A faithful reader commented on yesterday’s blog about courage pointing out that love lies at the heart of courage (her comment and my response can be accessed from the upper left hand corner of that blog post).
The more I thought about her observation, the more I came to see how it applied to me. What I did to save my 43 subordinates and their wives and children during the fall of Saigon sprang from love.
I loved those men and, by extension, their families. Men are not supposed to love each other. It’s not masculine. It smacks of homosexuality. Notwithstanding, the feelings I bore for those men are among the strongest I have ever felt, similar to those I had for men who fought beside me in combat. The men under my command were among the finest I’ve ever known. We struggled together, working as hard as men have ever worked for anything, to save South Vietnam from the communists. We failed.
They were quite a bunch—everything from PhD’s to high school dropouts. Each was an expert in his field, and the work they did amazed me. Their toil gave me the intelligence I needed to warn the ambassador that the North Vietnamese were preparing to attack Saigon. He didn’t believe me and forbade me to evacuate them and their families. I did it anyway, using any ruse I could think of. I didn’t tell them about the ambassador’s order. They had enough to worry about. I learned years later that they knew about his prohibition but didn’t let on to me to save me even more stress.
My predecessor as chief of the operation was a martinet who forbade his subordinates to drink and party. He even sent his security man to follow them and spy on them, then disciplined them. When I replaced him, I held an all-hands meeting and told my guys that those days were over. I asked that if they got into trouble to come straight to me. I’d work with them. I didn’t care what they did in their off-hours. I only asked that they do nothing to cause a problem with the embassy.
I never had a single disciplinary problem my whole tour. The guys worked harder than I had any right to expect. Toward the end, they worked nonstop, grabbing what sleep they could in the office. They were as devoted to me as I was to them.
Yes, I would have given up my life to save them. I have no doubt they would have died to save me. Greater love hath no man.
So my reader is right: love is what underlies courage. I lived it. I know.