THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Chi Minh Trail, which moved tanks and
troops south, ended near Tay Ninh. When
on one occasion I showed videotapes of
the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, the Cao
Dai politely saw through it as an empty
One provincial leader in central Viet-
namhad a remarkable gift of clairvoyance.
In late September 1974, he warned that I
was exposing my family to grave danger.
He seemed to know that my wife and two
young children were in Saigon withme.
He said that an order was being pre-
pared for my new assignment, and a mes-
sage would arrive in two weeks. I asked
him if the assignment was in the United
States or another country.
He replied that I was going to a cold
country, not the United States. Indeed, an
official telegram from USIA Washington
came in early October offering me direct
transfer to Embassy Santiago.
This backstory on seers has a denoue-
ment. On April 30, 1975, on local radio,
the Voice of America relay reported that
President Duong Van Minh, aka General
“Big” Minh, had surrendered to the North
Vietnamese Army at Saigon’s Indepen-
dence Palace. The news came to me while
the cold autumn wind was blowing in
southern Chile, just as the provincial seer
Still Much to Learn
My compliments to Editor Shawn
Foreign Service Journal
and the contributors (most of whom I
know) to theFSJ issue on Vietnam
article was uniquely informative and well
written. I served in Vietnam from 1964 to
1968, both in Central Vietnam and Sai-
gon. I have visited Vietnam several times
since then and have followed closely
how the country has moved along after a
period of uncertainty.
There is still much to be learned from
the American experience in Vietnam and
how it applies to the issues of our day.
Gilbert H. Sheinbaum
Connecting With AFSA
I read with great admiration retired
Ambassador Robert M. Beecroft’s andAFSA President Robert J. Silverman’s let- ters in the April 2015 Journal concerning
inclusion of both diversity and objectivity
in selecting recipients of AFSA awards.
As a regular reader of the
since retiring in 2009, I have observed lit-
tle diversity and objectivity in the award
nominations or selections. Specialists
and other minorities (yes, I choose this
term even though it seems outdated and
overused) do not seem to be included at
the same rate as others.
Like many retirees, I regularly attend
the State Department get-togethers—
for specialists and officers—in my
hometown. Some of us have gone on to
establish new careers and some have
continued to participate in State activities
and even continue working, specialists
and generalists alike. But there seems to
be little or no interest in AFSA and what
it does or would like to accomplish in
regard to retirees. There seems to be a
huge disconnect between these retirees
and AFSA.The recent AFSA survey, also in the April FSJ , indicated that members have
a number of concerns. On retirement
issues, exactly a quarter of those sur-
veyed felt that more needed to be done.
Another concern was this: “AFSA seems
to be more interested in generalists’
issues rather than specialist.” AFSA needs
to take action on these matters.
If AFSA is serious about supporting
diversity and inclusion, it must make
radical changes to its method of doing
business and providing services. A few
years ago I was interested in volunteer-
ing for a committee but was told by AFSA
that if I didn’t live in the Washington,
D.C., area it would be on me to make sure
that I got to the meetings.
Earlier, I wrote an email to AFSA
requesting that the organization be more
responsive to those who don’t always think
and live inside the Beltway. I was told that
it would take time tomake any changes.
I am sure changes can be made if
AFSA wants to make them. Members
should not be limited to what commit-
tees or meetings they can participate
in just because of their location. Cost is
minimal, if any, as there are several ways
to videoconference (e.g., Skype).
Members, retired and active-duty,
need to become more involved in how
our union is communicating and doing
its job, even if we are not in the Washing-
ton, D.C., area.
I am still sincerely dedicated to the
principles of the Department of State. I
recently signed on to the AFSA Commu-
nity and have volunteered to monitor a
retiree While Actually Employed group.
I am aware that the community itself is
new, and I look forward to being one of
the monitors on this particular group.
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Charles William Thomas
Philip Shenon begins his recent book,A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret His- tory of the Kennedy Assassination , with a
focus on the 1965 reporting fromMexico
City by FSO Charles WilliamThomas,
whose all-too-short career in the Foreign