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May 1968 I Corps Area, South Vietnam
Marine Lance Corporal Ken White and I walked across the broad expanse of white sandy soil on the way to our night posts. It was nearly midnight, and the bright moon behind us cast long shadows across the dunes ahead. My attention suddenly shifted from the sand to the sky as I saw bright orange flashes on the distant hills miles from our base. The flashes were followed by a staggered series of muffled explosions.
At eighteen, I was a new guy in Vietnam, less than a month "in country." Ken had been there about ten months. He had been through the Tet Offensive in January 1968, when the Vietcong had launched massive attacks on almost every American base in South Vietnam.
Taking note of the explosions in front of us, Ken calmly said, "Looks like they're getting hit with rockets over at the air base." I had seen no real action yet but tried to sound matter-of-fact as I agreed with his observation.
A moment later a set of brighter orange explosions appeared off to our immediate right. Like thunder following lightning, the reports of the Russian-made 122mm rockets came much faster, much closer. Ken was not so low-key now as he said, "Man, they're getting hit right over there at Hotel Battery [a nearby artillery base]."
My eyes quickly scanned the dark, jagged shapes of the surrounding hills. There were more flashes of light and booms of thunder behind us as another nearby Marine position came under bombardment from the rockets.
In a high-pitched voice, my friend suddenly shouted, "Don, they're hitting all around us!" We stood in a large, open area with no cover available.
I heard something that sounded like the amplified hiss of tires on wet pavement passing overhead. I looked up in the direction of the whoosh, and a bright flash lit up the sky behind the building directly across the field from us. Instantly, this was followed by the sharp crump of an explosion. It sounded like the slamming of a car door magnified a hundred times. Flames leaped up now from that direction.
I looked at Ken. I could barely make out his voice over the din caused by more whooshes, more explosions, and men shouting and screaming.
"Incoming—those are incoming rockets! Run for cover!" Ken shouted.
I lost sight of him as we both sprinted for a sandbagged bunker. Terror I had never known propelled me across the soft sand. I glanced to my left, looking for Ken. Instead, I saw a newly constructed building disappear in a sheet of white-and-orange flame. The sound of that explosion was indistinguishable from the general chaos. Several other rockets hit almost simultaneously among the enlisted men's tented huts. I could now clearly hear the cries and screams of wounded Marines.
More rockets passed overhead and exploded nearby as I reached the bunker. I dove into a narrow opening. My hands pulled my helmet down tightly over my head and neck, but my legs and feet were well outside the protection of the sandbags. I was too paralyzed with fear to wiggle the rest of the way into the bunker.
I had not prayed in years. As the cries of the wounded grew louder and the salvos of rockets continued to fall, I felt sure I was about to die. In panic-stricken, hyperventilated breaths, I talked to God: "O God, I'm too young to die! I believe you have some purpose for my life! If you will get me out of Vietnam alive, I will do whatever you want. I'll be whatever you want me to be. I'll serve you the rest of my life!" I was desperate, but I was sincere.
A few minutes later, the attack was over. I slowly crawled out of the bunker, barely able to believe that I was still alive. I jogged over to the enlisted men's area behind the smoky remains of our now-demolished mess hall. The sputtering fire among the ruins provided a little light. On the ground were several bodies. They were small, shriveled, and blackened—barely recognizable as people. The bodies were lying on top of green ponchos with only tatters of clothing sticking to them. They were so small that I was sure they must have been Vietcong soldiers—our enemies. I spoke nervously to a captain standing nearby: "Sir, how did these Vietcong get here, right in the middle of our base?"
He looked up and said, "These aren't their soldiers, son." Pointing to my left, he said, "These are Marines who were caught asleep in that hut right over there. As soon as their ammo finished cooking off, we brought them out here." I looked over at the jumble of smoldering plywood, twisted metal, and charred two-by-fours.
Horror gripped me. I realized these must be the same young men with whom I had drunk my first whiskey just the night before. None of these boys were over twenty-one. Two of them had told me they were due to go home in just a few days. My knees nearly buckled, and bile rose in my throat. I felt dizzy and disconnected. Now, I heard the captain yelling at me, "Don't just stand there, son. Run over to the corpsmen and grab some stretchers so we can get these poor guys out of here."
For several days after that, the slightest sudden sound made me jump. Since I was pulling night duty, I had to try to sleep during the day. My hut was near the perimeter of our base. The senior NCOs (noncommissioned officers) had their huts close to the center of the compound.
Not far from their housing were two tall radio masts. Each mast had a red light on top to keep helicopters from running into them. Unfortunately, the masts also served as something like goal posts for the Vietcong, who aimed their six-foot-long rockets in our direction. As a result, the majority of rockets hit somewhere in the vicinity of the senior NCOs. We called it "Rocket Alley." After a while, the plywood sides of these huts were seriously ventilated with holes made by shrapnel.
As the shelling increased, the commanders made a strategic decision to move some of the enlisted men, including me, into the more dangerous "Rocket Alley" area. The senior NCOs would then move into our huts.
Before going to my post on the night that order came down, I reluctantly dragged my gear over to my new quarters in the central area. The very next afternoon, I was startled by the cracking explosion and concussion of the first of a volley of enemy rockets. The surprise daytime attack was over quickly, and I saw smoke rising from the edge of our base. Men began running in that direction. I followed. I soon realized that we were running in the direction of the hut I had just vacated.
My former residence was a smoking ruin. Behind what was left of a plywood wall, I saw a couple of corpsmen feverishly working on someone. After a few minutes, they stood up and put their hands on their hips. Their dejected posture made it obvious that the bloody, burnt Marine was dead.
A cold chill radiated from my heart and spread outward as I realized that if I had not moved the previous night, I could have been that poor guy.
A few months later, I was recuperating from a minor wound at the US Naval Hospital on the little island of Guam. God had heard my prayer. After sustaining a "million-dollar wound"—serious enough that I had to leave Vietnam but not so serious as to disable me permanently—I was miraculously alive and out of Vietnam in one, only slightly damaged piece.
After surgery, I was able to move around. Days were given to physical therapy and minor hospital chores. Evenings were spent at the enlisted men's club, where I enjoyed the free-flowing alcohol and the island girls who hung on to us. One boring day after another passed as I waited to be sent to a hospital in the "world," as we called the continental United States.
God, who is faithful, had answered my prayer and kept his side of the bargain. As for me, I conveniently forgot the promises I had made to him. I didn't yet know that God keeps good books and doesn't forget a thing. It would be seven years before he came to collect.
Meditation on the Miraculous
God pursues us before we even acknowledge him. His ears are already open to our cries for help.
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!
Excerpted from A LIFE OF MIRACLES by DON SCHULZE. Copyright © 2014 James Donald Schulze, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
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Posted August 23, 2014
The title of this book so perfect! Don Schulze has seen miracle after miracle in his life – from the healing of the sick to the arrival of money just as it was needed to even the resurrection of a destroyed electrical appliance. I completely loved this book as he told of God’s faithfulness. And it was done in such a humble way, sharing his difficulties in following at times. Don and his wife Leia follow God from church to church, sometimes wondering why God has lead them to certain places, and from country to country. They have not always been in “safe” places but have trusted God to care for them. What an amazing story!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 3, 2014
I enjoyed reading this book. Schulze shares the stories of miracles he either witnessed or experienced throughout his years of ministry. The best part for me was reading about how at times he was resistant to heeding God's call, but was obedient anyway. It isn't often that readers are treated to that kind of candor.
I loved reading all the stories, but also appreciated the applications at the end of each chapter where Schulze shared scriptures and ideas for readers to apply to their own lives. It was particularly interesting to me to read about the churches that Schulze planted in the Southern California area. I remember seeing a billboard for one of the churches he mentioned in the book.
If you are looking for an inspiring, uplifting read, this is the book for you. By the end, you will be looking for miracles in your own life!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Posted May 21, 2014
No text was provided for this review.