Mother put boys “in God’s hands”
I was in South Carolina, sitting in a theatre lobby waiting for my family. I was drinking thick black coffee that had been brewed too many hours earlier.
I don’t know why the man next to me started talking. Maybe he needed to tell someone. Maybe he recognized me as a collector of stories.
He had three sisters; he and five of his six brothers were military.
One brother couldn’t join, he told me. “He had curvature of the spine, you know, he was handicapped. He tried to sign up, but they wouldn’t let him.”
My new friend had been in the navy his whole life, through the Second World War, through Korea and through Vietnam. He was on boats for all but seven years of his military career.
“Two of the boats I was in were bombed,” he said.
“And you kept going.”
“Yes, ma’am. My mother said that the day we entered the military, she put us in God’s hands. There was one time I came real close. I was in a Jeep driving from Marble Mountain toward Da Nang. Those Jeeps weren’t easy, mind, they bounced all over. I was driving along, coming up to a bridge, and I had my rifle right here on the seat beside me.
“I went over a bump and my rifle fell down. I just reached down to get it, and when I straightened back up, there was a bullet hole right here –” He points to the air right in front of his forehead.
“Someone was looking out for you,” I said.
“Oh yes, oh yes. I still think about it.” He wasn’t looking at me anymore, but somewhere in front of him, where the bullet came from.
“I have dreams about that, you know. I think about it.” After a pause: “All of us came back okay.
“My sister says: ‘One of us will have to bury the other nine.’ One of us will have to bury nine. Four of my brothers are gone—we buried one on Saturday.
“I hope I’m not the one who has to bury the nine.”