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STAND DOWN

By Gerald D. Peavy
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE
DEDICATION
CHAPTER ONE Alaskan Baby Boomer
CHAPTER TWO School of Hard Knocks
CHAPTER THREE Join the Navy, See the World
CHAPTER FOUR Leaving the World
CHAPTER FIVE Welcome to Hell
CHAPTER SIX Sanctuary
CHAPTER SEVEN No Real Freedom
CHAPTER EIGHT Acts of God
CHAPTER NINE Stop the Madness

 

PREFACE

The war in Viet Nam was many things to many people. Some called it a “Conflict." Many had no idea what was going on, including those that had the “Opportunity” or rather the “Misfortune” of participating in it.

In any case, it was very real to those involved, and the casualties were more than the dead on both sides, more than the physically wounded. Perhaps, the most over looked, most misunderstood, are the ones who walked away unscathed and carry feelings of guilt for surviving.

This book is not your run-of-the –mill war story. You won’t find the usual story of the kid who came from his home town into the service to his country, went to Viet Nam, fought many detailed battles, learned to smoke, cuss, drink, smoke dope, visit prostitutes and come home a man. Not Quite.

If you read on, maybe you’ll learn why you are who you are, why you lived to talk about it, and realize that it’s finally time for you to “stand down.”


 

DEDICATION

To Jesus, Son of God, my Lord and savior. To my Mother and Father, Adrian and Bertha, who brought me into this; thanks for your prayers. Lisa Leonard, who didn’t even know me, but prayed for me every night I was in Nam. , Uncle Charles Miller and Aunt Marge, “Auntie Mae” Titus, Grayce M. Lyon, my adopted Mom and prayer warrior. To my wife Sherry, Daughters: Casey, Holly, Evelyn, Amy, my son Stephen, and to all who were in “The Nam.” We did all we could. I know we gave our best. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must first believe that He is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (KJV Hebrews 11vs.6).

 

CHAPTER ONE
Alaskan Baby Boomer

 

Being a post world war II “Baby Boomer” I was privileged to grow-up in Alaska, the only son of a white man and an Eskimo woman. To understand where we are going, we must understand where we came from. For me, this would take me half a lifetime. For the first few years of my life I was the victim of numerous childhood diseases, one right after another. I remember being so skinny that I could lie on my back, suck my stomach in and stick both of my hands up under my rib cage.

First, I remember the mumps; I got them on the left side one week, next week on the right side and the following week, on both sides. German measles followed the next winter, followed shortly thereafter by a relapse. Next came chicken pox in quick succession. To say I was a sickly child is putting it mildly. During this time I experienced what I thought was a recurring “dream.” Each time this happened I could feel myself fighting my way through what looked like dark green sponges. I could not breathe and about the time I could take no more, I would break out into the open and catch my breath. Next, I would see myself curled up at the feet of a man in a white robe. He had a brown beard and a gold band around his mid section. It felt so good to be there. About the time I started feeling good, I would hear a powerful voice saying, “Go Back." I would have to fight my way back through the sponges, and would wake up in my sick little body, gasping for air.

During most of this time of sickness, my parents gave me aspirin to keep my raging fevers down, nothing was known at that time about its side effects with the flu, and I was to find out years later about my dyslexia and learning disorder.

At about eight years of age, I started to get healthier and started gaining some weight. That summer I put on swimming trunks and was so proud that I was no longer skin and bones. I even walked around the neighborhood in the rain just to show off my newfound health. Physically I was doing all right, but I was really having trouble in school. Placed in a special education class, the teacher would tell me to read a paragraph and then tell her what it said. I could read every word, but I couldn’t put it all together. My best friend’s aunt did all our homework for us while we went outside and shot bb guns. No way could I begin to comprehend my times table in math.

My mind was never idle, however and I was continually counting everything; axles on cars, telephone poles, trees, rocks on the side of the road, anything! As a “latch-key kid” I spend a lot of time home alone listening to the radio. Music really interested me and I would memorize everything I heard, including the jingles. Dad brought a new Gibson guitar in 1955, with an amplifier and told me never to touch it. As soon as he left, I picked it up and started to play and sing, “How much is that doggie in the window?” Having a short attention span, I never played it again for four years.

Throughout this period of time, my mom would take me to church on Sunday quite a lot. The man called Jesus in the Sunday school literature was a familiar face to me as I had seen him in my dream. I thought everyone knew him because I did. Upstairs in the sanctuary, a different kind of church was going on. I heard fishing and hunting stories and how we should treat one another as we would like to be treated. They did not talk about Jesus. Maybe gown ups didn’t know Him because Jesus loved only the lambs?

School was not the only thing with which I had trouble. Relationships with other people were a constant, frustrating problem. Many times, I would have someone that I never knew come up and tell me “I hate you!” Sometimes it was: “He was looking at me dirty.”

One time I was walking down an alley on my way home from school. I was about eight years old at the time. There were three young girls that I never saw before going into their house through the back door. All I did was look at them and continue on my way. The next thing I knew my dad came home and was really mad and he wanted to know what had happened and said that I was supposed to have done something to some girls. I had no idea what he was talking about and we went down town to the Police station, which, in 1954 was nothing more than a small office. It had plenty of windows so the whole town could see what was going on, besides everyone could recognize our car. One of the three girls and her mother arrived and after much hollering by my dad and the mother’s questioning, the girl finally said that I really had done nothing but look at them. I started to fear my dad's anger. His words were to wound my heart many times.

Another thing was that many people would look at me and say, “I know what you are thinking, and you’re wrong." That probably was the one that perplexed me most, since they were always wrong and I usually was just daydreaming.

One night after dinner several kids showed up at my house and wanted to see the “Eskimo." My mom came up behind me and wanted to know what was going on and I just told the kids that no Eskimo lived here and closed the door. At eight years of age I found out that I was half Eskimo, half white. I had no idea who the Eskimo people were and I started to wonder who I was and if something was wrong with me. I was caught between two worlds now, and didn’t really fit in either of them. Somehow, I knew that there was a connection between mankind and the man in the white robe, but I didn't know what it was yet.

The next summer I went with my mom to the village of Wainwright, Alaska where she was born, almost 1,000 miles north of Anchorage, 90 miles Southwest of Point Barrow. We flew out of Anchorage to Fairbanks stayed overnight, left the following day for Barrow in a DC-3. The twin-engine airplane was slow and we flew through the Brooks Range, not over it at 35,000 feet as they do today. I thought I could almost reach out and touch the mountains as I counted every peak and valley. We could look down and see moose and bears on the tundra. Further north we encountered lakes and ponds so numerous that I finally gave up counting.

Point Barrow at that time was crude by today's standards. There was no running water and people tossed their “honey buckets” into the streets where small troughs lazily carried the waste toward the Arctic Ocean. Playing in the streets was out of the question, so we ran to the tundra where I discovered a world all its own.

To get to Wainwright we flew in a small Cessna 180 and in about an hour we landed on the beach at low tide. The mail, baggage and whatever else, was unloaded and quickly removed to the general store. There were very few houses in the village, some tents and several sod houses, all connected by boardwalks or 55 gallon drums, half buried in the tundra, side by side, to hop from one to the next.

Sort of a "main drag" consisted of a half dozen small schools houses in a row with one of them converted to the US Post Office with a Dutch door, through which business was transacted. The two biggest buildings were the two story general store and the Presbyterian Church which had a bell on top and an organ inside which was operated by pumping air with two foot pedals. The first thing I noticed was that the choir sang every song as loud as they could and at the top of their range! When I would return thirty years later, the music still sounded the same and it touched my heart.

Electricity was found only at a large house converted to a movie theater and every Friday they had a new movie to watch. One of my uncles would call everyone to the movie by pounding on an empty oxygen cylinder with a hammer. Ten cents for kids and fifteen cents for adults would fill up the small room very quickly where we would watch such films as “King Kong”, “The Titanic” or “The Thing." These were all originals and in black and white, not color. We would all sit quietly when the film ran out half way through and my uncle would rewind the first reel and start the second half. He always rewound each reel at the end because the film would be sent to the next village on the first available airplane.

This was rather an adventurous time for me as a young boy. We stayed at my Grandfather’s house, which he built himself out of shiplap, salvaged from an ice bound, crushed sailing ship in 1925. It had an old cook stove heated with coal washed up on the beach or carried thirty miles by dog sled from coal fields in the Interior.

Every year in August, a large supply ship called “The North Star” would arrive and supplies would be ferried to the beach where everyone would give a hand and carry the goods to the general store. All hands were paid by the pound and a log was kept on everyone. During the month that I was there, I earned $3.45 and thought I was rich!

One of my cousins, whom I had played with most of the time I was there, walked up to me and said, “I hate you,” and proceeded to rake eight sharp fingernails across my cheeks. Being in a different culture hadn’t changed my luck for finding people who hated me.

One day, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter arrived and anchored offshore. An Officer and an enlisted man came ashore looking for fresh meat. My grandfather made a deal and the next day found me and my grandfather headed for the ship in a large skin-covered boat, called an Oomiak. Wood framed, covered with four walrus hides and powered by a ten horse Johnson outboard, fresh reindeer meat was headed for the ship at thirty miles per hour. For our meat, we received three or four cases of canned whole milk, some dried mustard, pilot bread crackers, spaghetti noodles, a large tin of coffee and a small tin of Prince Albert pipe tobacco.

My grandfather was a very gentle man who never spoke English above a whisper. Upon waking at 5:00 a.m. I would hear him praying in the Eskimo language. When he finished he would light up his pipe for one bowlful of Prince Albert. His day ended with prayer and one bowlful of Prince Albert. I wondered if God heard his prayers.

The following summer found mom and me in Wainwright for one more month. When it was time to return to Anchorage, our little T-craft airplane struggled in wet sand as the tide was coming in and smiling faces showed up and strong backs pushed against the struts to force our craft into the wind and free of the sand that held us. The pilot circled the village and “waved with his wings.” I looked at the village and it seemed so small against the vast Tundra. Some people still lived in sod huts year-round. I watched my grandfather walk across the Tundra towards his destiny and I flew on to mine. I was saddened to leave and would not see this village again for thirty years.

When I got back to the subdivision in Anchorage, the neighbor kids looked so white and clean. My white girlfriend said I really looked like an Eskimo now. I was different from white people. I looked at her and wondered what I had seen in this freckle- faced kid.

Being raised on the streets of Anchorage was an education in itself! The main street was about ten blocks long and had one-hundred and twenty-six bars and nightclubs that stayed open until 5:00a.m.everyday of the week. Almost everyone was known by sight and there were quite a few characters for a town of about fifty-thousand people. There was no fear of my being kidnapped and nobody locked their doors at night. Once a year, the commercial fishing season ended and the fisherman would come to town with all their money. Most of them were broke in just a few days, their money spent on wine, women and song!

Alcoholism was rampant and so was tuberculosis. I remember some of the names of infamous people that my folks always talked about: T.B. Sally, Russian Jack, Crippled Tommy, Two-fingered Paul, Cock-eyed Ida Mae, T-bird Tommy, Johnny Guitar, Caribou Pete, to name a few! Many times I would walk through the alleys and smell the stale booze and cigarette smell that permeated the entire downtown area, wondering if this was all there was to life. It seemed that everyone was drunk and that I was destined for the same plight.

The scene in Alaska was rapidly changing about the time statehood arrived in 1959. The economics were unstable, jobs were scarce. My family moved around a lot and I went to many schools. The loneliness continued to be a real part of my life. Something inside me was very empty, missing. My dad forbade me to learn the Eskimo language, even to return north again. He wanted me to speak “good English”, not halted English like a dumb native. He was unknowingly setting the stage for my inferiority complex. He did teach me to develop my talent for guitar and singing and told me I could always make money using it. This was to prove true in the not too distant future.

Growing up in Alaska during territorial days, the summer of 1959 found me and my folks headed for Fairbanks, Alaska, some 350 miles to the North of Anchorage. Mom drove a 1953 Cadillac and dad drove in front of us in a 1935 Ford pick-up with the second gear missing. Everything we owned was in those two vehicles and we were not cramped for space! We wound up living in a hastily converted garage the whole summer, no lights, no running water. After the schools opened in September we moved into the house out front of the garage that the landlord had vacated. Again, no water, but we did have electricity. Heat was provided by a coal stove in the kitchen, which if it went out during the night, really got you going in a hurry in the morning! The outhouse in back would not get anyone going, especially at minus fifty degrees below zero!

Dad got a job working in a nightclub on the edge of town, using a guitar and amplifier bought on credit from Sears and Roebuck. Dad sang and played guitar for tips only, since the owner couldn't afford to pay him anything! This lasted until mid-winter when dad decided we had to move back to Anchorage. We were in dire straights! A friend of Dad’s had a tractor- trailer rig and dad drove the old Ford pickup into the back of it, using the old loading docks down a the train station where coal was sold. We left town with our old Cadillac following the semi truck. The only money we had to our names was $3.45 left over from my school lunch refund. Strange, there's that amount again, hmmm.

About half way to Anchorage, we ran into an avalanche blocking the road. The temperature was about 50 degrees below zero with blowing snow. Dad’s friend left his truck and sat in the back our car with my cousin, Rachael, who was spending the school year with us, having come down from Point Barrow. During the next twelve hours, the oil light would come on in the Cadillac and dad would pour seal oil from a five gallon can into the crankcase. Now, to an Eskimo, seal oil is about as valuable as gold! They use it to store and dip their frozen fish, frozen caribou and whatever else is available to them. It is quite a delicacy, and mom must have visualized many great meals going down the drain, but in the Native way, she never complained.

A “Road Commission” crew found us about noon the next day and they had to chip off an ice shield engulfing the entire car about four inches away from the body of the car, before they could open any door. Mom and Dad and I were unconscious in the front seat but came- to when the fresh air hit us. Dad’s friend Miley and my cousin were unaffected in the back seat and I looked back to see Miley eating a liverwurst sandwich! I tried to heave but nothing came out. Later, in Anchorage, dad sold the Cadillac to a mechanic who did an overhaul on it. When he took the pistons out they fell apart in his hands. The seal oil wasn’t the best lubricant but it kept us from freezing to death that night.

Dad soon formed a band of his own and played music in one of the many night clubs nearby. That lasted the rest of the winter and the following fall, we moved again to a house a few blocks away, it was part of the job deal dad made; he delivered fuel oil all that winter, one of the coldest on record.

The following spring, dad bid on, and won, a contract with the State of Alaska to maintain campgrounds, fourteen of them, stretching over a thousand miles of highway. We cut firewood, hauled garbage, cleaned and supplied out -houses with toilet tissue and worked harder than I ever had in my life. One day we found a tree that had fallen from erosion on the riverbank at Salcha River campground, south of Fairbanks. It was about eight feet thick through the trunk and was in the way of the road through the campground. With dad cutting it up with a chain saw and me splitting the wood, together we stacked over eight cords of wood in one afternoon. When we returned the next day to pick up the wood for the rest of the campgrounds, the entire stack was gone! May the Lord reward you for your works, thief.

One night, after an especially exhausting day's work, we pulled into a gas station a few miles north of Delta junction. I went in and bought two Mounds candy bars. I came back to the truck and gave one to dad and I tore the wrapper open on mine and started to chew. I commented that it was the toughest candy bar I had ever bitten into. Then, I noticed that I hadn't removed the brown piece of cardboard from the bottom of the candy! This was after I had already swallowed the cardboard. I never saw my dad laugh harder!

That fall we moved to a small house 39 miles Northeast of Anchorage, near Palmer, Alaska. This time we had electricity, a wood stove and running water: a stream that ran past the back of the rear bedrooms! Here we lived until mid-semester of my junior year in high school.

Back in Anchorage in mid-winter, we moved into a house with running water, flush toilet but no electricity! We did not stay there very long and soon moved to a beautiful house where we would stay for the next six years. This house was located about eight miles from downtown Anchorage had a well for water, electricity, and oil heat and was situated on two acres of land. This location is where I would spend the happiest time of my life before my world would literally be turned upside down by events that only God could see me through.

March 27, 1964 (Good Friday) at about 5:30 p.m., my cousin Bob Thompson and I had just gotten into my car when the earthquake hit. The ground underneath us was heaving eight feet up and down. This earthquake was 8.4 on the Richter scale, which only registered up to ten. It lasted five and one half minutes. My cousin asked me if this could be the end of the world. After we had been only through about half of it, I said that it probably was the end. Half a block east of us, the ground had sunk thirty feet deep and many of the two story buildings' roofs were now even with the pavement on Fourth Avenue, which had not fallen. Over on Fifth Avenue, my friend Lee Prather was killed when the front of the J.C. Penney building collapsed.


 

 

CHAPTER TWO
School of Hard Knocks

 

Having graduated high school in the spring of 1964, I entered college in September, attending Alaska Methodist University. This was to last only one semester. My speech professor was also my counselor. I believe this woman was out of her ever-loving mind! She had taught drama somewhere in Hawaii and she actually believed she was queen Kamaha-maha! When she found out my tuition was paid for by a grant and said I would have to work for it and loaded me down with the maximum (18) credit hours. I was starting at 8:00 a.m. and my last class finished at 10:00p.m. One class was a swimming class across town and I couldn't make it back for World Civilizations in time, so the professor failed me for that class. Psychology class seemed to be divided as to who would pass and who would fail. Some kids would drop out the first week. Every time I would walk up to the professor's desk to turn in any assignment, he would look to see that my name was on it and drop it in the waste basket. Then and there, I determined to never come into this class again.

Meanwhile, my speech professor would give me failing grades on anything I would turn into her. With this kind of treatment it didn't take me long to figure out that my days were numbered there. Revenge was very sweet for me at the end of the semester. The queen Kamaha-maha sat behind her desk. Peering through horn-rimmed rimmed glasses were two blue eyes that were so cold that they looked black from where I sat at the back of the class. Her long flaming red hair looked fake for a woman who was probably in her late sixties.

One by one, the students turned in their term papers. The eyes of steel focused on me while I just sat at my desk. The class was very small, maybe ten students at best. I believe every one of them feared this woman. The tension in the classroom was almost tangible. Each student letting out a sigh of relief when they sat down after turning in their papers, all but me. "Mister Peavy, you seem to be the only one who hasn't turned in your paper. Would you care to tell us why?" Everyone sat there expecting me to turn in my paper and get my usual "F." With my most serious poker face, I said "I'm sorry, I forgot." The entire class burst out laughing except for the queen. Her face actually got redder than her hair! Thus ended my college days. I did earn ten credit hours, just two credits shy of the necessary twelve needed to stay in school. This automatically put me into a 1-A draft status with the war in Viet Nam looming in my future.

The following March I signed up for a state sponsored training class to learn how to drive gas or diesel end-dump and belly-dump trucks. When I graduated a month later, I was only given certification for end-dump truck operator, although I had passed the entire course. The teacher said I was too young to get certification for belly-dumps but I knew it was because I looked native. No other native at the graduation ceremony got full certification either. I was losing my innocence and rapidly becoming bitter.

On May 21st I got a job with the Alaska Railroad as a "gandy dancer." This was fourteen months after the great earthquake of March 27th 1964. I was on the crew of an "extra gang" that repaired track from about ten miles south of Anchorage to the Portage Glacier area some forty five miles south east of there. The first month on the job almost killed me! I had blisters on my blisters! We worked from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with lunch at 9:00 a.m. A few days we worked until 4:30 p.m. I would get off work, eat dinner and crash. During the night I would wake up with double Charlie horses in my back and try not to let anyone hear me moan. For an eighteen-year-old kid living on the boxcars, I was lonely to say the least. Most guys jumped in their cars and went back to Anchorage to drink at the bars that stayed opened until five o'clock in the morning. How some of those guys could stagger back to the work train drunk and still work as hard as we had to, I'll never know.

The camp cook and his wife were really great cooks and I ate lots of food that summer. After I got in shape I was so strong that I could move the entire track by myself after it was jacked up and ready to align. The foreman used to get a kick out of letting me fine- tune the track perfectly straight by myself!

When we got to the track south of Portage, two more extra gangs were brought in and for good reason. On this straight stretch heading towards the tunnels that lead to Seward, the track was as much as fourteen feet off center line! I mean the track was lying over the bank of the railroad bed, out into nearby ponds! With about one hundred and fifty men we had the entire section replaced in one day. This was one of the three days all summer that it didn't rain and the wind didn't blow, (I'm serious). I don’t know if all people with dyslexia are like me but I remember everything and I do mean everything, since I made my last baby bottle of milk at age two and a half! The following is one example.

In 1959, while living in Fairbanks, I saw the girl who would be my future wife, all her brothers and her dad at a grocery store. I watched them get into a green four-door Nash Rambler and drive away. Years later, I told my father- in- law about this and he sat there amazed as he verified the time and place and smiled as he remembered the car. Dyslexics are not stupid people. I believe they just process information differently than others and kick out what is not important to them. At the same time, however, where they have difficulty in one area, they excel in others.

Total recall may have been one of my strong points but not everyone enjoys my sense of humor. I love to take sentences and juggle the words around until something funny comes out of it, like: time wounds all heels, instead of time heels all wounds. One day I did this in a grocery store while my cousin Bob was with me. He was used to my doing this but said, "Too bad you can't put this to some good use." It would take me years but one day I would do just that.

In October of 1965, my career with the Alaska Railroad came to an end and when I got laid off. Only old hands got carried through the winter and not many of them. This sadly disappointed me since I loved to work outdoors and the money was good. I was thankful for this experience and the people I had met throughout the summer. I would memorize people's work boots so I wouldn't have to look up from tamping ties, in the rain, to know who they were. No one ever caught onto this and some thought I had some kind of special powers and started to stay away from me, that was no problem for me, I was getting used to being alone.

My next job found me working in a warehouse full of drafting and engineering supplies. The people here were great! I mean, I actually thought that I felt love from these people whom I had never met before. I also delivered supplies throughout town, at $1.65 per hour. This was a big cut from my railroad pay of $3.26 per hour, so, I was really surprised when my Christmas bonus was a check for $50.00! Taking this to the boss, I said that there must be some kind of mistake and tried to give it back. He said that there was no mistake and that everyone always got $50.00. Wow! A week's pay, right at Christmas! There really was a God and he loved me! My faith was increasing.

Early January 1966 found all the Christmas money gone and me and Mom at the bingo parlor trying to win some big bucks for the thrill of it. We got word from my cousin in Fairbanks that he didn't make it in College at the University of Alaska, much for the same reason I had failed in my attempt at it. He needed a ride back to Anchorage and asked if we could come get him. Even though bingo was thrilling and we had a few bucks to spend on playing it, we didn't have enough money for a trip like this. I remember playing a game of blackout. The prize was $500.00 and if you had "the wild number" in your coverall game card, you got an extra $5.00! I had almost filled up my card early in the game and sat disappointed as they called lots of numbers that I didn't have.

I was just sort of thinking and asking God if I could win this prize. Surely, no one here needed the money more than we, as this would give us what we needed to finance our trip to pick up my cousin in Fairbanks. I had 53 numbers covered needing only one more to win, the last number I needed was the wild number. To bingo in 54 numbers, the odds are over 200,000 to one. At 55 numbers, the odds dropped to about 40,000 to one.

When the 54th number was called, it was the wild number I needed! The guy calling the numbers told everyone that there must be a mistake and to sit tight while they settled the problem. The only problem that they had was when they had to pay me off in twenty-five twenties, and a five dollar bill! I started to wonder who God was and why I had won. We drove to Fairbanks to get my cousin, stayed in a nice hotel with soft beds, returned to Anchorage, checked our mail box and I opened a letter from the Department of Defense that said, "Your friends and neighbors... blah, blah, blah, blah."

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE
Join the Navy, See the World

 

At this time of history, every other draftee got chosen for the Marines, the rest went to Army infantry. I knew I didn't want either, so I went to see the Navy recruiter. Having recently had my teeth cleaned by a voluptuous blonde dental technician, her memory still fresh in my mind, I signed up for Dental Technician School in the U.S. Navy for four years. Big mistake number one. Twenty-seven guys, many whom I knew from high school got sworn in January 31, 1966 and flew immediately that night to San Diego Naval Training Center where we were all assigned to the same company. Everyone who has been through boot camp has pretty much the same experience so I won't belabor the point. But I should say that the first night there was very lonely and yet exciting for me. This was a very strange place for me to be. I mean, just the September before, ducks and geese had left Alaska on their annual migration south and here the same ducks were swimming in a channel with the pelicans! I would grow to love San Diego and return several times!

During our final weeks in boot camp, I learned that the Dental Technician School had been filled up for months before I enlisted! I can't help but think this was a put up deal: I could go to sea and chip paint for four years or I could go to Hospital Corps School. I asked what kind of school that was and was told that I would work in a hospital and change bed sheets and that kind of stuff. That sounded better than sea duty, so I signed up for that. Another mistake.

After 30 days leave in Alaska I reported for duty at U.S Naval Hospital Corps School, again in San Diego, California. This was intense training in anatomy and physiology as well as first aid, with heavy emphasis on emergency treatment of battle casualties and shipboard fires. As we neared the end of our four months training we heard more and more rumors about corpsmen getting drafted into the Marines and sent to Viet Nam as combat medics.

When final exams rolled around about half of our class failed to pass, on purpose, including me. We were marched into class and told if we failed this examination we would be court marshaled and given a dishonorable discharge. The one page makeup exam had twenty questions on it like, "What country are you living in?", " How many States?", "Are you male or female?" We all passed 100%. Thus, our fate was sealed.

Upon graduation I was assigned to the Naval Hospital Balboa, San Diego, CA, right across the ravine from our current barracks. We all got one week to report for duty so I returned to Alaska. At the end of a week, I showed up for duty minus my sea bag full of clothing. It wound up in Minnesota and I claimed it three days later. The executive Nurse Corps Officer that I reported to looked and acted like a prison warden and promptly proceeded to rake me over the coals about my sea bag and threatened to put me on report. She would be one person that I would avoid during the time I was stationed there!

I spent the next twenty-seven months working on the Sick Officers Surgical Ward. I would eventually work my way up to Senior Ward Administrative Technician. I trained everyone there, new Corpsmen and new nurses as well. I had enough free time to form a rock-n-roll band of other Corpsmen and we played at the Enlisted Men's Club, YMCA, and USO etc. I never missed a chance to take the bus to Tijuana Mexico to jam in the nightclubs. I have been there thirty times!

Once, while playing guitar there, I got electrocuted. I was singing a song and a blue spark jumped three inches from the microphone and bit me on the top lip! Friends watching me said that I left the stage about a foot off the floor. The current raced through my fingers on the guitar, down the cord to the amplifier and the amp fell on its face with the speakers blown. I felt badly that the bandleader's amp was ruined and apologized but he said not to worry as this happened all the time. The band leader's name was Carlos Santana. He made a phone call and within minutes a new Fender amp arrived and we "vamoosed."

One day, I asked a new nurse, who had a very pretty smile, if she wouldn't mind getting up off her duff, stop flirting with all the young officers and kindly do some work on the ward. With great indignation she said she couldn't believe I was talking to her this way and if I persisted, she would put me on report. I said if she did, the truth would come out that she wasn't doing her job as I could prove it. Another big mistake! One week later I had orders for Viet Nam.

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR
Leaving the World

 

I always thought of Camp Pendleton, California as a Marine Corps base, which is exactly that. I had no idea that I'd ever wind up there at Field Medical Service School, training for duty in Viet Nam with the Marines! Since I had already been in the Navy for two and one half years, I had made E-4 in rank by that time, so had all the rest of the Corpsmen. The Marines saw to it that we did get some exercise and learn basic battlefield nomenclature, and various weapons training. Every evening at 4:30 p.m. after our two mile run, a couple of us Corpsmen would walk across from the barracks to the service club and scarf down big hamburgers and fries. This added to my weight problem that I acquired during my duty at Balboa. When I left for Viet Nam, I weighed 230 pounds!

This training was more or less just indoctrination in to the war. The Marine Corps was structured and to familiarize us with field procedures, we learned how to clean rifles that were no longer used in Viet Nam and how to board troop transport ships that we were never to see. A couple of Corpsmen wanted me to chip in for gas money and go with them for weekend liberty. I said no and these two went without me and never came back. I could feel for them and understand why they deserted since Corpsmen were taking very heavy casualties in Viet Nam. Upon graduation, we all received a new classification as Field Medical Technicians and as our jet left California, we proceeded to uncertain fates in Viet Nam.

It was very quiet in the airplane except for the rush of the engines and I felt like we were going into a long dark tunnel that some of us would not return from alive. We refueled in Seattle and flew directly to Yakota, Japan, bypassing our refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska, my hometown. The monotony of this Flying Tiger Airlines flight was only interrupted once when we were served a continental breakfast. It consisted of a cup of cold coffee, a cold hot dog, on a dry hard bun with nothing on it. This must have fulfilled their contract requirement to provide food and beverages on the flight. We were allowed to de-plane in Japan as long as we didn't wander off. None of us knew where we would have escaped to but I'm sure we all thought of it as we looked at the rain pouring down outside. A few hours later we landed in Okinawa and when I took my first step outside, the humidity took my breath away and instantly soaked my gabardine uniform! My first thought was "I'm not going to make it!"
We were loaded on buses and transported to Fatima Air Force Base for one week of acclimatization and inoculations. After standing in line all day waiting for more shots, many of us would go to the N.C.O. Club (for non-commissioned officers) and stand in line for beer. Guys would buy two beers at a time so they wouldn't have to stand in line again. By the time they finished their first beer, the second one would be warm and many untouched beers were left on a table by the exit. One night, a few of us wound up broke and sitting by all this beer. We thought, what the heck, we're dead anyway and proceeded to lay into this stock pile.

In the morning at roll call, I opened my eyes but there was absolutely no thoughts coming to my mind. I was in a top bunk bed and during the night, I had thrown up all over the boots and clothing of the guy beneath me. As he came to, I told him "I don't know who I am but tell them I'll be in the shower!" That’s where I stayed for forty-five minutes until my mind started to work and the throbbing in my head took over. At the end of the week, we all boarded C-130 aircraft for our last leg of our journey to Danang, Republic of Viet Nam.

Every story is alike but different, i.e. places, names, faces, dates, details all are part of the overall picture, and only your experience will be unique to you. For me, my tour in Viet Nam left me bewildered, angry and feeling guilty for having survived. For years after my return to "The World", I carried many suppressed emotions. Left untreated, they were allowed to fester; a wound that would not heal. Men handle stress differently than women do; men are not supposed to cry. Men have to have a macho image, we are all taught this throughout our lives and we believe it. Remember hearing that "we should never talk religion or politics?" Both of these should be discussed because we need to know who will govern us now and prepare for where we will spend eternity.

Viet Nam was both political and spiritual. Politics got us into the battle between good and evil. Most of the G.I.s that went to 'Nam believed we were the good guys, I know I did. The N.V.A. and V.C. were the bad guys to us and I'm sure they thought the same about us. You've heard it said, "there are no atheists in canoes.” I wonder how many men on both sides started to wonder who God is, while in the bottom of a trench or while their chopper was going down.

Most Marines I fought with had some sort of "Religion”, they couldn't help it. America was founded with a belief in God. Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion and our money says, "In God We Trust." I was not prepared physically, mentally nor spiritually for the next eleven months, and seventeen days. The life following this period is what this book is all about. If you are still looking for answers and need inner healing, read on. The best is yet to come for you. 

 




CHAPTER FIVE
Welcome to Hell

 

Danang in early July can definitely leave a bad impression on an Eskimo from Alaska! The tailgate on the C-130 opened and I stepped out onto the asphalt and it sank about a half inch under my weight. The heat was like a blast furnace! Again, I had the same thought that I had in Okinawa "I’m not going to make it!" If this wasn't hell, it was a close second. I looked around at the mountains and wondered why "gooks" weren't shooting at us, surely they could see us! I was already paranoid! Every minute, a fully loaded F-4 phantom jet screamed past us on take-off. I wondered if the pilot was escaping the heat as he ascended. In a few minutes the C-130 was refueled and we all got back inside for a ride to Quang Tri.

As soon as we took off, hydraulic fluid started to leak all over everyone. Back to Danang and a night in transient quarters. I never knew what bed bugs were until I woke up a couple of hours later. They had a field day on both my thighs. It looked like someone had put out fifty cigarettes on each leg! I got out of the bed and went over to a wall and sat down. The humidity at night, along with the heat, made me look forward to the daylight with what hope I could muster. The next day we made it to Quang Tri and sat around outside a" hooch", waiting for our assignments. As Corpsmen were assigned they said their good-byes. Most were already gone by the time they got to me. I grit my teeth and lit a cigarette as I was told I was going to "Alpha-One-Nine, the Walking Dead." Many viewed this company as the worst assignment.

A-1-9, 3rd Marine Division just happened to be the same guys that had a listening post, four hundred meters outside the perimeter at KHE SAHN. Surrounded by 60,000 fresh N.V.A. regulars, these guys had earned the reputation of die-hard Marines. They had taken heavy loses and the platoon I would be joining was only a remnant of what it was supposed to be. The new guys were supposed to have a week of getting acclimatized. We spent three days filling sand bags. On day four, our Senior Corpsman at the rear battalion aid station "cut us some slack" and sent us out to the field to join our units. Now, for someone who could read maps and was supposed to know which way was up, for the life of me, I was disoriented everyday in Viet Nam. It seemed that the sun shined straight down. Finally, I quit asking which way North was because the company commander or platoon sergeant thought I was kidding. Being dyslexic, this information probably wasn't needed anyway!

About an hour's drive by jeep, I joined the platoon at a river and a helicopter was leaving with a dead Marine. He had been killed the night before by our own troops when coming in off of patrol. Our company had only one other Corpsman, Doc Stevens (George) a tall guy with glasses, from Minnesota. He shook my hand and stared at my 230 pounds of flab and said "you won't have that long." Sometime during the night I was awakened to stand a two hour radio watch. I was really beginning to hate this place! I was thinking about going to sleep, what the heck, what could they do, send me to Viet Nam? Just then, a big, big, big, BIG rat came hopping around looking for food. I thought of shooting it with my .45 but it ran off into the moonlight covered bushes. I would always hate the nights here and that would never change.

The next morning we "mounted up"(prepared to leave) and I received a couple of mortar rounds to carry, two hand grenades, five meals of canned C-rations, four-one quart canteens, along with my other gear I received back at the rear area: Helmet, flack jacket, pistol, two extra magazines, poncho, poncho liner, seven pair of socks, entrenching tool and my "unit one." This was my field medical kit, which contained, scalpel, sutures, morphine, scissors, antibiotics, big anti-malarial pills, little anti-malarial pills, syringes, needles, band-aids, gauze, a blood volume expander called serum albumin, a two liter bottle of dextrose and sugar water, adhesive tape and battle dressings. I carried at least this much everyday, sometimes more.

Now, I want to go on record as stating that I may be the only Navy Hospital Corpsman who served with the Marine’s in combat in Viet Nam and never used a single battle dressing! Not that anyone ever got wounded while I was around, quite the contrary. I believe God had his hand on me all the time I was in 'Nam. Oh, one more item was in my backpack: a small black Bible that my mother gave me.

By the time we were ready to go, I took one step and my knees actually wobbled from my burden! The half -mile to the highway seemed like five miles to me. When we got there I took two salt tablets and washed them down with a Coke I bought from a kid near a village. The tablets went down and came right back up just as fast and lie in the dust at my feet. This was the only time we ever came close to any civilians. Most of the time we were in heavy jungle a month at a time.

We boarded trucks and were bound for my first operation. As we drove down the road at a rapid pace, a mortar round exploded behind our truck. The "Gooks" had the road zeroed in, but their timing was off. No one got excited but me.

When we got to our destination, everyone took off rapidly from the road, leaving me to stand alone, below a huey chopper with twin .30 caliber machine guns aimed at me. No one told me that the Marines don't wait around after being dropped off; the gooks might have this drop zone zeroed in too. I think the guys flying the chopper had trouble identifying me, an Eskimo with military glasses, new uniform and loaded with munitions, standing by myself away from my company.

After what seemed like too long, I just started walking toward my company and the chopper left. It took me probably ten minutes to find the tail end of my company, and they didn't even miss me! I wondered how many of our guys got captured because of this type of operation. Anyway the push was on and I could hardly keep up, so one guy took it on himself to show me some mercy and walked along with me. We caught up with everyone about the time heat exhaustion hit me.

At first my arms went numb up to my shoulders and I collapsed and started to hyper-ventilate. The Senior Corpsman had a couple of" grunts" help me to some shade under a poncho and Doc Stevens put a wet towel over my face. In a couple of minutes I started to breathe more normally. I took it easy for the rest of the afternoon, as we were through "humping the hills" for today at least. I really hated this place!

The next day we came across some small holes in the ground near a tree line. They were much too small for a guy my size and I asked if we shouldn't throw a grenade or two into them, just in case. I was told that they were old holes and probably not in use. So we went a little further, probably two hundred yards and started to dig in for the night.

I had dug my foxhole about knee deep and was resting on the edge of it with my feet inside. It is said that you never hear the round that gets you. Suddenly, something exploded directly behind me and knocked my helmet off my head. I followed it down into the hole, put it back on and looked over the top of my hole. Another explosion hit about fifty feet from the first one directly on line to me. I thought that the next one would be a direct hit on top of me, but it landed downhill from me, a fragment hitting one of our ARVN (Army of the republic of Viet Nam) soldiers in the right forearm. Another ARVN rushed to his side just in time to get hit by another round. Our Senior Corpsman, HM2 Hickam came to their aid and he got wounded in his left forearm!

The Mortar rounds stopped and by the time I got to the wounded, they already had a field dressing on their wounds. , except for the ARVN that ran out to help his friend. We took his flack jacket off and he had two small red spots, no bigger than a BB gun would make, only the shrapnel had hit both kidneys, killing him instantly. I walked back uphill to see what had blown my helmet off and found the remains of 60 mm motor, fins still intact. It was no more than four feet from my hole, yet I had no wounds! I can't explain the way I felt but it seemed that whoever God was, He was with me that day. The mortar fire had come from the tree line we had just walked through and from that time forward, everyone listened to what I had to say. This would prove to be a blessing more than once.

For someone who had total recall, I cannot explain how I could only remember a small part of the time I spent in Viet Nam, other than to say it's part of a healing process. I have talked to several Viet Nam vets, the ones willing to talk at all and they seem to share a similar experience. Hopefully this book will go beyond me, and free you of any baggage you may unknowingly still be carrying. This first operation indoctrinated me into a routine that would keep me in the field for thirty days at a time. Then we would be assigned to guard a combat base, artillery base or perhaps do a road sweep looking for land mines etc. We always wound up humping the hills in the jungle, wishing for some kind of respite to ease our misery.

My first night ambush was near Cam Lo. We were supposed to hit anything that came down Highway One, connecting North Viet Nam to South Viet Nam. This was nothing like I had heard about. We were in a horseshoe canyon with our backs to the wall, no way out and almost everyone was making lots of noise. It was totally dark, yet some guys were smoking cigarettes, a transistor radio was playing and someone told a joke that had several guys laughing hysterically. I asked someone if we shouldn't be quiet and quit lighting up cigarettes and maybe get serious about why we were there. I was told everything would be all right, because if the NVA knew we were here they wouldn't mess with us. I didn't find that very comforting. As soon as most of the platoon had fallen asleep, my two-hour radio watch came around. Nothing happened that night and in the morning we walked back to the perimeter of an "ARTY” base. This was where 175mm or 155mm cannons provided support for our troops when they needed it.

The following night found me in a fox hole down by the river with a Marine private that came up with a night vision scope. He showed me how to use it and said to wake him if anything came down the river. Ten minutes hadn't passed and I saw a man in a small boat, using a pole to push it our way. I shook my buddy, Larkin was his name, and he whispered and asked me what I wanted. He couldn't believe me, but looked through the scope anyway. Confirming what I said, he slid down in the hole and said to be quiet and let it pass. Something in this Marine's past had instilled a will to live that recognized no orders nor need to engage the enemy. I would see a lot of this. We "owed it to ourselves!"

After being in the bush for a couple of months, things started to look familiar, and for good reason, we were taking the same hills we had a couple of months before, holding no ground at all. This was certainly no way to win a war. About this time we got a new company commander. Fresh out of O.C.S. (Officer's Candidate School.) this guy was one of the most ignorant men I have met. Not willing to learn from experienced platoon Sergeants, he would prove to be highly unpopular and dangerous.

On our first operation with him, we were humping a ridge and across the small valley from us was another Battalion of Marines. I could see they were stopped and dug-in. I could see blonde hair on some of their heads and saw their light skin as they walked around with their flack jackets off. This lieutenant went bonkers and started shouting that there were "gooks over there" and hollered for the radioman to call in air strikes on them! After much hollering by two more Marines, one with binoculars, the Lieutenant had to agree they were friendlies. Saving lives was what I had training for but I didn’t expect this.

Tanks joined up with us and stayed until the hills turned into mountains. The morning they left, one of the tank commanders dropped off his cases of C-rations and a very large salami. The Lieutenant asked to borrow my Buck knife with a six-inch blade. I told him to be very careful, as it was razor sharp. He said he had handled knives all his life, put his left hand on the salami and proceeded to peel his whole left index finger with my knife! No one ate any of the salami.

It's my belief that by the time I arrived in Viet Nam, after the TET offensive, the North Vietnamese had been completely subdued, primarily by bombing by our B-52 aircraft. One day, we got dropped off, in God knows where, and there was nothing green or living for 360 degrees, as far as the eye could see. Bomb craters 60 feet across and 20 feet deep were everywhere. No streams flowed anywhere and only stumps and trunks of trees dotted the red dirt. The smell of dead bodies was everywhere, though none were to be found.

Our platoon pulled a daytime patrol. The Platoon Sergeant had eleven days left in- country. Another sergeant, named Troop, volunteered to go out for our Sergeant Haglund, but the Company Commander wouldn't have it. We went out of our perimeter a few hundred yards and sat down, all day, calling in phony sit-reps (situation reports). Again, the will to survive had influenced his actions. That evening we circled around to the other side of the perimeter and came in that way.

The next day we were told to check out a certain area that had trenches. When we got there, we discovered that G.I.'s had dug them, as they were too wide and deep for N.V.A. I noticed an arty base about 1000 meters away, cannons glinting in the sunlight, and asked Sergeant Haglund if they knew we were in the area. He said that the base had already been contacted, and they knew we were out here. I said I would feel a lot better if we got on the other side of this little hill we were standing in front of, and he laughed and said we were all right. I said, "NO! I have a hunch about this, so let's go now!" We no sooner got out of sight when three rounds of 175 mm came screaming down, right where we had been standing only moments before. The radioman, Corporal Rucker, called for a cease-fire from the bottom of another trench we all dove into. "Friendly Fire” had almost got us and not for the last time.

Back in CAM LO once again, we got perimeter watch. There was a large bunker with wooden bunks and also a foot of water on the floor. I tried to go to sleep on one of the bunks, but it was too hot and stuffy in there, also the mosquitoes were terrible down there. I went topside and slept on the roof.

In the morning, a red-headed Marine came over to me, in pretty bad condition, he had slept in the bunker and during the night, some ticks had decided to make their home at the base of his upper eye lashes. The only thing I could do was use the tweezers on my Swiss army knife and pluck them off, both of us with our eyes watering all the while.

Another ARVN scout joined us that day and he acted very nervous. One of the Marines brought him over to me and the ARVN asked if I was a "ROC" (pronounced rock), which is short for Republic of Korea, Army. I told him no, I came from Alaska, and that I was an Eskimo. He couldn't believe me and said, "You lie, you Rock!" and walked off mumbling something. I asked the Marine what that was all about and was told that the Koreans were greatly feared for their courage and had better watch my back. This advice would help me later.

 


 

CHAPTER SIX
Sanctuary

 

The next few months, before the monsoon season started, are one big blur to me. Jump into a helicopter, enjoy the cooler air, land, move out, hump the hills, get bitten by leeches, bitten by fire ants, bitten by mosquitoes and wasps, cuts on the arms and face by elephant grass, trip on wait-a-minute vines, get jungle rot, get diarrhea, get constipation, go around snakes coiled together, drink water from plastic canteens with sticks, mud, kool-aid and two halazone tablets in them. Bring back any memories?

The night before we were to start an operation in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), everyone had a few warm beers and some drunk Marine got on the PRC-25 radio and told the NVA how we were going to kick their butts tomorrow in the DMZ. The enemy was known to monitor all our radio transmissions. In the morning, General Westmoreland gave us all a pep talk before we left Dong Ha, about how important this operation was going to be. This was a Battalion size operation with contact imminent.

The chopper ride was over too soon. I was in the second chopper to let troops out. All of a sudden, it was getting very light inside as first-sized holes opened up all over the fuselage. The enemy was shooting at us with anti-aircraft guns! The pilot started to rock the chopper from side to side very rapidly, to give the starboard .50 caliber machine gunner a chance to shoot directly beneath us.

Looking out a port to my right, I could see about eighteen inches of the machine gun barrel as he fired. The next time the chopper rocked, I looked at the ground and saw an NVA with a pith helmet on, just as he was raising his SKS rifle. The gunner fired one round and a hole opened up in the NVA's chest and I saw daylight shine through.

The landing zone was so hot that the pilot got the tail about six feet from the top of the hill and everyone jumped off the tailgate from that height. I jumped, managed to stumble about three steps and fall down on a clump of elephant grass stubble. This maneuver cut my left index finger very deeply. We all scurried to get to what cover there was. While bandaging my finger, I saw the chopper we just left, crash on the next hill. Choppers were unloading wherever they could. Elephants were seen with NVA on then rapidly departing. We dug-in on the hilltop and roasted in the sun all day with no shade at all. About the time I thought I would die in the sun, a Marine started to pass out watermelon candy. To this day it’s my favorite candy!

That night we had movement at our listening post about 100 yards downhill and fifty yards out. A trip flare went off and caught our guys off guard. About five seconds later, they set off a claymore and beat feet back inside the perimeter. We had come up against a mighty big force and they had us surrounded. "Puff, the Magic Dragon" was called and was on location within minutes. "Puff" was a DC-3 twin-engine craft with three mini-guns, each capable of firing one thousand rounds per minute. That means it could cover every square foot of a football field in less than a minute!

We were told to get down in our fox holes and light a heat tablet so the pilot could identify our perimeter. Immediately, what looked like a lighted whip hanging down appeared. What we were seeing was a tracer every fifth round. As it got nearer, we got down in our holes and rounds were hitting within inches of our holes. "Puff" worked out for about five minutes and then flew around awhile to see if we needed him anymore. In the morning, not one body was found but you could tell that "Puff" had saved us a whole lot of heartache. My thanks go out to "Puff's" crew. What a show!

The next day, we followed the Bin Hai River that divided north and South Viet Nam for a ways, and then climbed out to a ridge on the south side, loaded with bunkers. Cooking fires were still smoldering and bamboo with rice still cooking inside the two foot sections was still on the coals.

We started to get incoming mortar fire. The first round hit in the trees farther uphill and I started to look for where the tube was popping (mortar tube used to launch the projectile). I spotted the flash just as the Company Commander came running to help. He ran up to me and said, "What are you doing? Are you hit, are you alright?" I pointed out where the tube was flashing and he radioed for some people to go silence it.

By the time I got to the top of the ridge, I wasn't feeling so well. I thought it must be the heat, down inside the triple canopy of jungle. I took a couple of salt tablets and remembered how cool and fresh the river water was and remembered that I hadn’t put the Halozone tablets in my canteens, since the water looked so clean. Big mistake.

We were walking the ridge on a well-used trail when we started to hear the rain coming though the bamboo forest. A solid wall of rain hit us so hard that mud on the trail bounced up and hit us under our chins. The rain also knocked leeches off the bamboo onto the trail. They were four inches long and as big as our thumbs! The wall of rain passed as quickly as it came and it got humid and very hot again.

The company stopped and several of us found ourselves standing on a steep gravel hillside. I saw a banana tree stump and figured that if I timed it just right; I could wind up sitting on the stump with my backpack against the hill in relative comfort. I was right. As I rested, something caught my eye down between my legs. I looked but saw nothing. Again, I noticed something so I got up, turned around and looked to see a black scorpion about eight inches long coming out of a hole I hadn’t seen. I took my helmet and started to beat it back into the hole. The guy behind me saw all this action and passed the word not to sit on that stump!

Not long after this I started to lag behind. Once again I found myself walking alone, but this time I was alone in the D.M.Z! Mustering every ounce of strength I could, I walked faster and soon caught up with the rear of the platoon which had stopped by that time and already were digging in for the night. My temperature had risen to 104 degrees by evening and Doc Stevens made arrangements for my medevac the next day.

That night was one of the darkest I would experience. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face! I had diarrhea and had to make several trips to the trench made for that purpose. Small trees, no bigger than two inches through, had two-inch spikes on them and couldn't be avoided in the darkness. Morning came with heavy fog and the Marine choppers wouldn't fly. Lucky for me, Army Air Calvary had a Chinook in the area that took me to the Hospital Ship" Sanctuary." That same night my company got attacked and Private Dan Daigle got a chest wound and died during the night. His Foxhole was not ten feet from mine. Dan was the first man that I ever gave a haircut while in the field.

The Sanctuary was quite a sight to see from our chopper. The landing pad looked too small, but our pilot had obviously landed there before. I was escorted to a ward that was air conditioned and spotlessly clean. I was instructed to throw away my stinking clothing but kept my boots. I hot shower and clean P.J.'s really boosted my morale.

I was diagnosed as "F.U.O.", fever of undetermined origin. Medication and a clear liquid diet brought my temperature down in a couple of days. On day ten, my temperature shot up to 104.3 degrees. That was my turning point and I was discharged back to my unit at Dong Ha the following morning. The time spent on the hospital ship was like a tropical vacation for me. I imagined that I was someone wealthy, walking around the decks and enjoying some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, just off the coast of hell. What a contrast!

When I hot back to Dong Ha, I found out that I was leaving my platoon and being assigned to the Forward Battalion Aid Station in Dong Ha. This should have been good duty but it was short lived. Behind us was an Army Aid Station. I had always heard that the Army traveled on its stomach and soon I would find out why. The Marines had no trouble getting a supply of beer. I would go buy a case of beer for $3.00 and trade it to the Army for a case of frozen beef steaks or a three-pound can of shrimp. One Sunday, we had steak and shrimp and beer! What a break from c-rations!

I've always had a way of being sarcastic which sometimes doesn't go over very good. One night, a few Corpsmen were playing cards and our senior in-charge, an E-6 Petty Officer named Bruce, got mad because he was losing. I said, "What's the matter Brucie-Woosie, don't like losing?" He said that if I ever called him that again he would put me on report. I said that he wouldn't because if he did I would have to tell that he was gambling with us. Within the week I was transferred to the rear area, back where I had started. I would wish many times that I was back with my old platoon.

After waiting for orders for a couple weeks, I was transferred to the Battalion Hospital in Quang TRI. This duty made me wish I were back in the bush with my hundred pound pack! Remember, back at the Naval Hospital Balboa, in San Diego, we took care of twenty-seven patients or less, with nurses and students to help us.

Here in Quang TRI, we had an air-conditioned Quonset hut with forty patients. I and one other Corpsman was all we had. We worked twelve on and twelve off, seven days a week. Some patients were receiving shots for rabies, because of rat bites. Some had malaria, but most were combat related injuries, and were awaiting transfer back to the states. Our ward could technically have been called "Intensive Care" because of the nature of wounds but lacked enough help to make the care intensive. We did the best we could, but I always felt guilty because we were so short of help. Now, don't get me wrong. I was there and saw the commitment and dedication of doctors, nurses and Corpsmen who gave there all to their patients. I'm proud to have been part of that.

One night, a Marine went into kidney failure. I called for a doctor and within moments a surgeon arrived with a couple of Corpsmen and took the Marine away. I have no idea what happened to him. I never got used to seeing someone one moment and then having him gone the next. Sometimes I knew they died and that finalized it in my mind.

Constant stress, dehydration and not eating the proper diet wound up giving me a disease called ulcerative colitis. This is usually found in old men, and the symptoms are that one's colon becomes hard and brittle and sort of like fish scales. The doctors who examined me couldn't believe that a twenty-one year old could have this. I was sent to the Hospital Ship "Repose" for further evaluation and was found to have a tear in my rectum. This would require surgery and "Sitz-baths" that weren’t available in Vietnam. The doctor smiled at me and asked if I would like to go home to America. Wow! Would I!!! Next I was sent to an Air Force hospital in Danang. The doctor there insisted on me flying out of Vietnam on a stretcher, as he didn't want me sitting for the flight to Guam. A word about Danang: When I got off the chopper, from the Hospital Ship, I literally saw "The light at the end of the tunnel." It was like the clouds opened up just for me, and a great darkness had lifted from me. I was going to live!

 

 


 

CHAPTER SEVEN
No Real Freedom

 

Although the years have dimmed my memory somewhat (so much for total recall), much of what I heard and saw still comes to mind: Incredible heat, red dirt, triple canopy, Monsoons, heat lightning, jungle rot, leeches, fire ants, bamboo vipers, rats, Great Asian wasps, centipedes, bad water, NO water, diarrhea, heat exhaustion, Elephant grass, mosquitoes, incoming, out-going, short rounds, trip flares, claymores, grenades, mortars, 175 Mike-Mikes, 60 Mike-Mikes, Phantoms, napalm, Chinooks, bunkers, night ambush, listening posts, and C-rats. Not to mention some slang we all shared:" There it is! Blown away, Burning Shitters, N.F.G., Sit-reps, The World, In country, Blouse your eyes, Blouse your trousers, Hump the hills, and especially: You owe it to yourself! "

Unceremoniously leaving Vietnam as rapidly as I did left me confused. I didn't have time or opportunity to say good-bye. On the long flight to Guam, I had trouble thinking, the jet was so loud and being strapped to a stretcher was really uncomfortable. I felt sorry for the people who were wounded and really suffering. What was hardest to believe was that the war was over for me, or so I thought.

When I got to Guam, I was surprised to see lots of B-52 bombers, the same ones that had caused so much destruction in this hemisphere. The plane load of medevac patients was sent through triage and I wound up on a ward filled with patients who were bound to leave for the U.S. of A! The WORLD!

The following day, great excitement filled the air, smiles were on every face, lots of joke telling and a new show was on T.V. "Hawaii Five O." That day I was transferred to another ward and was asked what I was doing there. My records had been lost and I spent the next two weeks waiting for something and anything to happen. I was never examined by a doctor. The nurse didn't seem to care anything about me, so I played a lot of cards, went to a movie or two, and waited.

One morning, a Corpsman tapped my arm to wake me up to take my temperature and I awoke, fist clenched and ready to strike. I had never done that before but I still have that reflex. To this day, my wife wakes me by standing in the doorway hollering at me. Finally, my orders came through and I was headed for Elmendorf Air Force Anchorage, Alaska. My hometown!

When I stepped off the plane in Anchorage, I stopped at the top of the stairs and looked around. Much of the state was on fire at that time from forest fires and wood smoke was thick and everywhere. Through the haze, I could still see the Chugach Mountains and felt the cool air surround me. I promised myself never to leave here, once I got out of the Navy. My folks came to see me the first few hours after I arrived at the hospital. I had surgery the next day and was allowed to go home and finish my treatment as an outpatient. I also got thirty days leave at that time.

I spent much of my time with my cousin Robert James Thompson, who had already been discharged from the Army, having served time in ‘Nam with the 101st Airborne at Cam Rahn Bay. We were both surprised to find out that we were labeled as baby-killers and warmongers. There was no parade to welcome Vietnam vets home, we had not "Won the war" and we began to fight a new kind of war.

Somehow, we had to fit into a society that had no understanding of what we had been through; the intensity of battle, constant worry, seeing friends hauled away in body bags, never knowing what happened to others, one day standing in a battle zone and the next you are standing on a street corner wondering what happened.

For many Vietnam vets, they just clammed up, not talking to anyone. They would carry scars, emotional ones, that no one understood, nor had time for. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a label lavishly thrown about by the medical society to brand a problem without presenting a solution for it. Many "died" in Viet Nam; they just haven't fallen down yet.

Everyone's "case" is different. For me, I believe that the U.S. government had no right to send me or any American citizen into someone else's war. I felt guilty for coming out alive. I had come home a very hard individual with no one to talk to, not that I wanted to at that time. Loneliness and anger began to work on me.

I was sitting on a bar stool in the Malamute Saloon and a guy, a little older then me, with long hair, came up to me and said, "I hear you were in 'Nam!" I thought that he was a vet too and answered that I had been there. He said, "I guess that makes you pretty tough, huh?" I asked what he wanted and he said, "What would you do if I started to mess with you?" That caught me by surprise, but I quickly said, "Go away and leave me alone, or I’ll leave you lying on the floor." He looked me over real good and slowly backed away. I vowed that nobody would ever mess with me without paying for it, dearly.

Right before my thirty-day leave was up; I took my mother to a native bazaar. She introduced me to one of her friends, Lisa Leonard. She shook my hand and said, "So, you're Gerry! I prayed for you every night you were in Vietnam." I wasn't as tough as I thought I was, because what she said hit me hard in the heart! I almost started to cry. I had never known anyone with such genuine compassion. Secretly, I wanted to be like her. I had become so hardened that this was not to be, for some time to come. I would always remember her. Nothing is stronger than love.

My last six months in the Navy was spent at the Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California. I was assigned to work in the pharmacy. At the end of the first week, everyone got off at 11:00 am on Friday, and we weren’t due back until 7:00 a.m. on Monday. Remember, I had lived in San Diego for two and one half years before going to ' Nam. Subconsciously, I must have relaxed after the stress of ' Nam because I went to sleep at 11:05 a.m. on Friday and never woke up until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday! I do remember getting up to go to the bathroom once. I made my way over to the mess hall and asked one of the food servers what day it was. Finding out it was Sunday made me feel good. Nobody had awakened me for a radio watch.

There were two nightclubs in Ridgecrest, one country, and one rock-n-roll. I got a job as lead guitarist and singer with a band at the rock-n-roll club. I spent all my free time either drinking and playing poker or playing in the band. All the guys in the band were into smoking marijuana or doing speed. My big thing was drinking as much alcohol as fast as I could get my hands on it. In fact, the guitarist that I replaced went to trial for drug dealing and got two years in the state penitentiary.

January 13, 1970 was my discharge date and I immediately returned to Anchorage, Alaska. Having no money and no job, I wound up staying at my folks place. Late January found me walking down Fourth Avenue (the main drag) in a snowstorm. My dad had been encouraging me to go and apply at this nightclub called "The Montana Club", a club that had a large native clientele and mostly country-western music. This was one rowdy nightclub! The bandstand was built behind the bar for safety’s sake, and fights were quiet common every night. I found the boss working behind the bar. He knew me from a couple years earlier when I had filled in for someone while I was home on leave. He liked my style and hired me on the spot.

This was not your ordinary GIG! The band started playing at eight o'clock every night of the week and played until 4:45 a.m., continuously. Every half-hour one of us got a half hour break. That meant switching instruments from guitar, to bass, to drums, to guitar, etc. This period of time was right before the trans-Alaska pipeline got into full swing. We got free drinks all night long. I thought I had the perfect job, but I found myself rapidly slipping into alcoholism, and I just didn't care.

There were times I blacked out early in the night, not remembering anything including how I got home. I would wake up about six-thirty in the evening and eat something, go to work and start drinking all over again. I was probably worse off than the wine-boo’s on the street. I dressed better, but my drinks came too freely and too often. When I got my one night a week off, I went out drinking and playing at other nightclubs. I also got into as many fistfights as I could.

One night I was drinking with my folks in the back of the Malamute Saloon when my dad saw a guy that he didn't like the looks of and told me someone should go bust his head. I got up off my chair walked over to the man and hit him as hard as I could on the left eyebrow and broke my hand, my left hand, the guitar playing hand. I thought I had just sprained it badly, and continued to play for ten days. It wasn't getting any better so I went and had it X-rayed and a cast put on. That put me out of work for three weeks and didn't gain me any points with the boss.

Another thing that always bugged me was that my dad was always coming into the club about once a month and getting into a fight. He seemed to live for fights, part of his Scotch-Irish heritage I guess. Again, I was in a dark tunnel with no light at the end. I was just like my dad now, angry at the world and not knowing why. This would last for over five years, same thing, night after night.

While I was in Viet Nam, I carried a small pocket Bible everywhere I went, I would try to read it every so often, but it made no sense to me. Still, I would say a prayer to the God I did not know and ask him to at least answer the prayers of those who called on him, if not mine. Something in my past kept welling up in me, some kind of hope that kept me praying. This pattern of prayer would not change for years.

One night I saw a guy who had took advantage of someone's sister while she was passed out. I walked up to him and hit him in the mouth with my right hand, and cut my hand on his eye tooth. This rapidly became infected and I went to the doctor who told me that this was life threatening. I had developed blood poisoning and a blue line was making its way up my forearm. I was given some powerful antibiotic and told to watch the blue mark. If it got any higher on my arm that night, I was to come in and they would put me on an I.V.

Well, the anti-biotic seemed to be working and my folks and I decided to take a trip to Denver, Colorado for Christmas and visit my grandmother, on my dad's side. We drove from Anchorage to Denver in three days and seventeen hours. I even got a haircut in Chyenne, Wyoming that was at the behest of my dad.

About halfway through Canada, my right hand started throbbing with every beat of my heart. The blue line started up again, too. Dad was always coming up with his home remedies and as usual he had his cure for this problem, too. He suggested that we make a "bread and milk poultice" at the next restaurant we came to. This is the recipe: take a slice of bread, soak it down with milk, sprinkle sugar on this, place the bread on a soft cloth ( in this case, one of my clean t-shirts) and tie it over the wound, this is changed daily. At first I said, "No, that’s just a bunch of crap, and it won't work," But by the second day I was willing to try anything. We finally made up a poultice and almost immediately the pain stopped. By the next day the throbbing had stopped completely and all pain was gone.

Day three, and the wound was even starting to close, swelling also had been reduced by fifty percent. When we took the poultice off the first time, it had turned completely black. Here's how it works: the staph bacteria recognize the milk, bread and sugar as a better food source than you are, and leave your body for the poultice. Excellent! Now I listen when someone has a word of wisdom for me. How many lives could be saved with just this much knowledge? In Denver I soaked my hand in Epsom salt and hot water and was totally healed in about ten days. My dad wasn't all bad after all!

Back in Anchorage, I started the same old thing of drinking, smoking two to four packs of cigarettes each night and generally messing up my life. I knew this kind of pattern was destructive but I had no hope. One night I was on the bandstand playing my guitar, I looked through the heavy smoke at all the drunken people. There were people cheating on their husbands and wives and everyone knew all this. There were cars parked outside with little kids sleeping in them while their mothers spent their welfare checks getting drunk.

I no longer heard the music I was playing and tears started to run down my cheeks, I felt very alone and thought, "God, where are you? I know you must be here somewhere." I was beginning to think that I would drink myself to death before I reached thirty years of age. I took a break and the bartender tried to give me a beer he had on ice. I told him to take it back and he asked if I was sick or something. I told him ""No, I just can't drink anymore. I'm full-up."

Driving home that morning, I looked in my blind spot mirror on my west coast mirror of my GMC pick up. I didn't like what I saw, a red bloated face with no hope in my heart. Dark rain clouds covered the Chugach range that I hadn't noticed for years and I said a prayer, maybe out loud, I don’t remember. I said, "God, if you're really there, give me some kind of sign." Immediately, the clouds opened and golden-white rays of sun light hit me in the face. At that moment I knew that the sun had only shined on me. I had my answer to prayer.

Now, don't get me wrong, my life did not suddenly get better from then on, far from it. In fact, it got worse! I began to try other drinks than beer, straight shots of whiskey, brandy, anything. Once I tried a drink called a "White Russian” made with Kailua and milk. This made me very mean and I'd go around looking for fights, holding two barstools at arms length with just my thumb and index finger, nobody took me up on my offer to fight.

About this time, I was having out-of-body experiences. I would leave my body while I was passed out and go floating around the neighborhood, making sure I didn't hit any power lines. I could even feel the cool morning fog on my face. One time I was returning to my body and I could look through the roof of my folk’s mobile home and see my dad shaking my body. I quickly returned to my body and woke up to my dad's hollering, "Are you alright, are you alright? You weren't breathing and your arms were up in the air!"

One morning I woke up to the most terrifying experience I had ever had, the front door of the trailer house was open and a powerful wind was blowing in and I knew the devil had come to take me to hell! I couldn’t move a muscle and I was terrified! Just when I thought I was gone for good, my mother came up to the door and shouted at my dad not to leave the door open. The wind stopped, the terror stopped and I stopped to think that maybe I should do something new with my life!

Through all this, most of the time I had managed to maintain my daily prayer, even if it was as simple as "now I lay me down to sleep." Because I had always been so lonely, I prayed for nine years that God would send me a wife. I didn't want one who would just walk in off of the street. I wanted the one that God would send. Now, guess what happened next? This lovely young lady walked in off the street and changed my life forever! Twenty-eight years and five children later, we are still happily married!

Being married and being a musician is not the best formula for a lasting relationship. My wife let me know that she didn't like me coming home smelling like booze. I had to make a choice, not an easy one, so I started to drink less. Things on the main drag were starting to change, and not for the better, either. Prostitutes who normally worked the streets, started to work inside the clubs. Dope dealers started showing up big time. Pimps from the lower forty eight states started to show up in pink Eldorados, black Cadillac’s, wearing pin-striped suits and Panama hats. Power struggles went down every week and bodies started appearing frequently full of double-ought buck shot.

Our band was falling apart and the music was going downhill. One night I went to the rest room and as I was coming out I brushed passed someone in the doorway to the restroom. As I was getting back on stage, the drummer said, "What’s that? It sounded like a gunshot!" I was pretty deaf from standing next to the drummer's cymbal and hadn't noticed the shot that killed the guy I had just bumped up against! Had I still been in there a few moments longer, I might have been killed too. Now, I had to do some more serious thinking.

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT
Acts of God

 

Trying to explain spiritual things, to someone who is not ready, is like putting the cart before the horse. All I can tell you is my experience from my perspective. Everyone's journey is not the same, but there are some similarities. The physical life has a beginning, usually middle and an end. The spiritual life has a beginning but no end to it. Since you have come thus far, you must be seeking some sort of spiritual awareness or have been influenced toward that end. In fairness to yourself, you must ask, "Have I been learning the truth?" This is essential for your eternal well being.

Throughout my life, I have been aware of right and wrong, not always choosing right. As one matures with age and is through "sowing his oats," his mind becomes open to positive outside influences once again. For most of us, this opening closed sometime during our youth, usually resulting in rebellion, and giving way to selfishness.

Being a naturally serious person, I took marriage seriously, too. Wanting to start a family as soon as possible, I also realized that I should assume responsibility for my family's spiritual condition too. Only one obstacle stood in the way, I had no idea how to go about this. People from various church groups were (and still are) banging on my front door, trying to get me to join their organization. I was smart enough to know that they all couldn't be telling the truth, so I slammed the door in their faces; this is good, as I hope to show you later.

Nine months after we were married tragedy struck. My wife carried our first daughter to full term and delivery, only to find the infant dead from strangulation by the umbilical cord. While my wife was still in the hospital, I returned to our small two-bedroom apartment and went into the room prepared for our baby. I knew how devastating this must be to my wife, yet this was the very first heartbreak for me. I asked God why this had to happen to us, but no answer came. I had known loneliness all my life. Now, if there was no God to answer me, how could I go on? I thought my heart would stop inside my chest, and looked forward to death, only I didn't want to meet a God that would let something like this happen.

When I returned to the hospital to get my wife, I even asked her where God was when we needed him. She too had no answer. Now I was mad! If there was a God, I would find him and give him a piece of my mind! If there wasn't, I would find that out too. So I prayed every night to a God I did not know and asked Him to give me a sign to prove that He exists.

A few months passed. My first new car, a 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2, bronze in color with a cream naugahide top and racing stripes, this was my idol, I really loved this car! It was a little over a year old by this time, with only three thousand miles on it! One night we had high winds and some of the tarpaper shingles blew off the apartment roofs. One of them landed on the driver's side windshield of my idol and scratched it very badly. I walked over to the landlord's office and asked him if they had insurance to pay for the damage to my car. He said that they had insurance but it did not cover "acts of God." This was my sign! Like in a game of chess, it was my move! Now, every time I got behind the wheel of my car I had to look around the hand-sized scratch on my windshield. This made me even more determined to find God.

One night I was up late watching television by myself and an evangelist came on talking about Jesus. His name was Dr. Jack Van Impe and I didn’t like his looks but for some reason I continued to watch his whole show. I don't remember most of what he said but at the end of his program, he wanted to pray for anyone who wanted to ask Jesus into their heart and be their Lord. He also pleaded for these same people to think about where they would spend eternity, either in heaven or in hell. Not wanting to spend eternity in hell, I prayed the words of his prayer along with him, asking for Jesus to save me from sin, forgive me, and come into my heart. I expected angels to sing, or something really exciting to happen to me, but when I was through praying, absolutely nothing happened! Now I was really confused. The following day, I told my wife what I had done, and she had no answer for me, which only added to my dismay. Still, somehow, I had a small measure of faith in me that would not let me stop my quest for God.

Now, this is very important for whoever reads this, to hang in there while I explain a few things. First, not all people believe in God. Those who do, and do not yet know Him on a personal basis; you have the best hope of finding Him, if you try! Those who don't believe may never find Him because they have already ruled him out of their lives. However, for these people, there is still a chance to find God, if they are truly fair to themselves and do an honest evaluation of who they are and see if what they have learned so far is the truth. This may be especially hard to do if you rely on what your family has always done. Tradition can be a very real trap, fueled by pressure from family because, "This is the way we have always done it!" Or, perhaps, "My father and his father's father were such and such, and if it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me!" What if these people were wrong? Is this good enough for you? I'm sure you've heard this: "I never talk politics or religion." Who taught you that? Why did they say that? What benefit do you receive from such a statement? We should talk about who we want to be our leaders while we are here on earth, and we should talk about where we are going to spend eternity.

Ignorance is not an insulting word, but it is a sad one. Ignorance means one is not informed. It doesn't mean that someone is dumb or stupid or cannot learn. It means you lack the facts or knowledge on any given subject. If you choose to remain ignorant, just wait until someone asks you something. It doesn't matter what subject, but you cannot respond properly without sufficient knowledge. The natural man cannot understand the things of God. People have a will of their own, and God will not force Himself on anyone without their consent. God will not invade your will nor make you a robot.

If you are interested in finding God for yourself, I have news for you. God isn't lost, you are. But, you are in good shape if you are sincere and willing to stop doing everything your way and try His way. What has doing it your way done for you?

Have you ever wondered why you don't like certain people that want to help you? Perhaps they want to change you for the better, but something inside you makes you turn them away. This is your natural self trying to preserve itself, and for good reason. Either someone wants to harm you physically, or you are not ready to respond spiritually. The physical part is usually easiest to handle by fleeing or striking back. The spiritual part is most difficult because you have neglected your soul by the misuse of your mind. You will flee the spiritual truth because you have already have been found guilty of sin, and choose to put off sentencing. Your mind knows this and will tell your body to attack or flee. Either decision is the wrong one. Your soul is at stake and it would be very wise for you to take control of your destiny, stop blaming someone else and ask for help from God Himself. He wants you to ask for help, so He can reveal Himself to you!

Now that you have come thus far, be honest with yourself. Are you happy with the way your life has turned out? Are you happy now? Or is there something lacking, deep down inside? Is something missing? If you died this moment, do you know where you would spend eternity? Ponder these questions for a while.

Up until now, you have been reading the life story of an ordinary person and haven't had to make any decisions. Most books do not require you to do so. However, now you must decide if you trust God enough to continue seeking Him. From here, you may follow, but not understand. That's okay, too. Remember; don't get the cart in front of the horse! Bite off a small piece of wisdom at a time, since you are probably not used to help because of your conditioning. But keep an open mind and learn. Your journey will not be the same as mine but it can be very fruitful.

About six months went by and my wife and I went "church shopping." That is, we went searching for a church to attend regularly. The first one was pretty nice but we never went back because they sang too low. The second one had too many people and they sang their songs in too high of a key. Next, the pastor was begging the congregation for money, as the church only had two hundred dollars in the bank! Mostly, churches were too formal and everyone was too old!

Then one Sunday, we wound up in a Baptist church that had a baptismal pool built right into the wall, behind the choir. Bear with me, as I am not promoting a particular church organization, but I had to start somewhere!). Things were looking up!

There were stairs leading into the pool and stairs leading out of it. This got my attention, because all my life I had heard my dad tell my mom that I needed to be baptized. This was strange to me because he had never gone to church with me and my mom.

No way was I going to be sprinkled with water and turn around in front of the whole congregation and walk the aisle to return to my pew! Not in the church I grew up in! But this was perfect! I could enter from the left, not look at the crowd, get baptized, and sneak out the right side! Having done that, I thought I would be ready for heaven. Little did I know how wrong I was! Baptism is an ordinance that identifies a person as a disciple of Jesus. This act does not get a person into heaven!

We attended this church for about six weeks, and I can honestly say that I don't remember one sermon! You see, our thoughts are not God's thoughts. The finite mind (one that has an end) cannot understand the infinite mind (one that has no end) of God. Too much of me was sitting in front of the alter and the word of God was bouncing off of me like water off a duck’s back! Revelation 3, vs.20 says," Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. If any man (or woman) hears my voice (the Bible) and opens that door, I will come in (into his heart) and supp (have fellowship) with him and he with me."

On the next Sunday, the sermon was about a man named Hosea, in the Old Testament. This was a prophet of God who compared Israel to an unfaithful wife. Israel had taken the bounty of God and lavished it on the Canaanite god Baal, thus committing spiritual adultery. Remember? "Thou shalt have no other gods before ME."

To make a long story short, God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. She bare him three children, only one of which was reported to be fathered by Hosea. Gomer returned to her former profession, and one day Hosea found her for sale on the auction block and bought her back for fifteen shekels of silver. As I listened to this, I realized that my life had been just as bad as Gomer's, yet God came looking for me and bought me back! I was always His. I stood on the auction block, selling myself to the highest bidder. Yet, God loved me enough to reach down to my level and save me from myself. Have you ever had a friend like this?

At the end of the sermon, the preacher asked if anyone wanted to ask Jesus into his or her life and go to heaven when they died. When I heard that, I started to weep and shake violently. Something was physically holding me where I stood. I wanted to move but I couldn't! I made up my mind that nothing was going to hold me back from this invitation! I broke free from whatever was holding me! I immediately brushed past people standing between the aisle and me and rushed forward to the front of the church. I wanted to live now and nothing in the world would hold me back!

The preacher asked me if Jesus had come into my heart, and I said, "Yes." I was so very happy and looked at people as if I had never really seen them before! The entire church body came by and shook my hand, and I remember one woman saying, "Your life will never be the same again!" I felt clean and forgiven! The tears kept flowing and I knew without a doubt that my life had been changed, forever! This is called, "bearing witness to the truth."

Remember back in my little apartment when I asked Jesus into my heart, and nothing happened? Well, what happened was, God saw a measure of faith and was pleased. Then, He began working in my life. You see, before this time, I had been doing everything my way, on my time schedule, and generally messing up my life. The next thing to happen was that a week later my wife accepted Jesus and shortly thereafter we were both baptized the same day!

Now, you're probably thinking I'm some sort of religious nut. Not so! I go to work religiously, go to the bathroom religiously and get my eight hours of sleep, religiously! One does not need a "religion." One needs a personal Relationship with the Son of the Living God! Until the same thing happens to you, you can't possibly understand this. It's like trying to tell someone about the best movie you ever saw. Until they see the movie for themselves, they won't believe you either.

We have to understand what sin is and that no matter what name is put on it, whether it be murder, drug addiction, stealing or just being born, we all have to come to JESUS, the only begotten Son of God, sent by God, the Father, as a sacrifice for the atonement for your sins.

Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve's disobedience to God. Sin is nothing more than being outside of the will of God. We are all born with this curse, separated from God because of it; on the wrong side of the line, if you will. Only by willfully deciding to accept Jesus can you change your destiny. Only then will you be able to understand the word of God, the Bible. Only then will your spirit be in tune to what God wants you to learn. This is the "Born again" that Jesus mandates each of us must do! You will stop hating, you will forgive. You will see and not be blind to the plight of others. You will not feel guilty because you will be free! This is God's promise to you, not mine.

You will live because you are no longer dead (spiritually). You will love because you are loved by God the Father, Jesus the Son and The Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity). The Truth shall set you free! In other words, Jesus is the truth and He will set you free from what is not true.

What you have been reading was written by a former dyslexic, alcoholic, angry, bitter man who couldn't even read anything except comic books! I had no hope in life of expecting anything good to happen to me! I couldn't change me! It took GOD to change me; all He needed was my willingness to let Him into my life.

Next came an extreme hunger and thirst for reading the Bible. Remember, I wanted to know the truth? When I came home from work I would read constantly from the New Testament. No more dyslexia or comic books for me, I could read!!! I began to see that God's word was alive and I needed it for my very existence. I craved the word of God because it filled all the empty spots in my life. I was on the road to a spiritual healing in my life. He makes all things new, for you. , too!

The impact of Viet Nam was still fresh in my mind at this time. The injustice of it all, the pain it caused on both sides. I hid this in my heart, since no one that I talked to understood what I could not understand myself. God understands.

For me, God seems to have a way of putting me on the list of the unemployed when he's trying to teach me something. I had been unemployed for over a year, yet I attended Sunday school and church and choir, and home fellowships, faithfully, always ready to learn all I could about God. I became a disciple of Jesus, not a member of the denomination.

Finally, after a year of unemployment after quitting the bar scene, I got hired on during the Christmas rush, at a drug store chain, working in the camera department. I was to be laid off after Christmas. The time came for lay offs, but I was still working. In fact, in January, I worked twenty-one days straight without a day off, all late shifts. Finally I went to see the boss and told him about my three weeks without a day off. At first he thought I was lying, but checked with the bookkeeper and she confirmed my story. I got four days off in a row, which never happens in that type of job.

Sometime during these twenty-one days, it was near closing time, and I was sweeping the floor and really feeling sorry for myself, worried about being laid-off, with a wife and two little girls, a trailer house to pay for and in the middle of winter. I was depressed. All of a sudden, I was, as best as I can describe, lifted out of my body and lifted to the ceiling. I could look down and see my body holding the broom. I heard an audible voice saying, “I know what you’re doing." The next instant I was back in my body holding the broom and saying to myself, “What was that? Was that death?" Whatever it was, I want to go back there! Needless to say, I was no longer feeling sorry for myself!

A couple years later, I was still at the same job! I went to the break room and thumbed through a copy of Newsweek. Inside, I saw an old picture of a soldier in Viet Nam. He was sitting on his flak jacket and had various items placed so he could find them in the dark. I knew this routine very well, so I paid little attention to the photo and went on looking through the rest of the magazine. Something told me to go back and look at the photo again. As soon as I found the page, a floodgate was opened and I began to cry uncontrollably. I knew that I would never have to do that again! I had carried that hidden fear all these years. I thought, “They had no right to do that to me!" That pain left, too. Healing had once again come to me.

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINE
Stop the Madness

 

I still have flash backs, but they are no longer the painful kind. Sometimes I get hungry for meatballs and beans! Or, I’ll remember singing with the soul brothers, Christmas Eve, 1968, at Combat Base Vandergrift. The excitement of being young! Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still remember how serious it could get. The look on a man’s face when he got a Dear John letter, or when the Platoon Sergeant had eleven days left in country and was told to do one more patrol. Hot Landing Zones, saying good-bye, losing my friends, coming home to be called a baby-killer. Trying to forget; not being able to forget, you can’t sleep, except for ten minutes at a time. No one dares to shake you awake. Always angry, filled with guilt, you can't forget.

While all this is very real, you must put it behind you and get on with your life. If you know you still need help, try Jesus, try, try, try! He will meet you at the bottom of despair and deliver you into a new world of possibilities of light, and hope! To say that all your cares and worries melt away and you never have them again by accepting Jesus is not true. But you can be at peace with yourself and start to find answers. It is a new beginning, you will understand if you undertake!

If a person is normal, usually he has trusted mostly in himself and lives his life the way he sees fit. If he has no misfortunes or physical setbacks or not born with a handicap, he stands a good chance of living out his life rather uneventfully.

Outside of normalcy, anything can happen and usually does. Becoming a victim at any age, in any circumstance, is sometimes difficult or seems impossible to overcome. God does not intervene in most situations, unless you ask Him for help. If you have lived this long and come this far, it is probably by the grace of God, and maybe in spite of him!

Are you content with who you are? If so, stop reading and go on with your life. If there is ‘something missing’ or perhaps emptiness you can’t fill with anything, you are in a very good position. You needn’t reach the end of your rope, hit rock bottom, nor have a broken heart, but be sincere with God, and admit that, in yourself, you cannot possibly have all the answers. You still must be willing to learn and trust Him.

Let me tell you a few things about God, who He is, what He is like, and why you don’t know Him yet. Remember, when I mentioned people banging on your door? How are you going to know if they are telling you the truth? Why would you join any club or organization without knowing what you were getting into? "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. He will not let you be confused, and has left a way for you to find Him: He that cometh to God must first believe that He is (exists), and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. In other words, you can’t come to God unless you believe, in your heart that He exists. Then, you must seek for Him to reveal Himself to YOU!

You can believe He exists and not come to him. That is what most people think: He exists; they stop there and believe it is enough. They are using their own mind, which is finite, trying to comprehend the infinite mind of God. They become confused because they expect too much too soon. They stop their search because they think they have enough time, later to find that there is no time left at all! They lack diligence, this no reward for them, ever.

Keep in mind; you may have no faith in God, yet, because you don’t know Him. Romans 10 vs. 17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” You have to put your physical body in front of a preacher who is preaching the word of God from the Bible, listen with your ears and your heart will believe.

You must realize you are lost and need a savior. God is a God of LOVE! He does not want you to perish. John 3, vs. 16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him (Jesus) should not perish, but have everlasting life." God loves you and wants to be part of your life. You are precious to Him!

“The Gospel” means: GOOD NEWS! That Jesus was sent by God to reveal His likeness is indeed good news! Here is a formula: Romans 10, vs. 9-13… “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Verse 10: For with the heart, man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. Verse 11: For the scripture saith, whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. Verse12: For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. Verse13: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." This is the promise to God concerning you! Claim the promise!

You may not believe at all, yet. Put God to the test! Make Him prove Himself in your life! Find someone who you have been watching for some time. Do you notice “Something different" about them? Do they have a joy that shows? Do you notice their “light?” Ask them the reason for their hope. Do you find yourself wanting to be like them? They are what they are because they follow Jesus, not mankind and their doctrines. Start somewhere! Go to church, listen, and ask questions. Seek the truth! You know right from wrong. If what you are hearing is not true, the Holy Spirit of God will guide you, go somewhere else!

Dare to make a change in your life. Keep on keeping on, until you have Jesus living in your heart, and know you have the peace that surpasses all understanding!

My Journey is not all that different from anyone else’s, only I know without a doubt, that the hand of God is extended to everyone! He knows who you are, what you have been through, how you hurt, knows your emptiness and is always there for you. Know this: All the help in the world is available to you, but is useless until you ask. God is waiting for you; ask Him into your heart. You will never be the same!

Viet Nam is now only a memory for us. In the name of Jesus, I command you to STAND-DOWN!!! Let the war be finally over. Stop the madness, get mad at the devil that causes all the pain, hate, killing and destruction and steals your joy! With what time is left for you in this life, let the healing begin. Be a soldier for the Army of God. You are PRECIOUS in the eyes of God! His Son died for you, shouldn't you find out why?

The Viet Nam war is only a chapter in our lives; don't make it the only book. We all learned to Stand-to, the trouble is, no one ever told us to STAND-DOWN!

 

About the Author

I was the only child of an Inupiat Eskimo woman from Wainwright, Alaska and a father who was part German, Irish, Scottish, and Blackfoot Sioux Indian.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, the largest city in the Territory, in 1946, as a child of mixed blood, I had to overcome prejudice as well as horrible childhood diseases.

My father forbid me to learn the Eskimo language, as he thought I would speak with halted English, which would have been embarrassing to him. This in itself was to prove a major problem, since I was the victim of dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, multiple personalities and God knows what else.

Growing up in a cross cultural world was an experience that would lead me down many paths on my search for personal identity. Through my journey, I always felt that God was on my side, even if I didn't have time for Him.

Viet Nam was the most significant experience in my life up to that time and would set me on a search for truth and the very meaning of my existence.

Abuse, post traumatic stress and anger was poisoning my life as alcohol lead me down a path of self-destruction. I honestly believed that I would drink myself to death before I reached thirty years of age. I had lost all hope.

Slowly, the Lord was moving in my life and would eventually pull me out of my despair and give my life purpose and meaning. The process is not without cost or pain, but I still continue my quest with faith from above.

The Lord is very real and wants to heal every area of one's life. All He needs is a willing heart, a broken heart, is even better and He will reveal Himself to you and heal every facet of the mess we bring to Him.

My life has changed because of what God has done for me. He can do the same for you and more, if only you have the faith of a grain of a mustard seed.

I went from an ignorant alcoholic, guitar picking, angry man, to becoming an educated, successful family man who is finally at peace with his God, himself and the world.

Gerald D. Peavy, HM2, U.S. Navy

Alpha 1/9, 3rd Marines

Quang Tri, Republic of Viet Nam

1968-1969

 

 

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