I still marvel today remembering the ability of the human body to rebound from deprivation during and after combat in Vietnam. I remember times when members of combat units, both army and Marine, went for days without sleep, food, and even water. As far as I could tell, sheer determination was what kept me and the troops alive and moving.
During the fall of Saigon, Bob, Gary, and I faced going without food or sleep for a number of days. it’s both ironic and telling that I don’t remember how many days. Except for the times when I went out into the compound to reconnoiter, I lost track of whether it was day or night. By the 29th of April, the day we escaped under fire, I was hallucinating. The odd aspect was that I knew I my perceptions were no longer reliable, and I didn’t act on the false stimuli. As I mentioned yesterday, once safe aboard a ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, I was diagnosed with amoebic dysentery and pneumonia, the latter due to inadequate diet, insufficient rest, and muscle fatigue.
What seems wondrous to me is that it never occurred to Bob, Gary, or me to quit struggling. We never contemplated giving up—just lying down and going to sleep or collapsing. We propped each other up and kept on keeping on. I know that, for me, one of the driving forces was assuring that nothing happened to Bob or Gary. I was determined that after all they’d been through, after volunteering to stay with me through the fall of Saigon, they’d survive to live another day.
I learned from watching men in combat that they fight not for love of country or freedom but for the man fighting by their side. I suspect that the strongest force that kept me going during the fall of Saigon was my concern for—and love of—the two men who shared my fate.