The other question I’m invariably asked is, have I ever returned to Vietnam.
The answer is no.
I loved the country, and I loved the people. I lived with them, worked with them, spoke with them in their own language—be it Vietnamese, Chinese, or French.
But I don’t want to go back. My feelings are so strong that I would actively avoid going back.
I have two reasons. The first and minor one is that I know that the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng Hòa Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam), as the communists now call their country, is a police state. I would only be allowed to go where the government wanted me to go and would only meet Vietnamese under the iron control of the authorities. The native Vietnamese and Chinese would be required to demonstrate how happy and prosperous the people are and how much they love Americans. I’d see no poverty or repression. In short, I’d see a false picture of what Vietnam is today.
The stronger reason is that I don’t want to revisit places that are, for me, filled with grisly memories. The source my recurring nightmares, flashbacks, irrational rages, and panic attacks—my Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI)—is Vietnam. I don’t want to relive the horrors I witnessed and participated in during combat and the fall of Saigon. I don’t need to be reminded. The memories are as strong today as they were when I was there. They never go away. They never weaken. I have learned over the years to face them head on, to cope with them, to mediate my emotions. Returning to the scene of my psychic wounds would serve no purpose other than to sharpen my pain.
My days in Vietnam ended forty-two years ago. Those days are my past. My present in consumed in writing about what happened. Maybe my future will be more peaceful.