Personal letter from Michael Rothfeld describing his experience with Micheal Boylan
Ten years ago, I learned that over 35 WW II veterans lived in my senior community. Being a former teacher and amateur historian, I felt the need to record the stories of my neighbors and preserve their history. They had told me stories I only have read about in my history classes. One of my neighbors was a D-Day paratrooper, another fought in the Battle of the Bulge, another fought against Rommel in North Africa, one had seen the loading of “Big Boy” on Tinian Island and one had bombed Hitler’s Retreat, Eagle’s Nest.Although my idea was noble, my bank account wasn’t. I had no money, no help and no way to video my neighbor’s history. I started calling all colleges in the area that had a film department, high schools, libraries and veterans’ groups and asked them to come to my community and film the stories of these brave WW II veterans. They all said no for various reasons.After many, many calls I finally decided to call WJCT TV, the PBS affiliate in Jacksonville. To my surprise the CEO/President Michael Boylan answered the phone and I told him that I wanted to preserve the stories of my neighbors before it was too late to do so. I was pleasantly surprised when Mr. Boylan said he would send a film crew to my community and interview the WW II veterans in our clubhouse.
On the given say and time, a WJCT TV van, cameraman and producer arrived ready to film. This was the start of my documentary career and my over ten year friendship with Michael Boylan. During this time Michael worked with me, was my mentor and advisor, he showed his continual support for veterans, assisting me with contacts and information and ways to preserve their stories. Michael had the links to all five of my documentaries posted to the FL PBS website thereby allowing me and others to forward the documentary links all over the country. Because of Michael, the documentaries are in the WW II Museum in New Orleans, the POW Museum in Andersonville, the Library of Congress, the Vietnam Museums in Texas and New Jersey as well as colleges, libraries, high schools, and veterans’ groups.
Last year Michael Boylan offered the Veterans Council a copy of the Ken Burns’ “Vietnam War” to preview. We invited Michael and his wife to join us in the premier. The premier was held in the Corazon Cinema in St. Augustine and featured five Vietnam veterans from the local Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter who spoke about their time in Vietnam. Veterans Council Chairman Bill Dudley presented Michael Boylan with a plaque thanking him for all he has done for veterans, preserving their history, making it available to school children and bringing veterans issues to the public for open discussion. (picture attached)
A noble gesture by Michael Boylan ten years ago that helped me video and preserve veterans stories has also educated countless others across the country.
Michael Boylan was never in the military, nor was I but the two of us joined together in an endeavor that preserved military history, reached countless thousands and helped educate students about WW II, Korea, and Vietnam as well as Prisoners of War and how PTSD affects Post 9/11 veterans.
A job well done.
A job well done.
The PBS links to the documentaries follow:
Serve and Protect : Stories From WWII
“From a small senior community near St. Augustine, Florida over 30 veterans came together to share their stories. Produced by Flagler College TV Workshop Students and directed by Michael Rothfeld”
Vietnam: Service, Sacrifice, and Courage
“NE Florida Vietnam veterans contributed their tender, often hurt feelings to shape this project. The Vietnam veterans were not like the WWII or Korean War veterans we had worked with on our previous documentaries. The Vietnam veterans were more actively involved in watching, suggesting and directing us to tell their true stories. What emerged shows the veterans to be just like you and me. They fought in an unpopular war and yet returned home to lead normal and successful lives. They could be and are your neighbors, friends and relatives. This documentary was produced by Michael Rothfeld & directed by Josh Wallace and filmed and edited by the students in the Flagler College Communications Department.”
Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom
“Prisoners of War: Stolen Freedom compares the stories of four American servicemen through their time as prisoners of war in three major 20th century conflicts; World War II, Korea and the Vietnam war. Their stories are supported by archival motion pictures and photographs obtained at the US National Archives as well as through sketches and memorabilia collected by each of the men. Their stories are less about atrocity than they are about the survival of the human spirit and the camaraderie that helped each man survive years of incarceration. Each story is followed by spectacular recounts of their days of release. Produced by Michael Rothfeld and the Veterans Council of St. Johns County, directed by Eric Flagg”
Korea : Forgotten War, Remembered Heroes
“This special documentary created by the students of the Art Institute of Jacksonville spotlights the stories of five First Coast Korean War Veterans. Directed by Dr. Nadia Ramoutar, produced by Michael Rothfeld and the Veterans Council of St. Johns County.”
Unleashing the Underdogs: The K9s For Warriors Story
“Today’s generation of warriors have been deployed more than any other before, this documentary highlights a unique program that pairs dogs and veterans in a training program, and ultimately as companions, to show appreciation and assist in healing of PTSD. Directed by Dr. Nadia Ramoutar, produced by Michael Rothfeld, Dr. Nadia Ramoutar, Bill Dudley and the Veterans Council of St. Johns County.”