Hanging on the south wall in the piano room of my house is a photograph taken some years ago by the photographer Ann Gonzales in the Palette and the Page, a book-and-art store in Elkton, Maryland, which features my books. For reasons I don’t remember, I had with me, while visiting the store, a pair of jungle combat boots I had worn in Vietnam. Ann took the boots to the basement and put them on the dirt floor next to a brick wall, then took a picture of them. On a later visit to the shop, I spotted a picture on the wall of my boots with the following caption:
‘Do what you have to do, whatever it takes.’
Last of the Annamese
A novel about the fall of Saigon — 1975
By Tom Glenn
The quote at the beginning of the caption, “Do what you have to do, whatever it takes,” is the motto of one of the characters in my novel, The Last of the Annamese. It means that if defending your country requires to give up your life, then you must do it. So the picture and its caption have always made me think that the empty boots pictured once belonged to a man killed in combat.
I bought the picture and hung it on my wall in the most honored place. It is still there today. So often when I am playing my Steinway grand piano, I stop long enough to look at that picture. It reminds me of my justified pride in having put my life on the line for my country.