Commando crowd sees gritty truth in documentary on Green Beret mission

PALM HARBOR — To the producers of a documentary about Green Beret troops who helped topple the Taliban, waiting to show "Legion of Brothers" in Palm Harbor was in many ways more nerve-wracking than when it debuted at the Sundance International...

Commando crowd sees gritty truth in documentary on Green Beret mission

PALM HARBOR — To the producers of a documentary about Green Beret troops who helped topple the Taliban, waiting to show "Legion of Brothers" in Palm Harbor was in many ways more nerve-wracking than when it debuted at the Sundance International Film Festival last month.

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"This is a very important audience," said Peter Bergen, the CNN national security reporter who with his wife, Emmy-nominated documentarian Tresha Mabile, produced the documentary featuring soldiers such as Scott Neil, a retired Green Beret from Tampa.

They screened the CNN documentary during the Global SOF Symposium at the Innisbrook Golf and Country Club for people who had been there and done that. When it ended 78 minutes later, the audience of more than 100 stood and applauded.

Most of them were or are commandos. Many were friends of those who told their stories in the film — how some 100 Green Berets, many on horseback, deployed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and helped Afghanistan's Northern Alliance defeat the Taliban in about 60 days.

The Tampa Bay Times asked a few in the audience what they thought of the film. Many were moved by the depiction of the human cost of war, including scenes recounting the accidental release of a 2,000-pound bomb by a B-52 bomber, killing Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, 39; Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Henry Petithory, 32; and Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, 28.

Here are excerpts from the audience reaction.

Tucker Campion, 60, retired Navy SEAL commander, Tarpon Springs.

"I think the guys truly showed the silent professional that all of (Special Operations Forces) profess to be. I loved the way they integrated the actual operations in Afghanistan with their time away after. They showed they were a family of blood brothers who stayed together, even after they got out."

Dan O'Shea, 50, former Navy SEAL commander, Tampa.

"Everyone has this image of special operators as super human characters. The documentary shows the humanity and challenges these guys had to face. The separation from family and constant deployments. We all have peers on 20-plus deployments. If anything, the documentary is really a tribute to that."

Walter Christman, 60, former member of 7th Special Forces Group, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

"Unlike John Wayne's Vietnam-era movie, this documentary brings forth in an up-close and personal way the actual Green Berets and their families and in their own words, as they reflect back some 15 years later about their role in the most epic military achievement in modern times.

"History may well view these men as the greatest American military heroes of the 21st century, and their greatness is manifested in this movie in a very particular way. Unless they told you, no one could never guess these are the kind of men who could do what they did."

Tim Nye, 59, retired Army colonel, former Special Operations spokesman, Richmond, Va.

"I thought it was a very realistic look at the consequences of battle. The consequences and cost of leadership and decision-making, both short-term and long-term. Especially the long-term and the toll of all that."

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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