Sailor Allen Schindler (Paul Popowich) was beaten to death in a public restroom in Sasebo, Japan, by two of his shipmates, Terry Helvey (Scott Gibson) and Charles Vins (Michael Gabriel), because he was gay. Lifetime Entertainment has done a wonderful job of focusing on the relevant events of this tragedy. The movie opens with Scott's family saying goodbye to him at the airport. He is on his way back to his ship which is in port at Sasebo, Japan. Dorothy Hajdys (Bonnie Bedelia), his mother, has no idea that this will be the last time she will see her son alive.
The Navy does bury Allen in a military funeral at his home in Chicago. They then try to bury the truth about his murder. One of the military's own reporters, Rick Rodgers (Phil Jarrett) brings the truth about the murder to national attention when he writes for the Pacific Stars and Stripes that Allen's Murder was a gaybashing. It is at this point that the military does its best to quash the investigation into Allen's murder. It is also at this point that Allen's mother must confront and come to terms with the fact that her son was gay. She immediately goes into denial about this, even after his sister Kathy (Hedy Burress) explains to her that Allen had attempted to tell is mother but was frightened off by her reaction to his broaching the subject of homosexuality at all.
It is at a Memorial Service held for Allen in San Diego that his mother discovers that one of the men who killed her son, Charles Vins, has been tried and convicted of murder by the military and given a very mild sentence in exchange for implicating Terry Helvey. Charles Vins served a total of 78 days. Getting this information sends Dorothy into a tailspin, and she determines to see to it that Terry Helvey is not given the same mild sentence. She goes to her mother Gertie (Sada Thompson, a woman I have loved for many years), seeking advice, and questioning her beliefs about her son. Gertie says the thing that sets up the rest of the movie. Being gay is not a reason for murder.
There is much to see in this movie: the journey of Dorothy Hadjys, the weaseling of the military, the power of the press. The movie is rather disjointed in its plot flow but this doesn't distract us too much. Bonnie Bedelia does a wonderful job as Dorothy Hadjys, and Sada Thompson, with her aged wisdom, is perfect as a woman who has seen too much to be clouded about the importance of the love we have for friends and family. I think many of you will be astounded to see the effort the military goes through to cover up the details of this hate crime. We, as gay men and women, are obviously not valued as much as human beings by the military as heterosexuals. This is a movie about a great journey-enjoy the ride.