Today I want to return to an idea I have explored several times over the years in this blog, the sense of devotion that a service member or government representative must have in a crisis: the willingness to do what is required no matter the personal cost, even it means giving up one’s life.
“Do what you have to do, whatever it takes.” Those words were 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, undercover as one of them, but it also meant that I had to be willing to give up my life if that’s what it took.
The same words are the motto of characters in my 2017 novel Last of the Annamese, set during the fall of Saigon. There’s nothing elegant or poetic about the phrase. It’s down and dirty. It smells of blood and human sweat.
I was in Vietnam more time than I was in the states between 1962 and 1975, and I was put to the test multiple times. My job was providing signals intelligence support to U.S. combat forces. That meant telling the Americans, based on intercepted radio communications, what North Vietnamese forces were aligned against them, what their strength was, where they were, and what their plans were.