Q&A with Marjorie T. Hansen

Brave Warriors, Humble Heroes is a gripping journey into the Vietnam War that was written by Marge Hansen as a tribute to Charlie, to all his brothers in arms that served in the Vietnam War, and to all the families who waited at home. Many of the important questions that have been asked about the book are in Marge's answers in the Q&A.

Brave Warriors, Humble Heroes: A Vietnam War Story is an absorbing story of one of the most divisive and turbulent periods in our nation’s history. What motivated you to write this remarkable, intensely personal true story?

When I discovered a story unfolding in Charlie’s letters from the Vietnam War, I realized I had a valuable piece of history I needed to share as our country continues to heal from the Vietnam War. My life with Charlie was a love story that spanned oceans—filled with faith, hope, and love that perhaps could bring comfort and reassurance to those who have shared similar experiences as they have endured the loneliness and sacrifices brought on by war. I knew I needed to include Charlie’s letters along with my personal, private thoughts. I felt an urgency to keep Charlie’s legacy alive for my family and to write about our brave warriors and humble heroes. The story became a tribute not only to Charlie but to all of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War, the families who waited at home, and all those voices that have not been heard. My hope is the book will lead to a new, fresh dialogue on Vietnam veterans’ health care, an overhaul of Agent Orange claims, and care for military dependents that were exposed to Agent Orange at the USAF bases in Thailand during the war.

Was this an easy story for you to write?

While it was painful at times to relive the life I had lost, I was uplifted by the memories of the incredible life I had with Charlie—filled not only with enduring love. There was excitement, adventure, danger, foreign travel, and lots of fun. Women in the early ‘70s didn’t travel around Southeast Asia alone during the war. I was locked in a dark, dirty room in an airport in South Vietnam suspected of being a spy! And only a handful of us would dare join our husbands in a war zone at a remote jungle area on the Laotian–Thailand border, surrounded by North Vietnamese sympathizers and enemy insurgents. Would I take that risk again? You bet I would. During war there is such intensity knowing there is no promise of tomorrow. Whatever risks I had to take to be with Charlie I took. I love history, research, and writing although I never considered writing a book until after he died. I had planned to submit my Thailand adventure to Stars and Stripes but never found the perfect words to describe being in a war zone and living in a combat crew trailer while Charlie flew combat missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trial in Laos in an AC-119K Stinger gunship barraged by heavy anti-aircraft artillery every night. What stories I have to tell my grandchildren now. My favorite story to tell is Charlie’s story. Yes, it was an easy story to write.

You have introduced some provocative and controversial issues in the epilogue of your book. Why talk about Agent Orange now—forty years after the end of the Vietnam War?

I was a witness to history at Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand (NKP), in 1972. I was there during the spraying of toxic herbicides. Information on the usage of toxic herbicides on the USAF bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War was classified until 2010 when it became available thru the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Critical health information was withheld from military personnel, military dependents, civilian workers on the bases, and the American public. Questions need to be asked and those who were affected need to be helped. That is not happening. We are an exceptional country and we do exceptional things; and I believe with visibility and a fresh new dialogue on Agent Orange, problems can be fixed. I will be overjoyed if my book makes a difference.

In your book you said, “Where Charlie saw challenges as opportunities to serve his country, I saw our brave warriors being sent into harm’s way to fight and die in a war they could not win. If the gunship missions over the Trail were to stop the trucks from getting to South Vietnam with supplies, why weren’t our warriors allowed to stop the trucks before they got on the Trail?” After forty years, has your perspective of the Vietnam War changed?

You have asked a good question. The answer is on page 214 of my book. You will find a powerful paragraph from “The Weinberger Doctrine” by John T. Correll, March 2014, Air Force Magazine of the Air Force Association that perfectly frames the aftermath of the Vietnam War: “Long after the United States pulled out of Vietnam, the memory of the conflict hung over the nation like a cloud. The armed forces left 58,178 dead there in the first war the US had ever lost—and which the nation did not fight to win.”

Do you have special memories of Charlie or thoughts about Charlie’s legacy that you would like to share?

All of my memories of Charlie are special—many I’ve shared in the book. I will always remember the joy I felt when the Stinger gunships returned safely from their night combat missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and circled the perimeter shining their lights down to expose any threatening activity around NKP. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen when I knew Charlie was onboard and would soon be back in my arms smelling like sweat, cigarettes, and avgas. Heaven!

The legacy Charlie left behind for his family is a pathway for us and for future generations to follow. His commitment to a life of service to others started when he was a young child serving as an acolyte influenced by a simple but powerful verse in the Bible: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). He lived his faith by unselfishly sharing his time, talent, and financial blessings with those who needed his help. Faith, hope, and love helped define his life. Charlie’s legacy will live on forever in Brave Warriors, Humble Heroes: A Vietnam War Story.