A reader asked me why I was sent to Vietnam so often over a thirteen-year period. The answer is two-fold.
First, I have an inborn knack for languages. I was comfortable in the three languages commonly spoken in Vietnam—French. Vietnamese, and Chinese. That made me a rarity. The U.S. government had a real find in me and sent me as often as I would go.
Second, few civilian signals intelligence experts were willing to risk the danger of combat. I was. To this day I don’t know why. Part of it was patriotism; part was my sense that it was my duty to share the danger combatants faced. I knew I could be killed, but I didn’t know that repeated exposure to combat would sicken me with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. But I would have done it anyway. Somehow it was a sacred calling: I was gifted with a flair for languages. I was obligated to use the gift for the good of others.
Nowadays, time, age, and deafness (from artillery hits during the fall of Saigon) have weakened my ability to work in other languages. And I no longer have the physical stamina required for the battlefield. Instead, I write. I earnestly wish people to know what combat veterans have suffered through, and I want other Americans to know what happened in Vietnam, especially during the fall of Saigon. That’s why I wrote The Trion Syndrome and especially Last of the Annamese.