Serendipity can be a wonderful and awesome thing. If you’ve seen Re:Union, you might recall that there’s a scene that includes mention of a postage stamp issued in 1965 by North Vietnam. The stamp bears Norman Morrison’s image, since he became an instant folk hero in that country. To this date, we’ve only ever seen this stamp online. But read below how someone stamp collectors in Vancouver have a rare connection to Re:Union and Norman Morrison.
October 26, 2011
Dear Mr. Devine,
My name is Bob Ingraham, and I’m the Past President of the BC Philatelic Society. Yesterday I attended a meeting of the executive of the society. The president handed me a postcard advertising your play, Re:Union, knowing that I would be interested. Our vice-president, Trevor Larden, who also has an interest in the subject of your play, also got a card.
Trevor could tell his story better. In a nutshell, he travelled briefly with Norman Morrison and his wife in the eastern Mediterranean in the early 60s, and has a photograph he took of them.
Trevor and I were attending a "Show & Tell" meeting of our stamp club one night, when I happened to show a North Vietnam stamp commemorating Norman Morrison's self-immolation. I don't recall Trevor's exact (and loud) words, but they were along the lines of "Good God! I don't believe it!" He had not previously been aware of the existence of the stamp. He went on to explain how he had travelled briefly with Norman Morrison and his wife, and that he had a photograph of them which he had taken.
Since that time, I have obtained a North Vietnam Red Cross cover posted to the South African Red Cross [which has] one of the Norman Morrison stamps. It’s probably not a rare cover, but it's certainly not common, either. I've attached it to this email.
A note about my political background. When I joined the U.S. Navy in 1962, I naively thought that the world was at peace. I was almost a "born again anti-communist," having been effectively brainwashed by my teachers and by a Catholic priest who held public anti-communist rallies.
I am a Vietnam veteran. I served as a hospital corpsman with the U.S. Marines in Quang Ngai Province from Jan. 28, 1966, until March 5th of the same year, when my company was ambushed by elements of an NVA regiment. My platoon commander was the first casualty, although he was not killed. By the end of the battle, my company counted 10 killed and 20 wounded. I was one of the wounded; early in the battle, an NVA bullet hit me above my right knee and nearly tore off my leg.
At the time of my landing in Quang Ngai, I still believed that I was fighting for freedom for the Vietnamese people and protecting my country from communism. Within about 24 hours, I decided I had been duped. I understood clearly that the U.S. was simply wrong about Vietnam. The South Vietnamese people didn't need to be protected from the communists as much as they needed protection from their own government. They needed decent food and medical care and schools more than they needed U.S. military intervention. In addition to nearly losing my life and the "pound of flesh" that the military took, I lost my allegiance to the U.S. After graduating from the University of Missouri, I took a job in Ottawa; both my wife and I are now Canadian citizens, although in truth I don't feel much allegiance to Canada or any other country. This country just happens to be one of the safer ones to live in, and one which doesn't feel the need to be the biggest bully on the block.