Blessing on the Battlefield

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“Blessing on the Battlefield,” Ensign, July 1976, 60–61

Blessing on the Battlefield

Rich and I were the only two Latter-day Saint soldiers on a patrol near the Laotian border in South Vietnam. Rich was a recent convert to the Church, and we often held gospel discussions during our four months together. He held the office of priest, and I remember telling him that I was an elder and he should remember that in case of an emergency.

The day hadn’t been much different from most others spent on jungle patrol, except I wasn’t walking point with Rich as I usually did. I had been assigned to replace one of the men on the rear security machine gun. In late afternoon we stopped in some deep grass along the trail to take a short break, and while others lit up their cigarettes, I leaned back on my eighty-pound pack and tried to rest my feet.

Suddenly the quiet of the jungle was broken by an explosion near the front of the patrol. There was a scramble for helmets, rifles, and ammunition as we ran for position around a perimeter; and yet during this excitement I began to feel the Spirit of the Lord as never before. Without seeing what had happened, I knew Rich was involved.

It was no surprise when the platoon sergeant shouted my name, with an order to get up to where he was in a hurry. I was surprised, however, to find that as I jumped from my position I had unhooked the belt that held my ammunition and extra hand grenades and dropped it by the other machine gunner. Running up the trail, I met the squad leader who was yelling, “Faster! Faster! Rich is hurt bad and he’s calling for you and saying something about ‘bring the oil.’ Do what you can for him.”

A few steps farther on I saw a scene that made me tremble with fear, and my heart pounded wildly. The point man had tripped a booby trap, and Rich had almost been standing on it when it went off. His clothes were in shreds, his face and arms were splattered with blood, and his legs were twisted forms of torn flesh and splintered bones. He was conscious as I knelt beside him. He said he couldn’t feel his legs, but he knew he must be hurt badly and asked me to give him a blessing.

The questioning look on our squad leader’s face as he crouched by us prompted me to a quick explanation about priesthood blessings. Then, as I placed my hands on Rich’s head, something took place that I find difficult to describe. I began to tremble again, not with fear but with the Spirit which filled my body. It was something similar to the trembling I have experienced in bearing my testimony in fast meetings, only more intense. I began to speak, but the words were not my words. The Lord gave Rich a blessing through me. I told him that he would live to return home to his wife and build a family. I uttered words of encouragement and a blessing for his wife to be patient and understanding.

A few minutes later we lifted Rich into the evacuation helicopter. As I turned away, the helicopter triggered a second booby trap, slamming a piece of shrapnel into my side, where minutes before my ammunition and grenades had been hanging. The exploding metal damaged the helicopter, causing it to veer across the spot where I was standing, but the force of the explosion had thrown me out of its path.

While lying on the jungle floor waiting to be evacuated, I was overcome by a most peaceful and relaxed feeling, and I felt I understood why the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter.

In a hospital in Japan, I saw Rich again. He told me of the immediate relief he had felt as I placed my hands on his head, and how grateful he was for the priesthood. Despite the loss of part of both legs and several bouts with surgery, he had begun to recover immediately. The doctors were surprised at his rapid progress between each operation, and it was never necessary to place him on the critical list. I know the power of the priesthood saved us that day.

Back in the United States, I was reassigned to Fort Hood to complete my tour of duty, and was reunited with my wife and daughter. We have a deep gratitude for the presence of the priesthood in our home, and for those who are called to conduct the affairs of the Church through its power.