Compared to what many in the military have seen, these were not bad – pretty minor, actually. But all such experiences serve to teach as long as we are willing to learn...especially when we realize just how close to disaster we really were at the time.
- Lost on the back streets of Bangkok at two in the morning. No one knew where I was.
- Arguing with a group of local tour guides inside a fourth-floor office in Nairobi. I suddenly got real polite and shut up when I suddenly realized that here, too, no one knew where we were.
- Caught in an undertow on the beach on O'ahu, with my pregnant wife and oldest son watching on the otherwise-deserted beach.
- Suddenly sliding down a snow slope on Mount Washington on the Olympic Peninsula and finding out that the snow was too shallow for my ice axe to bite – there was nothing to stop me. I looked below and saw at least a thousand feet of space. I didn't scream or yell – I felt nothing. I knew I was dead. End of story, game over. After I fell off the edge, I landed on a ledge about ten feet down. I think that was when I stopped liking roller coasters.
But for those of us who made it through, we can look back once more at the incredible life we've led, the experiences that Hollywood could never hope to replicate. There's more, so much more that I've seen and done. I often sit back and wonder just how it happened that I got so lucky because I surely didn't deserve this life. My heart is filled with gratitude.
My wife loves taking care of the elderly – not because she likes giving them medications or cleaning them up, but because she hears the stories they tell. Two stick in her mind – one was the man who was a wing commander for B-29 squadrons in Saipan – I wish I'd talked to him! Another was an old woman who, for her 99th birthday, decided to go skydiving. She did and died from the injuries she suffered (brittle bones), but she never regretted it. The old woman would tell stories of her own adventures, of once when she went to a small Indonesian island and married a local chieftain.