Thursday, March 11, 2010

Small Town, Big Price

(PICTURE: Huyen's mom pointing at her brother-in-law's name.)

Just like last year, during Tet, we visited Huyen's Uncle's grave. Huyen's Uncle -- for those of you who are new readers -- was killed by the Americans during the war and his body has never been recovered. He has an empty tomb in the military cemetery located in Huyen's small town. His name is also listed on this table. He's #31:

The tablet has all the names of the townspeople who died fighting the French, the Americans and the Cambodians.

#14-#62 on the tablet are people who died fighting the Americans. That's 48 people. I asked Huyen's sister how many people live in the town that is represented by this military cemetery. She told me maybe 1,000. That means about 4% of the town died fighting the Americans. In my head I naturally thought back to last summer when I marched in the Memorial Day parade with my father. On that day I took a picture of the Vietnam Memorial in my town:

(PICTURE: One of Livingston's war memorials.)

According to the 2000 census of Livingston, the town's population was 27,391 people. If 4% of our town's population died fighting, that would mean 1,095 people would have died. The Vietnam War's first Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was a notorious numbers cruncher. I wonder what he would have said to those numbers...