Do What You Have to Do

Adelaide Books of New York will be publishing my novel, Secretocracy, and my short story collection, Coming to Terms, early next year. The publisher sent me a long complex form to fill out providing information that can be used to promote the new books. Among many other things, the form asked for memorable quotes from my published writing.

My favorite quote comes from Last of the Annamese. It appears at the beginning and the end of the novel and is a motto for the principal characters who serve their country:
“Do what you have to do, whatever it takes.”

Those words mean, among other things, putting one’s life on the line for the good of others. That’s what anyone in military service is committed to do. But it was also my guiding principle during my thirteen years on and off in Vietnam supporting both army and Marine units in combat. It was an honor to be on the battlefield with the troops, but it also meant that I had to be willing to give up my life if that’s what it took.

I’m justifiably proud of my service to my country. But I still grieve over the men killed at my side. They did what they had to do, and it cost them their lives.

Last night, I had the honor of delivering the keynote speech at the Maryland Honor Flight gathering. The celebration ended a day during which members of my American Legion post accompanied about forty veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam to visit the memorials on the National Mall. While I didn’t use the words, “Do what you have to do, whatever it takes” during the speech, that’s what it was about. I’ll quote the speech here, starting tomorrow.

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