Dozens of people visiting the flea market at Maryland Public Television on Saturday stopped by my table and talked to me. Many, when they saw the sales copies of Last of the Annamese, asked the meaning of “Annamese.” I explained that An Nam is the old name for Vietnam. A remarkable number of people talked about their connections with Vietnam. They had served there or had family members who did. One woman told me that the man she loved died there. Another talked about the death of her father in Vietnam.
I’m coming to understand that so many Americans of my generation and the generation after me respond emotionally to the word “Vietnam.” Some opposed the war, but so many more were directly touched by it. I keep running into those people when I do public appearances in support of my writing. More often than not, their stories are sad. It was a war that hurt everybody.
It hurts to hear what they have to say. I see more and more that my job in life is to listen.