This month is the busiest I’ve had for readings and presentations. A full dozen are scheduled. The fullest week is this week, leading up Veterans Day. Before the week is out, I’ll have done four presentations and one reading.
All the presentations are “Bitter Memories: The Fall of Saigon,” in which I recount the events of April 1975—I was trapped in Saigon and escaped under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city. The one reading will be on Veterans Day, Saturday, 11 November, on the National Mall. I’ll read from Last of the Annamese.
If you’d like to attend one of the presentations and didn’t receive the list I posted earlier, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the complete schedule.
I know that the arrival of Veterans Day is the reason that I get asked to speak so often during November. The same thing happens in May around Memorial Day. My experience in combat in Vietnam and my escape from Saigon are of special interest to veterans, especially Vietnam veterans, who nod sadly when they hear my stories.
As I write this blog, I’ve given five of the twelve November presentations. I find that my audiences are mostly older folks who are veterans or related to veterans. I’m surprised that so many are in fact Vietnam veterans. They know whereof I speak.
I was afraid that doing the Saigon presentation so often would lead to rote. I needn’t have feared. My feelings about the events surrounding the final collapse remain as strong and deep as ever. I always choke up at three points in the story: when I talk about the 2700 South Vietnamese soldiers who worked with my organization over the years—the U.S. failed to evacuate them at the end, and the North Vietnamese killed or captured all of them; Bob and Gary, my two communicators who volunteered to risk their lives and stay with me to the end; and the last message I sent, to my boss, the Director of NSA, General Lew Allen, before escaping. In the last paragraph I said, “I commend to you my people who deserve the best NSA can give them for what they have been through but especially for what they have achieved.”
The losses we suffered and the raw courage of my guys still bring me to tears and always will.