The Character of Ike in Last of the Annamese

I find Ike likable. He’s the housemate of the novel’s protagonist and a Marine officer working with the Marine guards at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, the only Marines left in-country in 1975, after the withdrawal of U.S. troops two years earlier. Ike’s character is drawn from the many Marines I worked with during my years in Vietnam. He’s down to earth—and earthy, too—and unpretentious. He is an honorable man. His honor is unspoken and inherent. It’s the quality that defines him, built in and always operational. I suspect he’s not even aware of it.

In that respect, he’s like all the Marines I knew and worked with. Typical was Al Gray, a captain when I first met him in Vietnam in the early 1960s, a colonel when he saved my life during the fall of Saigon in 1975, and finally, as a general, the commandant of the Marine Corps. I’ve never met a Marine who didn’t know of and honor Al Gray.

Ike’s motto is “Do what you have to do, whatever it takes.” Those words become a guide for the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, himself a retired Marine officer. At the end of the story, the motto leads Chuck to do the right thing even though it hurts more than he thinks he can stand.

The reader may notice that I always capitalize “Marine.” I do it to show my deep respect for the Marine Corps.

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