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A Video Conversation with Larry Unger, President and CEO of MPT About Their Salute to Vietnam Veterans

Click here for Part 1 Delivering public service media to the state of Maryland on-air and online Larry UngerTo continue the CEO video conversation series of The Daily Record’s most admired CEO winners Offit Kurman and citybizlist presents Larry Unger the president and CEO of Maryland Public Television (MPT). As Maryland’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member state network, MPT operates out of Owings Mills and broadcasts via six channels throughout the state, as well as in surrounding areas in D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The station is home to regional productions such as Maryland Farm & Harvest, Your Money and Business, and Chesapeake Collectibles. Additionally, it hosts nationally distributed programming such as NOVA, Frontline, and Masterpiece. MPT has won numerous Emmy Awards and nominations from the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). EDWIN WARFIELD: MPT will be airing a multi-part documentary next year about Vietnam-era veterans that’s been three years in the making. Can you tell us about that? LARRY UNGER: We’re very excited about our salute to Vietnam veterans. It really is several components. One of the largest, of course, will be a three-hour documentary on Maryland’s Vietnam Veterans. We’re well underway in that project. We’ve already interviewed, I believe, about a hundred veterans, and this story will be told somewhat chronologically. We will have veterans who were there in the beginning as advisers, and we’ll go right up to the roof of the embassy on the final days. The second component will be a two-day event for the veterans and their families. This will be held at the Timonium Fairgrounds. We’re calling this “LZ Maryland.” “LZ” signifies the landing zone where the choppers would come in. This should be a terrific event; we expect a great many people. There will be entertainment. They’re probably going to have lots of the vehicles of that era, and certainly even some of the choppers that they flew at that time. And the third component will be an education component. It’s occurred to us that younger people do not draw much distinction between the Vietnam War and wars prior to that. This was begun by the Wisconsin Public Television station in 2010—they did similar things to what we are attempting to do here. They had great success with it. Their event was at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and they had more than 70,000 people come and attend. Frankly, as soon as I had heard what they had done, I wanted to do this. That was all there was. This just seemed to be the absolute right thing to do, and if you don’t do it now, you’re running out of time. All these veterans are my age or older, and I think this is a terrific thing and it will be appreciated. Lots of people are still interested in seeing these veterans having some sort of a “welcome home” that, frankly, they didn’t get when they came home. And it is a far cry from today, when you see the returning Iraqi vets being welcomed home. These soldiers were not. People at the time really confused the soldier and the war, and they weren’t welcomed home at all. It was very sad. While this is going to be a three-hour film, we will have hundreds of hours of tape when we’re finished, and the Maryland Historical Society will be archiving everything that we do. So, nothing will be lost, and that portion of it will be there for the ages. It is a large undertaking, probably the largest thing that MPT has attempted in its almost 50-year history, and this has no state funding in it. This will all be donations—individual and corporate. We’ve certainly been out working hard for that and we’re getting there. What can people do to support this project? We are certainly going to need all kinds of help for this Vietnam initiative. Dollars, certainly. You can go to our website, mpt.org. There will be a Vietnam page, you can donate there. We’re going to need volunteers; we’re going to need lots of help. We also need sponsorship, so if someone knows of a company, a defense contractor—whoever it may be that would have an interest in supporting this effort—we’d be very grateful for that.  

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