Wars -- from Vietnam to Afghanistan -- ripple through two generations

Nudged into Vietnam by the draft, many people (including me) just sort of got by. William Broyles, however, did much better. He won medals in Vietnam and co-created the superb "China Beach" back home; now, a generation later, he's working with his son (also a veteran) on a new military series. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Wars and warriors have been embedded in the life of William Broyles.

Yes, he's been busy
on the peaceful side. He started Texas Monthly, edited Newsweek, got
an Academy Award nomination for co-writing “Apollo 13.” But
Broyles, 72:

-- Was a Marine
lieutenant in Vietnam. A college guy (Rice, then Oxford), he “always
felt like I was out of place.” But he won a Silver Star and went on
to co-create the “China Beach” TV series.

-- Now is co-creator
and co-producer of “Six,” about tough guys from a Navy SEAL unit
who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This one is being
done with his son David, who was a pararescue man in both those wars.
For the son, unlike the father, warfare was a choice.

“I always had
those examples of military service,” David said. “He was in
Vietnam; both grandfathers were in World War II .... I wanted to be
part of something bigger than myself.”

He had plenty of
show-biz influences. At the University of Texas, he was a
film-festival enthusiast; his dad was writing movies, including Tom
Hanks' “Cast Away,” “Polar Express” and “Apollo 13.”

But David also knew
the grittier life. After his mother remarried, he lived on a Texas
ranch and, straight out of “Friday Nigh Lights,” was the star
quarterback for a champion small-town high school team.

So he aimed for the
top. Becoming a pararescue guy involves two years of training, he
said; 90 percent of the people never make it through.

William had flown
back to Texas to watch every high school football game, but now he
took the opposite approach. “I lived away from it all,” he said,
avoiding any news of the wars his son was in. Afterward, they linked
for “Six”; bringing opposite experiences:

-- William had led
young Marines. “A lot of them were 19 or 20 years old and they
saved me many times .... We're still friends, almost 50 years later.”

-- David worked with
SEALs and others. “These guys are the best of the best .... They
don't have to act tough, because everyone knows they are.”

The father and son
created an eight-week mini-seres that starts with SEALs in
Afghanistan, then flashes forward. Their ex-colleague (Walton Goggins
of “Justified”) has been kidnapped along with a Nigerian teacher
and her students. The guys might try a perilous rescue.

To make it
believable, David sent his actors to a three-day boot camp.

“It was so intense
and so real and scary,” said Barry Sloane, the former “Revenge”

Adds Edwin Hodge:
“We had fears tested that I don't even think we knew we had. I'm
not the greatest swimmer, and on the first day, they had me walking
on the bottom of the pools.”

And things stayed
difficult during the filming. “Like 104 degrees in North Carolina,
wearing 75 pounds of stuff,” William Broyles said.

What emerges, his
son said, is a realistic view of elite warriors:

“I've seen
first-hand the red-hot fulfillment of combat and also the terror of
it .... These guys are often portrayed as superheroes, as
bulletproof, as infallible ....They're actually real people who have
fears and make mistakes and yet they do this incredible job under the
most challenging circumstances.”


-- “Six,” 10:01
p.m. Wednesdays, History Channel

-- Opener (Jan. 18)
reruns at 11:02 p.m., 2:02 and 3:02 a.m.; other reruns include 11
a.m. and 11:03 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. Friday; 10 a.m. and 10:03 p.m.
Sunday; 11:03 p.m. Jan. 24; noon Jan. 25.

-- Also on A&E
at 10:01 p.m. Wednesday, rerunning at 2:02 a.m.; then at 11:03 p.m.
Jan. 24 .