I Almost Died
On a regular day during my Marine Corps career of practicing for war, some of the drills we ran were extremely dangerous. When I was in the Philippines, we did some training with their Marines. More specifically, the drill was a beach assault.
For those that don’t know, Marines are a subsidiary of the Navy. Therefore, the Navy is responsible for the majority of our transportation especially at sea.
On a day of the live exercise of storming the beach, I almost died. As one of my buddies said, “I’m glad you were in there. Your angel saved us.” I chuckled back and said, “God is good.” But let me start from the beginning.
Boarding the Amtrack
As we get back on boat the day prior, everyone is assigned with their Marine Amtrack (an amphibious assault vehicle). With a couple of practice runs of beach assualts, we we’re ready to go live with our fellow Marines from the Philippines.
It’s my turn to get into the amtrack with my team. We’re ready for the doors to close and take a nap for our individual beach attack. As my team and I await our turn to hit the water, I start engaging in conversation with the with one of the amtrack operators.
One of the main questions I ask all my transporters, “how good is this vehicle?” Since I used to be licensed to drive, I know not all operate at 100%. My man said it was one of the top 3. I’m like “cool” and got ready to take my nap in the back.
But to make sure I’m good to go before I relax, I asked him what should happen if we take on water. He explained how they would close up all the doors and allow it to sink. While we sink to the bottom, everyone puts on life jackets. Once we hit the bottom, an air bubble will allow us to break the seal and head up to the surface. So I ask one more question.
[CC- Crew Chief]
Me: There’s a lot of water up in here now.
CC: Yeah, but we have bilge pumps that pump it out.
Me: How do you know when it’s too much water?
CC: You’ll know when it gets to that line. [he points to a line that goes to our waist level]
Me: Wow, ok. That’s high.
CC: Yep, and she’s too good to take on that much.
Me: Alright then, cool. Thanks!
CC: Your welcome, Corporal.
Change of Plans
The time has come to get comfortable, and take a bit of a power nap. I’m not one to truly go into a slumber when I nap, but I appreciate the time to relax. The trip was about 20 minutes, so I hunkered down.
As the amtracks were taking off, we awaited our turn. We were one of the last ones. Until a few bangs on the back doors 2 minutes later.
CC: Time to get out.
Me: What’s going on?
CC: You guys on being transferred to another squad, Corporal.
Me: Alright, thanks!
In my mind, it was the whole “hurry up and wait” thing again. You grow accustomed to move with urgency later to find out you’re 2 hours early to the actual event. Good ol’ Marine Corps, but that’s government period. And now we’re in another amtrack with a different crew, so I ask the same questions.
Me: So how good is this rig?
CC: She’s one of the oldest ones out here. She has her good and bad days, but runs like a Cadilac.
Me: Alright then, I got the rundown from the last guys so I should be fine in case of an emergency.
CC: Good to go.
Ten minutes later we debark into the ocean. The ride is smooth as can be. Our cabin is filled with noise and mild diesel fumes. But I couldn’t stop to stare at the gradual water level rising inside. A few moments later, the crew member started to communicate more frequently.
Me: What’s going on?
CC: One of our bilge pumps won’t fire on, so we’re working on it.
Me: Oh, ok. Is this normal?
CC: Yeah, she’s our Cadilac but she’ll be fine.
Me: She’s good and faithful, uh?
CC: Well, it looks like another one just went out. Excuse me Corporal.
The water level doesn’t stop rising. It’s to the top of our boots. I’m realizing we’re about another 12 inches until we have to sound the alarm. When I look up, some of the Philippine Marines were throwing up in the water and pulled the cord to inflate their life jackets.
In the safety debrief, vomit chunks clogs up the bilge pubs. Also, the life jackets were only to be inflated after we hit the ocean floor. At this time, the water had raised another 5-8 inches. The crew chief comes back to the rear and sits down.
Me: So what’s going on now?
CC: We only have 1 pump working. They’re sending another back to come get you guys.
Me: What happened to being a Cadillac?
CC: She’s having a bad day.
By now, I’m getting a bit more concerned because we’re inches away from the line of when they close up the hatches and prepare to hit bottom. I’m thinking the diesel fumes are so bad, I can’t take a deep breath to make it back up to the surface. It was hard to breathe and the Marines were getting antsy. More were vomiting and pulled their life jacket cords.
A few minutes later, I hear “let’s go!” The other track was here. Time to transfer to the other one.
I Was Ready
When I was riding back, we were all looking at each other. Some were scared. Others were a bit shaken. I guess I was ready to meet my Father in heaven. My friend was looking at me like he was in disbelief. Unfortunately, I don’t remember word for word what I said. I was just enjoying the beautiful sunset in the Philippines.
You see the death angel was there. One of the Philippine Marines lost his life that day. One of their tanks failed to see him and drove over his head. I couldn’t imagine being anyone involved in that mistake, nor having to be on the other end of the phone call.
God spared me. He spared the life of everyone in the tank I was in. My buddy truly believed if I wasn’t in that tank it would’ve sunk. Gratefully, I can tell my testimony of God’s grace and mercy never fails.
Sure, I could have almost died. But God! God said not today. He’s an on-time God and never fails.
In Philippians 1:21 reads, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Dream Big and Godspeed,