As a result of the imbroglio over the medal for the South Vietnamese general, the leadership of NSA became more friendly toward me. Besides, I was doing very well as the leader—not manager—of a large group of employees on an important mission. And the fervor against Vietnam cooled. In time, the agency leadership reviewed what happened during the fall of Saigon and decided that I should be rewarded for getting all the NSA employees and their families safely out of the city before it fell and then escaping under fire myself.
So they awarded me the Civilian Meritorious Medal for my work during the fall of Saigon. I was again an employee in good repute. That medal today is one of my two most valued possessions.
Meanwhile, something like a year after the fall of Saigon, my guys who had worked with me there planned a dinner in Washington, D.C. where they could talk with one another and reminisce. They invited me to join them. At the end of the meal, they presented me with a plaque. It was titled the “Last Man Out Award.” The text inscribed on it expressed their thanks for my courage and leadership that got them all safely out of the country before it fell. That plaque is my other most prized possession.
I have a friend who talks constantly about money. He brags about how much money he and his children have and the high monetary value of his possessions. I smile and say nothing. Money couldn’t buy what I have—my medal and my plaque celebrating what I was able to do as Saigon fell. I’m richer than he is.