Ride the Thunder: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph by Richard Botkin was published in July 2009. The book “recounts the exploits of the U.S. Marines and their Vietnamese allies largely responsible for thwarting the Communist invasion of South Vietnam-known as the Easter Offensive of 1972.” Now, several years later, Botkin is ready to share that story he told in the book on the big screen with America.
Semper Fi – always faithful – is the Marine’s way of life and Botkin wants to help restore the honor due to our veterans who maligned and scorned and spit upon as they returned to the United States. According to the movie’s website, “Rich Botkin’s dream, to take back the much-maligned history of the Vietnam War, and to restore the rightful honor due those Americans and South Vietnamese who served there, has been years in the making.”
Botkin, who served in the US Marines actively from 1980 to 1983 and for twelve years in the reserves, spent five years writing the book and making several trips back and forth from Vietnam, along with countless hours of interviews of American and South Vietnamese Marines. Now, that book will come to life in film.
According to Tami Jackson:
The movie, which is approximately 60% re-enactment and 40% interviews, has been 4 years in the works.
Botkin partnered with Fred Koster (screen writer and director), of Koster Films, and through private funding they have brought the essence of the book to the big screen.
But unlike so many film productions, Ride the Thunder has 2-fold high purpose: 1) to change the mis-remembrance of the Vietnam War; and 2) to give those U.S. and South Vietnamese Veterans, who valiantly fought against the Communists, a better place in history.
Eric St. John, an American actor and a skilled martial artist, play the lead role of John Ripley, a character based on real life war hero Col. John Ripley.
Joseph Hieu, a well known actor from his roles in such films as We Were Soldiers, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gang Related, Renegades, 84 Charlie MoPic, The Hanoi Hilton, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, Quicksilver, Missing in Action 2, and Rambo: First Blood Part II, plays Lt. Col. Le Ba Binh, who was an officer in the Marine Crops of the Republic of Vietnam. He commanded the Third Battalion, which was commonly known as the Soi Bien, or Wolves of the Sea.
Kieu Chinh, who is a legendary Vietnamese-American actress in the motion picture industry, is the co-producer of the film.
Jackson informs us that the title of the book and soon to be released movie comes from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena” speech. Roosevelt said:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of the great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.
The movie will debut on Friday, March 27 in Southern California at the Westminster Regency 10. Whether you are a veteran of Vietnam or not, I’m sure you will appreciate the efforts of Botkin and the crew as they seek to honor the men who dared ride the thunder. Enjoy the trailer!