It’s been several years since Lackawanna County President Judge Tom Munley has discussed his experiences in the Vietnam War at length in a public arena.
Thanks to the work of a film crew based in the city, the judge’s story will be shared through the region’s public access channel.
Joe Van Wie, CEO of JVW, Inc., said his crew filmed the candid interview with Munley at the end of June.
“It’s him just talking, off-the-cuff, unscripted about his experiences in Vietnam. It’s a strong piece,” Van Wie said. “His experiences in Vietnam are so powerful and emotional. We felt this should come out as soon as possible. I think people will be moved by this.”
The piece was intended to be submitted to documentarian Ken Burns for a documentary on Vietnam veterans tentatively set for release in 2016. While it’s still being offered free of charge, Van Wie said they plan to submit it and have it aired on Electric City Television in September.
Efforts to reach ECTV Executive Director Mark Migliore on a possible air date were unsuccessful.
Munley viewed an early cut of the half-hour feature documentary on Wednesday. The film already includes hits from Creedence Clearwater Revival and Three Dog Night to capture the Vietnam era.
In the film, Munley describes his upbringing in Jessup and eventual pursuit of a degree in education from East Stroudsburg University. He taught school for one year before voluntarily enlisting and being drafted in 1969 at age 22.
During basic training at Ft. Jackson, S.C., Munley was given orders to report for nine weeks of infantry training following basic training.
“I wondered how could I go to infantry training? I figured I would have a nice desk job, maybe a counselor or something,” he recalled in the film.
Instead of landing in an exotic country, he received his orders to go to Vietnam.
“I was thinking, ‘How did this happen?’”
Not only was Munley forced into a place and rank he didn’t expect. He was fighting a war he didn’t believe in.
“I never believed in the Vietnam War,” he recalled. “Once I got my orders for Vietnam, I said, ‘Oh, my God. What did I get myself into?’”
During the film, Munley vivid recalls riding by helicopter to meet the men he would serve with, being dropped in the middle of a clearing, and being greeted by fellow soldiers who emerged from a surrounding tree line.
“One of the guys – I’ll never forget it – he was from Missouri. He motioned for me to come over,” Munley said. “He said, ‘What’s your name?’ and I told him. He said, ‘Where are you from?’ and I said, ‘Scranton, Pa.’ He said, ‘From now on, your name is Scranton.’ I was in Vietnam 11 months and five days, and that’s what they called me.”
Munley felt the early cut shown Wednesday was “wonderful.”
“I was so honored to have these people do this show for me. I couldn’t ask for anything better. I hope in 2016, the show is picked up by Ken Burns,” he said.
“I do feel that I have a story that’s worth being told. I want people to understand what war is like, and I want people to understand that all participants aren’t willing participants.”
Munley said he was previously a frequent guest lecturer at a course on Vietnam taught by former Scranton Mayor David Wenzel at the University of Scranton.
Christopher J. Hughes
Go Lackawanna Editor