No such thing as ‘closure’
To me, there is no such thing as “closure.” There is only life and life’s cumulative experiences, both happy and sad. The secret of a good life is to seek and attain balance. Don’t let the evil conquer the good and don’t become “Goodie Two Shoes” either.
I have daily reminders of the war in Vietnam all around me. God’s Greatest Gift to me is Honglien Do. She came from Vietnam “the hard way.”
She was on the run from the communists, in and out of prison and in and out again for several years after the communists overwhelmed her country in 1975. Sometimes, circumstances forced her into hiding in her own house, like Anne Frank.
Lien’s brother Fong disappeared into the communist prison system in 1975 and never came out. So Lien is the lucky one: She is here in the U.S.A. with us. The day after Thanks- giving, “Black Friday,” we went for coffee at the 7-Eleven at 4 a.m. Then Lien went to work. This November, Lien voted for the first time in her life.
To escape communist Vietnam, my wife Lien and about 50 others spent 22 days in an open boat without food. The engine of the boat failed after about the first hour at sea. The only fresh water available to the drifting refugees was rainwater collected in little cups. Four people died in that boat before it reached safety.
After reaching the Philippines, my wife, who by now was mixed into a horde of other Vietnamese refugees, witnessed the agents of the overwhelmed Philippine government. The Philippine government built small huts in a kind of “stalag” to house the refugees behind tightly guarded barbed wire. Lien lived on Palowan Island, the Philippines, for 10 years. Fifty or so people, men and women, young and old, lived to- gether in a room the size of your TV room or den.
Saigon fell and was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in 1975. My wife made it to safety in the United States in 1998.
On Nov. 30, at Arlington Cemetery, our nation buried Col. Charles J. Scharf, United States Air Force. He was a pilot of an F-4 fighter over North Vietnam when he was shot down in October 1965. His widow, Patricia Scharf, 72, of Northern Virginia, never remarried, never had children and still considers the brave Air Force officer the love of her life.
Col. Scharf was positively identified by DNA these 40 years after his death. “What other nation would go to such lengths,” says my wife Lien. She doesn’t need any more proof that the United States is the greatest nation in the world. But she is constantly turning over the evidence and showing it to me.
Besides the DNA, there are some relics of Col. Scharf and his life lost. Mrs. Scharf buried most of them on Nov. 30. The colonel’s singed identification card, with his name still decipherable. His dog tags. His silver captain’s bars. (He was promoted posthumously to colonel.) And finally his scapular. In my experience, only really devout Catholic wear the scapular. Col. Scharf was wearing his the day he died. It was a gift to him on his wedding day. His wife still wears the matching cloth religious pendant.
We’ll probably go to Arlington today to honor and remember Col. Scharf and all the American men and women who died for us. Lien, despite her own travails, feels very strongly a bond to the men and women who sacrificed and served in the attempt, the futile attempt, to keep her country from slipping into communism.
This ties us inextricably to the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan too. Each day we think of them and pray for them.
When America puts its reputation on the line, our brave young men and women go to war for us and many come home wounded or lost. And if we as a nation lose our nerve and give up our resolve, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people find themselves at risk, imprisoned, on death lists or killed. Translators, drivers and the lowest who assisted the Americans all become targets, just as Lien did in Vietnam. We hope this sad history is not repeated in Iraq. But we fear that it will be.
We thought the American people might want to think about in the days after we buried Col. Charles J. Scharf, United States Air Force.
John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants Inc. and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.