Viet Nam…

my bible

Originally uploaded by jayfherron.

I enlisted in the US Navy when I was seventeen entering the Navy Reserve early enlistment program-it was April 1969and Viet Nam was going full blast. I had to wait until my birthday before I could enter the Navy full time but at least I had this assurence I wouldnt be drafted…I knew enough about Viet Nam to know that wasnt for me even though as kids we all grew up with Vic Morrow in his role on Combat as some tough war worn and ready sarge and as kids we readily went out on missions to challenge invisible squads of nazis and gooks and won wars all over the place,but as a kid I also grew up seeing Walter Cronkite showing the latest of the horror that was known as Viet Nam-and every day at dinner time we were shown the rows of caskets draped with the American flag and then they would show the photographs of the kids from photos gleaned from high school yearbooks who got killed that day -and they looked like me and my friends,and my heart told me I did not want to go there…but I wanted to serve my country.
Right next door to the Navy enlistment office in Silver Springs Maryland was a Bible book store and on my eighteenth birthday I bought this Bible-thinking of it as something I would need to bring me comfort and safety if ever there was a point where I did end up in a war and needed to seek God. I knew nothing about God-so why I would think that I needed this Bible was a curious thing…but I got the Bible and have had it ever since.
It turned out that I didnt need it after all-once in boot camp they handed you a box and you got naked and everything you brought with you got shipped home-even the tiny little green Bible the Red Cross handed out when we were inducted at Fort Holibird….I still have the little wooden crucifix they pinned on my collar.
It was all about being afraid of death because all of my life it was death that was right in my face-Mr.Hoke and my sister…and then my brother Carl- yet there was no religion in our home to the extent we were not church going people and the Bible was not prominant there-although,there were religious things like crixmix but nothing definant to give an assurence of life after death or the truth of a God except for this horrid prayer my mother would say before we went to bed:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul He’ll take.
….now if that didnt keep a ten year old kids eyes wide open about this prayer and the Lord and the thought that I might die that night-every night for that prayer was our religion and I already had seen it come true with my sister JoEileen-dead at 11,so in it all the ownership of this Bible was as if I had bought the entire truth of the matter and thought that it would protect me from what was to come ahead.
I’m not really sure how I came to that conclusion-it just seemed that it was the thing to do and most of this is to say that this and a piece of jewelry was the two most important things I purchased as an independeant young man of eighteen….the jewelry was a pendant from Tyrrells.
Tyrrells in Norfolk-where I was stationed on the USS Vulcan was located on Granby Street and on display in its shop window was a master chiefs uniform with gold ornate ensignia and it was a proud looking uniform that everybody stopped to look at-at least once.
Tyrrells always had three or four sales guys right there on the sidewalk and the moment you stopped to admire that uniform one of them would come up to you as if you had been his long lost pal and he’d strike up a conversation about that uniform and before you knew it he was asking questions about my mother and boy how she must miss me and gee she sure must be sad and crap like that….all of which I fell for,and by this time he had led me inside to show me the ‘mothers pendant’ which if I bought it I would be forever promised if I got killed during serveing my country my name would go on a plaque in the window right next to that uniform-along with the names of previous purchasers-the names of those killed in Viet Nam,and the promise most important was that your mother got to keep the pendant free of charge. The guy even cried with me-he was that serious about selling me that ‘mothers pendant’….and,of course-I bought it right away-700 easy payments…what a deal-and they were going to have UPS hand deliver it to my mom,all an important pitch to a kid hardly away from home.
It turned out Tyrrells was everywhere a military base was and the outfit ripped off thousands of GI’s and Navy personnel with that crap story….a cheap way to make a buck off of a kid who if in an Army uniform was sure to be sent to catch a bullet or step on a land mine and come home in a casket to his mother( wearing a cheap pin) and no son.
What a way to make a living.
So the pendent taught me a valuable lesson about about people-just like this Bible does,how ruthless they can be.
I had a friend once upon a time who was looking this old book,my Bible and he asked me if there was book in the Bible known as ‘Ruth’…and there is-and what a wonderful woman Ruth was….but my friend asked me this question-“had I ever looked up ‘ruth’ and ‘ruthless’ in the dictionary?”.
I had not,but when did I learned that ‘ruth’ means mercy and pity…and ‘ruthless’ means just the opposite.
Strange how lessons come.

One Response to “Viet Nam…”

  1. B.J. Says:

    Buying a Bible before military service isn’t so odd. I carried a small one in the pants pocket of my DCUs in Baghdad. It’s sad how swindlers take advantage of young people going into the service, isn’t it?

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