A reader asks why I write so much about Vietnam. Why not put it aside and move on? It’s a fair question.
The answer comes in two parts. Part one: Vietnam is very important to me personally.
I spent the better part of thirteen years in Vietnam. In effect, I spent my youth there—I was 25 years old when I arrived and 38 when I escaped under fire as Saigon fell. I speak the three languages of the county, Vietnamese, Chinese, and French. My children spent part of their childhood in Vietnam. As a consequence of the many times I was in combat on the battlefield there, and because of the unspeakable events that occurred during the fall of Saigon, I will always suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. My experience in Vietnam shaped the rest of my life. It made me the man I am today.
Part two: Vietnam is important to the United States of America.
It was one of our longest wars. It was until then—and arguably ever—the only war this country didn’t win. The war was lost in part because the American public turned against the war and demanded that it end. Over 58,000 men and women were killed in action, over 300,000 wounded. It was the last of our wars for which we drafted men into service.
For more than three decades after the war ended, it was considered shameful. Returning troops during the war were reviled and spat upon. Only in the last half dozen years has the public attitude started to change. We now honor our Vietnam veterans that we once denounced as butchers and baby killers. Americans nowadays, especially those born after the war, want to know about what happened and why.
The Vietnam war, in short, changed us fundamentally. By the time the change is finished, we will be a very different people.
More and more Americans ask me about Vietnam. I’ve now done my presentation on the fall of Saigon more than sixty times. I have the honor to be a source on what happened in Vietnam and why.
That’s why I write about Vietnam.