Vietnam War-era films unearthed: man attempts to reunite families with their films

(CBS News) Keeping in touch with loved ones fighting on the front lines has changed. These days, military families can use webcams or e-mail. In the past, they turned to home video, and before that, film.

A man in Albuquerque, N.M., found some rare film footage from the Vietnam War era and now, he wants to return those memories to more than 200 families.

In 1968, Sheri Maloy is one of the people captured on film. She was 9 years old when she made a holiday greeting film for her father, a soldier in Vietnam.

The films were sent to New Mexico Air national guardsmen stationed in Vietnam. Art Sena was one of those airmen, and recalls seeing his family's message, all those years ago. He worked with the Air Guard to track down the films, and then got in touch with CBS affiliate KRQE, in Albuquerque.

Jessica Garate, of KRQE News 13, recalled, "We pulled out the projector, and for the first time since 1968, he was able to watch that holiday greeting. You could tell he was just very touched by what he was able to see."

Sena wanted to share it with others, and with help from a private donor, was able to get the 16 millimeter films digitized.

Rhoda Weill, of Rolling R Productions, watched all the greetings as she converted the films. "It's just fun to watch," she said. "All the clothes and the hair and some of the funny things they said."

One of the participants told the camera, "And when Danielle gets upset, she walks around the house ... and strokes her brow and 'Wonder where my pills are' to keep me from screaming at her."

Maloy says the footage is priceless. "What goes through my mind is actually when I see my mom in this," she said. "Just hearing her talk and seeing how pretty she looked."

Sena has only found 20 of the families seen in the films. He wants to find the rest, so they can get a piece of their family history. He said, "It just meant so much to me to have my family message here and I know it was important for other families to have that."

Watch the films in Jim Axelrod's full report in the video above.