I got back to Vietnam in 1970. I was a platoon commander. I was leading my patrol on an operation in June 1970 when I was critically wounded. I had a grenade go off at my feet. I was shot twice. I was bayonetted as I lay on the ground and burned by *White phosphorous. The grenade hit me in the leg and fell at my feet. I didn’t see it. I felt it. When I looked down, I could see it laying there right about the time it went off. The explosion picked me up off the ground and threw me backwards.
When I got up, fear and adrenaline kicked in. That's when I was shot twice. Then when I was back on the ground, another enemy soldier came over me and ran me through the stomach with a bayonet. I knew I was going to die in that open field, but another Marine and Navy Corpsman ran across that field and pulled me to safety. Then I was rescued through *medevac and taken to the City of Da Nang to the hospital. I woke up six days later after being in and out of a coma. I saw my twin brother talking to a doctor nearby my bed. I heard the doctor tell my brother, “Son, your brother's going to die. There's not anything we can do.”
I was twenty-two years old, three months from a twenty-third birthday. When I heard the doctor tell my brother that I was gonna die, I felt a fear in my heart that was greater than anything I’d experienced in three tours of combat. I remember that being so afraid. I remember closing my eyes. I remember praying to my heart saying, “God, if you let me live, I'll do anything you want,” and I went to sleep.
I had twenty-seven operations and four plastic surgery operations. When I got out of the hospital nine months later, I looked okay on the outside, but inside I was still wounded. I relived Vietnam every single night. I had married and started a very successful career as a criminal investigator. By my outward appearance I looked like I was okay, but every night there was a time that I dreaded, and that was a time when the bars would close, there was nowhere to go, and no more work to do. I finally had to go home. When I got home, I would eventually have to go to bed. When I’d go to sleep, I’d be standing in a field, the grenade was at my feet, and I couldn't get away.
My wife and I were separate for ten days. When we got back together, she looked at me, and she said, “Unless we put God first we're not going to make it.” There was just something inside that said, “That's right.” Now, I didn't know what that meant, and I didn't know how to do it, and I probably didn't do it right, but that night we went to her apartment and knelt by the bed. I had never watched Christian TV or watched a Billy Graham Crusade, so I probably didn't do it right, but I remember us kneeling by her bed, broken and empty. We cried out from a broken heart, “God, what’s missing?” The only way I can describe what happened is that I heard what the Bible calls the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit that said, “Roger & Shirley, it's not what's missing. It’s who’s missing. You need Jesus.” That night Shirley and I surrendered our life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by asking him to come into our hearts & forgive our sins and to heal our broken and wounded hearts.
You know that night when I said that prayer a weight fell off of me. I had felt for four half years, every day when I got up, like I was putting on a hundred pounds of emotional combat gear: all the guilt, the grief, the hurt, the pain. When I said the prayer that night, the weight fell [off]. That night when I went to bed, for the first time in four and a half years, the nightmares in Vietnam stopped forever. In all these years thirty-six years, there is not a nightmare of Vietnam or anything else. God has healed my broken heart, healed my marriage, gave me two children the doctor said I'd never have. Today I am a different man than I was all those years ago because Christ changed my life.
*As an incendiary weapon, white phosphorus burns fiercely and can...cause serious burns or death.
**abbreviation for Medical evacuation