Psalm 18:1-2 (NLT)
I love you, Lord; you are my strength.The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
The year was about 1967 at SEAL Team TWO, USNAB, Little Creek, VA. I was 31 years old. My platoon was going through training to deploy to Vietnam. We had to qualify each month in parachuting in order to earn that part of our paycheck. Fentress is the name of an airstrip that was a satellite airfield for the Norfolk Naval Station. We also practiced parachuting in Suffold, VA, but it was our luck that the Navy could only loan us a C1A twin engine aircraft at NIGHT! It is no big deal jumping out of a perfectly good airplane but the door on the C1A is so small we have to crouch down and kinda roll off the plane instead of standing at the door and jumping out. To compound the danger in it we were making a full equipment jump.
We loaded the Team Truck with all our T-10 parachutes and drove to Fentress. The field had four 2,500-foot runways then, and was all but shut down soon after World War II ended in 1945. Several years later, on land adjoining the original site, the Navy built an 8,000-foot runway that is still used as a practice landing strip by fighters based at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach.
When we arrived it was total darkness with little to zero moonlight. I remember the wind was calm but my mind’s question was; “how the heck will i know how close i am to the ground/or/runway?” How are we going to guage when we should begin to start lowering our equipment so it will land before we do? I admit that fear my be a controlable emotion but my brain was not buying that.
We had a 55 gallon drum with a lil diesel fuel and some rags and that was to be where we tried to steer an unsteerable T-10 parachute for the landing. My way to control my emotion was that if the other guys were not afrid to do it, why should I scared? But frankly, i was nervous and being a baptised Roman Catholic I started to pray to God that we would all survive this training safely and without injuries.
I will not mention our Jump Master by name; but every time a run into him I thank him for the 40% disability for my injury on that jump. He and I know it was not his fault, but us Navy SEAL tend to have fun playing mind games on each other just for fun.
Out of a stick of five jumpers, three of us got hung up on our static lines. Ever since that day I hate night parachuting no matter with or without equipment. No jump, No money and maybe end up with the nickname “Leg.”
Needless to say, that we landed scattered all over creation and one man was hung up on a pine tree. They had to wait until daylight to go find us. I saw a jeep approaching me and I thanked God that we were found. The search party had beer and McDonald’s hamburgers for us and of course they all had a great laugh about our adventure. Always, SEALs come out of some very dangerous situations in peace and war always joking about the adventure.
That was my first time that I saw Jesus Christ while I was praying for a safe landing. My left arm hurt so bad that i wish that we carried morphine in the ambulance. I am not kidding, my left bicep muscle was down near my elbow joint. I am sure that prayer, and a lot of whirlpool soaks at the Gym is what allowed me to regain full streangth.
Remember i wrote that we were in training to deploy to ‘nam? well my LT. and SCPO (The Eagle) told me that they would test my strength before deployment and i did not pass i would be replaced ! I wanna end this story, my fingers cannot type anymore. the TEST: It was to load a metal weapons box full of gear from the ground onto the truck that was to take us the USNAS Norfolk, VA for our bye bye trip to lala land. Yes ! The Eagle and I loaded the box, NO PROBLEMO.
From the time of my accident to the time before deployment I practiced my religion and once in Vietnam I only remembered to talk to God when we were in a Texas “ALAMO” situation.
Now that i have seen the light, I pray every AM, PM and somtimes when i am driving somewhere.
And that is the whole truth and nothing but the truth !
Erasmo “Doc” RIojas, NO CLASS Number.
BUT like Joe Di Martino used to say: “I had my hell weeks at Normandy Landing.”
I say: I had my hell weeks, with no bell to ring, in my almost two full winters in the Korea
Police Action. God is Good: Two shooting wars and he brought me home in one piece. AMEN.