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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Henry “Harry” O’Beirne started his military career in his birth country of Ireland. After he moved to the United States seeking more opportunity, he found himself serving in the U.S. military in the Vietnam War; decades later, he found himself on the set of a Hollywood film.

“The Last Full Measure,” is a movie based in the times of the Vietnam War. The film opens to a group of soldiers carrying out Operation Abilene, which is one of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest battles, with dozens of U.S. troops killed.

The hero of this battle was 21-year-old William “Bill” H. Pitsenbarger. Pitsenbarger was a Pararescue medi who saved 60 people on that day, but he was killed in battle. He was also Harry O’Beirne’s best friend. The two met while serving in Vietnam.

“It was a good friendship. We got along very well,” O’Beirne said.

The film follows a star-studded cast made up of actors like Samuel L. Jackson, William Hurt, Christopher Plummer, as vets fighting for 34 years to upgrade Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor; an honor Harry and his wife, Tommie, say was not originally bestowed on Pitsenbarger for political reasons.

“The army wanted not to draw too much attention to the battle itself because it was so poorly carried out, they actually walked those guys into a trap,” Tommie said.

Harry flew over 300 missions during his service, but the mission just one day after Operation Abilene is one he’ll never forget. The morning after the battle, he was assigned to help those left on the battlefield. He identified his friend Bill Pitsenbarger’s body.

“My husband went in the next morning and that’s when he learned his buddy, Bill Pitsenbarger had died. He went over and identified the body, cleaned some of the blood of him,” Tommie said.

Actor William Hurt’s character, Tully, is partially inspired by Harry. He, and a few other veterans, were determined to get Bill Pitsenbarger the Medal of Honor. The movie shows this mission unfolding.

It took decades to bring the film to life. Harry was approached by the film’s director for the first time in 1998. Two decades later, Harry saw his years of consultations with director Todd Robinson come to fruition when the film premiered in 2019. Harry and Tommie went to the Atlanta premiere.

“[Robinson] started over 20 years ago getting the script ready, then the finances. They finally got it finished last year, well two years ago really,” Tommie said.

Harry and Tommie even had a cameo in the film’s final reunion scene with some of Harry’s fellow heroes. The O’Beirne family enjoyed seeing the movie’s ending when Pitsenbarger’s family was awarded their son’s Medal of Honor.

Harry said while the movie was moving, it’s impossible to fully replicate a tragedy like what he, and those he served with, endured.

“It’s hard to get this feeling in a movie because people don’t want to be shocked too much,” Harry said.

Still, they watch the film every now and then to reflect and remember.