Rerun: What Is Courage? (2)

My blog of yesterday leaves me with the question: If it wasn’t courage that got me through the fall of Saigon, what was it?

Some of it was sheer stubbornness: I wasn’t about to let the North Vietnamese beat me at my own game.

I refused to give in. I was determined to get all my men and their wives and children out before they got killed. I knew I had to stay to the end. The Ambassador wouldn’t allow me to leave. And although he forbade me from evacuating my people, I did it anyway, under any ruse I could think of.

I was so fixated on the survival of my people that I had no energy left to think about my own. I recall momentary thoughts that I might not make it out alive, but somehow that wasn’t important enough to distract me from my self-assigned mission: all my guys and their wives and children were going to escape no matter what it cost.

I don’t claim any credit for that. It was my job. And I don’t see that as courage. It was concentrated attention to my mission. And pigheadedness.

If the goal is important enough, nothing else matters. Maybe Ike in Last of the Annamese has it right: “Do what you have to do, whatever it takes.”

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