War veterans speak to local youth theatre group

Youth. The Pope John Players heard from Sparta Vietnam War veterans Mayor Jerry Murphy, VFW Commander Peter Litchfield, and Doug Nobile on Friday, Feb. 7 ahead of the youth's portrayal of U.S. Marines and Vietnamese military and civilians in Pope John's February production of “Miss Saigon." For more information, visit www.popejohn.org.

16 Feb 2020 | 06:40

Sparta Vietnam War Veterans Mayor Jerry Murphy, VFW Commander Peter Litchfield, and Doug Nobile shared their Vietnam War experiences Friday, February 7 with the Pope John Players, who portray U.S. Marines and Vietnamese military members and civilians in their February production of “Miss Saigon '' at Pope John XXIII Regional High School.

“We were very honored to have these brave men take the time to truly bring to life the experience of fighting for our country during the Vietnam War,” said Social Studies Teacher and Theatre Director Jacquelyn Burt, whose daughter is a U.S. Army Captain.

“It’s hard for teenagers today to imagine what it would have been like to be living life as a high school student one day, then enlist or be drafted and find themselves suddenly stationed in the jungles in Vietnam surrounded by enemy fire.”

Sparta Mayor Jerry Murphy served in the U.S Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot and spoke of the difficulty of experiencing the deaths of fellow Marines.

“Our helicopter and another took off on a flight through terrible fog and mist," he said. "They had trouble navigating and went down. Never returned. You expect to lose friends in war, but you can never truly be prepared for when it actually happens.”

VFW Commander Peter Litchfield, U.S. Marine Corps, fought in the famous battle of Khe Sanh in which 6,000 U.S. Marines held off 30,000 North Vietnamese Army fighters. Litchfield recounted, “We got off the plane and asked the guys leaving if they’d seen any action and they said, ‘No, nothing.’ I thought, ‘Great, this is the place to be.’ We were attacked and lost 150 Marines within the first 24 hours.”

Doug Nobile a U.S. Army Purple Heart recipient, talked about getting shot while trying to save his best friend who’d been shot in the chest.

“He didn’t make it," Nobile said. "I should have known he wouldn’t. They had to medevac me out. The next day, my entire platoon was wiped out. In a way, my best friend saved my life.”

In addition to speaking of the horrors they experienced during the Vietnam War and the hostile environment to which they returned in the United States, the Veterans spoke about the career and travel benefits of military service, the friendships formed, and the humor shared. Following speeches, the veterans and the Pope John Players “Miss Saigon” cast participated in a question-and-answer session.

Select cast members then performed an a cappella rendition of “Miss Saigon” song “Bui Doi” at the request of Litchfield. The Pope John Players are honored to perform the area regional high school premiere of "Miss Saigon," the challenging, Tony award-winning production by the “Les Miserables” team of Boublil and Schonberg that follows the lives and love stories of a Vietnamese orphan, two American GI's, an American girl and a sleazy club owner who manipulates them during the Vietnam war as Saigon falls. Based on the Puccini opera “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon” comes from Cameron Mackintosh ("Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables" and "Cats.")

“Miss Saigon” garnered 31 theatrical awards, has been performed in 25 countries and viewed by over 35 million people worldwide. Tickets cost $12. and are available at the door only. Show dates/times are as follows: Wednesday, Feb. 26: Senior citizen show: 3:30 p.m. (Complimentary Senior Dinner to follow. Senior citizens admitted free of charge on this date only); Thursday, Feb. 27: Opening night: 7 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 28: 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 29: Matinee: 2 p.m., closing night performance: 7 p.m. (Sunday, March 1: Snow date: Time TBD) For more information, visit www.popejohn.org/apps/pages/pjplayers.

Located at 28 Andover Road in Sparta, New Jersey, Pope John XXIII Regional High School is an 8th grade - 12th grade institution committed to the Catholic tradition of education. For more information about Pope John or the performance, visit www.popejohn.org or call the main office at 973-729-6125.