I served along side Richard Blumenthal in Vietnam, and like him I still have vivid memories of those days where I served my country so valiantly. I’ll never forget the one afternoon we found ourselves surrounded by what we assume was Viet Cong. We were in the cafeteria at Harvard, preparing for what we in the military call “grub”: sirloin steak, mashed potatoes, truffled string beans, some lobster bisque, salad, Key Lime pie and Jello. I was famished – the last time we’d eaten was in the morning, and it was already nearly half-past noon. For two or three hours we’d been stapling papers and organizing folders. I even had to read several chapters of a book. We were numb. Exhausted. And our nerves were on edge because Richard was certain the VC would attack at any moment. As you know, they were guerillas and blended in with the populace. Presumably they were all over the campus in Cambridge. That’s the thing with the VC, you always had to be on guard.
I was only a few bites in to my meal, I mean “grub,” when Richard sat bolt upright and dropped his silverware. He had an uncanny sense for trouble. “Incoming!” he yelled. We dove under the table. He was certain the VC would be shelling us at any moment. We prepared ourselves for the concussive effects of the mortar rounds and wrapped our cloth napkins around our heads to protect us from fragments. We stayed under the table for what seems like an eternity, but was actually several minutes. Lucky for us, the attack never materialized. Finally, Richard gave the all-clear. We resumed eating our grub, which by now was a little cold. But that’s the kind of sacrifice you make when you are in enemy territory and serving your country as we noble warriors did.
We resumed our lunching. Richard’s eyes scanned the horizon, evaluating any threats that might be materializing. To me it looked like a bunch of Harvard students milling about. But he saw danger. “The VC could be anywhere,” he said, “Looming in the distance, waiting to strike. Or 14,000 klicks away.” I chewed my delicious, mouthwatering, albeit lukewarm sirloin tensely and barely enjoyed it. Richard inspired me with his fearlessness and ate his meal in a leisurely fashion. When it was over, we left the cafeteria, which Richard called “Vietnam” and took a refreshing nap. I will never forget those times. Semper Fi.