A Marine Sniper Survives Vietnam
One Sunday after church, our congregation moved from the
sanctuary into the social hall for a time of fellowship and food.
Churches love to have their members getting closer to each other and
learning together how to live out their common faith.
One of the chefs this Sunday wore a black apron with a Marine Corps emblem nearly
filling the bib. I had never been introduced to this gentleman. He
looked to be close to my age. Okay, maybe he was a few years older.
Being a Marine myself, I started with “Semper Fi.” It’s short for
"semper fidelis," the Latin phrase meaning “always faithful.” Always
faithful to myself, my country and my corps. It’s the Marine Corps
motto, this shortened version being a common Marine-to-Marine
greeting. I have had a few veterans of other services also use the
greeting, and even some of my civilian friends use it as well, knowing
I smile when they do.
The words “Semper Fi” convey a commitment that is easy to
repeat; it’s much tougher to live out.
That day at church, Mike Smith introduced himself and told me
he had served in Vietnam in 1968–1970. He told me he was a scout/
sniper. I thought, Wow, that’s a brutal job.
By the way, in the scout/sniper community, they don’t refer to
kills as kills. Too crass. They talk “assignments.”
Then Mike told me a short version of his story in just a few minutes.
I knew he had to have a story because he was standing in front of
me. Marine snipers serving in times of war are kept busy doing their
duty and trying to survive. Here he was, standing there a survivor. I
heard an incredible story.
I wanted to know more. How did he learn to shoot so well? How do you live with having
killed people? Aren’t you terrified? I couldn’t believe what he told me.
It seemed impossible, yet as I asked him to tell me more of the details
and as more of his story was revealed, the more I felt others needed to
hear what had happened and what he did. Mike is a hero. Like many
other heroes, he doesn’t think so.
I wondered what I would have done in his shoes. Could I have come
close to his effort, his sacrifice, his coping with what had occurred?
Maybe you will wonder too.
Now that I’ve heard it all from Mike and written it out for him
and for you, I’m pleased you are about to jump in. Read on. Enjoy.