Thanks for your help. I understand the shorthand if/then now.
value="<?php echo ((ValidatedField("confirm_386","firstname") != "")?ValidatedField("confirm_386","firstname"):$row_rsUser['firstName']) ?>"
The above worked. I had to make the firstName -> firstname in both places that pulled from validated fields. They used lowercase n.
This sets the init val to (1) the entered value if the text field had an entered value when submitted, then (2) rsUser -> firstName
This helps retain logged in user's data when they are logged in (optional login, not required).
Works great. Thanks again.