I’ve mentioned the character of Sparky several times during this blog. It’s time to devote a post to him.
Sparky and Ike, a Marine captain working with the Marine guards at the embassy, are housemates of Chuck Griffin, the protagonist of Last of the Annamese. They are provided a rented villa to live in on Yen Do Street in Saigon because they are willing to face hazardous duty in Vietnam after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Sparky’s nickname derives from his mental dullness, especially his slow uptake and forgetfulness. The moniker is also a reference to his blond-red hair which is never under control. Like Ike, he is married, but his wife awaits him in the world (i.e., the U.S.). Like Chuck, he is an analyst in the Intelligence Branch at the Defense Attaché Office located at Tan Son Nhat, on the northern edge of Saigon. He, Chuck, and their boss, Colonel Troiano, are the last three at the office after all others are sent out to safety as the North Vietnamese close in on Saigon. They are evacuated under fire as Saigon falls.
All the characters in the story find Sparky likeable. He’s down to earth but, unlike Ike, not earthy. More than once, he manages to keep Chuck out of trouble and even saves Chuck from harm by restraining him when he tries to take on South Vietnamese army guards at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital. He’s steady, reliable, humble, and devoted to his work.
Sparky, like so many characters in the book, is based on men I worked with during the final days of Vietnam. Were it not for their quiet service and dependability, I wouldn’t be alive today.