Instead of a double helix, Troy Garity's DNA is probably twisted into a peace symbol.
The actor, after all, is the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, and he seems a natural choice to narrate the documentary "Sir! No Sir!" about the antiwar activities of vets and active duty soldiers in the late 1960s and early '70s.
Writer-director David Zeiger uses Garity's voice, along with the occasional TV report and newspaper headline, to fill in the gaps. He largely allows the former soldiers, sailors, Marines and others, now graying or balding, to speak for themselves.
The men and women make a case as convincing as any courtroom lawyer or screenwriter, recalling their experiences with conviction, passion and, sometimes, sadness. But never regret, at least not on camera.
A medic remembers men who returned from the war unable to move their bodies below the chins and how "none of them felt like they'd made their sacrifice for a good reason." They saw the Americans as "brutalizing the Vietnamese people ... being thugs."
Another suggests that if it had been another time, another place and another war, he might have been a very good soldier. Instead, he replaced his dog tags with a peace symbol, refused to revel in the ritual of the enemy body count and was threatened with charges of leading and conspiring to mutiny.
Air Force interpreters, trained in Vietnamese so they could intercept communications, recount the difference between what they knew was happening -- the bombing of populated areas, civilians and hospitals -- and what the public was told. They eventually formed a group called WORMS or We Openly Resist Military Stupidity.
Zeiger dropped out of college to fight the war, organized demonstrations and, years later, took issue with the notion that antiwar activists spat on returning soldiers and called them "baby killers." He interviews a sociologist who wrote a book called "The Spitting Image," which concludes that oft-repeated scenario (Sylvester Stallone's character even uses it in "First Blood") is more urban myth than not.
"Sir! No Sir!" examines the many fronts of the antiwar movement: marches, the underground press, coffeehouses such as the Oleo Strut in Killeen, Texas, and a Free (or harsher four-letter word) the Army Tour, a variety show organized by Jane Fonda and others.
As you may have guessed, "Sir! No Sir!" is not one of those "on the other hand" documentaries, where one side has its say and the other is trotted out to counter it. Zeiger has a point and a platform, and he makes the most of it.
With seemingly no shortage of witnesses or their stand-ins -- the family of an African-American GI whose life unraveled after he was wrongly accused of fragging -- the director leaves some questions unanswered: about that man, about the first West Point grad to refuse to fight in a war and another man who escaped to Canada and lived there for 18 years.
Zeiger's film, playing Friday through Monday at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room, is only 85 minutes long. It's wider than it is deep, introducing lots of vets but not going into great detail with any of them. Echoes to modern wartime atrocities are evident but not emphasized.
Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said: "History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon." This is yet another version, more pieces of the military mosaic, from people who were on the battle lines, at home and abroad.