This an excerpt from an interview with Tony Goodlette, which appeared in the October Eagle Peak Quarterly. Tony is reluctant to take credit for successes that his contributions in government and the private sector have generated. With some difficulty, we pried them out of him.
Tony Goodlette is reluctant to stop working. At 73, he’s finally put in for retirement from the US State Department. He’s retired before, but after the 9/11 attacks he returned to work on security issues to protect State Department facilities from terrorists—including personnel and civilian visitors. He’s also a 37-year member of and senior leader within the SGI-USA Buddhist organization. His practice of Nichiren Buddhism has helped in surviving and transcending a variety of challenges to his health while contributing to successes in the workplace and the community.
Quarterly: You spent eight years in Vietnam, from 1967 to the fall of Saigon in 1975. That’s much more than the time that most US military personnel (including the generals) spent there during the war. Tell us what you were doing all that time.
T. Goodlette: I spent the first three years in the US military. I left the country for a day and came back in the employ of a variety of consulting firms associated with other elements of the US government, as well as the US State Department.
Quarterly: Can you be more specific?
T. Goodlette: Up to a point, without naming names. As you probably know, from history books and movies, most wars offer many opportunities for people to profit illegally—selling goods, materiel or weapons on the black market. You can read examples of that in a book by June Collins, a woman met while in Vietnam. I spent much of my time combating those kinds of activities working for a major defense contractor associated with a federal agency that will remain nameless. I worked closely with the US military, security and law enforcement, civilians and South Vietnamese government officials.
Quarterly: You were there until the fall of Saigon and helped evacuate people in 1975?
T. Goodlette: Yes, a very difficult and traumatic time. Over the course of six days, with limited sleep, I ensured the safe evacuation of hundreds of American families and South Vietnamese from various locations within the country.