I interrupt my series of posts on chaos as Saigon fell to report on a symposium I attended yesterday given by the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation entitled, “The Tet Offensive.”
Dr. Tom Johnson, whom I worked with during the Vietnam war while he was an Air Force officer, was the keynote speaker. It was he who suggested that I attend.
The pamphlet listing the events of the day had on its cover a picture of the Minnesota Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial with the words from Archibald MacLeish: “We were young. We have died. Remember us.” The full text of MacLeish’s poem reads:
The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died.
They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.
We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.
End of quote. Those words, even after all these years, still bring tears to my eyes.