Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Shameless reminiscing...

It was around May of 1968, at Cua Viet, South Vietnam, located on the Dong Ha river, where it poured out into the Gulf of Tonkin.

The day had started out like many of the other Sunday's.

Except, about 0900, we came under heavy attack with mortars and rockets. It seemed a lot heavier than usual.

One rocket scored a direct hit on the comm people's living bunker. One man was killed trying to get into the bunker.

It was interesting how the attack would formulate. The first rounds would hit just north of the Dong Ha river, and then walk across the river, through the AmTrak compound, into the artillery compound, through the main compound and through the camp.

At this time, the great battleships were not laying just outside the Gulf of Tonkin; they had not been moved there yet.

So, response to the attacks came from within our compound, with artillery throwing shells back toward the DMZ and north.

On this particular day, that I recall, after the attack subsided, I happened to come into contact with the Regimental Chaplain.

He asked me if I believed in divine guidance. I don't remember how I answered, but it was a time in my life when God and religion played a very, very small role. My loyalty was to Corps and country. I hadn't been able to incorporate God into that loyalty yet.

The chaplain said, that he never goes to the mess hall on Sunday morning. However, this Sunday morning, he claimed a strong impulse to go up to the mess hall, and have a cup of coffee, and visit with the troops.

Shortly after arriving at the mess hall, the attack started. For the duration of the attack, the chaplain remained at the mess hall. There was no damage to the mess hall, so all was well there.

However, when the chaplain returned to his hootch, and went to sit down at his desk, where he normally would have been. He found a hole, about six to eight inches across, in the screen, right behind where his head would have been had he not gone to the mess hall.

He took me into his office and showed me the hole.

Then he explained how the incident had changed his perspective on religion and that God really did look out for people.

Not being a believer, I was aware of having awakened about 2330 one morning, with a weird feeling; a kind of restlessness. Within a few minutes after getting up and walking around the compound, we came under rocket and mortar attack.

Who knows how I might have come out had I not woke up when I did. I couldn't chalk this up to divine guidance, because I just didn't believe. Instead, I believed my subconscious had heard the small arms fire on the perimeter; which generally came before an attack.

So, in retrospect, I now have a little bit better understanding of divine guidance, and I know, that God sometimes speaks to us in such a still, small voice, that we think it is coming from somwhere deep inside, an existential awareness, if you will.

In spite of the fact that I was not a believer in God, and that I did everything in my life to deny any possibility of deity; I believe today, that God really did watch over me.

I am continually reminded of an old saying we had back then, that God watches over drunks, idiots and Marines.

Why else would we sing; When the army and navy look upon heaven's scenes, they'll find the streets are guarded by United States Marines?

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