Continued from yesterday: I forbade the security chief from scrutiny of the men during their time away from the office. And never once did I have a problem with any of those men. I don’t know what they did in their private time. I didn’t care. Besides, as the months passed, they had less and less time to themselves. We were all working eighty-hour weeks. The men began sleeping at the office to save travel time to and from their residences. Toward the end, I and the few men not yet evacuated stayed in the office 24 hours a day. And sleep became a luxury.
In the end, I worked to the limits of my strength to get my men and their wives and children all safely out of Vietnam as Saigon was falling. The U.S. ambassador, who didn’t believe Saigon would be attacked, forbade me to evacuate my people. So I connived, cheated, lied, and stole to arrange for them to escape. They all did. My greatest pride in life is the knowledge that every one of the people I was responsible for left Saigon unharmed.
Those men and I share to this day a bond that is unshakeable. I’m still in touch with some of them. They read this blog and are quick to correct me if I get the facts wrong. The bond we share reminds me of that between combatants on the field of battle: we were devoted to each other and willing to risk our lives for the good of each other.
In sum, my experience confirms that leadership—which is really a kind of love—offers rewards far beyond its costs. I’m proud that I served and saved my followers, even at the risk of my own life.
Greater love hath no man.