For one Astoria veteran, the time has finally arrived when he, along with hundreds of other soldiers, will be recognized for putting their lives on the line to capture the Vietnam War on camera.
Don Fedynak, an Astoria resident for over 40 years who served on the 221st Signal Company during the Vietnam War, is featured in the documentary “Unseen Warriors: Army Combat Cameramen in the Vietnam War.”
The four-hour-long film, created by Ellen Holzman and Meredith Vezina of Traditions Military Videos in California, focuses on the stories of combat cameramen who documented the Vietnam War and showcases their photos and films, many of which have never before been seen by the public.
The idea of the film surfaced after Holzman said they realized that for years they had been obtaining raw film footage from the National Archives, but they were never able to credit the cameramen themselves.
“We’re kind of getting to a point that we are looking ahead and we realized that all this time we had never really given credit to individual combat cameraman who took that footage and risked their lives to do that,” Holzman said. “We felt that it was time to give back.”
“Unseen Warriors” tells the stories of soldiers from different groups of Army combat cameramen such as the Department of the Army Special Photo Office, the 69th Signal Photo Platoon, and the 221st Signal Company. These soldiers took film footage on the field in Vietnam which would later be sent back to the United States for members of the chain of command to view.
Fedynak, who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and received a Bronze Star for meritorious service, said his group was excited when they were contacted to be a part of the documentary because they had always felt they never got the recognition they deserved.
“Cameramen, in particular Army cameramen, never got credit for what they shot,” Fedynak said. “Cameramen are screen hogs. We like to see our names in lights, but in the military we never did.”
Before being drafted into the Army, Fedynak worked as an assistant film editor and volunteered to part of the 221st Signal Company because he knew they were responsible for capturing what was taking place overseas.
“People always see pictures of World War II and Korea and someone should be wondering, ‘Someone had to be there taking those shots,’” Fedynak said. “It was quite a unique experience. This was like another job, but I was wearing a green suit at the time and occasionally people shot at you.”
In one chapter of the documentary, which is made up of 12 chapters, Don was interviewed on the 1969 attack on the Vietnam headquarters of the 221st Signal Company.
“It’s kind of emotional. It’s not just the glory and recognition; it’s honoring those guys who some gave the ultimate sacrifice. In a sense we can honor them as well,” Fedynak said about the documentary.
This Saturday members of the 221st Signal Company will come together in Washington, D.C., for a reunion and ceremony honoring fallen soldiers.
For more information or to purchase the DVD set of “Unseen Warriors,” visit militaryvideo.com or call 800-277-1977.