Roache’s) understanding of the reach of inspiration.

Many years ago now, before these words appeared, I wrote of butterflies gentle things, these powder wings…their flight of colour delicate within the competing fractures of nature. Lepidoptera…complete transformation…symbols of rebirth…Abilene and Avalon…land of meadows…the isle of fruit. Within the deep green of the jungle where all are trying to bend within the sound of gun fire, ricochet and rotor blades…green, yellow, red and violet smoke…one tin foot walks along the conflict trail…no nfg…no nfg and some have not slept in 32 years.

But unlike the colour of smoke…Kepper’s butterflies rise in monastic freedom. Delicate and founding here on this spot….this one spot that saw the bend of our kind. Though we cannot understand everyone’s hurt…everyone’s Abeline…we can try to find the gentle places of our Avalons…In finding the two together perhaps we might know then how hurt and hope can be so closely linked…the terror of the night…the gentle grace of powder wings.

C – 216 + 32 Years

I’d like to recognize some guys who are going to hate me for doing it. Now we have with us today some of the veterans of Operation Abilene. Charlie Company, Second of the 16th Infantry. Now these men were the witnesses to Bill Pitsenbarger’s heroism and they’ve worked and worked for 32 years to see this day come. Would you honor us, please, by standing and being recognized?

And will the Airmen of Pits’s unit, The Aerospace rescue and recovery service, also please stand. And any other PJ’s [Pararescue Jumpers] from Vietnam, would you rise? If there are any other US veterans here today, will you please stand? If there are wives or parents here, would you stand?

And any children or grand-children, would you join us? And other friends or family anyone who has been touched or moved in any way by the actions of this Medal of Honor recipient would you also stand? Look around. This is the power of what one person can do. (Peters, 1:44:54 – 1:47:02)

Just stay here for a while…and breathe…
(Kepper 1:16:02 – 1:16:04)
The Last Full Measure
Directed and Written by Todd Robinson

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


Leave a Reply