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Author Topic: Compassion  (Read 1097 times)

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« on: August 15, 2011, 10:18:31 AM »

From my book "So You're Afraid Of Dying"

This may have been the first act of compassion I ever demonstrated to another soul, pathetic that it took me 23 years.
After my tour of duty in the U.S.A.F., I went to work in Vietnam on a DOD contract in 1973 after the GI's were pulled out.  It was a rather rude awakening for me when I got off the airplane in Saigon; a government representative met me and introduced himself.  After a little chit chat, he said;
“Well go find yourself somewhere to live and I'll see you here at 7 am.”
I had no idea I would be left completely on my own, but I was naive and should have known what to expect by the contract I had signed in San Francisco stating that I was an 'independent contractor', and the U.S. Government would disavow any knowledge of me.
Anyway, that is how it started on that adventure.  For some reason, I never had any fear for my life, somehow I knew that 'someone' or 'something' was always watching out for me, and the thought of dying was never in my mind.  I actually met some very nice people over there, after all the suffering and death they had endured from years of war, they always had nothing but nice things to say to me.  I think what stands out in my mind most of all was all the children with missing limbs, they were everywhere, they just went about their business as if there was nothing wrong with them.
One evening when I was getting ready to leave Tan Sanut air base, the South Vietnamese General I worked with on a daily basis, said to me;
“We would like you to stay and have food with us.”
I was flattered he would ask me to eat with them, especially when I saw how meager their food supplies were.  Even the high ranking military of the South Vietnamese Army were not getting paid at that point in the war.  The General and about fifteen others lived in the back of the avionics shop, and it almost looked like a home the way they had fixed it up.  The food was not plentiful, but they made sure I received more than a fare share.  I thanked them for the meal and made my way back to my apartment in town.  The next day when I went to the base, I brought with me all the rice and vegetables I could carry.  The General was so overwhelmed he could barely speak, but I assured him it was no big deal, and besides I could afford it.
After I had been there a couple months, one day I was walking to my apartment and I was about a block away at a busy intersection when a young man came right up to me and stuck a 45 caliber pistol in my belly and demanded all my money.  Although I was surprised by this action, again I was not in the least bit afraid.  He was maybe my age or a little younger, I got out my wallet and I had the equivalent of about twenty dollars, so I offered him half of it.  He gave me a puzzled look like, 'what kind of a crazy American are you, don't you see my gun'?  He pushed the barrel of the gun further into my stomach and demanded all of the money and my watch, too, or he would shoot me.  I told him I needed some money also, and he couldn't have my watch because I needed it for work.  I then said;
“If you shoot me today, you won't be able to rob me next week.”
Again he gave me that puzzled look (crazy American), but he grabbed the ten dollars I had offered him and he left the area quickly.
About ten days later I was approaching the same intersection and I spotted this same young man.  Instead of turning around or changing directions, I went straight towards him, looking directly into his eyes.  I remember seeing his eyes get big as he saw me approach him.  He again started to reach into his waistband and had his hand on the butt of the gun.  I motioned from my waist with my left hand, 'down', he hesitated again giving me that 'crazy American' look.  I walked right up to him and said;
“If you keep pulling that gun out, somebody is going to shoot you!”
I could tell by his appearance and the military issue 45 that he was probably a South Vietnamese army deserter.  I then asked him if he had family, he had a look of bewilderment on his face as he motioned over his shoulder and muttered the name of a small town in the southern part of the country.  I got out my wallet and pulled out the equivalent of forty dollars (a lot of money to those people at that time and held it out to him as I said;
“Live, go home to your family and live.”
I'll never forget the look on his face, I can't even describe it, and then he just started crying.  I was overwhelmed, I had not expected his emotional response, I put my hand on his shoulder as I put the money in his left hand and said again;
“Go home, live.”
I then turned and walked away and I never saw him again.  I hope he followed my advice and did go home, and hopefully survived that horrible tragedy we called an 'Armed conflict'.  Although the U.S. Lost around 59,000 young lives in that war, it has been estimated that up to 2,000,000 Vietnamese and Chinese lost their lives, a tragedy for this entire world, all of that misery just for the want of power and money!
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