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Documentary honors Vietnam War Veteran Daniel H. Hefel > Scott Air Force Base > Article Display

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  • Published

  • By Senior Airman Mark Sulaica

  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

After 14 years of gathering war stories, Tim Breitbach created a documentary depicting his cousin’s life, Daniel Hefel, a Vietnam War veteran.

The film was shown for free March 30 during a public gathering at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, which was attended by a diverse audience of college students, veterans, and community members.

Breitbach’s film showed the importance of remembering the bravery and service of Vietnam Veterans and served as a reminder of the human cost of war.  In 1970, the Vietnam War was raging, and Hefel served as an infantryman with Company B, 2nd Battalion of the 501st Infantry in South Vietnam from June 1969 to January 1970. He then served as a door gunner on UH-1 Huey helicopters with 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

While flying low over the rugged terrain of the Ashau Valley, with tension and danger lurking at every turn, Hefel said he had an eerie feeling in his gut. Without warning, a black cloud blurred his vision and in the next moment he awoke on the ground with a broken back and leg. By morning, Hefel and the rest of the surviving soldiers were taken captive. He endured 1,147 days in captivity and was released during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.

He was reunited with his family and friends in Iowa, where later he started a family and began living his life again. Hefel was on hand to answer questions as part of a panel discussion that night and said after the film ended, “I was just glad to see all my friends again and family, I just wanted to live my life.” He also swapped war stories with other veterans in attendance. “It’s great that people got to know and hear the story, and I hope they enjoyed it,” he added.

Brietbach said, “I think that on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, there’s a lot of people who didn’t get to appreciate [those who] served during those times. I think now is the perfect time to do it.” He said he chose to show it at SWIC because it was originally formed to help those coming home from WWII continue their education for better jobs. Today it has 9,000 students and 10 percent of them use the G.I. Bill.



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