In writing here about my three addictions, I said that I was born to write. One of the men I worked with in Saigon, before it fell in 1975, disagreed with me. “You were put there,” he said, “to do what you did for all those years for your country, and most of all for those 43 beings that depended on your good judgment in April 1975.”
He’s referring to the fall of Saigon and my determination to get all 43 of my people and their wives and children safely out of the country. I was able to do that, even though the U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin, forbade me to evacuate my guys and their families. I lied and cheated and stole to be sure that none of them would be killed when the attack came. By the end, there were only three of us left, me and two communicators who volunteered to stay with me to the end. We escaped under fire as the city fell. As I told that reader, “Had any of you guys died under my watch, I’d still be grieving and blaming myself.”
My sense that I was born to write stays with me. But some things are more important than a life goal. People’s lives are one of those things. I did what I had to do. I had no choice. I couldn’t let my guys or their wives and children be killed. It took everything I had in me to get them out of danger’s way. I’ll always be thankful that I was able to save them and proud that I did it. That’s more important than writing.