My Ozarks Documentary Film Series
My Ozarks is a collection of short documentary films: intimate portraits of real people, places and experiences in the Ozarks. Our goal is to increase interest in the Ozarks and expand cultural and ecotourism to generate economic opportunities for artisans and entrepreneurs across the region.
Episode 3: Bill
The third episode in the My Ozarks documentary film series introduces Bill Moriarty, retired U.S. Marine and VFW Service officer who works to make sure those who have made sacrifices for our country are not forgotten. Learn how he reconstructed the story of a young man from the Ozarks who died in Vietnam over 50 years ago, and helped bring together those he left behind to honor his memory.
The Back Story
After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Moriarty and his wife returned to the Ozarks, to the place where she grew up. Bill started his second career as a Veteran’s Service Officer by accident— a casual conversation with a Marine he bumped into at a fast food restaurant. The man needed help, so Bill decided to help him. Since that day 13 years ago, Bill has helped over 300 soldiers and their families in the Ozarks get access to Veteran’s Administration benefits and recognition for their service.
Three years after he “heard a rumor” that a fallen soldier from Carter County may have been forgotten, without a name or a family to go on, Bill managed to track down John Gibson’s daughter, Michelle, and his best friend from the front line, who was with Gibson the day he was killed. 50 years after Gibson was killed in action, at a Veterans Day assembly at John Gibson’s former high school, Bill presented Gibson’s daughter with a photograph of her father, a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Infantry's Badge, the Gold Star Flag, a State of Missouri commemorative medal and medallion, and a letter from Missouri Governor Michael L. Parsons recognizing her father’s service and self sacrifice during the Vietnam War.
Jim Nelson was living in New York City, painting murals for department stores on 5th Avenue, when he was drafted into the Army to serve in Vietnam in 1967. His artistic talent helped move him off the front lines into a role as Brigade Draftsman, which he credits for his survival in the war. He continues to paint, and you can find his original works in 13 military museums across the country. Coincidentally, 20 years ago, Jim painted a portrait of Gibson from their final days together, which he shared with Gibson’s daughter and grandson when they met recently in Perryville, Missouri. Gibson died on the front line without knowing he was going to be a father, so it was a big surprise to everyone he served with, especially Jim.
MICHELLE GIBSON WILDER
Her mom won’t talk about her dad. She doesn’t know why. Over the years, Michelle has tried to learn more about her father but there are still many pieces missing from the story. She found where he is buried, alongside his brothers, and believes her grandmother may still be alive somewhere—there’s no death date on her gravestone. Maybe someday she will find more of her dad’s people. Until then, she treasures these new connections to her dad’s military family. Jim Nelson gave her the first photo she had ever seen of her father during his service and shared stories of their time together. She was surprised to learn that her father was quiet, and rather serious, like her. Jim Nelson also connected Michelle with their squad sergeant, Jim Frost, who lives in Michigan. Frost wrote Michelle a letter about her father and provided several more photos, including the photo of Jim Nelson with her father on Thanksgiving Day 1967.
Filmed on location at Missouri’s National Veteran’s Memorial
Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial is a newly developed campus located in Perryville, Missouri, dedicated to honoring all of America’s soldiers and their families. Their crowning achievement is America’s Wall, a full-scale black granite replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Grand opening celebration scheduled for May 18-19, 2019.
Quinsonta Boyd is a young independent cinematographer and graduate of Roosevelt High School in St. Louis, Missouri. Quinsonta’s passion for film led him to create a short documentary represented in the St. Louis Filmmakers showcase in 2013. Since then, he has done work with organizations such as St. Louis Artworks, the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, Nine Network, St. Louis Science Center and Speak Up Productions.
Sean Loftin spent eight years as a photojournalist for newspapers and eight years as an elementary school teacher prior to working as Director of Photography for Speakup Productions and starting his own video production company in 2015. He believes stories are abundant in every community and seeks to connect with people who might not otherwise be heard, to understand and help share the stories most important to them.