A retired green beret returns to Vietnam for one final mission.

Coming Soon

War stories are, at once, both universal and deeply personal. While the weight carried by veterans forges a common bond between theme, that weight, too, forces a gulf between them and those who were not there.

Return is a feature-length documentary about retired special forces captain Jim Markel, Sr.

In March 2018, he returned to Vietnam for the first time since the war, seeking to retrace his steps, share his untold stories with his son, confront his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and reconnect with the mountain tribes he was embedded with as a Green Beret.

Through this adventure, the film seeks to foster understanding for military families and show all veterans that their stories are valued.

Return is scheduled for completion in 2022.

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The Story

War stories are, at once, both universal and deeply personal. While the weight carried forges a common bond between veterans, that weight, too, forces a gulf between them and those who were not there.

For the younger Jim Markel, Vietnam was only the place where the letters came from.

For his father, Jim Markel Sr., Vietnam was where, as an 18-year-old, he spent his days in a helicopter tearing across the mountainous jungles trading fire with opposing forces; where later, as a Green Beret, he was embedded high in the mountains, arming and training groups of farming tribes known as the Montagnards, who became America’s unlikely, forgotten allies in a painful war on communism.

The Special Forces felt a particular affinity towards the Montagnards and formed close bonds of brotherhood with those they would eventually be ordered to abandon.

In subsequent years, the elder Markel’s attempts at rekindling the adrenaline high of life on the edge would always fall short. He left his many stories untold, and wrestled with a creeping cloud of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that would take him decades to finally call by name.

Now, with recognition of a new challenge, a growing desire to share his past with his son, a burning curiosity to see what happened to the Montagnards he lived with, and a willingness to welcome a camera along his journey, he returns to the Central Highlands where he spent his formative years.

The story to come carries with it the promise of a captivating adventure tale, an introduction to a culture in decline, a testimony on living with PTSD, a reflection on the reason for war, and a story of a father and son on a hopeful, if heavy, journey.

The intent is that the film will bear witness to the weighty work of re-opening the past. The road is a tough one to walk, but by sharing this journey of reckoning and reflection, the documentary aims to foster empathy and understanding for military families with similar struggles.

Moments of personal discovery will intersperse with breathtaking images of Vietnamese landscapes, cultures, and the characters the pair encounters along their path.

The Team

Pete Tolton

Pete Tolton is a filmmaker, artist and writer based in Billings, MT.

Pete Tolton

(406) 672-0396
Stan Parker

Stan Parker is a journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Billings, MT.

Stan Parker

(406) 208-5918

Contact Us

Billings, MT USA
Phone: +1 (406) 233-9255
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As storytellers, we believe in the power of film and story to spread empathy and understanding across communities.

This kind of work is only possible with community support, and your contributions will go directly towards the completion of this film.

Donate Now

You can make a tax-deductible donation to the completion of this film through our fiscal sponsor, Art House Cinema & Pub.

For inquiries about major gifts or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Pete or Stan.

In the News


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Montana Television Network

Montana Television Network includes several TV stations around Montana.

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First Interstate Bank

Committed to the communities we serve — We live here, too.

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Russ Plath Law

Serving the injured and disabled since 1986.

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Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters

Serving the West since 1919.


CMYK Church

A faith community focused on being present, being honest, being open, being love(d).

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American Legion Post 4

Supporting and advocating for veterans, active military and their families.

Greater Montana Foundation logo

Major funding for "Return" also comes from a grant from the Greater Montana Foundation.

The Greater Montana Foundation benefits the people of Montana by encouraging communication with an emphasis on electronic media on issues, trends and values of importance to present and future generations of Montanans.

Art House logo

Art House Cinema in Billings is the fiscal sponsor for "Retun." In addition to administering a grant fund for the film that allows for tax-deductible donations, the non-profit has also provided support in the way of venue space and connections to the local community.

This partnership is one more way Art House Cinema is showing its dedication to film, art, & culture in the region.

Big Sky Film Grant - Montana Film Office Logo

Return is a recipient of the Big Sky Film Grant from the Montana Film Office.

Interested in how you can be a sponsor? Drop us a line.