Third Battalion, Fifth Marines
DREAMS AND VISIONS
By Mike McFerrin
During the course of human experiences, there is always that which seems to fall outside of the "normal." That is, things that are not readily explainable because they dont fall into the category of "acceptable" explanations but that which are heart and heads know the explanation for. Sometimes it takes a tour in the bush in Nam to know that these things are as common and natural as Life itself regardless of what the "civilized" society of ours will accept.
And for those who have done that tour or something similar, it is society itself that exists on the thinnest of veneers. And literally within minutes this veneer of civilization can breakdown and return us to that state of being animals that need all that nature has provided for us to live ..and die in this habitat.
It is about Death that I write now. That same horrible Specter of the Grim Reaper that frightens everybody for most of their life. The grinning skeleton reaching its long fingers of bone for your throat as the scream freezes there and your legs become like lead weights as you try to escape. The overpowering Darkness that is coming to steal your very breath. The End of All.
The following are three of the many stories that I could relate regarding the above. These are enough to illustrate what the Knowledge is that I am trying to communicate.
In 1966, I was a 16 year old living in Arizona. Only it didnt seem like I was "living" much. I lived in the middle of the desert. A small mining camp some 50 miles from the nearest city. Even worse, it was 25 miles from the nearest road that went anywhere. There were some 350 people who lived in the camp and operated an open pit copper mine.
For the teenagers that lived there, our situation was certainly as bad as it could get. We considered ourselves poor and underprivileged. Our isolation from the rest of the world certainly put us behind our peers. We did not have street signs, police, or even telephones in any of the houses. There had been a single pay phone for the entire community to use that had gradually been expanded to 3 by the time I was 16. Television was finally in almost all of the homes but it took a 20 to 30 foot antenna to get any of the stations that had just recently been expanded to 3 also. We had a swimming pool for the community and a little ballpark and basketball court. And we played in the hundreds of square miles of desert all around us. It would be years before any of us could appreciate this unique childhood.
One of the peculiarities of the times that reminded us that we were actually a part of the rest of the world was a Titan Missile silo that was installed in the desert about 4 miles from our camp. This was a part of a ring of 18 missile sites around the Tucson area which was considered a target for the Russians because of the Air Force base there. This was an underground facility just off the road that went to our camp.
I had received my drivers license that year and of course wanted to use the family car as much as possible. My parents didnt mind too much around the camp but to go anywhere else was a distance and they were reluctant. But I would pester them enough that I got occasional permission to leave the camp. One Sunday, I went to Marana.
Marana was about twenty five miles away. It was a large farming area in the valley and it bordered the highway that ran from Tucson to Phoenix. It was where I went to school. The farming community had the school, a store, a caf�, two bars, and 4 cotton gins.
I had a girl friend who lived right by the school and I spent Sunday afternoon with her. I was a big guy now because I could drive the car down to the valley to see her on weekends. Late in the day, I left for home. Before starting off across the desert, I stopped at the caf� and played the pinball machine. Three games for a quarter and I didnt win any free ones. The sun was setting by the time I left.
It was very dark that night. The last 8 miles of road was "open range." This meant that there were no fences and cattle were free to roam across the road so you had to be careful. Not only would they pretty much destroy a car but then you would have to pay for the cow too. I was very watchful as I crossed this area. I kept my speed down and was staring ahead at the road and the sides of the road for any sign of cows.
About three miles into this final leg there was a small rise in the road. Just enough to take my headlights up off the immediate roadway for a second. When my lights came back down, there was a person standing in my side of the road. I wasnt going at an excessive rate of speed so I had time to stop but not much. Living so far out in the middle of nowhere had given all of us certain habits that were not so prevalent in most areas of society. When you live at the end of a road that is twenty five miles from the nearest road that goes anywhere, you always stop for anybody on that road that may need help. One, there is not anybody ever on that road that you dont know and two, the only help youll ever get on that road is from another resident.
As I came up on the person, I sort of scanned the road and the sides looking for the vehicle that this person belonged to so that I might know if it was a breakdown, a "cow" wreck, or maybe a multi-car wreck. I had not seen any car off the side of the road anywhere on the way there and I couldnt see any in my quick scan so I focused on the figure as I steered over to the center of the road so that I could pull up next to the figure. This person seemed very tall as I got closer. I strained to see the face but couldnt make it out. I pulled up with the figure next to the passenger door and was leaning across the seat to both roll down the window and looking up into the dark still trying to see who it was.
As my eyes struggled to focus on the figure, I began to feel cold. Then very cold. Simultaneously, my eyes focused and the figure I saw had no face nor anything else discernible about it. It was simply blackness that was darker than the night. I jumped back straight in the drivers seat and as I gripped the wheel it turned to ice. Fear struck my heart like a lightning bolt as I floored the accelerator. I was almost in a panic as I first glanced in the rear view mirror and saw nothing then quickly glanced out the passenger side to assure myself that the figure was not running along side the car trying to get in. I kept accelerating until I was doing 75 mph on the little two lane blacktop road. After about a mile and a half, I was approaching a dip in the road and knew I had to slow down since it was the place where the most cow collisions happened. I was not worried about the cow or the car. I just did not want to be trying to outrun on foot whatever it was back there. I was shaken to say the least.
When I arrived at home, I tried to go right to my room but apparently it was written all over my face that something was wrong. I did not want to say but after about 10 minutes of coaxing from my parents, I broke down and told them what had happened. My dad thought somebody was down the road playing tricks that might cause somebody to have an accident. I knew that this was not the case. He drove down the road to investigate anyway. He saw nothing. It was not easy to sleep that night.
The next day I went to school. As the bus went down the road, I looked for the place where I had seen the "thing." As we got there. I scanned the desert for any sign of a vehicle that had driven off road in the area. There was none. I told nobody of my experience. Surely, I would be thought to be crazy.
When I returned home from school that afternoon, my parents wanted me to go down the road with them and show them where I had seen it. They wouldnt tell me why. But they obviously had a reason and they were insistent. So we drove down the road and I showed them where it was. We turned around to go back and right after we passed the place where I had seen "it," they pointed to some tire tracks that went off the road. An Air Force truck had been driving up the road to the missile base that morning after I had gone to school and had run off the road and flipped over. The passenger was killed and the driver was injured badly. When asked what happened to cause the wreck, the driver had claimed that the steering wheel of his truck had been jerked so hard to the right that it came out of his hands. There was no road junk or hazard present that could have caused that and the driver was under suspicion but was sticking to his story.
As we rode back to the camp, the memory of the blackness of the figure and the ice cold that was generated by it flooded over me. And the understanding that I had seen Death itself. But why? What was the point if I did not have enough information to do anything about it? And what could I have done? Call the Air Force Base and tell them to not let their truck come up the road? Not likely anybody would have bought that.
It would be one of many childhood incidents that I had but it was the one that absolutely connected me to Death, or Death to me. I would just try to forget it. Like anybody can forget something like that.
Fast forward a couple of years. I am in Mike Company, 3/5, somewhere in the mountains in Vietnam. January 11, 1969. Time for a platoon size patrol through the mountains. I was not comfortable with this since we would be going a long distance for a platoon patrol. This would mean that the rest of the company would not be close enough to be available as a reasonable reaction force should we hit the crap. These long distance patrols were not done often but when they were and I was in the group going out, I was more alert than ever. Without the company close by (15 or 20 minutes max instead of the 2 to 4 hours that this would be) and being under the canopy which extremely limited any air support and medevacs, we would literally be on our own no matter what we ran into. These were the situations that complete unit wipeouts were made of. I did not want to be in one of those units.
My tour to date had been sort of fifty-fifty. The firs half had been very severe for me as far as combat was concerned and the latest half had been relatively easy compared to that. I knew as others did that this relative low level of combat could not and would not last forever. When and where it would return to the levels that we had become accustomed to was unknown but it was getting closer. It was in the air. And there were a lot of new guys in the company who had no idea what it was really like. The last couple of months had been real easy for us but the new guys did not know that. They were not as scared as they should be and many of us knew it.
I had a "problem" that became apparent within a couple of weeks in Vietnam. That is, it appears that I was cursed with certain "visions" that I never, ever told anybody about. These visions were a source of great anguish for me. These visions would simply occur without any known cause when I least expected them. I would look at one of my fellow Marines and he would "turn" dead right in front of me. I would not see this every single time that I looked at them but it only had to happen once to be accurate.
The first time it happened, I shook my head and looked away then looked back but he would "turn" again. I thought I was suffering from some kind of battle fatigue or stress. But then he was killed about a week later. Then there was another and it was a couple of days later he was killed. And I then knew what I was seeing. I did not "see" this with everybody who was killed but when I did see it there was no doubt about that persons fate.
For all who have been in combat, it is not difficult to see my "problem" and the reason for my anguish. What do you do when you see this? Warn them? First, they have to believe you. Thats a big jump right there since there are all sorts of other thoughts about me that would run through their head and anybody elses that they told first. Second, would warning them with no specifics do any good? I did not know why this was happening to me. What was I supposed to do? What could I do? It was a very terrible weight on me. But this patrol would be the beginning of a new understanding. A beginning of the curse becoming a blessing.
As we prepared for the patrol, the squad leaders came up to the platoon CP for the briefing. As we sort of stood around waiting for everybody to assemble, one of the radiomen was standing by me and he just said, sort of as an aside, that Slingerland had got up that morning and given his wallet type stuff to the squad leader with an address and asked him to send his personal stuff there if anything happened to him. The squad leader rejected that initially but Slingerland was insistent because he had a dream that he was going to be killed. I almost fell over. Slingerland was one of my "visions." I immediately began asking questions of the radioman. According to the radioman, Slingerland wasnt fearful because of the dream. He just wanted to be sure his personal items got to who they should. I did not "know" when or how Slingerland was to meet his fate but I now worried whether I should attempt to talk to him. I could not do it. I was sickened by my knowledge.
I was so engrossed with my own fear for Slingerland, I did not even hear the patrol order. It did not matter to me. I would be traveling with tail-end squad no matter who it was. The patrol went out along the ridge for about an hour then we turned along another ridge. The trail was big and wide. Obviously well used. It began to go up and down as we moved from high points on the ridge down through the saddles then up to the next high points. I was moving down from one of these high points and the front end of the column was already over the next high point when the report of a machine gun that was not ours came from the front of the column. Marines hit the deck facing outboard but all screwed up. New guys. After quickly yelling to the ones I could see to get them turned around so that the firepower was balanced in each direction, I heard the call for tail-end Charlie to move up. This meant that we were to perform our job in these types of situations.
The front end mustve been ambushed and we were to maneuver from the rear to overcome it. I got everybody to their feet though not easily since the fire could still be heard. I had them head past the other Marines straight down the trail since we had to get within sight of the area before I could select a maneuver that would work. I moved into the third man back slot as the squad moved forward. This was the squad control spot for me. As we topped the high point of the ridge I held up the squad and looked down the trail looking for the area. I could still see Marines laying off to either side of the trail but not the point. One of them told me that the point of the column was just around the next curve in the trail about 25 meters away from him. I sent the point man to the curve to wait for the others to move up alongside of him. This would give us the firepower to flank the probable ambush site around the corner. The firing of the machine gun stopped as we gathered for the flanking maneuver. The NVA picked up their machine gun and ran off into the underbrush. We got to their ambush site and were firing blindly into the forest. They had a very well camouflaged spot right on another corner of the trail that would have been difficult to see but would have automatically been noted as a good ambush site by anybody with some time in the bush. And there was Slingerland. The NVA had let him get completely on top of them in hopes of getting as many Marines around the corner and within their sights before opening up. He apparently never saw or suspected them there. The column was well spread out and Slingerland took many rounds in his torso which prevented the machine gunner from aiming in on anybody behind him for a few brief seconds while they were scrambling for cover so the NVA were unable to nail anybody else. Whether he willfully kept his body between the machine gun and the others for those few seconds is not known but it certainly happened.
I could only stare at his body as I gave the "all clear" to the Marines back down the trail. I now knew I was not alone in the premonitions. He had had the premonition of his own death and yet did not escape it. This was some relief for me. If he could do nothing, could I have done anything? At the earliest opportunity back at the company perimeter, I asked his squad leader if he had griped about having to walk point or asked to not walk point. He had not. I was more than a little amazed at this. Wouldnt I have tried to get out of walking point on the day after such a dream? I felt sure that I would have. This was so puzzling.
A couple of months go by. March 6, 1969. Without a doubt, Mike Company did return to the heavy contacts with the enemy. In fact, on this day we were going to attempt an escape from this hill. Out of some 105 of us we had suffered over 60 dead and wounded over the last couple of weeks. Although mortar shrapnel accounted for a large percentage of the wounds, the last 3 days had been extremely close combat in which most of the KIAs had been taken. We had to escape a ring of enemy soldiers that seemed to have gone from a "platoon to a company sized" unit to an even larger unknown number and were still becoming even bigger with the express purpose of annihilating us. We had to go down to the valley, cross it, and climb up the other side to Firebase Maxwell to escape. This was more than a full days walk without having to fight.
We had more dead and wounded than people able to carry them and fight. Kilo Company was sent from Maxwell to assist us in the escape. My platoon had taken the least number of casualties on the hill and we were selected to walk point to go out and meet Kilo at the bottom of the hill. It had been a very bad three days there and we knew we would be fighting to get to Kilo. We had had 24 hours per day of gunship, artillery, and Puff coverage up there. And since we were under the canopy and not visible, this "coverage" had accounted for some of our casualties. Friendly fire. One of the better euphemisms the powers-that-be ever came up with. Ranks right up there with "military intelligence."
The plans for all of this were made on the evening of March 5, 1969, which gave third platoon the whole night to think about it. Around my hole I had stacked dead Marines to keep the grenades out. Though I was in the platoon CP, we were covering a line position. The bodies had been there for three days and they included people that I knew. I had only slept when after some 56 hours straight of probe contacts on the third platoon lines I simply went unconscious. I believe I slept a little over an hour when I was awoken by a heavy blow to my head. I could barely get to consciousness. The platoon commander, myself, the corpsman, and the radioman had dug a hole large enough for four to sit in and three to sort of semi-lay in. I assumed that the corpsman had kicked me in the head so I cussed him out appropriately and went to sleep for another 45 minutes or so.
When the corpsman and I awoke at first light, I was totally numb on the right side of my body and I had a headache. Looking down, I saw a large aluminum canister some 3 feet long and 6 to 8 inches in diameter. It was a canister from a parachute flare from Puff. A "basketball" flare. It had crashed through the trees and hit the branch just above my head which slowed it enough to keep it from killing me when it had struck in the base of the skull. It wasnt that corpsman with the kick of a mule after all.
The headache was still with me on the morning of March 6 as I prepared some of my great C-rat cocoa and coffee mixture. One packet of cocoa, two packets of coffee, 6 creamers, and 6 sugars blended into a � full canteen cup of water then brought to a near boil over a thumbnail size of C-4. You had to be careful not to let any of that C-4 stick to your finger or thumb when you were making the ball lest it catch on fire when you were striking the match especially if it was a little wet and you were keeping you finger close to the head of it or lighting the ball itself or holding the canteen cup over the flame. One of those little idiosyncratic bush life items that can be used to trip up those many Vietnam "bush" veteran fakers that seem to be out there now. If you ask them how many times they burned their finger or thumb on C-4 and they dont know what you are talking about or say something like, "I wasnt in EOD," then you know for sure where this "bush vet" wasnt at.
One of the men came by the hole since the fighting had lulled at sunup. He told me that Duntz had a dream. He hadnt said anything else yet and I was already spilling some of my precious cocoa/coffee. Yes, I already knew Duntzs fate and now again I have proof that another person has been foretold of his own death in the same manner as a couple of months ago a dream. Same scenario. Got up that morning and told his squad leader about it and gave him his personal effects and addresses to mail it to. This time I casually asked as many questions as I could right then. Was he nervous or scared or forlorn or anything? No, in fact, he was very relaxed and matter-of-fact about it. Not visibly worried about it in the least. I became lost in my own thought and stopped asking questions and the Marine returned to his position.
My gut was tightening up on me. And then, I too, knew that today was the day he was going to die. I was in a struggle with myself again. Maybe I could stop it. I would keep an eye out for him. I cannot just let it happen. I must try or I will not be able to live with myself because for the first time I "know" when it is to happen and he has confirmed that himself. I was pulled out of myself by the call to go to the Company CP for the briefing. I did not hear much of it but didnt need to. The ifs, ands, and buts were real limited. Some of us were going to die shortly and we all knew that. I was just praying that I could save Duntz somehow.
Staff Sergeant Blackman who was the acting platoon commander and I went back to the third platoon area. We went to the position next to the trail that we would be taking down the ridge line. Blackman looked around at our meager squads and sort of picked the order at random. He told Curtis that his squad would take point and then selected the next two as Curtis turned around to select his point man.
I was standing by the big tree right behind the position on the trail and my heart had fallen when Blackman had picked Curtis squad. That is where Duntz was. I looked in back of Curtis as he turned to look at his squad. I was trying to decide what he had before he could. Before either one of us could say anything, Duntz stepped forward and said, "Ill take point." I felt a scream inside of me. NO! NO! NOT DUNTZ.
I quickly finished my scan of the squad so that I could do something. It had dwindled to a five man squad. The squad leader and his radioman. Neither could walk point of course. Pralicz, the M-79 man couldnt walk point with that weapon. That left Weaver and Duntz. I stepped around the tree towards the squad with the aim to exercise my authority as platoon sergeant to change the point. I was trying to come up with a plausible excuse for doing so as I moved toward Curtis. Curtis turned and looked at me as I walked towards him. I could not say anything because my mind was being flooded with the "vision" of Duntz being killed by rifle fire and I could "see" that it was on this trail and very close in time and geography and simultaneously my conscious mind was being hit with my responsibilities to the platoon as platoon sergeant and the hopelessness of my situation.
I could come up with something and have Weaver put on point instead of Duntz. But what would I have accomplished? Decided that Weaver is to die instead of Duntz? I did not "know" that Weaver was to die as I did with Duntz. But that was not a guarantee that he wouldnt. And no matter who was up there on this day, it was likely that contact would be made and they would be in extreme danger as any point man would. My heart was aching as I looked up at Duntz getting his gear on to move out. He showed absolutely no sign of fear or anxiety. Even Curtis who had been told about the dream by Duntz appeared to be concerned and asked him if he was sure that he wanted to volunteer for point. Duntz very calmly said that he didnt mind and walked out onto the trail.
I retreated to the big tree area as the other squads began to bunch up there waiting for the column to move out and the men to get spaced far enough apart for each to fall in line and start out of the perimeter. Blackman was issuing warning and caution orders to the point squad as they moved out. My head was spinning as I "felt" the moment drawing near and the hopelessness of all of us -- Duntz, I, and the rest of humanity in trying to escape what is to be weighed me down.
I watched as the first squad moved out and disappeared around a corner about 30 meters down the trail. Then Blackman and his radioman. Then the next squad began to move out. I was getting ready to fall in to my place with the last squad when it happened. The sound of multiple AKs firing. M-16s returning fire almost instantaneously and the whoomp of the M-79 firing. Bullets and Marines moving for cover everywhere. I simply fell to the ground and scooted behind the tree I was standing next to. And from my mouth involuntarily and to myself came the words, "Duntz is dead." I was shocked back to reality with a sharp, "What did you say?" It was the machine gunner who had landed next to me behind the tree. I looked up at him but didnt say anything. He said that he had heard me and "How did I know Duntz was dead?" I just shook my head and said something about the gooks always get somebody with an ambush but I could see he was still looking at me funny. The uncomfortable situation was alleviated by Blackmans yell for me to get the tail-end Charlie up to the front.
The firing was still going on up there in both directions. We heard a Marine yell in pain. I called for the last squad to get up and one jumped up right away. It was Olguin. He had come to the bush with me and he was one of the better bush Marines in the platoon. He knew what had to be done and was surged with adrenaline. He, without any direction from me, ran off to the right side of the trail into the forest. I yelled for the rest of the squad to follow and went out there with him. I intended to get several on line off to the flank to move forward but Olguin began moving immediately. I told him to wait but he didnt hear me and began moving forward immediately. I ran to catch up with him because I didnt want him exposed by himself.
Two things happened when I ran up beside him. First, the rest of the squad saw me running as if charging and became scared of what looked like a stupid charge against an unknown size and unlocated enemy force and they stopped. Second, Olguin mustve thought I was doing that also because he began to run himself but forward towards the enemy. Boy, did I mess this one up. We busted through the brush and we began to yell. As we neared what was probably the area I slowed and tried to get Olguin to slow because we were not in sight of the trail and did not know where the Marines were anymore than we knew where the enemy was. I moved back towards the trail so that I could see but I couldnt stop Olguin. Fortunately he did not shoot any Marines nor they him. The ambush ran off as we both arrived at the trail some 10 or 15 meters apart and whether it was the return fire of the Marines pinned down on the trail or the yelling and screaming and sounds of breaking bushes or all of the above I do not know. Olguin came into the trail right where Duntz lay riddled by AK rounds and I came in right where Weaver was hiding behind a big tree with his forearm smashed from enemy fire. Behind me on the trail, Pralicz was also behind a tree and he was pumping out M-79 fire like crazy.
Olguin stayed with Weaver and I went back up the trail to the perimeter to get a poncho to carry the body with. As I passed the Marines laying off to either side of the trail, I kept my head down until I heard Blackmans voice. He asked me what happened up there but I could only say, "Duntz is dead." For some reason, he did not believe this and retorted, "He is not!" I just repeated the words and turned to continue. I heard him sort of trying to say something again about him not being dead but did not turn or say anything more. It was like everything came to a standstill for a few minutes. I got a poncho in the perimeter and walked back down the trail. The ambush had been repulsed and there had been no fire for a minute or two but nobody had moved. Everybody was behind something as I walked up and back down the trail. It wasnt until I started yelling for some help to carry the body that anybody stirred.
The day was not over for me but in my mind there was a strange sense of relief. That is, the months of mental anguish and torture that I had put myself through regarding these "visions" had ended to a certain degree. The day had brought realizations to me that I could not yet articulate to myself but that I knew were there. It would be several days before I could begin to unravel all of this. But gradually the pain and guilt would dissipate though it would be many years before I could rid myself of at least occasional twinges of guilt regarding my "knowledge" and inability to do anything with that to change things.
After returning from Vietnam there was a steep decline in my "visions" and shortly thereafter they ceased, or maybe just temporarily lulled. I do not know.
ANSWERS? MORE QUESTIONS? CONCLUSIONS?
It was days before I could apply any real thought to the incident with Duntz. But it has been a lifetime of trying to understand what this and all the incidents that I have experienced mean to me and to all of us. What the Vietnam experience did was bring me and my fellow Marines into gut wrenching contact with Death on a very extended, close, and daily basis. In this environment, it seems that the "other" senses were activated. Sort of like ones hearing becoming more acute in the darkness. But what were these senses and what are their purpose? In no particular order, my own musings over the years:
1. WHO HAS THESE "SENSES?"
In the case of those who had the "dream" about their own deaths, there didnt seem to be any common denominator other than they were human. Race, religion, education, geographic background, etc. did not seem to be a factor. And those who decided to tell somebody that I then talked to are the only ones I actually know about.
How many had the "dream" and didnt tell anybody that I then talked to or didnt tell anybody at all?
Was the "dream" the only method of acquiring this certain knowledge of ones own death?
I am convinced that this is a "natural" capability that all human beings have. When Death is on the way the psychic and spiritual senses are alerted.
In my personal case of having the "sense" of other peoples deaths, I am the only one that I am aware of that experienced this. But I do not feel like a "freak." Given my own problem in dealing with it and my own silence about it until now, nobody would know except the trusted few if I had not written this.
Were there others like me?
I think that there probably were. They, too, have probably chosen to remain silent.
I am almost convinced that this capability is simply the same one that allows one to connect with ones own Death that is either "amped" up a bit or is somehow able to pick up on others who have similar "psychic" or "spiritual" wavelengths. It would seem that if this is the case, I will definitely know when my time is near.
The other possibility that I have considered is that when conditions are right, I have access to a sort of "cosmic" pool of this information which passes to me based on what and who is around me. I have not ever voluntarily explored this possibility but have read about those who have learned how to go to this Knowledge for specific purposes.
In either case, it demonstrates to me that we are all more than what we can see with the two physical eyes.
2. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THESE "SENSES?"
My agony in the beginning in Vietnam was that I was given this knowledge but was personally not fit or able to intervene and save anybodys life. Gradually, the question dawned on me, "Is there ANYTHING I can do to change the outcome of what I see?"
When Incident Three happened, I saw the choice I had clearly. I could send one man to his death to maybe save the other. That was not an acceptable method of "doing something " to intervene. It was then that I began looking at these visions as something other than "warnings" calling upon me to alter the circumstances to "save" a life. Who will escape Death anyway?
Of major importance in my silent search for answers was the commonality of Incident Two and Three. Not only did I see two other people who had the same knowledge that I did but I saw two other people who would seem to have even more motivation than I to "do something" to avoid the end result since it was their own deaths that they foresaw. Not only did neither one of these Marines attempt to do anything to alter the circumstances that could cause their death but one of them even volunteered to expose himself to additional danger. Neither Marine was "antsy" or scared at all. In fact, they were both extremely calm and unafraid. How can an 18 year old have a dream that transmits certain knowledge of his own death to him and act like that?
In my first firefight, I performed an act that I thought was going to kill me, and an NVA machine gunner. I was calm by the time I performed that act but I was also fully convinced that I was going to die there anyway. It was like I had fell off a cliff and was on my way to death and simply trying to do something that would help my fellow Marines before I expired. But at the first sign that there was any hope at all to wiggle out of the situation, I immediately changed my tactics. If I could live, they would have to find somebody else to play kamikaze. I absolutely did not want to die.
But these two did nothing nor seemed to fear what was to come. I am convinced that more than their deaths became known to them in the dreams they had. They saw more than I did in my "visions." Whatever it was, it completely overcame the survival instinct and, in addition, gave them a calm, serene acceptance of their fate. It is this that I wonder the most about. Maybe Death was not all it was cracked up to be. Maybe the knowledge of it coming was no more than a "cosmic" form of a train blowing its whistle to announce its arrival as it entered a station. And Death itself was simply one of the towns on the Train of Existences schedule of stops. Maybe my "visions" were just the posting of a schedule so to speak and were not a "call" for me to do "something." And how vain of me to even think that I had the ability or power to alter this schedule.
As many bush Marines know, the thought often expressed in the bush was that if you were going to die in Nam, it was better to get it right away so as to avoid all the humping and suffering that was the bush Marines existence. And more than once I can remember being in the middle of that humping and suffering as I looked upon a dead Marine and found myself wondering if he wasnt sitting somewhere mourning me because I was still in the middle of it.
Though I still experiences twinges of anguish for these Marines who died so young with so many unfulfilled hopes and aspirations, I find that I spend more time wondering what stop their train is at now.