Early in this blog, I quoted a passage from Last of the Annamese that the publisher, Naval Institute Press, believed best represented the book as a whole. I quote it again today with one additional paragraph to convey the quiet strength I observed in so many South Vietnamese officers as the North Vietnamese victory came closer:
Thanh boarded his aging C-47 for the flight from Binh Tuy Province back to Saigon. As the aircraft whined upward, its two engines shuddering, he looked down on the wandering La Nga River, the war-scarred town of Hoai Duc, and the mountains northeast, soaking in the January sunshine. It was only a matter of time before Hoai Duc and its sister towns of Tanh Linh and Vo Xu fell to the North Vietnamese. Three North Vietnamese regiments and a newly formed division were on the move. He’d talked to the anxious soldiers, urged them to pray and seek serenity, and, although he didn’t use these words, to prepare for defeat and death. The young faces looking up as he spoke, the frightened eyes pleading for hope, had depleted his reserves. He must not allow himself to sink into despondence as he had the day Phuoc Binh was lost. Too much work left to do. Too many hearts to unburden. Too many souls to comfort.
He longed to go home and replenish his spirit, but he had no home. The villa near Tan Son Nhat was a shell devoid of love. Did the Mother Goddess deliberately burden the strong more than the weak? She had weighed him down, but he knew—and apparently, she did, too—that he had reserves as yet untapped. He would need every droplet of vitality in him to make it through to the end. That he was suffering was irrelevant.