On My Own (3)

The last week of April 1975 in Saigon, I went without sleep or food, except for bar snacks I’d been able scrounge before I couldn’t drive thanks to the mobs of refugees who were so numerous that cars could no longer get through. I don’t remember being hungry or tired. I remember being hell-bent on assuring that none of my subordinates or their families were killed. Not only was there no one to help me, the ambassador had forbidden me to evacuate my people. Toward the end, I bought with my own money a ticket on Pan Am for one of the last of my guys and told him to go. That was the last Pan Am flight out of Vietnam.

By 27 April, I had managed to quietly evacuate all my guys and their families save two communications technicians who agreed to stay with me to the end. I succeeded in getting those two guys  safely out of the country on the afternoon of 29 April when they flew by helicopter to a ship pf the U.S. 7th Fleet cruising in the South China Sea. By then the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of Saigon. I escaped by chopper that night under fire.

Looking back, I’m thankful that my modus operandi was to rely on myself. It was up to me alone, and I did it. I’m genuinely proud.

At this point in my life, I can’t be sure how much of my pronounced self-reliance was inborn—a gift as my reader put it—and how much came from the circumstances I found myself in. Of necessity, I became a loner, determined to make it on my own.

Whatever its roots, my insistence on doing whatever had to be done without depending on others saved lives including my own. I can’t complain.

2 thoughts on “On My Own (3)”

  1. Tom, when going through my life’s heaviest loss, a friend told me a story. She said when terrible times strike, Tragedy walks through the door holding a gift for us. It is a gift we can choose to accept or not. When my friend told this to me, I told her I’d like to throw Tragedy and her gift out the door. Alas, my friend said that wasn’t an option. Maybe the gift you chose to accept was your strength AND a will to persevere. Surely your will to endure was driving you, but others have had that and still thrown in the towel and lost themselves to despair.

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  2. Rose, I agree that my sticktoitiveness was a mix of natural bent and reaction to life’s challenges. I have no way of measuring either. Suffice it to say that the impediments I had to overcome were first presented to me so early in life that my stubborn refusal to give in seemed to be the only choice. The alternative was to give up and die.

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