The trajectory of an object in motion, such as a bullet, is slightly curved. The Vietnamese sniper that took aim at Jim Street in 1969 must have known this fact. His first round, aimed a few degrees higher than sightline, was pulled down by gravity as it travelled forward until its curved path found its mark downrange — Lieutenant Commander Smith, the beloved company commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Suicide Charley.
Jim Street, an eighteen year old grunt who dropped out of high school to join the Marine Corps, zeroed in on the deep black hole of his commanding officer’s neck as it began gushing blood like a geyser.
As if in unison with LCDR Smith’s lanky body, Jim’s cloak of invincibility fell to the ground, despite being flanked by the steel armor of four tanks and six amtracs. Now in the sniper’s sight, Jim has just formed the words that echoed along the tree line.
“Save the f’ing ammunition, we’re gonna get that sonuvabitch!”
Then the second shot rang out.
This is a story about how the trajectory of a bullet changed the path of a man’s life.
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“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give what I have received; and to share what I have been given.”
My yoga teacher ‘Kala,’ ends every class with this beautiful saying.
In Sanskrit, her name means “fine arts,” in Hindu, it means “God of time.”
One morning, after nearly a year of practicing with her at her makeshift studio at a local YMCA, I realized that her parting words were a gift to us, meant to seed our day with the practice of giving and receiving — the innate beauty of sharing our unique presence, attributes and knowledge with others, and to listen and allows others to share themselves with us – the receipt. Allowing these words to seep in more deeply, it dawned on me that giving and receiving is the same act; just different actions or actors separated only by a thing called ‘time’.
Last month, I received a note from a veteran in North Carolina. He had just finished reading my first novel, Beyond The Wall: The Journey Home. It had been recommended to him by a nurse at his VA hospital.
His note read:
“I read your book, Beyond The Wall. I’m not sure if you will ever know exactly how close you really got. Painfully close. But I’m glad someone did. Thank You.”
Read more "Beyond The Wall Program"