HOLLYWOOD (Christian Examiner) -- When Americans think about wars, they tend to consider ones in which the U.S. was clearly victorious – World War I, World War II and even the Revolutionary War – or the war in which battles were fought on American soil and resulted in the freeing of an entire race (the Civil War).
But the Vietnam War?
No, it's not America's "forgotten war" – that's the Korean War – but it nevertheless divided Americans so deeply that we often fail to honor the very men and women who served in it.
In 2013, Gallup asked more than 1,000 adults, "Do you think the United States made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam in the 1960s?" Fifty-seven percent said "yes." Maybe it's worth asking a different question: Do we as a nation truly know and understand what happened in Vietnam? I think not.
When CBS News in 2000 asked 1,150 adults to name the side America supported in Vietnam – North Vietnam or South Vietnam – 43 percent either didn't know or got the wrong answer. (Correct answer: South Vietnam.)
As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a new movie that hits theaters Wednesday – just in time for Independence Day – seeks to provide healing. It's called "Faith of Our Fathers," and it spotlights the Vietnam War in a way that other movies have not.
It follows the stories of two men searching for answers of how their fathers were killed in action, and it's being released by the same studio (PureFlix) that made "God's Not Dead" and "Do You Believe?"
Kevin Downes ("Mom's Night Out," "Courageous") and David A.R. White ("God's Not Dead") play the roles of John Paul and Wayne, two men who couldn't be more different but are tied by the knowledge – discovered through war letters – that their fathers knew one another and died in the same war.
John Paul lives in a middle class neighborhood with a wife and kid, while Wayne lives in a rural shack, once spent time in prison, and now enjoys his life as a hermit.
Wayne demands they embark on a road trip to the Vietnam War to find answers, and John Paul grudgingly agrees. Along the way they meet an eclectic group of characters, including ones played by singer Rebecca St. James and reality star Si Robertson ("Duck Dynasty).
The movie's strength is the interaction between Downes and White, including their humorous antics and frequent disagreements. St. James does a nice job, and Robertson, as expected, is funny. The film is a solid tribute to veterans. It also showcases the role of faith on the battlefield.
Downes, who also served as one of the producers, told the Christian Examiner the movie was made with one goal: pay tribute to veterans, particularly the ones who served in Vietnam, where 58,000 Americans died and 2.7 million fought.
"What I love is it is a film that honors veterans, and that's the heart behind the film – to honor veterans, especially veterans of the Vietnam War," he said. "They seem to be forgotten."
He prays the movie will impact families of those who were killed, wounded or missing in action.
"I'm hoping it will help provide healing and let people know that there's a God who loves them very much," Downes said.
The movie already has had an impact on veterans who have watched it in pre-screenings, such as one man who had served three tours in Iraq.
"He was in tears as he talked out, just because he was so thankful for this film," Downes said. He felt it completely spoke to him."
I hope Faith of Our Fathers does that, but I'd also like to see moviegoers watch it and then go home and learn more about the Vietnam War. I know I've done that. We can name cities and battles of most wars – Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor and Iowa Jima, for instance -- but when it comes to Vietnam, we often draw blanks.
We also assume that we lost the Vietnam War, when the reality is more complicated than that. (Some even say America won every major battle.) All of that is sad, because Vietnam veterans surround us each day – at work, at church, perhaps even at home. On this Fourth of July weekend, let's give them the honor they deserve.
Faith of Our Fathers is rated PG-13 for brief war violence. It contains no sexuality or language.
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 4 stars. Family friendly rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars.
Michael Foust has covered the faith film industry for a decade and has been a full-time editor and writer for 20 years. He blogs at MichaelFoust.com