I have lived an interesting and adventurous Life, full of wonderful joyous occasions but also times of great despair and sadness. I have taken chances and put myself in harm’s way far too often, however, because of luck, destiny, or karma, I somehow managed to make it to an old age. As I look back, there are many scary memories that still send a chill down my spine when I think about them. One such memory I would like to share with you now… not to boast, but to make a point later in this post.

In May of 1968, I was wounded in Vietnam while serving with the US Marine Corps on an operation called Allen Brook (NO HEROS). I was taking care of our Corporal, who had been wounded in both legs by machine gun fire when suddenly there was an explosion from a grenade that hit close to us. A piece of shrapnel shattered my glasses and fragments of glass and shrapnel embedded themselves in my eyes and face. We were under heavy fire, however, for some reason, a renegade helicopter pilot flew in, against orders, to rescue us. There was heavy enemy gunfire as we took off and the helicopter was hit several times with rounds coming up through the bottom. I could not open my eyes because of the injuries and therefore was unaware that a fire had broken out on board and we were in serious trouble. The last thing I remember was someone saying, “Hold on Doc, we’re going down.” I was thrown out of the helicopter as it hit the ground, bounced, and then came down on top of me. I was left for dead as the others escaped the burning wreckage. When I regained consciousness I realized that I was pinned under the helicopter, unable to move in any direction. I could smell the burning of oil and was quite sure my life would end there, slowly burned to death once the flames reached me. It was perhaps the most terrifying and hopeless feeling I have ever experienced. Fortunately, with some clawing and wiggling, I managed to get back into the helicopter and was able to escape the wreckage before it burned completely.

Watching the news today I am reminded again of the horrors of war and of how inhumane mankind can be when given a gun or machete and a license to kill. The beheadings are shocking and it is hard to imagine how anyone can be that cruel… yet, from my perspective and personal experience, an almost instant death by beheading may be more humane for the victim, than is the indiscriminate bombing of the civilian population. Imagine being trapped alone in the rubble of your own home, pinned between layers of concrete and steel, unable to move, your prayers and screams for help unanswered, your wounds unattended, your thirst unquenched, and your hope slowly fading until time runs out. If I had to choose between the two, I think I would prefer the former.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking sides here. I am against all forms of killing and believe that all who intentionally take a Life should and must be held accountable for doing so. I do not believe in the death penalty, however, life in prison without the possibility of parole also seems inhumane, especially for those who are truly sorry for their action, and for that reason, I believe that those who receive this sentence should be given the right to decide how much time they serve in prison and be given the opportunity to make atonement for their actions by ending their own life with a self-administered cyanide tablet, at a time of their choosing.

Your comments are welcome.

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