I don't know about you, but there aren't too many days that go by that I don't find myself thinking about Vietnam and the life changing events of LZ Margo. As the anniversary approaches, I feel like I'm on sensory overload. My mind is constantly thinking about the "what if's" or "what might have been." The memories of that day are still vivid. Sometimes, too vivid. They are forever etched into my soul. The screams, deafening explosions, and the continual "thumping" sound of NVA mortars leaving their tubes are permanently ingrained into my mind's eye. To this day, begging God to spare me that day is the most humbling experience of my life. It's ironic because up until September 16, 1968 I thought I was invincible. I'd seen friends killed and wounded, but that was never going to happen to me.
I'd been in several fire fights, mortar, and rocket attacks prior to Margo, but I never thought I was going to be wounded or die. In fact, I don't ever remember being scared until afterwards when I had the opportunity to think about what had transpired. LZ Margo was different. I don't know why, but I knew I was about to die. I was no longer invincible. I was so certain that I mentally said goodbye to my mom and dad, and to my brother and sisters. There was very little cover, so I just laid there and waited for the inevitable. As scared as I was, it was one of the most peaceful and serene moments of my life. It seemed that the mortars were never going to stop. The explosions were deafening. The screams were louder. Some of the rounds hit so close that they lifted me off the ground. I remember there were moments when I thought the attack was stopping, but the NVA were just walking the rounds to another part of the LZ. When the next barrage came back I was wounded. In hindsight, I realize God had heard me begging for my life and spared me. Back then it had nothing to do with God, I was just lucky. I've thought about it thousands and thousands of times over the years and still don't know why He spared me. How, in the midst of all that chaos, did they find a corpsman to treat my wounds? How did I get medevaced on the first chopper? Why didn't the helicopter we were on crash because it was so overloaded? Why didn't I bleed to death? I'll never know the answers to those questions, but they've given me a purpose in life. That purpose is to keep alive the memory and spirit of the heroes who sacrificed their lives at LZ Margo. That is my sole purpose and I will continue to do so until the day I die.
Over the years I've been told by some that I need to "get over" Vietnam. How do I "get over" something that is engraved into my soul? How do I "get over" a life altering experience that's made me who I am today? To be honest, I don't want to forget. To forget would be a grave dishonor and injustice to those brave men who sacrificed their lives. That's why God spared me. To be the voice they no longer have. That's our responsibility. We are United States Marines and the camaraderie and love we share for one another is what makes us unique. We are a brotherhood like no other.
I've seen things that no teenager should ever have to see. We've all seen those things. The events of September 16, 1968 will forever be with us. As difficult as those times were, I have no regrets. I can't begin to tell you how much I've struggled, and there have been many times I wanted to give up. The blessing is that those sometime seemingly insurmountable struggles have made me a better and stronger person, and I can't be bitter or angry about that. God has, and continues to bless my life beyond belief. Semper Fi