The Spirit of an Angel (Chapter 2 - The First Day, page 1 of 11)


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"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." Psalm 23 4

As we traveled along the beach I first realized the tropical heat. Even though there was a good breeze the hot sun reflected and magnified the heat off the pure white sand. The beauty of it was magnificent but the temperature had to be triple digits with a killer humidity. The convoy I was in was four Willy Jeeps long, with four or five men in each.

Something on the beach came in view. It was a bright orange bundle that washed up to shore. The short caravan was ordered to stop. That's when I realized the pasty white and orange mass was a dead body. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit. Everyone was saying he was a Marine jet pilot.

Someone said. "Must have been shot down and his body washed to shore."

His body was all bloated and starting to decompose, bugs were all over it. Even though this was not the first dead body I had seen, it was still shocking. And this was just my first day in Vietnam. We were ordered to get out of the jeeps. Unconsciously and instinctively I put my hand to my heart.

***

It was nineteen sixty six, I was nineteen years old and I had to seriously decide what I wanted to do. I was working at an auto factory, on the production line, and I clearly knew that was something I didn't want to do. College was an option but I wasn't compelled to go to school, I was drawn to Vietnam. I couldn't even find it on a map, but on television it was everywhere and it was all bad news. My friend Bill Todd had joined the Marines and while home on leave he sort of planted the idea.

We were in his backyard and he was providing a visual imitation of what a true Drill Instructor was like. Yelling and spouting orders, he even began to call a cadence in true Marine DI style.

But it really wasn't Todd that persuaded me. For some unknown deep seeded reason I felt Vietnam was where I needed to be.

Amy pleaded, "Joe, please don't go. Why? You can go to college, play basketball and be deferred or something. You can't do this to me."

Amy was my friend and was upset, not to mention my mom. Mom, Dad, Amy, and even my brother Mitch all pleaded with me not to go. But no matter how hard I tried to resist, there was no doubt in my heart I was going to Vietnam. So, I joined the Marines. Following boot camp I was in excellent shape-lost ten pounds-measured 6'3" tall and 210 pounds. I was young, dumb, and raring to go. Little did I know it would be an experience that would have a life long effect.

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