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Religion Solidifies My Belief System--Story #1

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Ken is a disabled American combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Purple Heart medal and the Bronze Star with V device medal.

religion-solidifies-my-beliefsystem

Belief and faith are two doctrines found in many areas of our society. At times, we take them for granted.

Go ahead, ask me!

Ask me how I know there is a Divine Power watching over me. Not only can I tell you I know this Divinity watches over me, but I can also give you true stories that happened to me personally. I will get to those in a minute. First, you will need some background to my stories.

My religious beliefs were founded very early in my life. I was raised in a Catholic family, attended a Catholic school and attended church daily during the week, and seldom missed a Sunday Mass.

Throughout high school and into my years in the Army, I maintained a strong belief in God. Something in my mind would not let me question His existence back then, or especially now.

When I was ordered to Vietnam to fulfill my duty to my country, I found myself praying the rosary on the airplane. Mind you, I wasn’t what I would consider a “devout Catholic” by any stretch of the imagination— not at all. Rather, I had a very strong conviction that God is real because nothing I had seen, read, or heard had ever been able to convince me that He was fake.

Armed with that background, let me share an instance that happened to me that help to substantiate His existence in my mind.

True Story #1:

Two months after graduating from high school, I found myself volunteering for service in the Army. I had my reasons: I had a strong urge to get it behind me.

When you enter any of the Armed Forces, you have to go through eight weeks of Basic training. Then, based on your Military Occupation Status (MOS,) you would be assigned for advanced training in that field. My MOS turned out to be Infantryman (aka Grunt!) and that meant eight more weeks of Advanced Infantry Training (AIT.)

After a scant sixteen weeks, some troops were already being sent to Vietnam. I, on the other hand, had requested Airborne training so I could become a paratrooper. I figured if I was going to be sent to Vietnam, I wanted to go with the “baddest of the bad,” to enhance my chances of coming home again. This Airborne training covered eight more weeks of training.

Twenty-four weeks of this most intense training had well prepared all of the men in my Company to perform the most arduous tasks of our lives. After a brief 2 weeks leave to say our goodbyes to our families, we found ourselves hitting the pavement at Ft. Dix, New Jersey to fly to Vietnam.

I landed in-country on February 15th, 1967, and was immediately assigned to an Airborne unit, the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate.) It didn’t take long to get settled in and get acclimated to the heat and brutal terrain the country had to offer.

religion-solidifies-my-beliefsystem

Go ahead, ask me!

My first taste of combat action came on March 5th. When our Company was sent on patrol anywhere, each morning when we awoke, the first chore of the day was always to “sound off” to the front of us around the entire perimeter of our base camp. This meant laying down rounds of continuous rifle fire to our front, to scare possible ambushers from attacking us.

When we sounded off that morning, the Viet Cong swiftly replied with their own “sound off,” sending us scrambling for cover behind trees, or logs, or anything else that would camouflage our location.

A large firefight ensued, and our Commanding Officer called in fighter jets to drop 500 lb. bombs between us and the enemy. The coordinates he gave them were right on target and the enemy soon dispersed. The decision was made not to pursue them, because we didn’t know the size of the resistance we would be facing. Thankfully, no one was injured during all this action.

We weren’t as lucky the next time we were sent on patrol. On April 11th, A Company (my company) was conducting a Search and Destroy (S&D) mission. We had intelligence reports there was a Viet Cong base camp in the jungle and we were to ferret it out, destroy as much as possible, and then hump our way back to base camp before nighttime arrived.

We geared up and headed out at 8 a.m., expecting to engage “Charlie” (a slang word for Viet Cong) within the first couple of hours of our search. True to form, it happened just like that. At 10 a.m., we found multiple bunker positions — an indication we had breached the outer perimeter of the V.C. stronghold.

As we doggedly inched our way through the jungle to the center of the base camp, we saw empty foxholes in every direction. A small campfire was burning, with a tin container of rice boiling on it. We saw nothing of the enemy but knew from what we had seen that he must have made a quick retreat. It looked like we had caught him by surprise.

Over to our left, there was a trail leading back into the jungle and our Captain sent a platoon of men down the trail to search for the enemy.

In half a moment the sound of close rifle fire riveted the air. It was coming from all directions, so I flattened myself on the ground while the captain sought refuge nearby in one of the empty foxholes. I heard calls of “Medic, medic” coming from the trail, and saw our medic head that way...not good news!

Right about then, all hell broke loose to the left of me. The ground around me was being sprayed with bullets, hoping to find their mark. The next thing I knew, I found myself being shifted into the foxhole with my Captain. I looked all around and there wasn’t another living soul around that may have witnessed what just occurred.

I remember having the feeling you get when you drop something unexpectedly, and someone comes along and says, “Here, let me get that for you.” It was as if God Himself had grabbed me by the belt and slid my legs into the foxhole, saving me from certain death. I remember mouthing “Thanks” and felt embarrassed I hadn’t thought to get in the foxhole by myself.

Every Sunday, when I am in church, I always say a prayer for the men who died or were wounded in that war, and I always thank God for saving me that day. I am thoroughly convinced He was watching over me, sheltering me from being harmed.

I have other stories like this to share with you. For the sake of brevity, I am posting each of them individually. Please stay tuned!

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