Battlefield Guardians – Angels In Vietnam

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    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant
    Dear Forum Members,
    .
    Some reader-friends advised me to write another novel , one that has UB concepts but doesn’t quote it directly, so it can be shared with non-readers. Hope you like it/share it.
    .
    Much love, Rick
    .
    ..
    Chapter 1
    Vietnam
    .
        Imagine landing at a military airport in a war zone at midday, on the equator, with eighty-eight other draftees. You disembark under full sun, no clouds. It’s over a hundred degrees, and more humid than a greenhouse. Heat mirages appear in every direction. As you descend the mobile stairs a starched second lieutenant shouts, “Fall in!”
    On the ground, the co-mingled smells of jet fuel, hot tarmac, and stale army fatigues fill your nostrils. We obediently formed four long columns beside the plane, a Pan Am Airlines jet. The ground heat quickly penetrated my boots.
    The lieutenant marched us off the mushy-hot tarmac where we loaded onto deuce-and-a-half trucks. We rode a short way to the orientation tent, just a stone’s throw from the South China Sea. Here the equatorial heat combined with green-tarp-tent smell and balmy ocean breeze. After we filed into the large tent, standing at attention in front of folding chairs, a first sergeant mounted the foot-high stage and said, “At ease.”
    He began calmly and authoritatively, “Welcome to Chu Lai, Vietnam, men. This will be your home base for the next 365 days. Take your seat.”
    That was March 22, 1968, two months after the Tet Offensive, which turned out to be a pivot point in the Vietnam conflict. A pivot toward America’s first military defeat.
    Roll call began in alphabetical order. Soon enough my name came up.
    “Baker, Ernie.”
    “Here, First Sergeant.”
    He had to be sixty years old. The heat didn’t appear to bother him in the least. Not a bead of sweat appeared on his face.
    “You have Conscientious Objector status, Baker?”
    “Yes, First Sergeant.”
    “Fall out, report to Headquarters. Colonel Simmons of second battalion will brief you.”
    “Yes, First Sergeant.” It was embarrassing being singled out like that in front my fellow draftees.
    A short stout corporal standing by the stage gave a follow-me sign. He led the way to a gigantic tent nearby, complete with concrete floor, a mess hall, open showers that could accommodate hundreds of soldiers, and partitioned offices. I followed the corporal to the battalion commander’s office along one side of the tent. The clerk looked up and told us to go in. We stood at attention before the colonel’s gray metal desk.
    The corporal said, “Baker, the CO, sir,” then handed him my orders and moved to the doorway remaining at attention.
    The colonel looked up from his paperwork and said, “At ease.”
    “Baker, you’re the first Conscientious Objector in my command. I’m not happy about it. You know you will still go out on patrol? And without any weapons? Others will be responsible for your safety? And this is an infantry unit that often finds itself in close combat?”
    “Yes, sir.”
    “It’s not too late to change your status, Baker.”
    “I know, sir. No, thank you.” He looked at me disapprovingly then scanned my orders.
    “I see here you’re a nurse. You’re now a medic in A company. Report to Captain Stone. Take him, Corporal.”
    “Yes, sir!” We three exchanged salutes, the corporal and I turned to leave.
    “Baker, don’t stir up trouble in my unit,” barked the colonel before we were out the doorway.
    “No, sir.” I wondered what more trouble there could be in a war zone manned by unwilling draftees occupying a country in civil war…
    Captain Stone’s tent was much smaller. But like the others it had all side-flaps rolled up. The sound of gently crashing waves drifted in with the moist sea breeze.
    “Sir. Baker, the CO.”
    “Thank you, Corporal.”
    “At ease, Private Baker.”
    He remained sitting, looking me over top to bottom.
    “Straighten that gig line. This may be a war zone but you’re still in the army, soldier.”
    “Yes, sir.” I tucked in my fatigue shirt and lined up its buttons with my brass belt buckle.
    “Why didn’t you just get a deferment, Baker? You don’t belong here.”
    “It was a mistake sir, I thought it was a world tour.”
    “Very funny, Baker. Hang on to that sense of humor, if you can.”
    “Yes, sir.”
    “You’re now a medic assigned to first platoon. Corporal, get him gear and a med-pouch. Baker, you’ll bunk with Lt. Smithson’s platoon. Dismissed.”
    We came to attention, exchanged salutes and left to collect a set of gear: Two pairs of jungle boots, a rucksack, a steel-pot helmet with liner, two sets of jungle fatigues, three pairs of army green boxer shorts and socks, a medic’s kit, three canteens, a rayon poncho, a flak jacket, an entrenching tool, a nylon tent with poles and stakes, a hammock, a month’s supply of malaria pills, two plastic vials of mosquito repellent, a small bottle of salt tablets, and a duffel bag to stow it all.
    I packed the duffel and shouldered the ruck. The corporal led the way and left me at the back of the orientation tent, never saying a word. I took a seat. The first sergeant was telling the assembled draftees about our “wily enemy.” He went on for two hours about everything from foot fungus to court martials to booby traps and landmines, then dismissed us for chow. On the way out everyone checked a map on the bulletin board for the location of their assigned tent.
    Eventually I found Lt. Smithson’s tent. It had thirty bunks, fifteen on each side, all neatly made-up with camouflaged blankets stretched over white linen sheets. Rolled-up mosquito nets hung over each. Two corporals, the only ones there, sat on their bunks chatting. They stopped and looked me over.
    One said, “Ah, you must be the objector. We heard you’d be arriving today to share our wretched little paradise here beside the South China Sea. Welcome O courageous one!” They both stood up, saluted, and bowed mockingly. “This is James of Thane, I’m Lawrence of Arizona. You have a first name?”
    “Ernie.”
    Lawrence looked at my name tag with Baker printed in black ink and the single chevron on my sleeve. “Well, Private Ernie Baker, what brings you to this charming camp by the shores of Gitche Gloomy? Got tired of living?” He stuck out his hand and shook mine. James followed suit.
    James asked, “Where you from?”
    “Austin.”
    “So, you’re used to the heat. You a nurse or something back in Texas?” he asked.
    “Nurse.”
    “A male nurse. Just what we need here in tropical hell. You’ll get plenty of business experience what with the occasional disagreements we have discussing opposing ideologies with the Viet Cong,” Lawrence quipped.
    Just then a first lieutenant walked in; we snapped to attention. He looked at my nametag.
    “At ease. Welcome Baker, I’m platoon leader. I don’t have a problem with you being a CO. Keep your nose clean and we’ll get on fine. You’ll accompany me and these two when we go out in the field. Take that bunk.” He pointed to a bed at the rear of the tent.
    “Yes, sir.”
    “New orders, men. We air-lift out at 0630 hours tomorrow, the whole company. Be ready, and inform the squad leaders when they show up.” He went to a small metal desk at the front of the tent and began writing.
    Lawrence said, “Let’s introduce the private to the mess hall, shall we, James?”
    I put the gear under my bunk. We walked toward the gigantic tent on wooden pallets laid in the sand. These pallet paths connected all the tents.
    “Where is Thane?” I asked.
    “That’s Lawrence’s name for Scotland. We’d just immigrated before the army called. My folks settled in New York, upstate.”
    “You both draftees?” I inquired.
    Lawrence answered, “We are. I’m the platoon’s artillery spotter, and James is the radioman. I have 301 days left, and James here has but 299. We showed up just in time for Tet. You heard of our recent war party, I presume?”
    “It’s the big news back in the States.”
    “How are things in the States?” Lawrence asked.
    “War protests, campus and race riots. And Laugh-In.”
    “Laugh-In?” James asked.
    “New TV comedy show; against the war.”
    “Hey, maybe the president will watch it and call off the war. The generals can learn to laugh instead of fight,” Lawrence joked. “Maybe then I can go home, where the desert air is much more accommodating to my delicate complexion.”
    I liked these two. Lawrence was funny, and James was warm-hearted.
    The mess hall was full. Hundreds of short-haired, fatigue-clad men, seated and in line, made a great din of chatter and clanking dinnerware. The air smelled of roast beef, potatoes, and baked buns.
    Looking over this scene, I couldn’t help wondering how many would die, be maimed, or psychologically wounded before their tour of duty was up. I recalled the news back home reporting a hundred or more were dying each week, with ten times that wounded.
    We stood in line, loaded our trays, then took a seat and ate without saying much. Too noisy to talk.
    After the meal James and Lawrence wanted to go to the USO for ice cream and a beer. The long trip on the plane had zapped my energy—that and the topical heat. I begged off and caught a nap on my bunk.
    I woke at sunset when a rowdy group with a boombox arrived at the tent. The “Eve of Destruction” was playing. I slipped out, walked toward the beach and sat on a pile of sandbags. I thought about the year ahead living and working in a war zone. It hit me how different Vietnam is from the safety and comfort of the States, and how much I would miss seeing Karen. She was probably just starting her day at art school.
    It was about midnight when I got back to the tent, but sleep wouldn’t come. The rest of the night I lay awake. My mind went on and on about everything from the war to the meaning of life. Around dawn, when there was enough light, I wrote a short letter to Karen, telling her about the first day in Nam.
    At sunrise, reveille blew over the camp speakers. I was amazed by how hot it was already. We had a quick breakfast after which the whole company was ordered to gather supplies, pack our rucksacks, and fill our canteens. I had time to mail the letter at company HQ before we were put on trucks and taken to a nearby helipad.
    We loaded onto more than a dozen helicopters, ten men and their fully packed rucks on each. All the choppers had fifty caliber machine guns, one mounted and manned on each side. The flock took off all at once. The roar was spine-tingling, and the fear was palpable.
    .
    Chapter 2
    First Mission
    .
    “We’re probably going in hot,” one of the pilots yelled as we approached our destination. Soon small arms fire could be heard over the helicopter noise. Several rounds clunked against the skin of our chopper. Both machine gunners looked for rifle smoke and began spitting out fire in that direction. The pilots slammed the birds down in flat, dry rice paddies. We jumped off, hitting the ground and crouching behind short paddy dikes. Bullets were zizzing everywhere. The chopper blades whipped the air hard lifting off, trying to get away quickly. I looked up to see two of them blowing smoke trails. A minute later one crashed near the horizon with a great boom. I was shaking.
    “Form a perimeter!” Captain Stone commanded over the radio. Crawling on bellies and leaping over dikes, each platoon took a position making a rough circle. Riflemen and grenadiers fired as they advanced and kept firing once in place.
    “Medic!” someone yelled. There were four medics in the company, one with each platoon. I was closest. Rounds were coming in and going out in every direction. Was I supposed to get up and run to the wounded man? I did. God only knows why I wasn’t hit. The man lay twisted on his side. He wasn’t moving. I felt his neck for a pulse. His eyes were open and fixed, pupils fully dilated.
    “He’s gone,” I said. A round had penetrated his helmet; a pool of blood soaked the ground under his head. Death had been instant.
    The soldier who had called for a medic was hysterical. “Don’t die!” he screamed at his dead buddy.
    Lawrence yelled “Baker! Over here!” I crouched as I ran back. Lt. Smithson was hit in the foot and bleeding badly. As we lay low, bullets continued zinging overhead. I removed his bloody boot. He was missing the end of the third toe of his left foot. I nervously trimmed off dangling skin and dug a bandage out of the med pouch, wrapping it tightly to stop the bleeding. He winced but didn’t say anything. I informed him about the dead man.
    “You want morphine?” I asked.
    “No. Gimme that mic!” James crawled to Smithson and handed over the radio’s microphone at the end of a coiled cord. He called for artillery, a locator smoke round. “Charlie Zulu, gimme a red round.”
    Lawrence yelled out the coordinates. The lieutenant repeated them into the mic. Thirty seconds later a locator round landed in front of our platoon, about a hundred yards outside the perimeter. Red smoke went up.
    The enemy fire was coming from a long bamboo hedgerow in front of our platoon. Lawrence used the radio to walk the rounds outward from the perimeter. That was followed by jets dropping napalm and thousand pound bombs. We kept as low as possible behind the dikes. The explosions were deafening and the napalm created great fireballs. Bomb shrapnel ripped the air. Enemy fire quickly diminished. I discovered the enemy AK47 rifles sounded very different from the US weapons. They made a distinct popping noise.
    Finally, the enemy rifles stopped.
    “Cease fire!” Captain Stone ordered over the radio. Seconds later the artillery stopped and the jet bombers disappeared.
    “Good job, Lawrence,” Smithson said.
    Now the silence was deafening. There was hardly a sound for a brief moment. The enemy was in retreat; we glimpsed one slipping away into the dense bamboo. Someone shot a long burst in his direction, followed by grenadier’s round.
    Smithson said to James, “Get a medivac in here to move that dead hero and the wounded out. And bring me his left boot.” James hurriedly called the rear for a medical chopper.
    “Tighten the perimeter! And bring your wounded to first platoon’s position,” Captain Stone ordered over the radio from his position at the perimeter’s center. Some men scrambled to connect the company in an unbroken circle covering several rice paddies while others brought injured ones to where the dead man was. I went for the boot.
    A few minutes later the captain called for the platoon leaders. The lieutenant dug in his ruck for a clean sock, then put it on and quickly laced up the dead man’s boot. He ran crouching and limping toward Stone’s position, trying to ignore his wounded toe.
    “What now?” I asked Lawrence.
    “Patrols probably,” he answered, taking off his rucksack. It must have weighed 90 pounds. Mine did too. I had to carry three spare battery packs for James’ radio since I had no rifle or pistol. We all carried enough rations and supplies for two weeks, including our pup-tents, ponchos, air mattresses, and personal effects. Everyone except me had to tote weapons and abundant ammo.
    “You feeling a bit queasy, Private Ernie?” Lawrence asked with genuine concern. I was still shaking after that intense half hour—after watching the chopper crash and then seeing the dead man. In my short nursing career I had seen death, but not by violence, and not one so young. His frozen expression stuck in my mind, along with the terrified face of his buddy. I couldn’t help thinking that his life, his youth, was squandered in one terrifying moment on this nameless rice paddy. And his family wouldn’t even know it for days.
    “Wanna give up being a CO?” Lawrence said, offering me his 45-caliber sidearm.
    I shook my head and asked, “Aren’t we supposed to go after the enemy? Isn’t that what we’re out here to do?”
    “No, they’re dispersed by now, hiding in the local farms and villages,” James answered. He saw I was still trembling. “You’ll be all right, Ernie,” he added kindly, peering into my sweaty, no-doubt fearful face.
    Nothing was said or done for a few minutes, until the lieutenant loped back to our position. By then I’d taken some deep breaths and calmed down a bit.
    “The company is splitting up. First platoon will set up basecamp on that hill.” The lieutenant pointed to a high, lone mound rising out of the flat plain, about two kilometers away. “First platoon squad leaders!” he yelled. Four men ran toward us, crouching and carrying their weapons but not their rucks.
    “Tell your men we’ll set up base on that hill tonight. C squad will walk point,” Smithson ordered. “My team will follow C, then A, B, and D squads. Wait for my order to move out.”
    “Yes, sir,” they replied in harmony and ran back to their squads to relay the plan.
    Just then the medivac landed and quickly loaded six bandaged and wounded ones plus the fallen man, a boy really. I urged Lieutenant Smithson to leave and get his toe treated properly. He refused. The chopper took off raising a small dust storm out of the dry paddy.
    “Prepare to move out!” Smithson shouted after the bird lifted off. As we were leaving, Captain Stone took a small group outside the perimeter to count the enemy dead, seizing their weapons and personal belongings.
    “First platoon, let’s move, and stay spread out!” Smithson commanded. We marched single file to the designated hill, without incident until almost there. Someone at the front of the column yelled, “VC!” and pointed to two men in black silk pajamas running away, off our left flank. They were wearing conical straw hats and carrying rifles. They disappeared behind a broad, thick patch of bamboo.
    “Keep in line!” Smithson ordered. “Could be an ambush.” We proceeded to the hill. We were soaked with sweat by the time we reached the top. I could see the pain in the lieutenant’s face—his toe was hurting. He yelled, “Check for mines before you take a position.”
    Everyone walked around gingerly searching the ground for freshly disturbed dirt and trip wires. Mines, I learned, were a soldier’s greatest hazard, and his worst fear.
    Discarded ration cans and army trash was scattered around. Obviously, this hill had been used many times. After a thorough search Smithson ordered, “Dig in, men. And don’t use the old foxholes!” There were a dozen or more well-dug holes around the hilltop.
    “Why can’t we use the holes that are dug?” I asked James and Lawrence.
    “The VC put booby traps and punji sticks in them,” James answered.
    The rest of the day we spent digging three-foot deep holes in the hard and dry red ground. James, Lawrence, and I set up our mosquito-proof nylon tents not far from the lieutenant, near the center of the barren hilltop. He called the squad leaders to arrange rotating night watch and to impart the plan for the next day. I was exempted from watch since I carried no weapon.
    By the time we were set up the sun was almost gone. In the twilight, we sat in small groups for a meal, warming our rations in canteen cups over hexamine heat tablets.
    The lieutenant limped around the hilltop checking on everyone while we three sat together and talked.
    “Did you know that kid who was killed,” I asked, as the stinky fumes from the smoldering tablets rose in the air.
    “He was from Alaska. Arrived last month,” James said. “He was drafted out of college, a freshman. Everyone liked him right away.”
    “The cream of America,” Lawrence added, “His blood spilt here 8,000 miles from home. Such is war.” And then somewhat sarcastically, “You made out your will yet, Private Baker?”
    “Sure. Like you, we had to name a beneficiary on some form just before leaving the States.”
    “It’s a lottery for life, this war thing,” Lawrence said wistfully.
    “It seems like such a waste of life. You guys are used to it already, aren’t you?”
    “Numbed to it maybe,” James answered. “Everybody just wants to do their time and get home in one piece.”
    “The news back home publishes the body count every week, ours and theirs,” I said. “It didn’t really hit me until today, what that means. Do you think the war will end soon? The president and the Pentagon keep saying we’re winning it.”
    “Ha! After Tet we all realized our charming, clever, tenacious enemy isn’t about to give up. And if I know the army, it won’t give up either, no matter how many young and unwilling draftees like ourselves America puts on the ground. The people of South Vietnam just won’t accept our gracious proffer of a puppet government. Would you?” Lawrence asked with irony.
    “So, young boys like that one today are dying needlessly? Is that it? We’re just as likely to die as him, aren’t we?” I said with dismay and rising indignation. “Aren’t you guys mad? I may be new but it’s obvious this war is wrong. Surely you see that too. What keeps you fighting?”
    “Fighting? We aren’t fighting are we, James? We just take orders. It’s that or move into the army’s one-star hotel and chain gang at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Maybe you’d have us follow your lead and become objectors…Not a bad idea, now that I mention it.”
    James replied with touching honesty, “I actually thought about being a CO. But my dad fought with Britain in World War II, and he raised me to be a fighter for freedom and a brave soldier. We argued a lot about the war before I got drafted. I knew it would kill him to have an objector for a son. I guess I figured since he lived through four years of combat, I could at least try to make it through one year. I’m just glad I didn’t sign up as a volunteer. The draft means two years in the army. One year in training and one in Nam, and I’m done.”
    “But is your heart in it?” I felt compelled to ask.
    “No, not really. If it ever was, it’s not anymore.”
    “How about you, Lawrence?”
    “No one’s heart is in it after Tet, except the generals. And truth be told, they’re probably just following orders like us lowly ground pounders.”
    “That’s crazy, isn’t it?” I said a bit angrily.
    “Crazy is another name for war, Private Ernie,” Lawrence answered. “You’ll get used to it. Anyway, the beast in us has to spill some blood every few years or we start feeling civilized. You wouldn’t want that.”
    “Might be worth a try,” I replied, then asked, “You sound cynical. Are you?”
    He looked at me and after a moment said, “Cynicism gives good cover for fear and anger, I guess.”
    As we chatted, darkness closed in and the stars came out in remarkable brilliance. There was no moon that night and the only lights in the area were an occasional cigarette being lit behind cupped hands. We stared up at the Milky Way. It was starrier than I’d ever seen. It looked like a giant rip in the cosmos, a great tear in the sky. I couldn’t help wondering if there were other inhabited worlds, and whether there were soldiers on those worlds watching the silent sky and thinking about the comforts of home and the insanity of war. As we watched the starry ceiling above, a soft chorus of crickets suddenly sang out.
    We were absorbed in the moment until James asked, “You think there is life around other stars, life like ours? I used to lie out under the night sky at home and try to imagine what it would be like on another planet. I figured if a planet is big, the extra gravity would make the people short and stout. If a planet is small, they are tall. And maybe they could jump twenty yards.”
    “You guys hear about NASA planning to land on the moon next year?” I asked.
    Lawrence replied, “Yeah, we have to beat the Ruskies there, don’t we?! Exciting stuff. Let’s volunteer, James. Be better than humping our rucks and dodging bullets here in Southeast Asia for the next ten months. You can join us, Objector Ernie. You don’t seem to have an affinity for war, even though you’ve only been here two days. Very judgmental of you I might add. Give it some time, you’ll learn to loathe it.”
    “What’s on the moon? Maybe creatures who can live without air, beings who live off space energy. They probably look down and wonder if there’s life on Earth,” James speculated. “If they have brains like ours, they must wonder what’s going on in the rest of the universe like we do.”
    “You guys think much about the meaning and purpose of life? You face death every day. You must have given some thought to it,” I said.
    Lawrence quickly answered, “Sure, I think of it all the time.” Then he paused. “James can tell you, my preferred persona is that of a philosopher. It is my chosen service and solemn duty to this benighted world, to explain the universe and the reason we find ourselves in these flesh and bone bodies on this tiny spec of a planet floating in time and space.” We had to laugh at the pompous way he said it, like he was an indisputable oracle of esoteric information from on high.
    “Do tell,” said James. “Here he goes with the deep-thinking stuff. Tell Ernie how long you’ve been a philosopher.”
    “Oh, since about age seven. One day while on a bike ride by a river in the woods, I had a vision. I came home and told my parents I was going to be a holy man and lead the world to Truth. Dad said, ‘Good! Begin by doing your homework.’ Mom smiled kindly and added, ‘I had a vision too, when you were in the womb, that you would become a great philosopher. Now go do your homework so you can get a good job. Philosophers are poor and we may need you to take care of us when we’re old, feeble, and cranky. You’ll need a paying skill.’ It was disappointing. But now, here I am, making an astounding four hundred bucks a month as a soldier in a glorious war halfway ‘round the world. No doubt they’re proud and feeling secure about their old age.”
    “I do wonder whether there’s anything after dying, especially on days like today when someone is killed,” said James thoughtfully. “That’s the fourth man I’ve seen die in my two months here. None of us knows if there’ll be a tomorrow. A mortar round could land on our heads in ten minutes. I like to believe this is not all there is. But if our body is killed, what’s left? What does the philosopher say about that, Lawrence?”
    “James, James. Fret not, my brother. Your essence is unkillable. At least that was the message I received on the bike ride. We aren’t just soulless animals; we have an infinite and eternal essence at our core. Most don’t know it but we are Godlings.”
    “Wish I’d gotten such a message,” James said. “How can you be sure a seven-year old’s vision is true?”
    “Don’t doubt it, my man. It’s far better to believe there’s life after life. Makes this world a little more bearable.”
    After hearing that, I had to ask Lawrence, “You think religion has it right? Seems like they all promise soul survival in some form.”
    “They do. And this is where wisdom comes in. Philosophy takes the insights of religion and the facts of science and formulates a coherent vision of reality. Science reveals the nature of the Earth and the stars, and the working of our bodies, all that is the outer physical realm. Religion reveals the inner realm, our souls and our destiny, the spiritual arena.”
    “You really are a philosopher,” James declared. “So, you’re saying there is a God?”
    “I’m saying the existence of personality means there has to be an original personality, one who started it all.” Lawrence pointed to the sky, “Somewhere out there in the cosmos there is an Original Person. And somewhere inside, at our core, there exists that same personal reality. God—for lack of a better word.”
    That set James and me thinking. Nothing was said for a minute. I could faintly hear other conversations and occasional laughs from the rest of the platoon spread around the hill in two and three-man groups.
    “So, if there is a God, what do you guys think the purpose of life is? And why all the suffering?” James pondered. “I’ve been asking people that all my life, including preachers and priests. Only a few of them have a believable answer. And none of them agree much.”
    “Good questions, thoughtful Thane,” Lawrence said. “Surely life, with its joys and its suffering must have some meaning, value, and purpose. What say you, Ernie the Objector?”
    “I know there has to be more to life than what we see.”
    “Ah so! You have rightly discerned the truth, Private Baker. Plato suggested humanity attempts to discern the meaning of life by observing shadows cast by unseen creators. Of course, the Bard of Avon made a salient point when he had Hamlet declare, ‘There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’”
    James immediately asked, “Why is it, figuring out the meaning and purpose of life is so hard? Most people don’t get Plato or know Shakespeare. There’s no map or handbook. We just wander around the planet like everything is normal. What is really going on? If God exists, why can’t we see God?”
    “Another excellent question, James. There was a beaucoup savvy French philosopher 400 years ago who stated the answer so very elegantly and succinctly. He wrote: ‘Human things must be known to be loved; but divine things must be loved to be known.’ Ponder that during our next firefight,” Lawrence grinned. “The meaning, value, and purpose of life are self-evident to deep-thinking minds. But who has time to spend exploring the depths of an invisible and inscrutable Providence when we could be fighting with our visible enemies, those with whom we disagree to the point of homicide?”
    “By Providence, you mean God, right?” asked James.
    “God has to be. As I intimated before, James, it makes sense that the creator of personality is at least a person, even THE person. Somewhere in the universe there exists that First Person, the Creator of All. Think of this person as unique in all the vast cosmos, the only one who has no parent, an originator of all things and beings. But, add to that thought the insights from many a deep-thinking internal explorer. Ones who dotted our history—the sages, prophets, and philosophers. Their consensus is that not only is there a First Person, an uncaused cause of all subsequent causes, but that our essence—who we really are—must be of and from that Person. They all tend to agree God is within, as well as without.”
    “That’s a leap,” I said, “but it lines up with what I’ve felt before. Maybe that’s just intuition. I do feel sure there’s something bigger, something greater going on, but I never could have put it into words like you just did.”
    James scratched his chin stubble thoughtfully. “I don’t know. If God really is within, why do we act like animals? Are you saying God is part animal?”
    “I’m saying we inherited these animal bodies from our parents, and they from theirs. But being an animal is just the starting point, a temporary state. We philosophers say there exists the possibility that the animal in us can be subjugated, that the divine essence can come forth, given proper conditions. That, my friends, is the purpose of life, self-realization of inherent divinity.”
    “What ‘proper conditions?’” James asked.
    “Ah, now we’re drilling down to the nitty and the gritty, James,” Lawrence said with a professorial tone. “The physical world demands that, in order to live, we must breathe, eat, and rest. Add in procreation to fulfill the innate drive to survive in and through our offspring. A dog doesn’t have the conceptual framework to ask, ‘Is there more than air, food, sleep, and mating?’ The dog doesn’t even connect the act of sex with reproduction. But the human does. The reasoning human mind asks, ‘What is the purpose of breathing, eating, sleeping, and making more humans?’ We humans have the capacity to evaluate the quality of our thoughts and our acts. Animals do not. Humans, if we dare, think not only about survival, but survival after death. As our brother Ernie pointed out: something tells us that what our senses perceive is not all there is. Our thoughts, which always precede our acts, can bring about the right conditions for understanding, enlightenment, and spiritual expansion. What are you two thinking of now?”
    James answered, “Just what we’re talking about, whether I will survive when I die.”
    I said, “I was wondering exactly what survives when my body and brain die?”
    “Excellent, Private Baker. The philosopher’s answer to your query is: Nothing good dies, the only things of lasting value are values themselves. The religionist would answer it is your soul that survives, and that the substance of the soul is divine values. All religions worthy of the name teach that humans have souls. And that soul consists of spiritual values, transcendent values generally defined under the three-fold heading of truth, beauty, and goodness. The truth-seeking scientist, if he or she is completely honest and objective, says, ‘There is much we do not know.’ The atheistic scientist, of course, is a slave to reason, to the senses, to what can be observed experimentally. The atheist cannot abide spiritually based values, including the soul, because the soul can’t be proven or quantified.”
    He went on, “The spiritual experimenters of the East and the West, those mystics who dare to explore the inner life, almost all report that humans not only possess a soul, but also have a fragment of divinity which resides within. When an Eastern guru greets you with the word, ‘Namaste,’ he is saying ‘The God in me salutes the God in you.’ Jesus clearly stated, ‘the kingdom of God is within.’ To further answer your question about conditions, look inside. It was good advice that great teacher gave: ‘Knock and the door will be opened.’ The universe is designed so that the sincere desire to know about the meaning, purpose, or value of life is enough to bring forth the teacher. And the teacher can take many forms.”
    That was the deepest conversation I’d ever had about the meaning of life and whether there was an afterlife. I never forgot it and often pondered Lawrence’s philosophical insights. He belonged in a university, not a war. What a waste if he should die on the battlefield.
    Then James wanted to talk about home, to know more about the latest happenings, about Martin Luther King’s marches, the hippie movement, resistance to the draft, recent movies, and other news of the day. I told them everything I could remember after which we inflated our air mattresses and prepared to sleep. It was a beautiful night, much cooler, and there was enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes away.
    Lying there beside my tent, looking up at the Milky Way I thought, “This is the same sky as back home.” Such a strange juxtaposition, the cosmic field of beauty above, and this field of danger and ugly death on the ground. It took a long while to get to sleep. I kept thinking of how close death and injury had come earlier that day, and Lieutenant Smithson’s toe stump. It would need a fresh bandage in the morning.
    .
    Chapter 3
    A Place of Revelation
    .
       It must have been after midnight. I was startled awake when someone on guard shouted in a panic, “Incoming!” I sat bolt upright and heard several thunks. Basic training taught us that’s the sound mortars make when they are launched. I leapt from the air mattress into my foxhole. The first mortar landed half way up the hill. The next one a little higher, and the third landed smack on top, not far away. I crouched as low as possible wishing I could crawl into my helmet.
    Several more struck. I heard a cry for a medic. Before I could get out and find my med pouch, a mortar exploded next to my foxhole. The concussion wave from it was tremendous. Suddenly there was a floating sensation. I looked down and saw my body slumped inside the foxhole. It was very odd rising above everything. But I felt no pain, in fact it was freeing in a way. I could still see and hear the chaos on the ground, there was yelling and James was calling artillery for illumination rounds. But I was above it, and rising quickly. Then everything faded to black.
    The next thing I recall was seeing two luminous beings, peering intensely at me. One of them said quite distinctly, “You are all right, Ernie.”
    “What? I died?” the words barely came out, like a muffled whisper.
    The other being said, “No.” They both had brilliant and kindly faces. Their voices were as soft as a rose petal.
    “You are alive,” the first one assured me.
    I took a long look at them. “You are beautiful.”
    “Thank you,” the second one replied with a dazzling and charming smile.
    “Who are you?”
    “We are your Guardians,” said the first.
    “Guardians? Wait… I didn’t die and I’m alive?”
    “Yes. Don’t you feel alive?” answered the second.
    After a moment, I said, “I must be… But this could be a dream.”
    “Not a dream, Ernie,” the first said firmly.
    “The mortar, it exploded. I was hurt and floated over everything.”
    “Your body was injured but not destroyed. This is not a dream, a hallucination, or an illusion,” the second being declared with an undeniable confidence.
    “Is this heaven?” I asked. “You know my name. But who are you?”
    The first one repeated, “We are your Guardians. You may call me Joyah, and this is Rayah. We are of an angelic order. We have been assigned to your watch-care and education.”
    I tried to shake off a foggy feeling. “Guardians?”
    “Yes, we are your Guardians Angels.”
    “Were you with me when the mortar hit?”
    “We were,” Joyah replied.
    “I’m not understanding, I’m sorry… You’re saying my body is alive, but I’m not in it? And I’m not dead?”
    “That is correct,” Rayah said with absolute conviction and authority.
    “How can that be? Where is this? Where are we? If you’re really Guardians, why was I hurt?”
    Joyah answered in a touching and reassuring tone, “Ernie, the attachment to your flesh and bone body has been severed, but only temporarily. We are in what you might refer to as a holding area, a place of revelation above the Earthly realm and below what you would conceive to be the heavenly realm. I assure you, there is a reason you are here. You may be certain that your Earthly body was not fatally injured and you will soon return to it.”
    “So, you’re telling me a person can exist without a body? And where we are is half-way to heaven?”
    “You may think of it that way,” replied Rayah. “And as Joyah said, this is a place of revelation, of education. It is not a place of permanent residence. You are here for a purpose and will very soon re-enter your physical body. Your life on Earth is not yet over.”
    “What purpose? I am not understanding. This is too much to believe. There was an explosion by my foxhole; I left my body; consciousness faded. Then I woke up here with you two, and you’re telling me I’m not dead… and that I’m going to return to my body?”
    For the first time, I took note of the surroundings. I had a body of sorts. It looked just like Joyah and Rayah’s, solid but light. I had arms, legs and a trunk. I squeezed each of my arms and touched my face with both hands. I couldn’t quite decide whether I was solid or light. There was nothing to see but the three of us. Everything beyond us was silent and indistinct, misty-like. Neither could I understand whether we were standing or floating. But I did feel painless, safe, and good.
    “Your mortal senses will be limited during your short time here, Ernie, but other senses will be enhanced,” Rayah informed me.
    “Short time? How long? If this is really real, what exactly am I doing here?”
    Joyah answered, “We have but a few minutes more. Here you will discover many things. We do truly want to help you understand what has happened. And there is a reason you are here. We require your help.”
    “My help? What could I possibly do for angels, assuming you exist and this is real? I still don’t understand how I can be alive here—and there. You’re telling me my body is still alive down there, and I’m going back. I have to be dreaming, or… or that blast is making me hallucinate. That has to be it!”
    “Where you are, what you are seeing, hearing, and feeling is more real than what you saw, heard, and felt in your material body,” Joyah stated with total assurance. Something in me wanted to believe her. She went on, “We have an assignment that involves you. The explosion provided an opening, an opportunity for a first meeting. Your appearance here coincides with our assigned task. We are hoping that you will cooperate, that you will volunteer to help us complete our assignment at subsequent meetings.”
    “Assignment? Subsequent meetings? What assignment? What do angels have to do with me, what are you saying!?” I was feeling slightly frustrated.
    Rayah answered in a most understanding way, “Our mission, our assignment, involves revelation. If you agree—and you must know that you are not obliged to cooperate with us—we want you to deliver a message to your world about life after life in the flesh, about the worlds above, the heavens, as you call them.”
    “Revelation? You’re saying there is an afterlife? There is heaven? If there is, why would you choose me to reveal it? I’m not a religious person. And why have you not shown yourselves before?”
    Without the least impatience, Rayah explained, “There most assuredly is an afterlife. And there are heavens that human imagination cannot conceive, glorious and divine. But because we are invisible to human eyes here on Earth, we do not make direct physical contact, except in emergencies. Angels are constantly watching over you and your fellows during life in the flesh. And even though we Guardians are not permitted to show ourselves, we can and sometimes do, save you. But almost always in a way that can’t be seen or proven. Life on Earth is designed to elicit and promote faith. And what humans sometimes believe is miraculous is often merely Guardian Angels performing invisibly.”
    “You seem sincere and for some crazy reason I want to believe you. But I’m still doubting this is actually real, this… this place, and you two. Right now, I’m remembering stories of dying or injured people being taken up and seeing visions of higher worlds. Maybe that’s what’s going on.”
    “We hope you can be convinced of the reality of this experience, Ernie,” Joyah said. “And doubt not, many of those stories you heard are based in fact, although some are distorted by material human interpretations and the inherent limitations of mortal understanding. What you are experiencing here and now is real. And what we are asking of you, we ask in sincerity. Our mission to reveal certain facts to you has been approved by our supervisors. You can perform a great service to the people of your world. If you will only consent.”
    “Consent? How can I give consent when I’m not even sure you exist, or that this is real?” They smiled at me so tenderly and earnestly; I will never forget that smile. “I do have to say, this does feel real. But I remember dreams that felt real, until I woke up.”
    “Do you recall ever wondering if you were in a dream while you were in it?” Rayah asked.
    “No, I guess not… No, I don’t. And my dreams are almost always strange and disjointed.”
    “Does this place have that same feel, that same essence the disordered dream state has?”
    “No,” I had to admit. “There’s something very real about this, and you. I can’t explain it. In fact, it’s starting to feel more real than life down there.”
    Then Joyah said, “Maybe speaking with someone you know will help with your doubt. Allow us to introduce loved ones you knew as a child, and who you often thought of after they departed Earth.”
    Out of the pale blue mist that surrounded us, two familiar faces appeared. I knew them but couldn’t quite put a name to them.
    The Guardians must have sensed the absence of recognition because Rayah said, “Ernie, surely you recall your Nana and Grandad?”
    I was stunned for a long moment. But then I realized it had to be them. “Nana? Grandad? How can it be you?” I asked, but I knew it was them when we locked eyes. “You look so young!” They moved close and hugged me, the feeling of familiarity was unmistakable; I knew that embrace. Suddenly I felt like crying and blurted out, “I missed you! You’re alive?”
    “We are, Ernie,” Nana said in a voice that was undoubtedly hers. Their young faces were beaming with joy and bright smiles.
    “So good to see you grandson,” Grandad said. “We look forward to the day the whole family has its next reunion.” Reunions were annual events in our family.
    “It really is you. I can’t believe it. What? How? You…” I was overwhelmed with feelings that harkened to the days of their deaths. I reached out, took them in my arms, and squeezed them. We all laughed and I knew then I wasn’t dreaming. That embrace was more real than any I’d ever had. “You are so beautiful, and young!”
    “Eternity has its rewards, Ernie,” Nana said. “When you die, you’ll get a new body, kind of like these, as she gestured to their forms.” I hardly knew how to react.
    “I’m so amazed by all of this, and so happy to see you two again. And I’m beginning to believe this is not a dream or a hallucination. These Guardians say my body is not dead and I will go back to it. Do you know these angels?”
    “We do,” Grandad replied. “They contacted us the minute you were brought to this place, to request that we greet you.”
    “How long have you been alive? I mean, where do you live now? Who else is there? What’s it like? Is that where I’ll go when I die?” Questions were flooding my mind now that doubts were fading.
    Then Joyah said, “Answers to those and many other questions involve our assignment, Ernie. We want to answer them. It is part of our work.”
    “But, I can’t stay here, can I?”
    “We are hoping that you will cooperate, that you will volunteer to help us complete our assignment at subsequent meetings. You should know there are others in similar situations—ones who have come here, been given a view of the next life, and returned to report what they learned. This is what we are doing, Ernie,” Rayah explained.
    She added, “You are still young and could have many years ahead in which to assimilate what we reveal, and then share it with your Earthly peers. Seldom do we see one of your age with such a compassionate heart. It was noted when you decided not to kill in your military service. And this rare compassion was first confirmed when you chose to become a healer. We well know that was not an easy decision for you. You’ve suffered much ridicule for taking a role that is normally relegated to females. These choices were for the right reasons—because you care about the health and welfare of others. There is no higher form of love.” That was very gratifying to hear, but I still wasn’t clear about what they were proposing.
    “So, what so you want me to do exactly? I’m a nurse, not a teacher or a preacher.”
    Joyah said, “We are hoping that this experience, and more to come, will inspire you to greater service. That you will write down everything that has happened here, and everything that we reveal in the future. That you will, in due time, publish these revelations. Very soon we will make contact again. Indeed, this process will require many sessions and much revelation. But you should not doubt that we will continue to be your faithful Guardians on Earth, as well as your teachers on high. We will be your willing and able supporters in this revelatory project.”
    “I see… and when do you want to start? What about my body back down there? How am I supposed to return to it? And when?”
    “We will return you to the material world soon enough,” Rayah answered. “Now that your doubts have been removed, we know that you will retain memories of us, your grandparents, and this meeting.”
    “Just when I was beginning to like being here, I have to go.”
    Joyah put a comforting hand on my shoulder and said, “You will want to bid your grandparents good-bye for a season. But, to be sure, you will rejoin them, and many others, when you resurrect.” I remember feeling a deep resonance with that word, resurrect.
    Rayah added, “We know it is difficult to return after you have had a taste and a vision of life beyond. But now you know, and may be sure, that we are always at your side. And even though we cannot be seen or heard with your human senses, we will be in contact, much as we are now.” I trusted what she said, and my grandparents gave an approving smile. Just then I felt a powerful longing to stay. But I knew the right thing to do was to follow the angels’ words.
    “So long, Nana, Grandad. I love you, and am very glad to know you’re alive. And so young!” We three hugged again and they looked me in the eye. Nana said, “We love you, Ernie. And we’ll be there when you’re done on Earth.”
    That’s everything I could recall.
    .
    ***
    .
    Another UB based novel: Print and Kindle versions, Resurrection Hall –  A Mansion World Odyssey: https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Hall-Mansion-World-Odyssey/dp/1545586667/
    .
    ***
    .

     

    #31948
    Avatar
    Gene
    Participant
    Great story and I will hope to get them on my kindle.
    However I do have an opinion in regard to “battlefield-guardians-Viet Nam: Hope you
    don’t take this the wrong way but here goes.
    
    First: I flew in and out of Chu Lai many times between may 67 and may 68 on Huey,
    Chinook, Caribu and C-130 but do not recall the airfield being able to accommodate a
    Pan Am passenger jet??? Maybe my memory fails.
    
    Second: I don’t like to split hairs but I have always resented the Walter Cronkite
    narrative that America was defeated in Viet Nam - to the contrary, America walked
    away - the communist party was dealt a decisive blow even though it all ended the
    way it did and thank God it ended. And America walked away because of political
    division at home, we turned our backs on friends because of so much anti war
    sentiment. Also, the Vietnamese communists were willing to lose all - to the last
    man/woman/child in order to achieve their goal where Americans had not the ability
    to think that way since maybe the Revolutionary war. Good or bad thing I can’t say
    but tell me where loyalties were at the time? Mine were God and country however good
    or bad that may have been. My memory of anti war activists was a degenerate drug
    culture, easily manipulated by just about anybody.
    
    Second #2: The narrative of a platoon or company being put down in the open with
    hostile fire coming from heavily concealed jungle was so typical - the sergeants
    that perpetuated such catastrophic nonsense that killed and maimed so many of us
    were typically Korean or WW2 veterans that tried to fight a gorilla war like their
    experience told them - bad and costly idea - been there, done that. These veteran
    NCO’s tended to dominate the younger officers fresh out of officer candidate school.
    
    Third: Paper #32 leads me to believe that it is God the Father that is involved
    personally with individuals through his personality circuit and the Adjusters - All
    else delegated to beings down from the Trinity are more involved with the whole - or
    may I say social type of stuff? 
    So why would this individual get so much personal attention? If he goes out
    preaching and trying to tell his story doesn’t he become an evangelist? Didn’t he
    already live a life where he was living out his ideals by deciding not to kill?
    
    If I were a guardian making decisions on who to do this sort of thing to in order to
    achieve some sort of social upgrade or maybe salvage any social good that may be
    present at the time  I may choose someone with a hardened heart, like the Zionist
    Nelson Rockefeller who’s manipulations of President Roosevelt and laws like Bank
    Holiday, the Federal Reserve System, the New Deal, his book “the American Rich”
    which was designed to move America toward a totalitarian society, his efforts to
    secure Arab oil reserves, the Rockefeller controlled I.G. Farben industries which
    was so supportive on Nazi Germany, etc.
    I could go on quite a bit but won’t. How would the world be different socially if
    old Nelson got a Guardian upgrade?
    
    Thank God that there were people with ideals related to maintaining liberty
    otherwise we may all be speaking some form or combination of Italian, Japanese and
    German right now, minus our God inspired liberties. These same people were killers
    for lack of a better way to put it.
    
    If Nelson Rockefeller were taken from his sleep and shown a similar revelation, the
    world may have been a better place by now, showing progress, not regress.
    
    #31950
    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant

    Thanks Gene. We landed in a commercial jet on 3/22/68, in Chu Lai.

    #31953
    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant

    Thanks Gene. We landed in a commercial jet on 3/22/68, in Chu Lai.

    You got me thinking. There are maps of 1968 Chu Lai, shoulda known. It had a long runway, but maybe we did land in Da Nang, that would make more sense.  We must have been trucked down to Chu Lai. Memory of that event is foggy. If this was a historical book, I would withdraw it and correct it.  This book is fiction, its war/love story is there to provide an interesting, attractive (I hope and pray) wrapper for revelation.

    .

    #31954
    Avatar
    Gene
    Participant

    Thx Rick

    im a bit off topic and almost erased my response.

    i really didn’t miss your real point, just responded prematurely without thinking much, as usual with this subject. Some things just won’t go away.

    #31955
    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant

    Understood, brother.

    #31958
    Avatar
    Gene
    Participant

    How about some poetry:
    From Rainer Rilke:
    Part of the first Elegy:
    Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders? And even if one of them pressed me suddenly to his heart: Id be consumed in his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we can just barely endure, and we stand in awe of it as it coolly disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.
    And so I check myself and swallow the luring call of dark sobs. Alas, whom can we turn to in our need? Not angels, not humans, and the sly animals see at once how little at home we are in the interpreted world. That leaves us some tree on a hillside, on which our eyes fasten day after day: leaves us yesterday’s street and the coddled loyalty of an old habit that liked it there, stayed on, and never left.
    O and the night, the night, when the wind full of worldspace gnaws at our faces ——, for whom won’t the night be there, desired, gently disappointing, a hard rendezvous for each toiling heart. Is it easier for lovers?
    Ah, but they only use each other to hide what awaits them.
    You still don’t see? Cast the emptiness from your arms into the spaces we breathe: perhaps the birds will sense the increase of air with more passionate flying.

    #32006
    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant

    How about some poetry: From Rainer Rilke: Part of the first Elegy: Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders? And even if one of them pressed me suddenly to his heart: Id be consumed in his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we can just barely endure, and we stand in awe of it as it coolly disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying. And so I check myself and swallow the luring call of dark sobs. Alas, whom can we turn to in our need? Not angels, not humans, and the sly animals see at once how little at home we are in the interpreted world. That leaves us some tree on a hillside, on which our eyes fasten day after day: leaves us yesterday’s street and the coddled loyalty of an old habit that liked it there, stayed on, and never left. O and the night, the night, when the wind full of worldspace gnaws at our faces ——, for whom won’t the night be there, desired, gently disappointing, a hard rendezvous for each toiling heart. Is it easier for lovers? Ah, but they only use each other to hide what awaits them. You still don’t see? Cast the emptiness from your arms into the spaces we breathe: perhaps the birds will sense the increase of air with more passionate flying.

    Evidently all his Elegies aren’t so bleak:

    Rilke began writing the elegies in 1912 while a guest of Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis (1855–1934) at Duino Castle, near Trieste on the Adriatic Sea. During this ten-year period, the elegies languished incomplete for long stretches of time as Rilke suffered frequently from severe depression—some of which was caused by the events of World War I and his conscripted military service. Aside from brief episodes of writing in 1913 and 1915, Rilke did not return to the work until a few years after the war ended. With a sudden, renewed inspiration—writing in a frantic pace he described as “a savage creative storm”—he completed the collection in February 1922 while staying at Château de Muzot in Veyras, in Switzerland’s Rhone Valley. After their publication and his death shortly thereafter, the Duino Elegies were quickly recognized by critics and scholars as Rilke’s most important work.

    The Duino Elegies are intensely religious, mystical poems that weigh beauty and existential suffering. The poems employ a rich symbolism of angels and salvation but not in keeping with typical Christian interpretations. Rilke begins the first elegy in an invocation of philosophical despair, asking: “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies of angels?” (Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?) and later declares that “every angel is terrifying” (Jeder Engel ist schrecklich). While labelling of these poems as “elegies” would typically imply melancholy and lamentation, many passages are marked by their positive energy and “unrestrained enthusiasm”. Together, the Duino Elegies are described as a metamorphosis of Rilke’s “ontological torment” and an “impassioned monologue about coming to terms with human existence” discussing themes of “the limitations and insufficiency of the human condition and fractured human consciousness … man’s loneliness, the perfection of the angels, life and death, love and lovers, and the task of the poet.”

    .
    Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainer_Maria_Rilke#Writings

    .

    ***

    #32008
    Avatar
    Gene
    Participant

    My mistake

    Chu Lai airfield 1968

    was capable of handling passenger jet liner

    Design intention may have been to be capable for emergency landing for B-52

    #32009
    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant

    My mistake Chu Lai airfield 1968 was capable of handling passenger jet liner Design intention may have been to be capable for emergency landing for B-52

    Aha, thanks for cking it out, Gene. Had me wondering…which is easy these daze.

    .

    #32126
    Avatar
    Gene
    Participant

    I very much enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone.

    it helps understand how important commitments are. However still a bit uncertain if it matters what the commitment is.

    i lived 30k south of Chu Lai in Mo Duc at LZ Dragon for a year May 67 May 68

    brings back too many memories.

    R&R – been there done that too. 😇

    i read the disclaimer but still feel compelled to ask: are you Ernie?

    #32127
    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant

    I very much enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone. it helps understand how important commitments are. However still a bit uncertain if it matters what the commitment is. i lived 30k south of Chu Lai in Mo Duc at LZ Dragon for a year May 67 May 68 brings back too many memories. R&R – been there done that too. 😇 i read the disclaimer but still feel compelled to ask: are you Ernie?

    Thanks Gene! Very good to hear. Wasn’t sure how VN vets would react, but you’re the second one who liked it. Our tours overlapped about two months…You RnRed in Bangkok too? Ernie is who I might have been, looking back. For example, the water torture scene happened, but no one spoke up.

    #32128
    Avatar
    Gene
    Participant

    Must admit I never encountered any CO’s while there and after I got home and after doing riot control training and being sent to quell the Chicago riots August 68 I remain highly opinionated, can’t help it.

    I enlisted at 17.

    however, the message of decision and commitment that got the attention of guardians was compelling and worthy of effort to finish the book. Nice inclusion of the Urantia revelation.

    yup, Bangkok. The taxi guy was there for me 24/7. $40. For the week. Great description of the place.

    Too many young guys put into survival mode, can’t hardly tell atrocity from nonatrocity. All very crazy. Morality and sanity were mostly missing.

    we were engineers, lots of backbreaking labor keeping hwy#1 open.

    That said, Ernie is a character I can respect.

    thanks for writing it.

    #32166
    Rick Warren
    Rick Warren
    Participant

    Must admit I never encountered any CO’s while there…

    Me neither, but about 8 or ten years ago, one was at a U conference at Leavenworth (of all places). He was sent out like Ernie. And he surfaced on Facebook last month. Hope to get him a copy.

    …and after I got home and after doing riot control training and being sent to quell the Chicago riots August 68 I remain highly opinionated, can’t help it.

    Understood.

    I enlisted at 17. however, the message of decision and commitment that got the attention of guardians was compelling and worthy of effort to finish the book.

    Good to know.

    Nice inclusion of the Urantia revelation.

    It’s the point of course, but writing it was a trip.

    yup, Bangkok. The taxi guy was there for me 24/7. $40. For the week. Great description of the place.

    Funny how it comes back so vivid fifty years after.

    Too many young guys put into survival mode, can’t hardly tell atrocity from nonatrocity. All very crazy. Morality and sanity were mostly missing.

    A near perfect definition of war.

    …we were engineers, lots of backbreaking labor keeping hwy#1 open.

     

    Spent much time sweeping it after you left, in the mornings, when we were in the rear.

     

    That said, Ernie is a character I can respect.

    Such an odd feeling comes from creating characters that are better than me. It was the same with Resurrection Hall.

    thanks for writing it.

    The feedback means a lot. About time for us to take the always-open road home, eh?

    .

    #32285
    magmasloth64
    magmasloth64
    Participant

    This is so beautiful

    “As we chatted, darkness closed in and the stars came out in remarkable brilliance. There was no moon that night and the only lights in the area were an occasional cigarette being lit behind cupped hands. We stared up at the Milky Way. It was starrier than I’d ever seen. It looked like a giant rip in the cosmos, a great tear in the sky. I couldn’t help wondering if there were other inhabited worlds, and whether there were soldiers on those worlds watching the silent sky and thinking about the comforts of home and the insanity of war. As we watched the starry ceiling above, a soft chorus of crickets suddenly sang out.”

    I’ve placed an order for this book and can’t wait for it to arrive so I can finish reading.

    Rick Warren, I’m absolutely grateful for the books you’ve been putting out, reading Resurrection Hall: A Mansion World Odyssey was a thrilling experience that actually got my heart racing. I finished the book just before my girlfriend crossed the finish line after running her first half marathon and I couldn’t help but think that is how we’ll feel in the morontia realm.

    Rick, there is a question I’d love to ask you, and seeing that you are a veteren and retired repairman, I imagine you may be able to give me a good answer. I’ve been considering joining the Air Force as an HVAC technician, and possibly also learning about Cable and Antenna Systems. I love the idea of going through the training to develop my character to its fullest, pushing myself beyond my limits, and qualifying myself for a future career as an HVAC technician. I’m 25 so I’m not too old to join the AF yet, and I am literally obsessed with the Urantia book, which leads me to a major philosophical dilemma; I would never take another human life and would strive to avoid combat. I imagined I could serve under a four year contract and get all of the education I need to live out the rest of my life as an HVAC technician, although the job is in such a high demand that most companies will pay for your education under an apprenticeship program. I currently run a community discord server that I host, “The Urantian Think Tank” and as a hobby I make 3d models of industrial machines and equipment as an environment artist as a part of Tripmine Studios, working on the game Operation: Black Mesa. My dream is to someday create meaningful videogames for kids and families.
    I imagine you would hopefully be able to give me some advice on your opinions joining the military, and I mainly want to know if I could serve for four years without engaging in combat if I’m an HVAC Tech or Cable & Antenna repairman. My girlfriend is supportive and also wants to encourage me to be the best that I can be. After all, the UB places character development at the heart of our eternal career. It was particularly inspiring to read the “Memorial Service for Bill Sadler” where he was praised for his service as a marine, and I’ve heard Bill Sadler Jr. in his lectures compare our life on Earth to his experience in bootcamp on Parris Island.

    Do you think the Air Force is something I should continue to consider? Would I encounter others in the military who hold strong spiritual values or religious convictions that would prevent them from ever engaging in combat? From what I understand you will never encounter a combat situation if you’re not in infantry or something similar.

    Thanks. :)

    Join the discussion with channels for all Urantia papers at the Urantian Think Tank!
    https://discord.gg/TU5NzeD

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