Veterans and Me (4)

One of the funny outcomes of those photos of me when I was under cover as a Marine or army soldier in Vietnam came years later.

In 2013, Maryland Public Television (MPT) chose me to be among the sixteen veterans they featured in the three-part Vietnam war documentary to be aired in 2016. When they first interviewed me in 2014, the fact that I was really a civilian working for the National Security Agency during my years in Vietnam was still classified. So I simply didn’t mention what my parent organization was. MPT found photos of me in both army and Marine uniforms and finally concluded that I must have been an army officer. They produced eight-foot banners on each of us vets to be displayed in their travelling exhibit. Mine shows two of those shots of me in an army uniform and proclaims that I was an army intelligence officer.

After the final declassification of my work in Vietnam in 2016, I informed MPT of my true status. It was too late. The documentary was already scheduled for broadcast in June. The traveling exhibit, still on display at the MPT studios, shows me as an army officer.

After so many years of avoiding any public knowledge of my work in Vietnam—it was so deeply classified that NSA redacted my name from its public document—my moment in the sun of public recognition for my service in Vietnam was tainted by misidentification. I don’t mind. I was so used to pretending to be someone I wasn’t that permanent display of me in my cover role is somehow poetic justice.

More tomorrow.

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