This post is a tribute to my father, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Albert E. Ronzoni, who fought in “The Pacific” during World War II. This is for you Dad!
A NEW APPROACH TO SCREENINGS IN ASSOCIATION WITH
HBO’s 10-PART MINISERIES EVENT “THE PACIFIC”
The War in The Pacific has special meaning to me. My father, Albert Ronzoni, was drafted out of high school by the U.S. Army to serve his country in World War II fighting the Japanese. This intelligent, scholarly, 5’11″ kid from a small Northern Minnesota town was thrust through boot camp and shipped off to remote islands in the Pacific. During his stint in the war, he fought battles in Saipan, Tinian, Espiritu Santo, Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands, before contracting malaria a month prior to his discharge.
He was a quiet mild man, who loved to garden and play hockey, football and curling. He never fought nor shot a gun upon entering the Army. He left a town where everyone knew each other’s names to fighting an enemy half a world away. This experience affected him the rest of his life, and not in a good way.
Today, HBO is premiering the most expensive television event to date – the 10-part miniseries “The Pacific” – Steven Spielberg and Tom Hank’s WWII companion piece to HBO’s “Band of Brothers.” I cannot begin to applaud HBO enough on greenlighting this important endeavor and forever documenting this historic period of war. “Band of Brothers” was one of the most memorable series I have ever witnessed and now, with the debut of “The Pacific,” it will prove once again to be TV like we’ve never seen before.
I’ve known for several years that Spielberg and Hanks were embarking on this second theater of war, and was pleased for I wanted to learn more about what my Dad went through to make him who he was. For you see, I have always felt my Dad was a shell of a man. I always thought I didn’t have my full Dad with me – it was just a sense I had and you sure couldn’t tell that from meeting him. After the war, he still was a quiet man who loved to garden, but he held himself back from accepting love, joy and happiness. I think the war took that out of him, sadly way before I was ever born.
It is because of this belief I contacted HBO to present an idea I had about an innovative approach for affiliate screenings. Here’s the idea I sent them on December 1, 2009.
“Thank you so very much for taking time today to discuss a community-led “The Pacific” screening and support group. As mentioned, I have recently become aware that veterans suffer more than we know. If not physically wounded from combat, they have been emotionally scarred from war. As a daughter of a WWII Staff Sergeant, I can attest to the fact that the war affected my dad and his ability to form trusting and loving relationships, partly due to his experiences I’m sure fighting in the first wave of offense in the Pacific. Although, the screening that I am presenting is a bit revolutionary for affiliate relations-HBO will reap tremendous goodwill for their efforts and more importantly, HBO will be a part of healing soldiers.
I recently was informed by a crisis counselor that veterans receive effective healing in large groups. As such, how great would it be if organizations opened their doors to invite the vets in from their community for weekly screenings of HBO’s “The Pacific.” As with any support group like AA, these “The Pacific” screenings would be private – for vets – only. It would be their safe place – their sanctuary if you will – to talk about their experiences with those who walked the same path. After each screening, the vets could break up into smaller groups and answer (3) questions. And, if needed, counseling would be available to them and if at a church, then prayer is some requested that. But, it could be a place where they could talk and get their stories out. My dad held his pain in his entire life – he never told his daughters what he saw. He didn’t want us to know about what he faced at 18 years of age. God bless him for that.
This promotion would be something that organizations would opt in for and if they opt in then they would have to provide counseling services or support of some kind. Also, HBO could work with the VA and have pamphlets and other material available and get them reconnected. Also, I guess each organization would need to purchase HBO – and perhaps you could provide them a discounted package.
The goal of the screenings would be to help soldiers move through their pain in a safe environment, by watching true-life stories from WWII. It’s another way to honor them and recognize their importance. Also, it would be wonderful for the veterans who are homeless to be able to see this amazing miniseries. According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999), veterans account for 23 percent of all homeless people in America.
In closing, I wanted to share with you what was on the home page of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans website…..
Although accurate numbers are impossible to come by — no one keeps national records on homeless veterans — the VA estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And approximately twice that many experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country.
Why are veterans homeless?
In addition to the complex set of factors affecting all homelessness — extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care — a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse, compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
A top priority is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment that is free of drugs and alcohol.
HBO, is by far, the leading network in producing programming that makes a difference and takes responsibility to help others. I just wanted to share this idea with you to see if we could provide the vets with a supportive, safe, secure environment to watch this unprecedented television event.”
I have to admit that yes, what I presented was a ‘bit out of the box’ as to what is usually presented by networks. But, I just hoped that they might have understood that this vehicle could be a tremendous value to veterans and their families by providing a safe venue for those who served to talk about their experiences.
I had no idea that my Dad even had fought battles in the War. I know he served in the war, but he never ever talked about his experiences. The only things he would ever tell us was funny stories from the war – as his daughter he made his time sound like a friendly experience.
But, later in my life when a boyfriend of mine was helping my dad with a project I learned likewise. One night my boyfriend and his buddies stayed up talking to my Dad. It was just the guys and they had prior knowledge of WWII. Apparently, my Dad told them about the scary stuff –how he was often on the first wave – the first to combat and of his friends dying around him. I only learned this for my boyfriend told me about how fortunate my dad was to still be alive. I never forget about that.
My Dad has passed. He died from Alzheimer’s in 2002 at the age of 78. He was pharmacist and loved medicine, I think from spending time in a Korean Army hospital for a month with malaria.
He was a good man, who did his best to manage the pain from one of the most devastatingly emotional and bloodiest wars in history, as the behind-the-scenes HBO special points out.
What did HBO say back to my idea? The response I received from HBO was in a kind tone. They appreciated my thoughtful idea, but they felt this endeavor was a bit too ambitious. It was a polite rejection and I thanked them for their time. It just felt good to try on my part.
But, HBO did give me a great gift. They chose to premiere the miniseries on my dad’s birthday. So, Dad, this miniseries is for you and all your buddies who fought the good fight. Even though you are not with us, you are not forgotten. Happy Birthday in Heaven.
Your Proud Daughter Cindy