Yesterday, at the invitation of Maryland Public Television (MPT), I went to their studios in Owings Mills and filmed a brief reading. As I entered the building, three different people, none of whom I recognized, greeted me by name. I was offered coffee and breakfast. When I turned down those kind offers, I was escorted to the studio for the filming. The eight or so people working there all greeted me, remarked on their memory of my appearance in their three-part documentary, Maryland Vietnam War Stories, last year, and embarrassed me when they said what an honor it was for them to see me again.
We did four or five takes of the reading. The director, Susanne Stahley, respectfully put me through my paces and dusted my face with powder to dry the sweat I always get when I read or speak publicly. The lead cameraman consistently called me “Doctor Tom,” acknowledging my doctoral degree and responding to my request that he call me by my first name.
As is always true when I speak publicly about Vietnam, my emotions rose to the surface as I read from Last of the Annamese. When I was finished, I told one of the women present that the scene I read was one I actually had experienced myself. She hugged me with tears in her eyes.
The video of the reading will be edited and appear as a brief sequence in the show Artworks. I was one of perhaps half a dozen local writers asked to read for the program. When I learn the date and time for showing my appearance, I’ll post it here. I’ll probably ask if any of you can record it for me so I’ll have a copy for future reference.
I was honored to be asked to do the reading. And I was moved by the respect with which I was treated. I know that respect is because I am a veteran, not because I am a writer. Everything about the filming was professional, efficient, and genial. MPT has certainly treated me and other Vietnam veterans with honor. What a change from the days we were spat upon and called butchers.
Tomorrow I’ll quote the text I read.