Monday, May 31, 2004

In Memoriam 

This is the day of the year when we remember those who did not return and honor those who did. I have to admit that I am one who did return from a battle zone, but that is all. Nothing was happening when I was in it, and the experience was normal. Not that I was unhappy about that.

I spent time in Saigon when there was no fighting in the country. I stayed in an old Hotel -- The Meyerkord -- that had a light well in which the Vietnamese women hung laundry to let it dry. We had Gekkos on the wall -- a whole family of them and one old, creaking overhead ceiling fan. I had to go to the office in another building blocks away in the early morning hours to talk to the office in Hawaii and on occasion, to Washington, DC.

In the predawn hours, it was so dark one could not make out another person on the street, yet the Korean embassy guards always snapped to attention and saluted when I passed. I never figured out how they could see my lieutenant bars in the gloom. Some days I would detour through the market and stop at the old French bakery where sweating Vietnamese workers were turning out hundreds of baguettes for the day. The loaves were as French as anything in Paris, and they were storied vertically in baskets. One simply drew one out, paid the proper amount and the counter clerk would snap a piece of paper around the center of it with a rubber band. One baguette was breakfast.

There were those who suffered greatly in Vietnam. I got to know one fellow much later whom I admire for his ability to make light of terrible injuries received as a tanker in Cambodia. He never lets them slow him down. I am honored to count him as a friend to this day.

But the sad truth was that I was never shot at by hostile forces in Vietnam or anywhere else in the military. It was as a newsman later on in a midwestern town that I was in the line of fire twice in a year. I was shot at one of those times and exposed the other. It was one of those curious things that happen to people.

The military taught me a lot that I use today as a PR practitioner. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.


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